Acer is no stranger to Chromebooks, they made one of the first truly great Chromebooks with the C720, and have replicated the experience, while improving it in every way, read on to find out what we think of the R13.
Disclaimer: Acer loaned this R13 to us for a few weeks to review. We swapped out our daily driver Chromebook (an Asus C201) and used the R13 in it is place. No money changed hands and Acer has no editorial control over the outcome of this review.
Speeds and Feeds
- 13.3” 1080p IPS touchscreen
- 16/32/64GB eMMC storage
- 4GB RAM
- MediaTek MT8173c (2xa72, 2xa53)
- PowerVR GX6250 GPU
- 1x USB-C for Power,Data and Video
- 1x USB3.0 Type-A
- MicroSD expansion slot
For a more In-depth look at the specs for this particular model (the 64GB SKU) click here
I want to commend Acer for tightening up the QA since seeing the R13 at IFA a few months ago where those models had shoddy connections between the metal and plastic parts of the body, the hinge felt soft and flaccid and the trackpad felt loose and shallow. All of that has been changed for the better, bar one little thing.
That one little thing is the plastic housing for the hinge, it is bendy and flexes much more than I’d like and I’d much rather Acer made a solid laptop instead of a convertible, but I digress. Talking about how well this is constructed, the R13 does flex and bend a little if you torque it, but it bounces back and it takes a fair bit of force to flex it in the first place. If I had one niggle, I feel that the edges of the metal parts connecting to the plastic parts could have tighter tolerances, but that’d bump up the cost of the R13 overall, and it really isn’t that bad as the parts you touch and use often are very well designed and built.
Taking a tour around the machine, with it closed, the lid has a nice brushed aluminium finish with a chrome logo and branding as well as the Acer logo. The entire perimeter of the lid has a semi significant chamfer, that catches the light and serves no functional purpose, but man, It really does make it look prettier. Opening the R13 up we have probably one of the dullest parts of the R13, in the best possible way, let me explain. We have the 13.3” IPS panel covered by glossy glass, because this is a touchscreen a glossy finish is all but required, there is a chromed Acer logo below it and a webcam up top, that’s pretty much it. There is a little Full HD 1080p sticker, but i’d quickly remove that If it were my own model, but otherwise it’s pretty damn plain, and that is great.
Looking down at the keyboard deck, we have the standard ChromeOS layout, including the search button in place of the caps lock button, as well as elongated CTRL and Alt keys, as well as what seems to be a mandated font that I’d be surprised if they are all using it by choice. The deck is sunken down a bit in the chassis so they don’t protrude a little too much and make the side profile weird. They Keyboard has a really nice layout, the keys are appropriately sized and have a little bit more travel than my C201, but they are also not too mushy, which is a problem I have noted with other keyboards I’ve tested currently, such as the HP Envy X360. The keys wiggle in their cavities a little more than I’d like, but honestly, you’d have to be wiggling the key caps to figure out if they did to notice it, so it really isn’t that much of an issue.
Next we have one of my favourite parts of the R13, the trackpad. Chromebooks have had really damn good trackpads for years now, and the R13 is no exception. The trackpad is a great size, smaller than the ridiculous trackpads on the new macbooks, and similar in size to the old Macbook Airs. I don’t think it is glass, and the actually force needed is a teensy bit too light in my opinion, but the overall trackpad experience is great, 2 finger scrolling is still better than most windows machines costing £1000 more, which isn’t surprising if you’ve ever used a Chromebook. My only gripe and this is petty os what I wish the trackpad was taller, there is more than enough room for it below the current trackpad, but other than that little niggle, unless you’ve only used macs for the last decade, you won’t be upset by the trackpad on the R13.
On the left hand side of the R13 we have essentially all the ports, the USB-C that is a multi-functional port, giving us power for charging, USB3.1 Gen1 speeds as well as the DisplayPort alternate mode. Down the side we have the HDMI 1.4b port, and this is a proper HDMI full sized port, not the stupid MiniHDMI that isn’t all that much smaller, or the stupid MicroHDMI that is almost nowhere. Moving on we have the USB3.0 Type-A port which is… a USB port, simple, only USB, and lastly on this side is the MicroSD slot. MicroSD slots on laptops have been somewhat controversial, with people saying they’d rather not have a slot than a MicroSD slot, but after all the bitching and moaning that has been made about Apple removing the SD slot in their newest MacBook pros, something tells me they wouldn’t.
On the Other side we have the Power button, Volume rocker and 3.5mm audio jack, as well as a Kensington lock slot and a pair of LEDs used for power and charging indication. The buttons feel fine, but they go back to what I was saying earlier, If Acer had decided to just make a great laptop, and remove the convertible functionality, we wouldn’t need these buttons on the side, we could put the power button where the stupid lock key is on the keyboard (where the delete key is on most Windows laptops), So without the need for those button on the side, we could have more I/O, or a more balanced I/O configuration. This would also mean they could have a better Hinge instead of trying to do this 360 monstrosity.
Oh and there are two little slits on either side near the front as the speakers, and they sound decent and get loud, but distort at about the 75% level.
ChromeOS, If you haven’t used ChromeOS it’s easy to write it off as just a browser,but it is quite a bit more than that now. Even if I can’t sway you that It is not just a browser, you’d genuinely be surprised at how much you can do from a browser nowadays, and how good the general experience is, We’re getting better skype integration so you don’t need to download it anymore, we don’t have to deal with malware or software updates (they’re done silently in the background) the Chromebook experience is really quite good, if you’re open to using more and more web apps.
If there is one thing I will say about ChromeOS on the R13, is that the Optimisation is immense. The R13’s MediaTek SoC is ARM, and it is much less powerful than not just core i7s from Intel, but even i3s, but nevertheless, the Chrome browser on the R13, could play 4K UHD video on YouTube and drop less frames than my core i7 HP laptop that has active cooling, whereas the R13 is passively cooled.
Building off of what I was just saying, the performance of the R13 is really quite surprising. The MediaTek MT8173c is a quad-Core SoC (System on a chip) with 2 Cortex A72 cores from ARM, as well as 2 Cortex A53 cores from ARM, is not the newest and fastest cores from ARM (that would be the A73) and they’re not the most efficient either (That would be the A35) and neither is it made on a cutting edge process node (something like 14nm) instead it’s using the old and mature 28nm node, and despite that, The R13 performs really quite well.
All of this is made even better by the fact that in my 2 weeks i’ve never once gone “Ooooh, that’s a bit toasty” it just doesn’t even get warm, thermal dissipation is awesome on this and I have to commend MediaTek and Acer for this.
Benchmarks? Sure okay, but they’re kinda useless on Chromebooks:
So boom, there are those.
Another place that Chromebook tends to do really quite well, is in battery life. Acer quote “up to 12 hours” on this, and honestly, I think I got pretty close to that if I was just doing essay writing or tweaking posts on MTT, but if even if I went full on media hoarder and watched Netflix and YouTube for hours, it still performed Valiantly.
If I had to guess, 10 hours would be what I’m currently guessing with the screen at about 80% brightness. Acer Has done a really good job with not only battery depletion but also charging. Acer has used the USB-C port for charging, and they use USB-PD, or USB Power Delivery, and oh my, I love it, universal charging is awesome.
Charging via USB-C means two things, you can charge really fast via the included charger, but also that, if in a pinch, you can charge from a USB-C phone charger. Just for funsies, I used a 5v2a phone charger that came with my Huawei P9, and in one hour of charging, i only got 16% of charge, So it really isn’t fast, but, I can really charge my phone with my laptop charger, or (slowly) charge my laptop with my phone charger, this is the future and USB-C and this is it implemented well, so Good job Acer, and for everyone else, Use USB-PC and listen to the USB-IF for god sake.
Webcam being stupid wide angle. I don’t have anything else to say about this. The webcam quality is absolute rubbish, and Acer should feel upset about being this quality, but on the other hand, the webcam is stupidly wide angle, which is a shame, because i want to use it more because it is so wide angle, but then I use it and weep that the quality is just utterly garbage.
So, should you buy it? Hell yeah if you’re in the market for a Chromebook! It is very well built, has a gorgeous screen, performs well, is silent, has a really nice keyboard and trackpad and uses a really good I/O configuration and the R13 is going to be getting support for Android Apps and the Play Store some time soon, meaning that there is going to be a lot more native apps on here, and that’s when the 64GB variant comes in handy.
Is it cheap, not really, but is it expensive? Hell no. If I hadn’t bought a chromebook last year that is still holding up really well, i’d really be looking at the R13, because I am going to be so sad to send this thing back, And I really hope I can work with Acer for some other projects in the Future.
Acer Chromebook R13£399.99
- Screen is gorgeous
- Performant enough for most anything
- Battery life that mostly delivers on their claim
- A properly implemented USB-C port
- Great trackpad
- Parts of hinge feel flimsy
- wanting to be a convertible limits this from being perfect
- Trackpad is slightly shallow