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Acer Chromebook 15 Aluminum hands-on impressions: Silver surface

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September 1, 2017

Acer held a press conference earlier where it unveiled a slew of new products. Among them were devices from its Predator range of gaming laptops and desktop computers, a 360-degree camera, and an all-new aluminum version of the Chromebook 15.

The Chromebook 15 series is currently the only range of 15-inch Chromebooks on the market. Arriving in 2016 with several variants, these were slim and relatively inexpensive devices (they were priced between $199-$299) aimed at those who favored what was on-screen rather than around it.

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The new Chromebook 15 — model number CB515-1H/1HT — once again comes with a 15.6-inch, 1080p display like its predecessor, but this time offers a “premium” aluminum build, better battery life, and slimmer profile.

It comes in at 378 x 256 x 18.9 mm and weighs 1.72 kg, making it slightly lighter than the previous 2.2 kg model, despite the switch to a metal construction. Under the hood, you’ll find either a dual-core Intel Celeron or quad-core Intel Pentium processor, depending on the model, with 32 GB or 64 GB of (eMMC) internal storage space, and 4 GB or 8 GB of RAM.

The new Chromebook 15 also once again employs two upward facing speakers, which are substantial and should provide for a better experience than more expensive laptops with smaller, underside speakers. This, disappointingly, is something I was unable to test from the busy show floor earlier today.

In addition, the Chromebook 15 will also support Google Play Store apps when they’re properly launched later this year.

The Chromebook 15 is said to offer 12 hours of battery life during typical use, up from nine hours that the previous Chromebook provided — a pretty solid increase in battery life that was already above competing (non-Chrome-based) laptops. That is, providing these claims are accurate (something we’ll also have to assess at a later date).

As far as connectivity is concerned, the Chromebook 15 houses two USB 3.1 Type-C ports (which can also charge the device), two USB 3.0 ports, a HDMI port, a headphone port, and an SD card reader (supporting up to 128 GB SDXC for transferring and saving files) as well as Bluetooth 4.2.

The aluminum design is something usually reserved for a better class of Chromebooks, and in my brief hands-on time with the unit, it felt comfortable. It certainly delivers a better aesthetic and tactile sensation than plastic Chromebooks, but we’re not really talking about a premium look and feel here — this is still about as ordinary as it gets from a design point of view, and was demolished by the Windows-powered Predator laptop devices surrounding it. It’s a far less expensive product, of course, but Acer did well to set these ranges up at opposite sides of the demo area.

It’s also coming as a touchscreen unit — model number CB515-1HT — as well as the non-touchscreen model. Acer snuck this bit of info onto the bottom of its press release — though it strikes me as a pretty big deal. Touchscreen capabilities are going to matter more than ever on upcoming Chromebooks once they’re fully compatible with Google Play apps, because, in the overwhelming majority of cases, these apps have been designed specifically for touchscreen operation. Chromebooks that include this functionality are going to be at a significant advantage compared to those that rely on trackpad or mouse-based operation.

While the ideas implemented into Acers new Chromebook are well-founded, I can’t help but feel that it hasn’t made for a very exciting product announcement. Battery life is known to be one of the strengths of Chromebooks thanks to their lightweight software, and we’ve already seen a Chromebook with a 15-inch display from Acer. A year after the original Chromebook 15 landed, it would have been nice to see the company push itself a bit further — especially given its sales figures and the (deserved) success of its Predator range.

But criticizing the lack of pizzazz in a product announcement is probably somewhat unfair if the product itself is relevant — and, in this case, I judge that it is. It’s a lightweight, 15.6-inch, aluminum Chromebook — the only such device on the market — that’s said to offer strong battery life and a range of memory options — and expect that’s going to appeal to somebody out there.

The Acer Chromebook 15 will be on sale in North America from October starting at $399 and will be available at Best Buy and the Acer Store. The device will also come to Europe, the Middle East and Africa in October, starting at €499.

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We’ll have more for you on the Acer Chromebook 15 soon, for now, what’s your first impression of the product? Let us know in the comments.