Acer Chrome­book R 11

£229 inc VAT • acer.co.uk

Tech Advisor - - CONTENTS -

Since the re­lease of Win­dows 10 we’ve seen lots of lap­tops with touch­screens and hinges en­abling them to be trans­formed into rather heavy, cum­ber­some tablets. The R 11 from Acer takes this for­mat and brings it to a Chrome­book, with vary­ing de­grees of suc­cess.

Of course this isn’t the first Chrome­book with a touch­screen. Acer launched one (the C720p) in 2014 and we found it to be a fine ma­chine, but the abil­ity to an­gle the screen in a wide range of mo­tion, from tra­di­tional lap­top, around to fully flat against the back of the key­board, makes the R 11 here an in­ter­est­ing propo­si­tion that could ap­peal to a lot of users. Asus has also re­cently gone down this route with its Flip C100P de­vice (page 56), so maybe we’ll see this space heat up in the com­ing months.

Price

With a list price of £229, the R 11 isn’t overly costly, but we have seen it dis­counted to £189 al­ready. Of course, Chrome­books are rarely ex­pen­sive, ex­cept for the won­der­fully ex­otic 2015 Chrome­book Pixel. The touch­screen does el­e­vate it above some of its com­pe­ti­tion, and the only direct com­pe­ti­tion around at the mo­ment is the new Asus C100P Flip, which re­tails for £249, fea­tures a smaller 10.1in touch­screen, but can per­form the same gym­nas­tic feats as the R 11. If you don’t want th­ese par­tic­u­lar fea­tures, then there are plenty of al­ter­na­tives that can usu­ally be found for a bit less. Toshiba’s Chrome­book 2 (page 62) is cur­rently one of the best around, with a more spa­cious 13in screen, great per­for­mance, and avail­able on Ama­zon for £199.

De­sign

We’ve grown ac­cus­tomed to Chrome­books be­ing light­weight, slim de­vices, that in­stantly pro­mote mo­bil­ity. It’s a lit­tle sur­pris­ing then to see how rel­a­tively bulky the R 11 seems at first glance. There are no ta­per­ing lines in the chas­sis, such as those found on the old Sam­sung Chrome­book or Dell Chrome­book 11, in­stead the R 11 is block­ish, with only bev­elled edges in the key­board sec­tion break­ing the in­dus­trial-style de­sign. The top sec­tion is also thicker than you might ex­pect, but both of th­ese fac­tors have a sen­si­ble cause, and that is sta­bil­ity for the touch­screen.

The two sec­tions are joined by thick sil­ver hinges that give the R 11 its ma­jor sell­ing point. Th­ese dual-torque fit­tings al­low the screen to move through 360 de­grees, while be­ing strong enough to hold any po­si­tion with­out top­pling over. This cre­ates new pos­si­bil­i­ties for the R 11, although how ad­van­ta­geous they are is open to de­bate.

If you want to watch me­dia on your Chrome­book, but don’t want the key­board stick­ing out in front, you can po­si­tion the R 11 in Dis­play mode. This is where the screen is folded back un­til the key­board is placed fac­ing down on the ta­ble and the screen is stand­ing up. It’s a subtle dif­fer­ence, but can mean that the screen is closer to you if space is lim­ited. As you would ex­pect, the key­board and mousepad are turned off in this mode, but the touch­screen con­trols make it easy to ac­cess con­trols with­out hav­ing to flip it over.

One added ad­van­tage in this mode is that the speak­ers, which are on the bot­tom of the chas­sis, ac­tu­ally point up­ward, although we didn’t no­tice a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in vol­ume. Dis­play mode is fine for

watch­ing YouTube or movies, but for any­thing else it’s lim­ited as the screen wob­bles slightly when you tap it. This would make typ­ing search terms, or so­cial me­dia com­ments, us­able but not en­tirely de­sir­able.

