An Alternative to Buying a New Laptop – The Acer Chromebook 11

We live on less than $40k a year, but with all the traveling, hobbies, and awesome food, I feel like we’re living a six-figure lifestyle. We got to this point by maximizing the value we get out of every dollar we spend. This isn’t always easy with tech toys. But a few months ago, for the cost of a textbook, I found a little piece of technology that changed the way I compute – the Acer Chromebook 11. This is a rare occasion where I paid retail price, and still feel like I got more than I paid for.

Stop chasing specs

My last PC is a chunky machine that I got nearly a decade ago for processing video and photos. On paper, this machine had it all. But in reality, I ended up with a lot of compromises. More of a gaming laptop, It’s relatively fast and great for editing, but not the most portable. At this point, the battery only lasts about 20 minutes, after which it shuts down without warning. The processor puts out so much heat that I get a rash on my leg when I keep it on my lap.

I needed something more portable so I could write on the road, and started looking at cheap laptops. The problem with cheap laptops is they still want to do everything an expensive PC does, just with less resources. I looked at a few, but couldn’t take the overburdened processors and grey LCD screens with bland colors. Then a friend told me how much he loved his Chromebook.

Chromebooks  – buy for what you need

Chromebooks are stripped down laptops that serve one primary purpose – browsing the internet. The only thing you really get with it is the Chrome browser. For the most part, you use Google Docs, and keep everything online. Because these things don’t need a ton of processing power or massive hard drives, they’re very cheap.

After looking at a few, I decided to give one a whirl.

Acer Chromebook 11

While I was tempted to get one with a larger screen, what I really needed was something small and portable for writing on the road. I ended up with an Acer Chromebook 11.

Acer Chromebook 11 with egg for size – it’s a small egg

Pros

Fast startup – As soon as I open it up, bam! There’s the browser. Even a full restart only takes a few seconds. Way faster than any laptop I’ve seen.

Fast browsing – When it comes to surfing the web, and watching YouTube videos, this thing is fast. Way faster than my old laptop that has 4X the RAM.

Sharp screen – Like Planet Earth sharp. I can’t take cheap, crappy LCD screens, but this IPS screen has deep blacks and great contrast.

Still works offline – Even though it’s meant for working online, Google Docs will still allow you to edit documents offline. It just syncs the changes with the online versions next time it has an internet connection. I used Google Docs offline to write about our Jamaica trip while on the airplane.

Super portable and durable – It’s tiny and hardly weighs anything. With a durable aluminum case, I can easily toss it in my backpack. On the plane, I can shove it in the seat pocket with the magazines. I’ll even carry it around the house with me to watch YouTube while I cook or do laundry.

I’m still being productive, right?

Incredible battery life – We’re talking 8+ hours here. It stays cool, and with less software and hardware to support, it will run all day. The only time I run out of battery is after 2-3 days without plugging it in – insane!

Low energy usage – I measured the power draw with my Kill-a-watt meter and it only drew 28 watts – about 1/3 of what my laptop used. That’s with it charging an empty battery and watching YouTube.

Great sound – Considering the size, the sound has really good volume, and it’s more crisp than my gaming laptop.

SD card reader – This is one of the few Chromebooks that has a full size SD card reader. I really wanted this feature so that I can review photos we take on the road.

Cons

Can’t support too many tabs – When I got my Chromebook, it only came in a 2GB RAM version. If I have too many tabs open, it can freeze up. This isn’t too big of a deal since it’s quick to recover. Now I try not to keep dozens of tabs open. This probably made me a better user – my old laptop doesn’t like having 20 tabs open either. Who does that?

This is probably less of an issue with the 4 GB RAM version.

Too convenient – This thing is too convenient to pick up and start browsing. My Reddit consumption is getting too high, and I’m watching YouTube all around the house. I need to get off the interweb…

Maybe I have a problem…

Editing photos with a Chromebook

Right off the bat, the Chromebook covered 90% of my computing needs. But for things like copying and editing photos, I was still using my old laptop. As I started writing this post, I decided to research how I could cover more of that 10%.

The Acer Chromebook 11 is equipped with a SD card reader and USB ports, so I can easily load any photos I take. But when it comes to editing, the built in software is junk. It would crap out with large file sizes, and the features are limited. Then I found the PIXLR Editor.

The PIXLR Editor is a free online photo editor. You just go to https://pixlr.com/editor/ and upload your pictures, make edits, then download the edited picture. It’s setup just like Photoshop and has all of the features I use. With this editor, I was able to clean up and shrink down all the photos for this post.

I even edited this screenshot of me editing a pic in PIXLR

Now, I can do all of my blogging on this slim little gadget.

A laptop replacement alternative

While it might be different for other people, the Acer Chromebook 11 covers 98% of my computing needs. Why pay 10X as much for 2% more functionality? I still have my old laptop parked at my desk to cover random tasks that might require something like a disk drive.

