The Acer Chromebook R 11 ($329.99 as tested), a convertible-hybrid laptop running Google’s Chrome OS, offers an affordable alternative to the traditional PC experience. This chromebook includes an Intel Celeron processor, 4GB of memory, and a solid-state drive (SSD) for storage, making it fairly speedy for the price. Though it lacks the all-aluminum body of the Asus Chromebook Flip (C100PA-DB02), the Chromebook R 11 offers an extra inch of screen real estate, double the local storage, and faster components for just $30 more. All that, plus its sturdy, stylish build and useful port offerings, earn the Chromebook R 11 our Editors’ Choice.
Design and Features
The Chromebook R 11 is an attractive system, measuring 0.8 by 11.6 by 8 inches (HWD) and weighing 2.76 pounds. The Dell Chromebook 11 Non-Touch is very similar at 0.83 by 11.7 by 8.5 inches and 2.7 pounds, while the more rugged Lenovo ThinkPad 11e Chromebook is a bit heavier at 0.87 by 11.8 by 8.5 inches and 3.1 pounds. The Chromebook R 11’s white, aluminum lid, with white plastic along the edges, features a pattern made with nano-imprint technology, so it feels more like textured plastic with a metallic finish. It’s not flimsy by any means, but the all-aluminum build of the Asus Chromebook Flip feels a bit sleeker.
The 1,366-by-768 11.6-inch touch screen is not 1080p, but it does feature In-Plane Switching (IPS) technology, so you can see the display from wider angles without losing the picture quality. This is especially useful, given that it’s a convertible system; if you’re switching to another mode to show media to others, not everyone will be looking at the screen straight on. The 10.6-inch display on the Asus Chromebook Flip also has IPS technology, but with a lower 1,280-by-800 resolution, while the Dell Chromebook 11 (Intel Core i3), the Lenovo ThinkPad 11e Chromebook, and the Dell Inspiron 11 3000 Series 2-in-1 Special Edition (3153), our Editors’ Choice budget Windows convertible-hybrid, also feature 1,366-by-768-resolution screens.
In addition to Laptop mode, there’s Display mode (with the keyboard facing down and the screen pointing outward), Tent mode (standing the system upright on its edges), and Tablet mode (folding the keyboard all the way back behind the display for use as a tablet). The two hinges, located on each side of the screen’s bottom edge, provide a good amount of resistance, so the panel feels sturdy in any mode.
The Chromebook R 11’s chiclet-style keyboard is well built, though the keys could use more travel—in testing, it sometimes felt like there was too much resistance. There’s no key backlighting, though that’s not unusual for an inexpensive system. The Toshiba Chromebook 2 (CB35-C3350), which, at $429.99, falls more in the middle range of chromebook prices, does feature a backlit keyboard. The Chromebook R 11’s touchpad has a smooth and responsive feel.
There’s a 32GB SSD on board, which is double the 16GB you’ll find in the Asus Chromebook Flip, the Toshiba Chromebook 2, the Lenovo ThinkPad 11e Chromebook, and the Dell Chromebook 11 Non-Touch. Even the Dell Chromebook 13 (7310), a more expensive, business-oriented laptop, only includes 32GB. Google also provides 100GB of free Google Drive storage for two years with every new Chrome OS-based system, after which you’ll have to pay a monthly fee of $1.99. This is the main substitute for more local storage, in the same way that Google Docs and Sheets replace Microsoft Word and Excel, respectively. Chrome OS systems can’t run any traditional Windows programs, but there are Web-based alternatives to most basic applications and simple photo-editing programs. You’ll be unable to access these apps if you’re offline, which can be an issue, but depending on your needs, these replacements might be just fine to get the job done.
The speakers, located on the bottom of the system, are surprisingly loud. The sound quality is good, too, and only gets a bit fuzzy when blasting audio at maximum volume. Combined with the portable, convertible form factor, the laptop is a good pick for watching videos around the house, or playing them for groups, say, in a meeting—just don’t be the person on the bus or train blasting a movie without headphones.
Port selection is good. The left side holds the Power jack, a USB 3.0 port, and an SD card slot. On the right, there are a USB 2.0 port, the headphone jack, and a Kensington lock slot. These full-size ports are more useful compared with the Asus Chromebook Flip, which has a USB 2.0 port, a micro-HDMI port, and a microSD card slot. The Chromebook R 11 has a 1,280-by-720 front-facing camera, which was able to record decent-quality videos in testing. Wireless connectivity comes by way of dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. Acer provides a one-year limited warranty.
For a chromebook, the R 11 is fast, thanks to its 1.6GHz Intel Celeron N3150 processor and 4GB of memory, in addition to the speedy SSD loading times. It boots up in about 5 seconds, and is perfectly capable of running a few Web apps at once and streaming video. The pricier Toshiba Chromebook 2, with its Intel Core i3 CPU, can handle more like using a photo-editing service with more tabs and videos running at once, but for day-to-day multitasking, the R 11 can hold its own. Chrome OS systems are unable to run our Windows benchmarking software, but through daily use and anecdotal testing, I found that the system was adept at handling most basic tasks.
The Chromebook R 11’s battery lasted 10 hours 30 minutes on our rundown test, which is a very strong showing. The Asus Chromebook Flip lasted longer (11:15), but it also has a smaller, lower-resolution screen. The 13.3-inch Toshiba Chromebook only lasted 5 hours and 32 minutes. Among the Chromebook R 11’s Windows-based competition, the Lenovo IdeaPad 100S-11 , our Editors’ Choice budget ultraportable laptop, lasted 11:31, and the Dell Inspiron 11 3153’s battery lasted 6:10.
The Acer Chromebook R 11 is an all-around impressive convertible-hybrid Chrome OS system, offering solid construction, speedy components, and a good array of features at a low price. It rates a half-point lower than the Asus Chromebook Flip, our previous top pick, but there is also more competition in the field these days. The extra 2GB of memory and double the local storage, compared with the Asus Chromebook Flip, are welcome additions, as is the extra inch of screen space. The difference in battery life is negligible, and the full-size ports on the R 11 are more useful than those on the Asus Chromebook Flip. The all-white exterior is attractive, and the aluminum and plastic body feels sturdy. With its versatility, strong performance, and low price, the Chromebook R 11 is our Editors’ Choice.