This review will be broken down into the usual stuff. We'll start by listing the features the manufacturer wrote on the side of the box, so to speak. Then we'll try to translate those into benefits for any potential users. After that we'll give the main selling point, as well as highlight any faults in this thing, followed by some customer opinions, before we give our conclusion.
Features and Benefits
- Intel Celeron 2.16 GHz Processor
- 2 GB DDR3L SDRAM
- 16 GB SSD Storage; No optical drive
- 6 inch, 1366 x 768 pixels, LED-lit Screen
- Chrome Operating System; Moonstone White
The Acer Chromebook CB3-111-C670 is a recently released Chromebook, made for the 11-inch market. If what you want is some real portability, with a very lightweight notebook, then this is the kind of thing you're probably looking for.
Let's start with the basics. What differentiates a Chromebook from most laptops is the fact that most of the programs and files are cloud hosted i.e. online, rather than in the hard drive. This is why the storage is a measly 16 GB, but there's another reason for that and we'll get into it later.
This little fact, according to Google, makes the Chromebook rather fast, as instead of you putting up with all sorts of under the hood activity, all you're doing is streaming the apps, streaming the data, back and forth from the cloud. It's basically a browser that acts as an OS. And with the 802.11ac WIFI connection, that means you get an equally fast stream rate.
A bit of digging reveals that the unspecified Intel Celeron 2.16 GHz processor is in fact a Celeron N2830, which you can consider as something of a little brother for the N2840 used by some of the other laptop choices here, such as the HP Stream 11 and Chromebook CB35.
A quick spec comparison reveals that this processor is a bit behind the N2840, which says a lot, considering the N2840 is already as bargain bin as it gets. There isn't much of a performance difference, however, and it should be sufficient for most daily tasks such as browsing, typing word documents and filling up spreadsheets.
Just don't expect to be able to run Dark Souls 2 on it - which would eat up half of the HD space - especially considering it's not streamable. You're better off playing browser-based games, to be honest. The video is decent, and could go up to 720p, which is about the resolution you have here for this LED screen.
It has 2GB of RAM, which is half that of the CB35. While I would normally prefer to have 4GB at the least, to be completely fair, I'm very app heavy on my use, so my priorities are probably skewed towards performance rather than savings. My brother managed just fine with 2GB of RAM, and that was on an 8-year-old laptop, after all.
Now we get to the 16GB SSD. As I said earlier, that storage requirement is made possible by the fact that practically everything you're going to do, and every file you're going to store, will be done by streaming apps hosted elsewhere, with storage hosted elsewhere.
The other half of this equation is that it uses a solid state drive - essentially the same technology as your USB thumb drive. What does this mean? It's really about the simple evolution of technology. New technology is more expensive - and yes, flash drive technology is new, especially compared to Hard Disk Drive technology, which has been around since the 80's.
We can only hope that in the coming years, as SSD's proliferate throughout the market, prices will go down. After all, a 1TB HDD today is relatively cheap, compared to ten years ago, when they didn't exist (and were darn expensive when they first came out).
Why should you pick a tiny SDD over a ginormous HDD? It depends on the context. In the case of the CB3-111, you don't need it. Aside from the fact that you won't need that much space for your everyday stuff (unless you're a download-o-holic like me, in which case I suggest looking at THIS LAPTOP instead), what space you will need should be handled by the cloud storage.
Furthermore, the new technology in the SDD allows your computer to run a lot faster. We're talking about 10-second boot ups. So in this case, sacrificing some offline storage in the name of price and performance is a good idea.
So What's The Point?
I'll be the first one to admit it. I'm not a fan of ChromeOS. Grew up a Microsoft boy, and I'll probably die a Microsoft boy. Doesn't mean that I won't study these other systems, of course. Windows won't exist forever.
Still, from a purely technical perspective, I'd get the CB3-111. ChromeOS is very lightweight, and combined with the components, should perform at a reasonable speed, all things considered. Additionally, at $170, that makes it the cheapest laptop I've reviewed.
You really could call it a budget deal.
This is a problem I have with any Chromebook. It runs on ChromeOS, which requires you to be online. I live in an area that doesn't have WIFI hotspots everywhere. Not every restaurant has it, and there are a woefully small number of coffee shops (because coffee shops always have WIFI, right?). Personally, my needs are those of something more traditional, with a hard drive that can store things offline. Lots of things.
However, there are ways around this. You can install a third party OS like Linux for whenever you're offline. It should have enough space for that. You have apps like Libre Office to do your daily stuff even while offline. That's a good deal, right?
But if you've gone through the customer reviews (which we'll get to in a bit) and find that Chromebooks aren't a fit for you, then we also have a solution for that. If you're like me, and have needs like what I mentioned, and can't be bothered to install Linux, then check out a unit that I think is more suitable to us offliner download-a-holics.
Wisdom of the Masses
The CB3-111 has a good solid rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars on our suggested retailer, and out of that, an impressive 68% give it the full 5 stars. This means that despite my stated concerns about Chromebooks, you shouldn't be afraid to give it a chance, and my doom and gloom should be taken with a grain of salt.
I might just be an inflexible old fossil who grew up with the notion that storage size trumps everything. In any case, here's what some customers had to say.
Someone called ChromeOS very light (and it is). They pointed out the fact that it has no Windows bloatware, no viruses, and yes, it has the flexibility to install Linux for your offline purposes. They furthermore praised the stylish non-cheap appearance and the comfortable weight and keyboard.
Another praised the extensive battery life, which got them through several hours of inconvenience for the day, all while downloading a couple of gigs of stuff, watching a couple of hours of movies, and playing some games on Linux. All on one full charge. Yes, you don't need to stick to ChromeOS if you don't want to.
Another customer, after praising the battery life, said that while the Chromebook is limited to doing certain things - like browsing, blogging, and performance-light stuff, as opposed to playing games - it's optimized perfectly for them.
Of course not everybody thought that the CB3-111 was the best thing since sliced bread.
One customer had trouble with the screen. Specifically the dull, dim lighting - this appears to be a usual problem with laptops using anti-glare screens, though.
Another pointed out that - ironically - it occasionally had trouble logging into Gmail. Granted, this was 1 time out of 20, but it is rather humorous if that were the case.
Overall, the CB3-111 isn't the next great trend setter in budget laptops, but despite some scrapes and issues, it's great for the $170 you'll shell out for it. Just be sure to do your research, and go in with managed expectations - for one, you shouldn't get this thing expecting to play Dark Souls 2 - and you shouldn't end up disappointed.