Today, Acer announced a slough of low cost, entry-level products aimed at the education market: Two Chromebooks, the Acer Chromebook 512 and Spin 512, one of which has a 360-degree hinge (I’ll leave you to guess which one), going for $329 and $449 respectively; and a fully-fledged laptop, the Acer TravelMate B114, starting at just over $300.
The Chromebooks are nothing amazing, with both versions powered by either an Intel Celeron or Pentium Silver CPU with up to 8 gigs of RAM and 64 gigs of embedded storage. The both have 12-inch screens running at a painful resolution (1366×912), and the cheaper option without the 360-degree hinge doesn’t even have a touch screen. This resolution isn’t acceptable, unless maybe you’re giving the device to a toddler…
…which may not be a bad idea, actually, if supplying small children with tablets and laptops is in and of itself a good idea (highly debatable). This is because the Chromebook 512 and Chromebook Spin 512 are actually very rugged, which is surprising, given the low cost. The screens, while being low resolution, are protected by Gorilla Glass, and both devices meet the very stringent U.S. MIL-STD 810G military standards, including drops from more than four feet, resulting in rather rugged pieces, and they are bulkier for it. The device isn’t indestructible, but it’ll likely survive a toddler’s wrath better than other, more mainstream tablets.
The one decent thing about the Chromebooks is their I/O, with both of them boasting two USB Type-Cs and two USB 3.0 ports, but all in all, apart from special usage cases, we don’t recommend the Chromebooks to, well, anyone over the age of 13.
The TravelMate B114, however, is a different beast. While it starts out at a similar price point to the Chromebook 512, the products are not even in the same league, with the TravelMate B114 boasting a larger, 14-inch monitor, running at a much more acceptable 1920×1080, the TravelMate B114 instantly blazes past the Chromebooks and secures its position as a modern device.
Interestingly enough, Acer decided to go with an AMD chipset instead of an Intel one, though both the laptop and the Chromebooks are relying on very budget chips. That said, the TravelMate B114 boasts better memory options, with the ability to use up to 16 gigs of ram, which, honestly, is pretty much base-line for 2019, and storage is handled by an SSD, giving both the option for expansion, and much more storage out of the box than either of the Chromebooks.
Like the Chromebooks, the TravelMate B114 meets the same U.S. MIL-STD 810G military standards for durability, and would certainly hold up well during all the travel time between taking notes in class and working on projects, and with ten hours of battery life, it should last for a full school day without being charged. Unfortunately (and not at all a surprise given the very low price point), the TravelMate B114 relies on on-board Radeon graphics, meaning that you basically would not be able to run any recent games on it, though it would probably handle older titles just fine at lower settings.
The only place that the B114 comes short is in I/O, surprising, considering how well Acer did with the Chromebooks. It unfortunately only comes with one USB 3.1 port, and two USB 2.0 ports, but for the price, we can’t really complain.
In conclusion, while we don’t see the Chromebook 512s getting much use by adults, the TravelMate B114 does have many more potential uses, both for students as well as professionals who spend a lot of time on job sites or doing field work, who don’t need a great deal of computing power and will appreciate the sturdy design.