HP did it with the Chromebook 14 we reviewed in May 2019, and now Acer’s done it with its Chromebook 315 ($ 299.99 as tested): snub Intel silicon for the AMD A4-9120C, a dual-core, 1.6GHz processor with Radeon R4 integrated graphics. The AMD chip’s performance is unexciting, but it helps bring the 15.6-inch system to retail for $ 200 less than our Editors’ Choice consumer Chromebook, the 14-inch Acer Chromebook 514. If you’re dreaming of a big-screen, touch-screen laptop on the tightest of budgets, the new Acer is worth a look.
A Silver Slab With Speakers
Carrying model number CB315-2HT-47WG, my $ 299.99 review unit combines the A4-9120C with 4GB of memory, 32GB of eMMC flash storage, and a 1,920-by-1,080-pixel touch panel. The cheapest Chromebook 315 model Acer offers is only $ 20 less but steps way down to a 1,366-by-768-pixel, non-touch display. The most expensive, at $ 429.99, flaunts a faster AMD A6-9220C processor with Radeon R5 graphics, as well as 8GB of RAM and 64GB of storage.
Dressed in pretty good imitation brushed aluminum—in truth it’s plastic, unlike its Chromebook 514 sibling—the 315 sports Chrome and Acer logos on its lid. There’s just a bit of flex if you grasp the screen corners or mash the keyboard. It measures a briefcase-filling 0.8 by 15 by 10.1 inches and weighs 3.97 pounds, which is a little bulky compared to the 15.6-inch Asus Chromebook C523 (0.6 by 14.1 by 9.8 inches, 3.8 pounds).
Open the lid—it tilts back a full 180 degrees—and you’ll see an expanse of silver plastic, with unfashionably fat bezels surrounding the screen and a standard Chromebook layout looking lost in a vast keyboard deck. Upward-facing speakers bracket the keyboard on the sides, and a large, buttonless touchpad swims in the space below.
On the left side are a USB 3.1 Type-C port (which accommodates the compact AC adapter), a USB 3.1 Type-A port, a microSD card slot, and an audio jack. On the right are another USB-C port, another USB-A port, and a security lock slot.
I was disappointed not to find an HDMI video output, though you can connect an external monitor by plugging a DisplayPort adapter (not included) into a USB-C port. Bluetooth and 802.11ac Wi-Fi handle wireless connections.
Highs and Lows
The 720p webcam is a lowest-common-denominator device, with fair colors but rather soft focus. Selfies taken in my home office weren’t the brightest, even on a sunny day, but the camera will suffice for video chats (although full-screen Google Duo images looked blurry).
The Acer’s stereo speakers can fill a good-size room, and the Chromebook 315 played my MP3 files with both Chrome Audio Player and Google Play Music. (Some other Chromebooks I’ve tried have balked at the latter.) Cranking up the volume doesn’t make sounds tinny or distorted. Overlapping tracks come through clearly, without a ton of bass but with strong highs and vocals.
By comparison, the display is a bit of a disappointment. Viewing angles are broad, at least until interrupted by reflections on the touch overlay, but brightness could be better—backgrounds are a touch off-white even with the screen backlight maxed out. Contrast is good, yet small text and fine details are slightly hazy around the edges. Colors are passable but don’t pop. None of this adds up to a bad screen—I’ve certainly seen inexpensive Chromebooks with worse—but this panel is not a highlight.
The keyboard is not backlit, but not bad. Again, it sports the usual Chromebook layout, with a menu/search key in place of Caps Lock and browser and system-control functions along the top. The cursor arrow keys are small, but at least they’re in an inverted T instead of a row. Typing feel is rather flat and shallow, with a pliant, plasticky response. The touchpad glides and taps smoothly, though pressing the lower left corner to click or holding it down to drag items feels wobbly.
Testing the 315: Getting There Eventually
I compared the Acer Chromebook 315’s objective performance to that of four rivals, three of which have already been mentioned. The HP Chromebook 14 has the same AMD A4-9120C under the hood as my test unit, while the Acer Chromebook 514 and Asus Chromebook C523 both use Intel’s quad-core, 1.1GHz Pentium N4200. The Dell Inspiron Chromebook 14 2-in-1 is a wild card, not because it’s a convertible but because it has the most powerful processor in the group, a dual-core, 2.2GHz Intel Core i3-8130U.
Boot Time Test
For starters: boot time. Turned off and on again, the 315 takes a plodding 18 seconds to reach the Google sign-in screen…
It’s much quicker to wake from sleep if you just close and reopen the lid as most Chromebook owners do.
Application & Browser Tests
In anecdotal use, I had no problems perusing the Google Play Store and running Android apps, though opening more than a dozen browser tabs or playing more than a few 1080p videos slowed the system noticeably.
Battery Rundown Test
In our battery-life test, we loop a locally stored video at 50 percent screen brightness and 100 percent audio volume…
The 315 finished in the middle of the pack, with the Acer Chromebook 514 showing outstanding stamina and the 15.6-inch Asus falling short of the seven-hour mark.
A Solid Starting Point
The Chromebook 315’s touch screen is handy, as are its twin USB ports on both sides, and it’s priced right. But it doesn’t climb from the entry-level ranks to threaten its Editors’ Choice sibling—its tepid performance and plastic design won’t thrill you, and its display will leave you longing for more color and candlepower. Bargain hunters will be happy, but Chromebook power users will want to set their sights higher.