Acer is all-in on video conferencing
Like most laptop makers, Acer is attracting remote workers and students with its many new releases. I’ve spent some time with an early sample of the Chromebook 515, a new line targeting remote business users.
Perhaps most importantly, for many clients who work from home, the 515 seems to be a solid video-conferencing tool. The speakers, with the help of a built-in smart amplifier, deliver audio that fills a room surprisingly fast and effortlessly—that’s louder than the audio from many of the more expensive Windows laptops I’ve reviewed recently. The webcam has a physical shutter that’s easy to slide back and forth and works well for what I see in dim light (though it does give a somewhat grainy picture). There are also two built-in microphones.
Laptops also have specifications to accommodate a wider range of workloads. My unit has a respectable Core i3-1115G4 – models can come with a Pentium Gold 7505, a Core i5, or a Core i7 (which will be overkill for most consumers). It performed fast in my daily workload of about a dozen Chrome tabs and had no trouble playing YouTube videos on top. Acer hasn’t given the battery size, but claims you’ll get up to 10 hours. And while the 15.6-inch display isn’t the brightest, it has plenty of room for multitasking and mattes that don’t bring back any intrusive brightness.
The main downside of the Chromebook 515, it seems, is that it’s a bit ugly. I wouldn’t call it an eyesore, but it looks like something you could pull off a school laptop cart—the bezels around the panel are chunky, and there’s significant flex in both the lid and keyboard deck. However, it has a nice finish, is comfortable to hold, and is fairly portable at 3.75 pounds.
There are technically two Chromebook 515 models: the regular Chromebook 515 and the Chromebook 515 Enterprise. As far as I can tell, the only difference is that with the latter ships Chrome Enterprise, which includes additional security and management tools for IT departments. It’s also the only model that currently has a US release date – it’s coming in January 2022 in North America starting at $649.99, and arriving in Europe, the Middle East and Africa in October with a starting price of €799. The regular model is coming to Europe, the Middle East and Africa in October and will start at €499.
If you prefer something smaller, the new 14-inch Chromebook 514 is powered by the MediaTek Companio 828 processor. Acer claims that it will get up to 15 hours of battery life. You’ll be able to buy it in North America for $399 in December and in Europe, the Middle East and Africa for €399 in November. The company’s Chromebook Spin 514 and Chromebook Spin 314 have also been updated with 11th generation Intel processors.