Move the screen back fur­ther and you reach Tent mode. This forms an in­verted V shape when look­ing at the R 11 side-on, and adds sta­bil­ity to the de­vice by stand­ing it on the top of the screen and the bot­tom of the key­board. Now when you tap the dis­play you get a solid re­sponse, plus there’s the ad­van­tage that the foot­print of the R 11 is re­duced, so you could con­ceiv­ably use it on an in-flight fold-down ta­ble.

The last mode is that of the Pad, or tablet, which has the screen folded com­pletely flat against the back of the key­board. ChromeOS makes good use of a touch­screen in­ter­face, mainly due to ac­cess­ing ev­ery­thing through a web browser. It’s not a true tablet re­place­ment though, as the 1.25kg weight and gen­eral bulk of the de­sign makes any­thing other than brief stints of use un­com­fort­able, but in a pinch it could be a fun fea­ture.

The screen it­self is an 11.6in IPS dis­play, run­ning at a 1366x768 res­o­lu­tion. It’s bright, clear, and presents colours in an at­trac­tive fash­ion, but off-axis viewing an­gles quickly cur­tail. Ports that dec­o­rate the chas­sis in­clude USB 2.0, USB 3.0, HDMI, an SD card reader, plus a stan­dard head­phone socket. While In­ter­nally Acer has opted to fit an In­tel Celeron N3050 1.6GHz CPU, 2GB of RAM, and a 16GB SSD for lo­cal stor­age.

Per­for­mance

For all its im­pres­sive con­tor­tion­ist tricks, the R 11 is a let down by a cou­ple of things. In gen­eral use it’s a nice lit­tle ma­chine. The key­board is good to type on, the touch­screen is re­spon­sive and ac­cu­rate, but the first stum­bling block is the track­pad. Again, for a lot of things it’s per­fectly fine, but we did no­tice a ten­dency for it to be over-sen­si­tive at times, with the cur­sor jump­ing across the screen rather than flow­ing smoothly. The pad it­self is also stiff when click­ing, although en­abling the tap-to-click op­tion in ChromeOS deals with that is­sue com­fort­ably.

The main beef, though, is that the R 11 feels slug­gish when nav­i­gat­ing the web – the Num­ber One job for any Chrome­book. Pages can take a while to load, and if they have mul­ti­ple videos load­ing up you can ex­pe­ri­ence sig­nif­i­cant de­lays wait­ing for the screen to for­mat prop­erly. Sev­eral times we no­ticed that a video open in an­other tab would stall briefly while we re­freshed the Gmail app or clicked on a link.

As we’ve seen on other lower-end de­vices re­cently, a 2GB RAM al­lo­ca­tion isn’t re­ally go­ing to cut it on the mod­ern web. As far as we know, and judg­ing by the list­ings on Acer’s US site, there should be a 4GB ver­sion of the R 11 com­ing out, and we sus­pect that the short­com­ings of this re­view model would be solved by the sim­ple ad­di­tion of that ex­tra RAM. That’s not to say that this R 11 isn’t worth buy­ing. If you tend to work on one thing at a time, or sim­ply want to stream YouTube videos, movies, or lis­ten to mu­sic, then this ma­chine can do that very well.

One stand­out fea­ture the R 11 can boast is its bat­tery life. In our looped video test the de­vice held out for a very im­pres­sive nine and a half hours, which would get you through a ma­jor­ity of long haul flights. It’s enough for sev­eral days of oc­ca­sional use be­tween charges.

Ver­dict

The Acer Chrome­book R 11 is a de­cent, if un­spec­tac­u­lar de­vice. Hav­ing the op­tion to po­si­tion it in a va­ri­ety of modes is fun, but the some­times slug­gish per­for­mance makes it hard to rec­om­mend to any­one who wants to do more than a cou­ple of si­mul­ta­ne­ous tasks. If your needs are light and you value the flex­i­ble hinges though, it’s a nice ma­chine all the same, but we’d still opt to wait for the 4GB al­ter­na­tive.

The screen is an 11.6in IPS dis­play, run­ning at a 1366x768 res­o­lu­tion. It’s bright, clear, and presents colours in an at­trac­tive fash­ion

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