To date, Intel-based Chromebooks, for the most part, have been your best bet for multitasking and any kind of intensive work on the Chrome OS platform. And the chip giant has had the upper end of the Chromebook market essentially to itself. Now, silicon rival AMD is taking on the Chromebook budget and midrange market with two new mobile chips that are tagged for Chromebook implementation. These A4 and A6 “APUs” (combined CPUs and GPUs) have shown up at CES in a pair of under-$ 300 machines that have some nice value appeal. The first was from HP, the HP Chromebook 14; here we have the bigger-screen Acer Chromebook 315.
1 Big and Cheerful at 15.6 Inches
Many inexpensive Chromebooks are small-screen units, but not the Chromebook 315. This model has an expansive 15.6-inch screen. You’ll be able to get it with an AMD A4 or A6 CPU, and these chips are augmented by what AMD calls Radeon R4 and R5 graphics. We don’t have a track record to access for how well AMD’s APUs will play with Chrome OS apps and those from the Google Play Store; we’ll have to put one of these units through the benching regimen to find out.
The Chromebook 315 should start at $ 279. That will net you the AMD A4 (specifically the AMD A4-9120C), 32GB of storage, and 4GB of main system memory. Screen resolution is 1080p; Acer will offer touch and nontouch models, as well as other variables, including an A6 version of the laptop. Exact configuration mixes will vary by geography.
2 The Keyboard Deck: Google Standard
Because Chromebooks use a slightly tweaked, standardized layout across the genre (with some of the function keys relegated to Chrome OS actions), the Chromebook 315’s layout looks a tad lost in the midst of a big keyboard deck. That said, it’s available in a backlit version with the A6 model of the machine.
The stripes along the sides of the keyboard, bracketing it, are speaker grilles. They emit decent but not bass-intense sound. The fact that they are mounted facing up rather than down into your lap is likely a plus given their power.
3 The Type: Worthy for Budget Hardware
The typing feel on the Chromebook 315 keyboard isn’t bad. The keys have a little give, and return decent tactile response. The overall chassis feels a bit on the empty or hollow side, but we’ve been less impressed by machines that cost more than twice as much, in some cases. As mentioned, the keyboard uses the Google-standard keys. We do like the inverted-T layout of the directional-arrow keys (always a plus in our book), even if, in this case, the keys have been shaved down to half-size.
4 A Look at the Lid
The back view reveals a clean lid. The body is plastic on the whole, which gives the machine a decidedly budget feel, unlike some of Acer’s earlier Chromebook efforts. That includes a worthy 14-incher a few years back that was all aluminum in the same price range. Your correspondent bought one, and recommended it to several others.
5 Underside View: Clean and Plain
No ventilation cutaways down here. With the speakers up top, Acer was able to make the undercarriage a clean expanse.
6 Ports Are Generous for a Budget Chromebook
One USB Type-A, a USB Type-C, and a notch for a Kensington-style security lockdown cable grace the right edge.
7 Flip It Around
On the left is another USB Type-C and Type-A, as well as the headphone jack and a microSD flash-card slot.
We would expect to see the Acer Chromebook 315 at the end of the first quarter of ’19. We’re looking forward to putting it through its PC Labs testing paces and seeing how it shapes up to the swaths of Intel Pentium, Celeron, and Core Chromebooks we have tested, along with models from makers of budget-minded Chromebook chips such as MediaTek.
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