Acer Chromebook C720P-2600 review

With a bright, clear touch screen and all-day battery life, the Acer Chromebook C720P-2600 dominates among Chromebooks.
Photo of Acer Chromebook C720P-2600

The ubiquity of Internet access, along with the increasing reliability and decreasing cost of online storage, means that you won’t necessarily need to give up too much to replace your current Web-browsing laptop or desktop with a Chrome OS system like the Acer Chromebook C720P-2600 ($299.99 list). The Chromebook C720P-2600 adds a 10-point touch screen, double the SSD-based storage, and updated styling. This new version is our latest Editors’ Choice for Chromebooks.

Design and Features
The C720P-2600 has a polycarbonate chassis, similar to the styling of the HP Chromebook 11. It’s certainly a brighter and friendlier look than the more utilitarian designs of the Samsung Chromebook Series 3 (XE303C12) and Acer C720 Chromebook (C720-2800). The C720P-2600 has a comfortable full-size, chiclet-style keyboard, with a relatively shallow keystroke depth. Typing on the keyboard is easy and comfortable, and the decently sized multitouch trackpad responds to swipes and navigation cues as you’d expect it to.

The standout upgrade from the previous Acer Chromebooks is the system’s new 11.6-inch, 1,366-by-768 resolution, 10-point touch screen. While the Chrome OS doesn’t necessarily go out of its way to accommodate touch functionality, the LED-backlit touch screen on the system is responsive and works well. It’s helpful on touch-oriented games like Angry Birds, and you can navigate the Web easily on the touch screen or with the trackpad. The screen is rock solid when you are touching it. It’s bright and clear, though it has slightly narrower viewing angles for videos and pictures than that of the HP Chromebook 11. That system’s IPS screen is currently the best of the Chromebook offerings available short of the $1,500 Google Chromebook Pixel. The display has glare control, which means you’ll be able to use the system equally well in a brightly lit or darkened room.

The C720P-2600 measures 0.8 by 11.25 by 8 inches (HWD) and weighs 2.8 pounds. This makes the system compact enough to bring with you everywhere on campus, in coffee shops, or even on a daily commute. Given that it’s Web-oriented, you’ll need to ensure that Wi-Fi is available wherever you go, or have a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot handy (4G LTE isn’t an option for the C720P-2600 of, for that matter the majority of Chromebooks currently on the market). The system will work from the Internet with the selection of offline Chrome apps, including Google Docs and Pocket.

For local storage, there’s a 32GB SSD, which is double the 16GB found on most SSD-based Chromebooks. In addition, Acer provides 100GB Google Drive storage with purchase (free for two years). Adding to local storage is easy using the built-in SD card slot, though we don’t recommend keeping an SD card plugged in all the time. The SD card slot is relatively shallow and at least two-thirds of the card will stick out of the laptop while in use, which is an inconvenience.

There is one USB 2.0 port and one USB 3.0 port to connect external peripherals. There is also an HDMI port for connecting the system up to a large screen display like a HDTV. We connected an external USB 3.0 drive and easily transferred files and viewed 1080p HD encoded videos. Connecting to either 2.4 or 5 GHz 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi networks was a snap, and will likely be your primary way of interacting with your data and media. The system comes with the Chrome OS pre-installed, which means that most of the local storage is available to you. Even after installing a couple of offline apps, the system had 23GB free on it while we tested it out over a week. The C720P-2600 comes with a standard one-year warranty.

Performance
The Chromebook C720P-2600 sports a Haswell-based Intel Celeron 2955U processor, 2GB of DDR3L memory, and 32GB SSD. This configuration means that the Chrome OS interface comes up quicker than rebooting a laptop with a traditional desktop operating system or a tablet with iOS or Android. It took about five to six seconds to get to the password login screen, and only a few more seconds to bring up our home pages in Chrome. You don’t even have to hit the power button: The system logs you off when you close the lid and turns itself on anytime you open the lid. We watched 720p and 1080p videos smoothly via online streaming, SD card, and USB 3.0 drives. Skipping forward and backward was quicker on the locally stored media, but online video watching was relatively trouble-free on our 50Mbps FiOS Internet connection.

Logging into your Google.com account ensures that all your bookmarks, plug-ins, and even your browsing history migrate over from the Chrome browser on your PC or Mac. Once we logged in for the first time and let the system reboot after updating itself, Chrome looked and acted just like it does on traditional PCs. This will pay off in spades when you decide to upgrade after this system is old and obsolete; your settings will follow you to your next Google Chrome-powered device.

The C720P-2600 is a battery life champ, lasting 7 hours 20 minutes on our battery rundown test. This is about an hour more than the Acer C720-2800 (6:26), and trumped the HP Chromebook 11 (5:13) and Samsung Series 3 (5:25). This makes the C720P-2600 the current battery life champ in the 11.6-inch Chromebook category: It’s the one you want if you work away from power plugs often.

The Acer Chromebook C720P-2600 has double the storage of previous SSD-powered Chromebooks, and it launches and reboots quicker than hard-drive powered Chromebooks like our previous Editors’ Choice for Chromebooks, the Acer C7 Chromebook (C710-2055). The C720P-2600 also has a better feature set, including more modern styling, an updated LCD with 10-point touch capability and almost 7.5-hour battery life. Add the fact that you won’t have to worry about knocking the SSD-based storage around in transport or while in use, the Chromebook C720P-2600 cements the position of our latest Editors’ Choice for Chromebooks.

Specifications
Touchscreen Yes
Processor Name Intel Celeron 2955U
Operating System Google Chrome OS
Weight 2.8 lb
Graphics Card Intel HD Graphics
Screen Type Widescreen
Type General Purpose, Value
RAM 2 GB
Networking Options 802.11n (2.4+5 GHz Dualband)
Processor Speed 1.4 GHz
Screen Size 11.6 inches
Storage Capacity (as Tested) 32 GB
Storage Type SSD

Verdict
With a bright, clear touch screen and all-day battery life, the Acer Chromebook C720P-2600 dominates among Chromebooks.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc