Acer Chromebook 13 CB5-311-T7NN Tegra K1 Review

Acer Chromebook 13 CB5-311-T7NN Highlights -

Pros: Well-built, sleek and elegant design. Great battery life. Good performance for basic computing tasks.

Cons: Average display and image quality. Some apps may not be compatible with the Tegra processor.

Many of our readers are looking for a computer predominantly for emails and Internet browsing. They often ask us questions like 'what's the best device for email?' or 'should I get an Apple/Windows laptop or a tablet?' For most users we would simply recommend something like the Apple iPad Air. They are easy to use, secure and very straight forward. But if you need something capable of doing a bit more, which is equipped with a physical keyboard and a larger screen but on a tight budget, then you might want to consider something called the Chromebook.
We love Chromebooks. It is especially made for people with simple computing needs and those who don't need to do complex video editing or data manipulation. It is totally secure just like Apple, very affordable and is built by a variety of manufacturers in a very competitive market. It is great for non-technical users who just want their computer to work. One really unique feature of the Chromebook is its "power wash" functionality that allows you to start over. This is especially handy if something goes wrong. It is important to know however, that the Chromebook is just a simple computer running a very lightweight operating system - Chrome OS (essentially a built-in web browser), so you need to be connected to the Internet because it can only run programs that are in the browser. It is very limited in what it can do, but for basic web surfing and email it's certainly enough of a computer. Another thing to note is that the Chrome OS just keeps evolving as it continues to add apps that can run offline and store locally which will eventually allow us to do almost everything we're used to doing on a Windows based computer. Acer currently has the best selling Chromebooks on the market and is trying to gain further market share with it's recently released Acer Chromebook 13.
The Acer Chromebook 13 CB5-311-T7NN is the first Chromebook to house a NVIDIA Tegra K1 processor (most Chromebooks come with an Intel based processor) and is also Acer's first Chrome OS laptop with a 13.3-inch display. However, it retains the same 2GB memory and 16GB on-board storage as its predecessor - the Acer C720. Like most Chromebooks, the Acer Chromebook 13 is made of a white plastic body with decent build quality and durability. It has a very clean, modern and functional design and at just 0.71 inches thick weighing only 3.31 pounds, it is one of the thinnest and lightest Chromebooks on the market. It is fanless too which makes it completely silent during operation thanks to it's power efficient Tegra processor.

Performance - What really sets the Acer Chromebook 13 apart from other Intel based Chromebooks is the presence of NVIDIA Tegra K1 - a Quad-core processor with a clock speed of 2.1GHz. It's graphical processing unit (GPU) is based on the same architecture that has been around for the past couple of years inside desktop computers, notebooks, extreme gaming PCs and the world’s fastest TITAN supercomputer. This means that the processor should be capable of offering a great graphic performance with excellent power efficiency. Chromebooks rely heavily on web based applications so having good graphic performance is a must. According to NVIDIA, the graphic horsepower of the Tegra K1's 192 cores is unmatched in the world of Chromebooks, delivering a great computing experience like rich visual web browsing, gaming and interactive educational content. This is especially important considering that more and more schools and universities are adopting Chromebooks. However, in benchmarking tests the performance was at par with some of the other Intel based Chromebooks like the ASUS C200 at the same price point. We were expecting a little bit more performance especially when considering this processor family has performed really well in some extreme gaming PCs.

Also, with the rise of WebGL (Web Graphics Library - for rendering interactive 3D computer graphics and 2D graphics within any compatible web browser without the use of plug-ins), NVIDIA claims up to 3 times the WebGL performance of competing Chromebooks. Again, in tests, the WebGL performance was pretty ordinary and we were really surprised to see that the Tegra's 3D power wasn't really used that well in this Chromebook. There haven't been any worthy WebGL games as yet, but when they arrive this Chromebook should nevertheless be equipped to handle them. The Quad-core architecture makes multitasking a breeze. We could easily open multiple web browser tabs, run apps like Google Docs and listen to streaming music all the at same time without much lag. Overall, we found the Acer Chromebook 13 to be quite capable for running web-based applications and handling simple computing tasks. As for benchmarks, in the Google's Octane test the Acer Chromebook 13 performance came in line with that of ASUS C200 Chromebook which runs an Intel processor. It is a very respectable performance for a non-Intel based processor. The Octane test measures the performance of JavaScript code found in large, real-world web applications running on modern mobile and desktop browsers.
The flip side of being the only Chromebook using a non main-stream processor is that many Chrome app developers haven't built their apps to be compatible with these processors and as a result, you may have difficulties running some apps on this new model. The issue doesn't arise if you're thinking of only using core apps by Google like the Google Docs, Sheets, Calendar, Drive and so forth. But when testing the Tegra K1 processor on various apps in the Google app store, some tech websites have noticed that several apps simply refused to run with the new processor. Until this processor is widely adopted, we don't think the developers of these apps will be in any rush to make them cross-compatible. But again as we mentioned before, Google based apps should not have any issues running on this processor.

