Australia’s first touch-friendly Chromebook: Acer’s C720P reviewed

Everything seems to need a touchscreen these days, and Acer’s getting in on that, adding a touch panel to its C720 Chromebook. Does it make the computer better?

Features

The fourth Chromebook for Acer, the C720P takes something familiar and gives it a fresh coat of paint, and some upgrades that could make it the perfect not-quite-netbook you’ve seen.

First is the colour: it’s white, moving on from the grey plastic Acer has shown us for the past couple of years, with a white plastic top, middle, and bottom a nice change from the combination of grey and black used on previous Acer Chromebooks.

Next up is the most obvious change, and that’s a touchscreen, with Acer moving on from the matte touch-less screen on the C720 and going for one that your fingers can touch, swipe, and ultimately prod.

The screen size is still the same, though, packing in the high definition resolution of 1366×768 in the 11.6 inch display.

Under the hood, it’s mostly the same as what we saw in the similarly named C720, with one of Intel’s Celeron processors based on the Haswell technology used in many a laptop these days, paired with 4GB RAM (an upgrade from the C720’s 2GB), 16GB solid-state storage, and support for wireless connections over Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi.

The same ports and connection options are here, too, with HDMI, USB 3.0, and a headset jack on the left side, along with power, while the right side features an SD card slot, USB 2.0 port, and a Kensington Lock space.

Google’s Chrome OS is the operating system here, hence the Chromebook name, and relies on an interface and experience closer to that of Google’s Chrome browser, meaning your apps are essentially webpages that load in tabs.

Performance

Even though we see touch everywhere, touchscreen Chromebooks aren’t exactly a common thing.

Google first introduced the idea in its Pixel, a premium laptop that not only featured a high resolution screen and Google’s Chrome OS, but also delivered it with a touchscreen. But the Pixel was so premium, it was a Chromebook that cost well over a thousand dollars, and wasn’t even made available locally, making it an unlikely purchase for most Australians.

So we’ve never seen a touch-based Chromebook, that is until now.

The most recent Acer Chromebook delivered performance in spades, so Acer is already refreshing it, adding a touchscreen to bring it more in line with what people expect from a computer these days.

So what is it like?

As usual, the Acer build quality on the Chromebook isn’t spectacular, but doesn’t feel bad. The white finish with black keyboard looks a fair bit cleaner than what we saw in the grey and black equivalent, though the machine does still manage to feel very plastic.

We’re pleased to see, though, that Acer’s reliance on Intel’s recent Haswell-based Celeron chips improves battery life, and the touchscreen here makes a minimal impact in this regard.

In fact, we found a little under seven hours was possible here, with WiFi switched on and working away. That’s not a bad result, and doesn’t just highlight some great internals, but a low power screen, too.

Performance otherwise is practically spot on with what we experienced in the C720, if not a little faster.

Most of the innards are the same here, though Acer has been kind enough to upgrade the memory from 2GB to 4GB, which seems to let you run more tabs (apps or webpages) than its sibling.

Using the Chromebook, you’ll find a decent mouse here, and one of the Google designed keyboards that, while lacking in travel, still manages to carry enough feedback to make for a comfortable typing experience.

The touchscreen does provide some modern interaction, and people do expect touch to be on their computers these days, so that’s a positive thing right there.

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