Google’s Chrome OS has grown up quite a bit since it was first introduced as part of a mysterious laptop, the CR-48 nearly seven years ago. Fast forward to today, and Chromebooks are produced by most major hardware manufacturers. Since there’s not much to differentiate the various Chromebooks on the software side, device makers are left to tweak hardware specifications and designs in a bid to find a competitive advantage.
In the case of the Acer Chromebook 15 (See it on Amazon) / (See it on Amazon UK) it’s a big 15″ model with a beautiful IPS display, oversized speakers, and excellent battery life. With so many Chromebooks available for $150 or even less, the Acer Chromebook 15’s $399 MSRP puts it at the very high end of the Chromebook price spectrum. But is the extra cash well spent? We put the laptop through its paces to find out.
One note before we jump in – Chromebooks are obviously not gaming machines or for power users. We evaluate Chromebooks based off their design, build quality, battery life, and general ability to be an effective “daily driver” when it comes to web browsing, word processing, and other basic tasks. A high-scoring, inexpensive Chromebook should not be compared directly to a high-scoring, expensive gaming laptop.
Here are the specifications of the Acer Chromebook 15 I’m evaluating:
- Model: CB515-1HT-P39B
- Display: 15.6-inch FHD (1920 x 1080), LED-backlit IPS display, multi-touch support
- Graphics: Integrated Intel HD
- Processor: Intel Pentium Quad-Core Processor N4200, 1.1GHz with Intel Burst Technology up to 2.5GHz
- Memory: 4GB LPDDR4 SDRAM
- OS: Chrome OS with Play Store support
- OS Drive: 32GB SSD
- Webcam: HD camera (1280×720)
- Ports: 2 x USB Type C 3.1 w/DisplayPort support, 2 x USB Type-A 3.0 ports, 1 x 3.5 mm audio jack, 1 x microSD card reader.
- Battery: 4-Cell Li-Ion Battery (3220 mAh)
- Wireless: 802.11AC, Bluetooth 4.2
- Dimensions: 14.88 x 10.08 x 0.75-inches (WxDxH)
- Weight: 3.97 pounds
- Price: $399
Design and Features
The lid of the Acer Chromebook 15 and surrounding trim is made of swanky aluminum, though the bottom is simple black rubber. The keyboard housing is made of plastic, however, and it has a bit of give to it and feels kind of cheap.
Two large speakers flank either side of the full-sized keyboard, and their volume level matches their size as they get quite loud. I experienced some distortion when listening at full volume, particularly in bass-heavy songs or sound effects though. A touchpad is centered just below the keyboard and has the same polished edges as the rest of the chassis. The touchpad responds to taps, or you can press on the entire thing like a giant button. There’s a reassuring click when you press on it.
The keyboard uses the standard Chrome OS keys, meaning shortcut buttons reflect things like back and forward arrows, a refresh key, and volume controls. Also, the caps lock key is replaced with a dedicated search key.
The Acer Chromebook 15 has a respectable combination of old and new school ports with two USB 3.1 Type-C ports and two USB 3.0 Type-A ports, a microSD card reader, and a 3.5mm audio jack. The USB-C ports can charge the Chromebook and also work with a DisplayPort adapter for connecting the Acer Chromebook 15 to an external monitor.
The USB ports are split evenly between the right and left side of the laptop. On the left is where you also find an LED power indicator. On the right are the microSD and audio ports. Because there’s a USB-C port on either side, you aren’t limited to only charging on one side of the machine. This comes in particularly handy for those moving between desks or classrooms, where outlet placement is never constant.
A big, bright and colorful 1.56-inch 1920 x 1080 IPS display takes center stage on the Acer Chromebook 15. It’s one of the better screens I’ve used on a Chromebook, coming in second only to the Google Pixelbook. The Acer Chromebook 15’s display is touch-capable and can register up to 10 fingers at once. I bounce back and forth between the touchpad and screen when using a Chromebook, and found the display to be responsive and smooth to use for button selection or scrolling.