Acer Chromebook 13 - Octane Test Score

Acer C720-284810,560
Acer Chromebook 137,210
ASUS C2007,130
Samsung Chromebook 26,205

Storage & Memory - The Acer CB5-311-T7NN comes with 2GB of DDR3L memory and a 16GB SSD (Solid State Drive). Both of these specifications are bare minimum and users shouldn't expect heavy multitasking capabilities from this Chromebook. Basic and light multitasking like streaming music with multiple browser tabs is not a problem though. Also, with just 16GB SSD, users will have to rely on online cloud storage solutions like Google Drive or Dropbox. SSD is much faster than traditional hard drives thereby providing much better read/write throughput and startup time. This Chromebook boots in less than 15 seconds and resumes almost instantly from sleep.
Display, Graphics & Sound - The display on the Acer Chromebook 13 is pretty average, which is what you would expect from an inexpensive computer. The 13.3 inch LCD screen has a display resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels with an anti-glare screen that minimizes glare when outdoors. Even on the full HD model, the image quality is not that sharp and doesn't stand out much from other Chromebooks in this price range. Also, it uses TN (Twisted Nematic) panel technology that offers high brightness and draws less power. They are cheap to manufacture too. The drawback however is below average color reproduction and viewing angles, when compared to the modern IPS (In-Plane Switching) panel type. Nevertheless, average users will find the display to be sufficiently sharp and bright. As for graphics, we have already mentioned the Tegra K1's 192 core Kepler GPU, where we found the performance to be similar to some other Intel based Chromebooks. The sound quality of the built-in speakers is very basic and users should not expect high end audio.
Battery - Even though Acer claims the 4-cell Lithium Ion battery (3220 mAh) to last for upto 13 hours, users can expect anywhere between 8-9 hours of battery life. This equates to charging about every 3-5 days with moderate use of a couple of hours everyday.
Operating System - Chrome OS.

Click here for a closer look and buyer reviews.

Acer Chromebook 13 Models

ProcessorNVIDIA Tegra K1 (2.1GHz)NVIDIA Tegra K1 (2.1GHz)NVIDIA Tegra K1 (2.1GHz)
Anti GlareAnti GlareAnti Glare
Battery Life13 hours (Manufacturer Estimated)11 Hours (Manufacturer Estimated)11 Hours (Manufacturer Estimated)
Battery Size4-cell 3220mAh 48Wh4-cell 3220mAh 48Wh4-cell 3220mAh 48Wh
2x2 MIMO2x2 MIMO2x2 MIMO
Ports2x USB 3.02x USB 3.02x USB 3.0
3.5mm Audio3.5mm Audio3.5mm Audio
Extras720p Webcam720p Webcam720p Webcam
Stero SpeakersStero SpeakersStero Speakers
Thickness0.71 in0.71 in0.71 in
Weight3.31 lbs3.31 lbs3.31 lbs

On the left side of the Acer Chromebook 13 you'll find an SD card reader (supports up to 64GB SDXC) and a USB 3.0 port. A second USB 3.0 port and an HDMI port sit in the back underneath the display hinge. On the right side, there’s a combination microphone/headphone jack, plus the AC jack. A 720p HD camera sits above the display. As for network connectivity, the Acer Chromebook 13 offers the latest in wireless technology with it's 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. It has a very nice full sized keyboard that is comfortable to type on. The trackpad feels very nice too. The Acer Chromebook 13 CB5-311-T7NN measures 12.9 x 9 x 0.7 inches and weighs 3.3 pounds, which makes it thin and lightweight to be fit into a purse, backpack or briefcase.

ReviewsBucket's Verdict:
We must admit that when Chromebooks were first released back in 2011 we were a bit skeptical. We thought who would buy such a device especially considering that they were just limited computers that only let you use a web-browser. But since then, Chromebooks have come a long way. Different people have different needs for using a computer, and Chromebooks are especially suitable for people who need something simple, secure and easy to use. They are ideal for those looking to run daily routine tasks like web browsing, checking emails, online banking including paying bills etc. The Acer Chromebook 13 CB5-311-T7NN like most other Chromebooks will easily handle these tasks. It is very well designed, sleek and lightweight enough to be carried around easily. It has a great battery life too. Even though Acer claims the performance to be superior to Intel based Chromebooks, we found it to be at par. Apart from some minor negatives we have mentioned above, it really comes down to brand preference and perhaps aesthetics.

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Readers Rating: 3.5/5
Acer Chromebook 13 CB5-311-T7NN Tegra K1 Review, 3.5 out of 5 based on 2 ratings



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