Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Acer C720 Review - Perfect Little PC

A little over three weeks ago I purchased my first Acer C720 Chromebook. That is right - I liked this little guy so much I went and picked up a second copy so my wife and I could each have one.

For most of last year I kicked around a Samsung ARM Chromebook with me - so much of my discussion here will be in comparison to that device since it is still comparable price wise to the Acer C720.

Performance:

I've used dozens of different netbooks over the last few years and I must say the performance of this new Haswell based Intel chip is phenomenal. A dozen browser tabs open, Netflix streaming all while writing an article or two and the little guy doesn't skip a beat.

This thing can do some gaming as well. While it isn't going to run anything at maximum resolution, I've enjoyed the following titles at one point or another on my C720 in the last few weeks:
  • Left for Dead 2
  • DOTA 2
  • Killing Floor
  • Guild Wars
  • Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind
The C720 comes with DDR3 memory in a quantity of either 2 or 4GB.


Look and Feel:

The Acer C720 has a solid plastic case, that is plenty functional. I wouldn't say it is going to win any beauty contests, but it isn't unappealing either:


The dimensions of the C720 are 11.34 x 8.03 x 0.75 inches and it weighs in slightly more than the Samsung at 2.76 pounds. I know many people who are used to only having full size laptops find netbooks a bit on the small size, but personally I find the eleven inch C720 to be the perfect middle ground between a tiny screen like a tablet and fuller size laptops.

Battery & Screen:

The Acer makes up for its slightly heavier weight with a slightly longer batter life. The C720 lasts upwards of eight hours on a full charge. Obviously the exact duration will vary depending on how hard you are hammering the processor and how bright the screen is.

The screen on the C720 is basically identical to every 11" Chromebook with its 1366x768 resolution. Honestly I hope this is one of the things we see an improvement on in the next generation of Chromebooks.

Ports/Connections:

The ports on the C720 are identical to the Samsung Chromebook:
  • One USB 3.0
  • One USB 2.0
  • 1/8" audio out
  • HDMI video/audio out
  • SD Card Slot
One giant improvement for the C720 though is the location of all of these ports. Unlike the Samsung which crams both USB, the HDMI and the charging port all next to each other on the back of the device, the C720 has USB ports on opposite sides:



Just like the Samsung - the SD card slot on the C720 does not fully encompass an inserted device, meaning you won't want to travel with one inserted:




Version Comparison:

Something you want to be aware of when looking to pick up an Acer C720 is that there are a few different versions of this little laptop you have to choose from. I'm not going to cite any prices here because they seem to fluctuate week to week depending on where you look, but any version of this device you should be able to pick up for under 300 USD.

There are three* different "stock" versions of the Acer C720. Where they differ is the size of their internal storage and memory. The options are:



RAM
Storage
Option One
2GB
16GB
Option Two
2GB
32GB
Option Three
4GB
16GB

*There is also the C720P that has 2GB of memory, 32GB of storage and comes with a touch screen.

The most important thing to note if you do decide to pick up an Acer C720 is that the storage IS user upgradable while the RAM is NOT. That means if you pick up a C720 with 2GB of RAM and decide later you want more - you will need to upgrade the entire unit.

Upgrading the internal Storage (voids warranty):

If you are like me and think a C720 could easily become your day to day computer if it just had a bit more internal storage space then you simply need to upgrade the internal drive. You will simply need to pick up an M2 SSD such as this one on Amazon. Then you can simply follow this instructional video for changing out your SSD:


As someone who has opened up many laptops in his time - I must say that the C720 is very easy to get apart/back together.

OS/Software:

By default the C720 comes with Chrome OS preinstalled - if you are happy with that skip onto the next section.

One of the best things about the C720 though is that Acer has provided it with a version of Coreboot that is able to load into a traditional BIOS in the form of SeaBIOS. This means that if you aren't happy with just Chrome OS you can install a traditional operating system on the device fairly easily.

Honestly I don't see any reason not to put a full OS on the C720. The hardware is more than capable of handling it and installing the latest version of Google's Chrome browser does everything Chrome OS is capable of.

Final Thoughts:

No hardware is perfect and the C720 is not an exception to this rule. It is however a fantastic little PC for the price point that it comes at and I have been very pleased with it thus far. I picked up my C720 with 4GB of RAM refurbished for 190 USD directly from Acer via Amazon, then factor in the 100 USD SSD upgrade and I have a fantastically fast, mobile, PC with a good amount of storage for under 300 USD - not a bad deal.

Do you have a C720? If so what are your thoughts on the device? If you are looking to pick up a C720, but have a question about something I didn't cover above, please feel free to post a comment below asking.

Cheers,
~Jeff Hoogland

18 comments:

  1. While I'm unsure if the SD slot is the same depth as the Macbook reader, you may want to check out the Shortening MicroSD adapter that's offered by Adafruit. :)

    http://www.adafruit.com/products/1569

    ReplyDelete
  2. Unless you absolutely require 8 hours of battery time, they are still overpriced. For a similar price you could buy a refurbished Thinkpad T61/T400, add ram and a normal old 2.5" SSD and end up with a much nicer box, albeit with a 2 or 3 hour battery life.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A T61 weighs 5 pounds! More if you drag along the brick it comes with which you'll have to do because of the awful battery life of *at best* 2-3 hours. You'll only get that if you can dig up a new battery, Thinkpad batteries last about 20 minutes after they've aged about a year or so. Not to mention the need for antivirus and all that junk.

      Nope. The C720 is a better deal and much less of a hassle all around.

      Delete
  3. The thing I like the most about Chromebooks that there were plenty of not-so-smart people who bought these things as cheap technology gift without researching all the pros and cons of ChromeOS. My local CL is over flooded with them. You can pick one up for just slightly over $100 (which is nice for a 2nd spare PC)

    ReplyDelete
  4. How are you gaming on this thing? Is there a Linux version of L4D2? What's your frame rate link? I'm really curious.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is a Linux version of Steam/L4D2 yes. Graphics set to low I see 50~ FPS in doors and 25-30 in more open areas. Not amazing, but playable.

      Delete
  5. Can I play dota 2 on this laptop? Is it low or mid setting

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I tried it briefly, and it seems to run well enough.

      Delete
    2. We are getting 25-40 fps on League of Legends, 25-30 on games vs. humans, 35-40 fps on games vs. bots, a c720p with Celeron 2955U processor and 4 GB of RAM.

      Delete
  6. Did Dota2 run fine? I tried running it with Crouton and it was too slow. It was running off an SD card. Did you run yours off USB or the SSD? And was it crouton or Chrubuntu?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I ran a native Linux install from the SSD.

      Delete
    2. Could you expound more on how you set up the native Linux on the SSD? I'm planning to get the 4GB ram version with the intention of making it at entertaining as I can. Was your review on a 2GB or 4GB version?

      Delete
  7. Any chance of upgrading the ram to 16gig? (I heard they solder the RAM on the C720?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. RAM is sadly connected to the main board.

      Delete
  8. Nice review!

    Just picked up a C720 with the new Intel i3, 4GB, SSD, $379. It is amazing and quick. I am running Ubuntu 14 LTS in a chroot so I can hot key between it at Chromium. This is the low cost Linux laptop I've been dreaming about for a long time.

    ReplyDelete