Acer Chromebook 714 review: Unfussy, affordable and effective
Acer’s Chromebook undercuts the competition while still offering a stylish design
Chromebooks are sometimes dismissed as cheap and cheerful laptops, but there are loads of premium portables available with high-end design and high-quality displays – and with a 287% growth in Chromebook sales year-on-year in the last quarter of 2020, there’s no shortage of demand.
However, while pricey machines are great for people who want Chrome OS with some added sheen, notebooks that cost the best part of four figures aren’t exactly the most accessible.
The £491 exc VAT Acer Chromebook 714 is trying a different approach. This laptop hopes to undercut its expensive competitors at the checkout while still providing a stylish experience – and with enough power under the hood to handle everyday workloads.
Acer Chromebook 714 review: Design
A body made from gunmetal aluminium ensures that this machine looks professional. It’s decorated with subtle logos and there are no exposed seams beyond the base, so it looks sleek and smart. The only design downside is the large bezels above and below the screen, and that’s only a minor complaint.
The aluminium body ensures that this machine is strong enough to sling into a bag without issues. There are no weaknesses in its underside or edges, and it has a smooth 180-degree hinge that allows the device to lay flat. The Acer also has MIL-STD-810G certification, so it’s able to withstand significant drops. There’s a little movement around the keyboard and in the rear of the screen, but that’s acceptable at this price and we have full confidence that the Acer will survive busy working life.
This laptop weighs 1.6kg and is 18mm thick. It’s hardly hefty, but those dimensions do mean that the Acer is thicker and heavier than some of the more expensive Chromebook options on the market – for example, the HP Pro c640 and the Google Pixelbook Go are far more portable.
Acer Chromebook 714 review: Keyboard & trackpad
The full-size backlit keyboard delivers consistently excellent quality levels. The buttons have a moderate amount of travel as well as a fast, consistent, and pleasingly snappy typing action – they’re capable of handling hours of typing. The moving metal around the keyboard does mean it feels a little bouncy when compared to pricier, more robust machines, but that’s not going to slow you down.
As usual, this Chromebook has no numberpad – you’ll need the larger Chromebook 715 for that. Its row of function buttons is basic, too. You get shortcuts to alter the screen brightness, switch apps, go backwards and forwards in browser windows and change the volume, but options to modify the keyboard backlight or networking would have been welcome. More positively, there’s a full-size Enter key and large cursor buttons, and the Ctrl, Shift, Search and Tab buttons on the left-hand side are all suitably sized.
The trackpad is good, too; it’s large and responsive, with a smooth Gorilla Glass coating and snappy, shallow buttons.
Acer Chromebook 714 review: Display
The inclusion of a 14in, 1080p IPS display is a fine choice for everyday working, and the panel has a contrast ratio of 1,310:1. That’s a great result, and it means that this panel has decent depth.
Examine the benchmarks, though, and you’ll find significant restrictions. The panel’s peak brightness level of 249cd/m2 is acceptable for indoors but it’s not bright enough for using outdoors or even next to windows on days when it’s particularly sunny. The Delta E of 2.89 is decent, but the display only covered 57.8% of the sRGB gamut, so it can only render a relatively narrow range of colours.
For browser-based work, casual gaming and watching YouTube videos these results aren’t disastrous, but the lack of brightness and poor gamut coverage mean that colours are dull on this display. The HP Pro c640 and the Chromebook 715 had similarly underwhelming screens, but the Pixelbook Go’s panel is brighter and rendered an impressive 92.6% of the sRGB gamut. You’ll also find better screens on most Windows laptops at this price.
Acer Chromebook 714 review: Hardware & performance
The Intel Core i5-8250U that underpins the Acer is a couple of years old, but it’s still got four Hyper-Threaded cores alongside a base speed of 1.6GHz and a boost peak of 3.4GHz. That’s a capable specification, and Acer has paired the CPU with 8GB of memory and a 128GB SSD.
It’s not groundbreaking hardware, but it’s enough to deliver single- and multi-threaded results of 846 and 2,836 points in Geekbench 5 – results that outpace the Pixelbook but fall a little behind the larger Acer and the HP. They’re middling results, but the hardware didn’t struggle in day-to-day use. We opened more than a dozen Chrome tabs comprising several documents and spreadsheets, email clients, social networking sites and updating news pages while running Spotify in the background and the Acer didn’t flinch, remaining smooth and responsive throughout.
For everyday working, the Acer is perfectly adequate. However, if you want to tackle tougher tasks on your Chromebook – including light photo-editing and running Linux apps through a VM – then you’ll want to seek out a machine with a Core i7 processor.
It could also be worth abandoning Chrome OS altogether if you need serious CPU firepower: spending around £500 exc VAT on a Windows machine will get you Intel Core i5-1135G7 or AMD Ryzen 5 4500U processors. Both of those chips soar past scores of 1,000 and 4,500 in the single- and multi-core Geekbench tests.
The Acer’s middling benchmark speed was joined by merely average battery longevity. The Acer lasted for 11hrs 53mins in our battery test. That’s a middling result: better than the larger Acer, but behind the HP and Google machines. Using the Acer for more demanding tasks will see that longevity reduced a little, but ultimately you’re going to make it through a day of work with this machine and likely have power to spare.
Acer Chromebook 714 review: Ports and features
Each side of the Acer has a USB-C port that supports charging and DisplayPort, but bear in mind that one of those ports is used to charge the laptop. The Acer has one full-size USB 3.2 Gen 1 port, a single audio jack and a microSD card reader alongside a Kensington Lock slot. On the inside, connectivity is handled by dual-band 802.11ac wireless and Bluetooth 4.2, and there’s TPM for security.
For everyday use, that’s fine, but some rivals serve up HDMI outputs, too, and it’s not unusual to find Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5 in current Chromebooks. A second full-size USB port would also have been welcome.
The small fingerprint reader worked well, registering our print every time we used it. The only downside is that it can’t be used to unlock the laptop - which is a limitation of Acer’s design, rather than Chrome OS - although it can be used to log in to services, make payments and verify your identity once the machine is unlocked using your password or PIN number. Acer’s machine also has a webcam alongside dual microphones with acceptable quality for everyday video calls, but it doesn’t have a privacy shutter. It’s got speakers, too, but don’t rely on them for anything beyond the most basic media duties – they’re feeble, with tinny sound and no bass.
Acer Chromebook 714 review: Verdict
The Acer Chromebook 714 can’t compete with pricier rivals on slim design and screen quality, and it often lags when it comes to raw power. If you want the market’s most stylish or speediest Chromebook, then you’re going to have to spend more.
It’s possibly one of the best value Chromebooks around, though: it undercuts the competition significantly, it’s got enough power to handle everyday workloads, and it has a sturdy, good-looking chassis and decent battery life. It’s a good-value middle ground between premium options and bargain-basement portables.
Acer Chromebook 714 Specifications
1.6GHz Intel Core i5-8250U
Intel UHD Graphics 620
14in 1,920 x 1,080 IPS
Dual-band 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2
2 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C/DisplayPort, 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, 1 x audio, 1 x microSD
323 x 239 x 18mm (WxDxH)