Other ancillary features include a 1280 x 720 webcam, 80211.ac wireless with Bluetooth, and the aforementioned SD card reader so you can add some storage to the paltry 32GB of eMMC flash that’s included.
Measuring 14.88 x 10.08 x 0.75-inches and weighing 3.97 pounds, the Acer Chromebook 15 is big. Granted, it has a 15.6-inch display, but the bezels around the display and the overall weight contribute to the somewhat bulky feeling.
Chrome OS is no longer a glorified web browser. With the addition of the Google Play Store, users can install Android apps on the Chromebook. Though the Play store hasn’t been rolled out for all models yet, the Acer supports it, so I installed a few work apps such as Slack, and while it can be a bit finicky at times (sliding out the pane to switch between panels is hit or miss, for example), the Play Store has made any Chromebook feel a lot closer to a “real” computer.
In addition to accessing the typical suite of Google apps and services like Sheets and Docs, Microsoft recently updated its Office apps with full Chrome OS support. Adobe has already done the same with some of its Creative Cloud apps, as well.
Between the Chrome Web Store and the Play Store, there are plenty of extensions and apps to complete the most common computing tasks.
Heck, I even downloaded a Chrome OS optimized version of Asphalt 8 and raced for a couple of hours during my time with the Acer Chromebook 15. It performed just fine, by the way, but that’s to be expected considering that your old phone could play the game too.
The Acer Chromebook 15 is equipped with an Intel Pentium N4200 CPU quad-core 1.1 GHz processor and 4GB of LPDDR4 memory. As is the case with most Chromebooks, the processor and RAM specifications aren’t something that’s going to impress you — especially if you typically are browsing gaming laptops, or only look at the Pixelbook in comparison.
Here’s a quick rundown of the scores tallied by the Acer Chromebook 15:
- Ice Storm Unlimited: 30,236
- Speedometer: 39.89
- Kraken: 3,043 milliseconds
- Geekbench Single Core: 1,553
- Geekbench Multi Core: 4,841
- Geekbench Battery: 8 hours 31 minutes
As a point of comparison, I ran the tests on older Chromebook’s my kids use, as well as the Google Pixelbook I had on hand. The Acer Chromebook 15’s performance fell in the middle of them all. The Pixelbook’s Speedometer score (higher is better) was 109, whereas an Asus Chromebook Flip C100P that’s two or three years old scored a low of 26.
Keep in mind, the Pixelbook I tested is equipped with an Intel Core i5 and is more than double the cost of the Acer Chromebook 15.
With the Kraken test, a lower score is desired. At 3,043 milliseconds, the Acer Chromebook 15 is easily bested by the Pixelbook’s 1,350-millisecond score. Yet, the Acer Chromebook 15 did much better than the Asus C100P which scored around the 6,000 ms mark.
With that said, benchmarks are only part of the story. The overall experience with using any Chromebook usually is closely tied to the amount of memory it has, with lower specced 2GB models often acting sluggish and forcing tabs to reload more often than those with more memory.
Despite the Acer Chromebook 15 having just 4GB of memory, I didn’t experience any of performance issues. Between running multiple Android apps and having far too many tabs open in Chrome, the Acer Chromebook 15 always kept up with standard daily use.
Chromebook’s often have decent battery life due to the streamlined operating system. With the Acer Chromebook 15, the story is more of the same. Using Geekbench 4’s battery life test, this particular model clocked in at 8 hours and 31 minutes.
Acer claims up to 12 hours of battery life for this particular laptop, and while my tests didn’t quite get there, I can see that being the case based off of my casual usage. Suffice to say, the battery on the Acer Chromebook 15 should get you through a full day of work without any issues.
The Acer Chromebook 15 has an MSRP of $399, but it’s rarely sold for that price. $310 – $350 is a more typical online price: