A $ 200 laptop is hard to gauge. On the one hand, the Acer C7 Chromebook has this terrifyingly low price, on the other hand, there is poor build quality and a netbook processor. The compromises the buyer must be willing to make are not trivial. Before we acknowledge that the Acer C7 is running Chrome OS, not Windows.
So the most interesting question is, who exactly is the C7 for? Before we can figure out who it is for (hint: there is more than one correct answer), we need to figure out what the C7 is, and more importantly, what it is.
In terms of hardware, the C7 is a barebones affair, although frankly we didn't expect anything else for the price. At exactly three pounds, the C7 is light but doesn't feel compact. Since the entire machine is made of incredibly lightweight (read: cheap) plastic, the battery on the back of the machine holds most of the Chromebook's weight. This makes the weight of the computer feel unbalanced and unwieldy when it is dragged around the house and pulled out of a pocket.
The gray-blue hue of the lid is the hottest part of the laptop. It has a mottled sheen. There is a cream-colored screen-printed Acer logo in the middle and the Chrome logo in an upper corner. The hinge that secures it to the rest of the case is glossy black. When pressed, it audibly fades in and out. It's a lot less than comforting.
The bottom of the PC is made of black plastic, the speakers are at the front. Speaking of which, they are mostly terrible. The sound comes from the high ranges. It is predictable that there will be no bass, and at loud volumes the sound becomes to the ear. Fortunately, there is a perfectly serviceable headphone jack on the right side of the deck. On the right side there are also two USB 2.0 ports, a Kensington lock and the charging port. What is worth mentioning about the charger is that it has an impressively small power brick. It's a little bigger than the palm of my hand. On the left side of the deck there is a third USB 2.0 port and some surprises. There is an Ethernet port, a full-size HDMI connector, and a VGA port. The SD / MMC reader on the front lip rounds off the port selection.
When opening the laptop, the 11.6-inch glossy screen of the Acer Chromebook is displayed. This is the only physical difference between the C7 and the many netbooks of yesterday. Resolution reaches a predictable 1366 x 768 resolution and a webcam is exactly where you would expect it to be. The screen grows between decent sharpness and lousy color reproduction due to the enormous amount of light bleeding on the panel. The resolution of 1366 x 768 over 11.6 inches brings out a lot of details, but the images often appear washed out and without color.
The deck comes with a full size chiclet-style keyboard. The keys feel soft, and a matte and slightly textured finish helps fingers find their way around. The only major difference between this and the usual keyboard is the lack of a Windows key. Here it is replaced by two buttons, a function button and a dedicated search button. We'll get into more of their functionality later. The keys feel fine. The journey is rather flat and some keys wobble in their slots, which leads to a few more typos than expected. It's a perfectly serviceable keyboard for everyday use, nothing more.
The trackpad is very good. The trackpad sits flush in the palm rest and is parallel and the same length as the space bar. It's more plastic than glass, but its texture is pleasant and easy to work with. Google's special gestures for Chrome OS all work well, which is more than can be said for many Windows laptops. Showing on the desktop is as easy as it should be. Apart from the fact that the trackpad is occasionally supposed to be a bit wider, there is nothing to complain about.
The internals are solid for the price. A dual-core Intel Celeron clocks at 1.1 GHz, supported by 2 GB RAM and a 320 GB hard drive. The Celeron hums over Chrome OS and starts up between twenty and twenty-five seconds. The Chromebook playfully chugged through Bastion without complaining or causing a lot of heat or noise. Launching ten different tabs in Chrome didn't seem to bother the computer. Only one test confused the Chromebook. Loading photos from an SD card was next to impossible. The C7 chugs when the SD card is opened and then crashes when I scroll through the grid list of photos. I repeated this action multiple times with the same crash results. Granted, the card was loaded into the gills with full-size DSLR footage, but a Windows computer would have taken its time, made no excuses, and failed the task.
The C7's battery life was good for just under four hours with normal use. That's less than four hours of surfing and word processing. This laptop runs on netbook internals, so less than four hours are not enough in my book.