Monday, 2 December 2013

Acer C720

In 1999 I received the prestigious title 'King of Wires' from Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace. I have always been keen to pass this title on to my son so at the age of 8.75 it seemed time for him to own his first laptop.
A macbook would be too expensive and I'm not that keen on regularly clearing malware and viruses off a windows laptop (although I'm happy to be paid to do that) so Linux it must be.
£400+ looked the likely price (getting a bit steep) until I looked again at the chromebook. Since last looking, Acer have released the C720. The intel haswell processor gives not only gives great performance and battery life, but with linux installed you get full access to closed source software that has always been a restriction of the Arm based machines.
So here we have a machine for under £200 with great battery life capable of running Minecraft (apparently essential for all children of his age) and watching 1080p youtube videos (of Minecraft).

I've only spent a few hours with the machine but here are a few observations.

Case: Looks ok for the price. Plasticy. A bit flimsy. Opening the lid warps the screen somewhat. Trying to bend the screen/lid is alarmingly easy. I'm hoping this will do no long term damage to the screen over time, it is for a child after all.

Battery life: Claimed life is 8.5 hours. I'm not sure yet as I haven't had chance to run through a few charge/discharge cycles but 6+ hours wouldn't surprise me. I managed to play with Chrome OS, install crouton and Chrubuntu rebooting and fiddling around for a couple of hours and still had a claimed 5.5 hours left.
This is great.

Screen: Coming from a very old Dell latitude X1, the resolution is pretty similar 1366x768 (vs the dell's 1280x768) but what I noticed immediately is how bright the display is. I can use this outside no problem.

Trackpad: It's a single block with no buttons. Right click becomes 2 fingers and you can also use them to scroll with. I'm sure I'll get used to it.

Ports: Nice to get a USB3.0 and SD slot. You also get USB2.0 and HDMI. With only 16GB disk (SSD), it's nice to add a big SD card or low profile USB flash drive.

 Software: Chrome OS is really just a web browser (Chrome of course) with some extra bits and pieces. You get flash support so flash games or video sites work fine. I was pleased to see 1080p youtube videos and HD Iplayer programs playing without any frame drops. A video player is provided for any local content you have. Some MKV videos I tested played flawlessly with perfect audio sync. There are offline programs for creating office documents that I haven't looked at yet. The file manager is basic but functional. Games and other simple apps can be added via the Chrome store. Again I've not looked at this much but I am expecting they fall a little short of the experience of Android or Ubuntu stores (for example).

Really I was interested in getting Ubuntu up and running for Minecraft, so that's what my next post will discuss.


  1. Very encouraging post Dr. T. I shall be picking up the Acer C720 from Tesco tomorrow evening (9 June) and semi-retiring my aging Asus X51RL laptop, keeping it in reserve for odds and sods.
    Basic question, if I may: I was looking to buy a Samsung 32GB SDHC card to use with the Acer. Would this card be OK for bumping up the new chromebook?

  2. Hi,
    I ordered a biggish SDHC card when I got my chromebook but was immediately disappointed as it sticks out of the Acer's case too far. I always felt it would snap off if I knocked it.
    I replaced it with a low profile usb3 memory stick, the "Integral 32GB Fusion USB 3 Flash Drive" has got pretty good speeds at a reasonable price and only sticks out about 1cm. And the tough metal case means I never worry breaking it.

  3. Oh, and if you do get a usb3 memory stick, ensure you use the (blue) left hand side port as only this one is usb3.