Not only was this Chromebook cheap, but because it’s dedicated to browsing, it does a better job than most laptops. The battery lasts forever, it’s super light, the screen really pops, and did I mention it’s cheap? I’ve already gotten my money out of this thing, and if anything were to happen to it while traveling, I’d happily plunk down another couple hundred bucks for a new one.

20 thoughts on “An Alternative to Buying a New Laptop – The Acer Chromebook 11

  1. I love my Chromebook! I’ve had it for over 5 years (one of the first few made)

    I haven’t had a problem and the battery is going strong. My wife even has her own because she kept taking mine.

    I ended up getting one for my mom because it is way more secure. I was constantly fixing her old PC.

  2. Hahaha! Thanks for the review! I almost got myself a Chromebook back when I needed a new laptop quite badly. My dad actually gave me a laptop to use, although it was from 2009 and admittedly ran slowly. I now use my work laptop to do most things and it’s awesome (it’s an HP something-or-something). But hey, if you’re short on cash and just need a computer to do a few things, I do think Chromebooks are a good option.

  3. It looks like a nifty little piece of technology. I like working on a keyboard instead of a touch screen. I also like the portability for sewing, cooking, traveling, etc. Looks like the resolution is good for watching and reading. I think I’ll put it on my Christmas Wish List.

    • I’m the same. I prefer viewing full up websites over mobile sites, and can’t write without a keyboard. I also think the screen on my Chromebook looks better than the touchscreens. It doesn’t have that super glossy finish that a touchscreen does. That seems to translate to less glare 🙂

  4. I’ve had an Asus Chromebook “Flip” for a year now and love it. There was a bit of a transition of moving files, photos, and music to cloud storage, but after that it’s been great, and 1/10th the cost of the Mac laptop it replaced.

    • Very cool! I still backup most of my files on my old machine and an external hard drive. So far I’ve been too cheap to sign up for cloud storage, but have been tempted. It seems like a nice way streamline things!

  5. I had an HP 11 Chromebook for a long time and loved it. I ended up needing a PC and got an Acer cloudbook14 for $188 at Walmart. It is light, long battery life, and a little more flexibility than the Chromebook. I love it. My wife got one too. Does have the lcd screen though that isn’t that great.

      • Pretty similar speed for both. One annoying thing I can’t figure out how to resolve is that there isn’t enough hard drive space to install all the windows updates and you keep getting a reminder all the time about it.

  6. Great write-up! I work in IT so I get asked all the time about what laptops I recommend. I always answer with a question: What are you going to be using it for? Laptops are like cars, chances are you don’t need the $50,000 fuel and money guzzling diesel pickup truck when a 50 MPG Prius can achieve 99% of what you need. The vast majority of people are surfing the web and working on spreadsheets and other documents. You can accomplish all of these on a Chromebook.

    Do you want a free Chromebook? Most of us have old laptops laying around. You can install a version of the Chromium OS for free by using Neverware’s CloudReady: https://www.neverware.com/freedownload Your old laptop will run faster than it previously did on Windows since the new operating system is so lightweight. On many old laptops, you can even have a dual boot system where you can still boot into Windows, or to Chrome. I have used this myself. Word of warning, if you do do the standalone installation, all of the data on the hard drive will be erased. So don’t do this if you have family photos, etc. that you don’t want to lose or you will need to back them up to an external drive first.

    • Awesome analogy on the cars, that’s a great way to think about it!

      And interesting idea on converting an old laptop to a Chromebook. Sounds like a great way to recycle some older, slower hardware. Maybe some readers can make their own free Chromebooks now 🙂

  7. I love my Chromebook a lot too. That’s what I’m taking to Cancun.
    At home, I still use my old Lenovo laptop. I could do more with it. The Lenovo is getting really long in the tooth, though. Maybe I can find a good deal this Black Friday. I just need a laptop that stays in the office. It doesn’t even need a good screen because I have a good monitor.

  8. I actually have one of the original Google chromebooks, a CR-48 which was a google prototype. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chromebook#Cr-48) They were never sold in stores.

    It still runs, but I haven’t used it in years. It was a little too wimpy for my usage. The lack of horsepower and ports was the big killer for me.

    Newer models probably have fixed some of those issues, so I’d be curious to hear about how it’s working for you 4 or 5 years down the road.

    • Wow, you might be able to sell that thing an antique in a few years! I can’t compare obviously, but have been very happy with the performance on my Acer. Of course for more horsepower and tons of ports, you’re probably still going to want a PC.

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  10. Thanks for the pixlr recommendation. I built my website with my chromebook. Pics I use Picmonkey (no longer free, boo). Google Drive (by default) for all my docs and downloads. I did buy the 4GB because I usually have a ton of windows open and cast music/movies at the same time. Great review. And the price is sweet, isn’t it?!

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