With good performance, solid battery life and a comfortable keyboard, Acer's Chromebook R 11 looks like an enticing travel companion for budget-minded workers. And unlike standard Chromebooks, this one sports a versatile folding hinge that lets you use the machine like a big tablet. It doesn't last as long on a charge as traditional Chromebooks, though. So, does the Chromebook R 11 — which starts at $329 — belong in your work bag?
The R 11's minimalist, white design looks classy and professional. Overall, the R 11 feels nice and sturdy, which is a perk for workers who plan to lug it around between home and the office.
The aluminum lid has a subtle textured diamond pattern, while the keyboard deck is made from smooth plastic. The laptop's textured bottom makes the machine easy to grip while you're carrying it around.
Acer's Chromebook is small and light enough to carry around on a business trip or your daily commute, but there are more portable options. At 2.7 lbs., it's lighter than the Dell Chromebook 11 (2.8 lbs.) but heavier than the Lenovo 100S Chromebook (2.5 lbs.) The Asus Chromebook Flip C100P is the most portable of the bunch, at 1.96 lbs., but it has a smaller, 10-inch display.
The Chromebook R 11 sports a flexible hinge that lets the display rotate a full 360 degrees.
The laptop's folding design is genuinely useful for workers: You can use the device like a tablet or fold it back partway to prop up the 11.6-inch touch display. That versatility could come in handy for using touch-screen apps in cramped quarters, such as on an airplane tray table.
Tent mode, on the other hand, might be useful for showing off a slideshow or presentation to a small group.
The R 11's compact 11.6-inch display doesn't give you a whole lot of screen space to work with; split-screen multitasking feels particularly cramped. That's the sacrifice workers make with an 11-inch ultraportable notebook like this one.
With a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels, the R 11's display is sharp enough for a screen this size. It's a bit on the dim side, though, topping out at 224 nits of brightness. That's dimmer than all rival Chromebook displays, whose brighter screens make them easier to view in direct sunlight. The Chromebook R 11 is more than bright enough for typical indoor work, though.
Like all Chromebooks, the R 11 runs on Chrome OS, a lightweight operating system designed by Google. It actually looks a lot like Windows, complete with a task bar along the bottom of the screen and a Start button with shortcuts to all of your apps.
If you're not familiar with Chrome OS, the most important thing you need to know is that it isn't compatible with Mac or Windows software. Instead, the platform focuses on Web applications that can be accessed through Google's Chrome browser.
Thankfully, plenty of great Web-based software is available these days, including full-featured online versions of Microsoft's Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps. Google's own Web-based productivity software is also excellent, including the Docs, Slides and Sheets apps, which can be used with or without an Internet connection. You'll also find tons of productivity applications in the Chrome Web Store, including apps for note taking, accounting and email management.
Regardless, if there's a particular piece of Windows or Mac software that you need to do your job, a Chromebook won't cut it.
Keyboard and touchpad
The highlight of this machine has to be its excellent keyboard, which offers much deeper keys than we've come to expect on an 11.6-inch ultraportable laptop. With generous key travel and good feedback on each keystroke, the Chromebook R 11 feels great to type on, which is nice for marathon work sessions.
The 4.1 x 2.4-inch touchpad is roomy enough for comfortable cursor navigation. But it clicks a bit too loudly, and actually felt a little loose.
The Chromebook R 11 lasts long enough to get you through the end of the workday and beyond. It ran for 9 hours and 38 minutes on our battery test, which beats the category average of 8 hours and 20 minutes, as well as the runtimes of rival 2-in-1 Chromebooks. The Asus Chromebook Flip C100P, for example, died after 9 hours and 19 minutes.
Nonhybrid Chromebooks provide better battery life, though. Lenovo's 100S Chromebook ran for an impressive 11 hours and 19 minutes, while Dell's Chromebook 11 ran for 10 hours and 17 minutes.
The R 11 provides a typical array of ports. On the right edge, you'll find a USB 2.0 port and a lock slot for physically securing the notebook at your desk.
The left edge has a USB 3.0 port, an HDMI port for connecting to a larger monitor or projector, and an SD card slot for expanding the laptop's internal storage.
Our review unit came equipped with an Intel Celeron N3150 processor with 4GB of RAM, which provides solid performance for basic productivity and moderate multitasking. When I tried editing a large spreadsheet in Google Docs with about a dozen other tabs open in the Chrome browser, though, I noticed a hint of slowdown while switching between apps.
Acer sells the Chromebook R 11 in a couple of different hardware configurations. The baseline model ($279) includes a 1.60-GHz Intel Celeron N3150 processor with 2GB of RAM, a 1366 x 768-pixel touch screen and 32GB of internal storage.
The pricier configuration (which is featured in this review) is nearly identical but boosts the machine's RAM up to 4GB for $329.
Business users will like the Acer Chromebook R 11's comfortable keyboard, which is great for marathon work sessions. Frequent travelers will also appreciate the machine's solid battery life and portable design. Just make sure that you can work within the confines of Chrome OS before considering a Chromebook in the first place.
There are a couple of strong alternatives to the Chromebook R 11. Lenovo's 100S Chromebook offers even longer battery life, for a lower price ($199), but it lacks 2-in-1 functionality. And Toshiba's 13-inch Chromebook 2 provides a larger display and comparable performance for $330. But the Chromebook R 11 is still a solid laptop for light productivity on the go, and its hybrid design is a perk.