Budget computers should be just that — budget — and Acer’s Aspire One Cloudbook 11 certainly ticks that box, but is it worthwhile buying for other reasons too?
Acer’s latest take on the student computer craze, the Aspire One Cloudbook 11 is the latest from the brand that manages to carry a price tag well under the $400 or $500 people expect to pay for a small computer.
Even with this sub-$300 price, you’ll find an Intel processor (Celeron N3050) with 2GB RAM and 32GB storage, with room to move if you bring an SD card to the table.
Connections for the computer are fairly ordinary, with wireless handled via support for 802.11a/b/g/n networks, while Bluetooth is also here for wireless peripheral support. If you need to plug things in, you’ll find two USB ports — one of which is USB 2.0 while the other is USB 3.0 — as well as an HDMI port and a 3.5mm headset jack.
All of this sits under an 11.6 inch HD display providing a resolution of 1366×768, while a webcam sits above this providing a mere 640×360 for your video conferencing and occasional self-portraiture needs.
The battery is rated for up to seven hours of life and sits in a body that collectively weighs 1.12 kilograms.
First things first, let’s get that price up on the screen, because when a computer carries the price tag of $299, you can’t expect top shelf design.
And with the Acer Cloudbook 11, that’s more or less what you’re going to find: not top shelf design.
That being said, it’s not bad either, because even when you get it out of the box, the dimpled plastic top and bottom has a good feel to it, making it easy to grip, even if the shell can be a touch slippery.
There’s no denying that the Cloudbook is a low-end machine, and its design doesn’t try to push out different ideas, but at least Acer has made it comfortable to hold, and it’s in a dark grey, no less, so you don’t have to worry about arriving with a bright and cheerful computer design.
Instead you’ll find the Acer Aspire One Cloudbook 11 is inconspicuous, because sometimes that’s precisely what you want.
Performance is a little all over shop on the Cloudbook 11, because while Windows 10 and the combination of an Intel Celeron help to make the machine get the basics done, you do find some slowdowns here and there, and they’re pretty noticeable.
We had it while we were typing in Evernote, and we picked it up while we trying to get a scope on battery life in the power settings, with slowdowns that would bring the Acer Cloudbook 11 to a screaming halt, stopping our text from appearing on the screen or delaying it by a second or two.
This short amount of time may not seem like much, but a couple of seconds is quite noticeable when you’re talking about trying to get work done, especially when the computer is holding off on letting you type.
On the whole, this didn’t affect everything the entire time, but it would come and go in dribs and drabs, and it’s not helped by the bloatware found on the machine (a trial of a security software, an office application alongside a one year subscription to Office 365, a PDF editor, and Acer’s own software), nor is it aided by the 2GB RAM left there as a maximum.
That’s not a lot of memory, and the 32GB storage isn’t much to work with either, giving you a grand total of just under 15GB when Acer lets you at Windows for work.
At least there’s an SD card slot to upgrade things later on, but that isn’t much storage to work with at all.
What this translates to is a computer that will let you get enough writing and work done, and even some web surfing, but we wouldn’t recommend it for photos or even much multimedia.
Students doing the work and also surfing the web should be served well, but everyone else may want to look for something a little meatier.
Moving onto the whole operation of the device, because the screen is one area you need to watch out for.
Actually, it’s not about watching out for the screen, but rather positioning yourself for it, because Acer has left the Aspire One Cloudbook with a very low-end screen, offering up the 1366×768 resolution in a Twisted Nematic (TN) variety.
That might not mean much to you, but what it translates to is a screen where you’ll have to position yourself or the angle of the screen properly, or a combination of the two. Push the screen too far forward and it washes out in brightness, and too far back and everything goes dim.
There’s not a lot of brightness to work with here, either, meaning you’ll be struggling in sunlight, but hey, at least the screen is one of those in a matt finish, so forget about glare.
At least Acer got that part right about the display, because nearly everything else screams “meh” from the offset.
Keyboard and mouse
One of the most vital parts of any computer, Acer’s attention to the keyboard is a little like the performance part of this review: mixed.
On the one hand, you’ll find a fairly complete set of keys flanked well by a gutter and margin on either side, and unlike Toshiba’s Click 10, the keys don’t uncomfortably make their way to the edges, which was interesting, but marred by a woefully built keyboard.
But on the other hand, Acer’s keyboard feels like it wasn’t made for anyone that seriously likes typing.
Take the keys and the depth associated with them, because they’re so springy, it’s hard not to view the keyboard as a little too cheap for its own good.
At least there’s a solid click to the keys, and at least you don’t have to strike hard, but what’s with the squished right side with a shift key that is so small, you just know you’ll inadvertently press the up arrow next to it instead.
Strangely, the keyboard will grow on you, provided you lean on the left side and try not to focus on the fact that the right is a little messy.
Still, what is up with the absolute omission of a Caps Lock light, Acer?
It’s not just that there’s no light, but there is also no software indication on screen when you press the Caps Lock, so the only way you find out whether you’ve accidentally pressed this key is to see that everything is in capitals on your screen.
Seriously, Acer, there are better ways of detecting this, and a small LED either on the laptop body or on the key itself are the main ways people do this.
At least the mouse is good, with a wide and spacious trackpad supporting multi-touch gestures offered up for your use. There’s no touchscreen here, either, so make sure you get the most out of that plastic trackpad.
But even if the other parts feel like they could do with a bit of work — maybe some spit and shine polish work — at least Acer has made the battery life a priority, because you should find a good six (6) hours on the Cloudbook 11.
That’s not bad at all, and was what we found with WiFi on using the Cloudbook 11 for productivity work, which is the bulk of what we suspect it will be used for.
Price is the other winning feature of the Cloudbook 11, because with a value of $299, it’s hard to look past this as an option for students when you’re on a budget.
In comparison to the other similarly low-priced laptops out there, Acer’s Aspire One Cloudbook 11 is a little more expensive, though that might be because the options from HP and Acer that it is competing against have been out for longer.
Looking at it on specs alone, there’s no reason to choose the Acer over the others, unless you prefer the charcoal colouring to the brighter and more standout blue, purple, and pink what we typically see in the student laptop space.
Picking a computer can be a hard business, especially when there’s so much stuff out there, but when you’re buying for a specific segment, the task is a little easier.
Acer’s Cloudbook 11 isn’t likely to be suited to you or I, and even if you class yourself as someone who only needs a set of keys and a decent battery life, we’d still encourage you to look at what else there is out there.
But what the Cloudbook does do well is focus on the little people out there, specifically the ones that have never used a keyboard and might like the springy or light keys, and don’t need to store lots of files, at least not yet.
There are better options out there in this category, mind you, but given that the majority tend to come in brighter colours, that may well be the very factor that tips you over to Acer’s Cloudbook 11.