Acer Chromebook 11 N7 (£280)
The Chromebook 11 N7 is the tuner car of the Chrome OS world: it might look like a basic, bog-standard laptop, but it’s actually rocking a few under-the-hood upgrades that justify the £100 price premium.
The 11.6in screen, for example. It might have the same 1366x768 resolution as other Chromebooks, but the N7 has a superior IPS panel. That means you get a much brighter image, with excellent viewing angles, vibrant and rich colours, and a general step up in image quality. Yeah, a higher resolution display would look nicer still, but you’d have to pay a lot more for one.
Touchscreen support is a nice touch, too, but it’s a shame the Google Play Store isn’t available yet - it’ll apparently turn up later in the year.
An Intel Celeron N3060 CPU and 4GB of RAM are also a step up from most entry-level Chromebooks. The N7 can run a few more apps, and leave more browser tabs open, before it starts feeling a little sluggish - it’s not much, but makes all the difference when you’re ten pages down a Wikipedia rabbit hole.
Battery life clocks in at a very respectable 9 hours 13 minutes of video playback, which translates to more than a full working day of use before it’s time to top up.
32GB of on-board storage is double what you’d get in an entry-level model, and there’s an SD card slot for adding extra space too - even if it will poke out the side of the laptop.
The basic range of ports, including one USB 3.0, one USB 2.0, HDMI and a 3.5mm audio output, will provide enough for most people.
Otherwise, Acer hasn’t upgraded the N7’s chassis from the basic Chromebook 11. Not that it’s a problem: the dark grey plastic chassis is best described as functional, but has a rigidity and toughness that’ll mean you can lug it anywhere without taking any damage. A MIL-STD 810G rating backs that up, and the spill-resistant keyboard could come in handy for kids (or the clumsy), too.
The keyboard has quiet, responsive Chiclet keys with a fair amount of travel, and the touchpad is just as good. It’s responsive both for gestures and swipes, such as using two fingers to scroll, and responds well to clicks. All-day use? No problem.
Sure, you can get cheaper Chromebooks, but the better screen and more storage make the Chromebook 11 N7 worth the extra cash if you want something a bit more usable, but still wallet-friendly.
STUFF SAYS ★★★★
Looks like a basic Chromebook, but the upgraded screen and more storage make this a perfect step up for anyone after a tough, reliable Chromebook.
Acer Chromebook 11N7 C731T-C96J in figures Operating system: Chrome OS • Screen: 11.6in 1366x768 IPS • Processor: Dual-core Celeron N3060 • RAM: 4GB • Storage: 32GB plus SD • Weight: 1.2kg