Once known as basic, inexpensive alternatives to Windows notebooks, Chromebooks have added new features over the years into more powerful laptops, with some even crossing the $500 price mark. Still, we have the sweet affordable Chromebooks that you can buy on a shoestring budget. The Acer Chromebook 11 N7 C731-C118 is a good example. The Chromebook 11, however, looks and feels like a typical Chromebook.
Our review unit is a rugged, simple Chrome OS laptop with great battery life and a spill-resistant keyboard that will stand the occasional pushes and drops in the classroom. It’s a perfect candidate for those looking for a sturdy, portable, and very affordable notebook for college, surfing the web and checking mail.
The Acer Chromebook 11 N7 is portable enough for daily commute, measuring 0.87 by 11.72 by 8.27 inches (HWD) and weighing just under 3 pounds. This size is average compared with other budget Chromebooks, making it small and light enough for students to slide in a backpack. Compared: the Asus Chromebook Flip is much thinner and lighter, measuring 0.53 by 11.96 by 8.26 inches and 2.4 pounds, while the Windows-based ASUS VivoBook L203MA has an equally small footprint at only 0.8 by 11.7 by 8.3 inches, but slightly heavier at 2.9 pounds.
The screen can open to a maximum of 180 degrees, meaning you can lay it flat on a table or desk, only that it doesn’t get a 360-hinge like the Lenovo Flex 11 that can flip all the way. Still, the 1,366-by-768 display decent picture, but not as robust as what you get from IPS 1080p panels available on competing Chromebooks.
Being a low-cost laptop, you don’t get much in terms of connectivity. Everything is rounded to a USB 3.0 port, an HDMI port, an SDXC card slot and a standard 3.5mm audio jack, all on the left edge. The right side has another USB 3.0 port, a Kensington lock slot and a charging port. It doesn’t get a USB-C port that we’ve seen starting to pop onto Chromebooks, like the Asus Chromebook Flip that has a two.
Keyboard And Touchpad
On the Chromebook 11, you have full-sized keyboard with a standard Chromebook layout, meaning it has a large Ctrl and Alt keys (since it doesn’t have a Windows or Command key) and a Search key instead of the usual Caps Lock. On the top, you have shortcut keys for back, forward, and refresh functions. The keyboard has scissor-switch keys with 1.44 mm of travel and a matte finish that translates into a decent grip for your fingers and a comfortable typing experience.
Below the keyboard there is a buttonless touch pad that offers both two-finger scrolling and three-finger navigation, that lets you swipe between tapping. A two finger tap registers as a right click.
The Acer C731-C118 features a 1.60GHz Intel Celeron N3060 dual-core processor with integrated Intel HD Graphics 400, 4GB of RAM and 32GB eMMC flash storage. This is sufficient power for regular web browsing and basic schoolwork, but don’t expect this laptop to run power-intensive tasks. For instance, you get some stuttering once you open multiple browser tabs, particularly when listening to music on Google Play. Our Editors’ Choice for budget Chromebooks, the ASUS Chromebook C425 for its added price, includes a Full HD screen, an aluminum chassis and a faster Intel Core M3 processor.
As with all Chromebooks released in the past two years, Google now offers access to over 2 million Android apps via the Google Play Store, and that counts for a lot, in addition to the existing Chrome Web Store apps. The 32GB of Flash storage isn’t much, especially since you’re down to 25GB of free out of the box, but you also get 100GB of Google Drive storage free for two years. Battery life is excellent, lasting over 12 hours 7 minutes on a single charge, enough to last a full day and some more.
For college students, there’s a lot to like with Acer Chromebook 11 N7, including a durable build, comfortable keyboard and a battery that will last you all day at school, and still have some more for the evening. Granted, it doesn’t include features of more expensive Chromebooks like backlit keyboards, styli, and 360-degree hinges that allow you use them in tablet, but you’re spending half as much and still get a good system.
If you can stretch your budget a little, you can nab a faster laptop with a 1080p screen and tablet functionality, something like our Editors Choice Asus Chromebook Flip. We’ve also recently reviewed a number of impressive under-$500 Windows laptops such as the top picks Acer Aspire 5 (A515-43-R19L) and ASUS VivoBook L203MA.
Still, if you’re on a tight budget and need something as durable as it is practical, the Acer Chromebook 11 N7 C731-C118 is a great choice.