Back when Chromebooks were new, the idea of a premium Chrome-powered laptop seemed laughable. Who would ever pay for a premium laptop that could not even do half of what a cheaper Windows machine could do? But the 2022 Acer Chromebook 514 ($ 679.99) makes it clear that this question is far more reasonable today, as it combines a shining design and features with the latest version of Chrome OS, complete with Android app support and relatively high-powered processing. It’s a compelling mix, even if it’s not the best option we’ve seen for the money.
Style With Some Substance
Even before you open the Acer Chromebook 514, you might find yourself wondering if it’s actually a Chromebook. Sure, it has the Chromebook logo clearly printed on the lid. But when you cast your gaze to the polished gem-cut edges, and feel the luxurious aluminum lid or swipe across the 14-inch full HD touch screen, you’ll probably find yourself wondering if this isn’t something a little more premium.
Well, if Chromebooks go, it ice actually fairly premium, but you understand what I mean. In a category that has long been defined by cheap plastic builds and marketing that’s targeted squarely at kids in the classroom, it’s easy to think that this well-made, Intel Core i3-equipped laptop is something other than what it is. Surely, that backlit keyboard and Gorilla Glass-surfaced touchpad are indicators that this is some sort of Windows machine, right? But you’re not imagining it. This is a Chromebook.
The laptop’s aluminum lid and reinforced plastic chassis are sturdy enough for Acer to tout the Chromebook’s MIL-STD-810H military-grade durability, even if it’s just for surviving waist-high drops and other mundane hazards. The 514’s steel gray finish is sophisticated enough for an office environment, and it does not look like it’s been child-proofed the way other ruggedized Chromebooks often do. No, this is a laptop for the grownups in the room.
However, the combination of a relatively heavy aluminum lid and a lighter plastic base used in the Chromebook 514 means that this 0.76-by-12.7-by-8.7-inch laptop is not well-balanced. The system’s 3.09-pound weight isn’t tip-over-and-spill-your-drink top-heavy like some designs we’ve seen, but it’s enough that it does not feel like stable sitting on your lap or desk as you might expect from a 14-inch laptop.
But once you’re used to the imbalanced weight, the Chromebook 514 settles right in as a more-luxurious-than-usual member of the Chromebook family, for good and bad.
Ports and Touch Screen Included
When it comes to ports, the Chromebook 514 boasts a satisfying mix, with modern additions like two USB-C connections that support features like DisplayPort over USB-C, Thunderbolt 4, and USB charging — both for charging your laptop and for powering up your phone or tablet.
But you’ll also get more traditional ports, with no adapter needed, like a USB-A port for use with older storage devices and peripherals, a microSD card slot, and an HDMI-out port for connecting to a monitor or TV. Throw in the headset audio jack and a case lock slot, and you’ve got a pretty well-equipped laptop.
The Acer Chromebook 514 includes touch-screen capability, which is not only a great addition for general use, but also an essential feature for using Android apps on the laptop.
But touch is just one facet of the display. The IPS panel offers rich color and wide viewing angles, while also delivering good contrast and brightness. While Chrome OS does not support our usual laptop display tests, it’s easy to see that the full HD panel is better than many of the lower-resolution screens that still show up on inexpensive models for students.
A More Refined Google Chrome OS
While Chrome was once designed to provide minimal support outside of the web browser, the latest version of Chrome has matured considerably. It’s still a browser-first experience, but the assortment of apps and extensions now offered for Chrome can effectively replace most common pieces of Windows software, and the addition of Android app support greatly expands the availability of familiar tools and services from the mobile side of Planet Google.
With major players like Microsoft and Adobe offering cloud-based versions of popular productivity tools, and Google’s robust and growing collection of Google Drive-connected tools, Chrome has grown to become a viable option for many users.
Testing the Chromebook 514: Premium Core i3 Performance
Our review unit of the Chromebook 514 is the CB514-1WT-3481, which comes outfitted with a dual-core Intel Core i3-1115G4 processor, 8GB of memory, 128GB of SSD storage, and Intel UHD Graphics.
If you want to step up in processing power, Acer also offers the CB514-1W-5280 ($ 779.99) with a Core i5-1135G7 CPU and Intel Iris Xe graphics, but no touch screen. If you want the stylish looks of the Chromebook 514 but do not need the power of a Core i3 model, there’s a less expensive model (the CB514-2H-K3E7) that uses a MediaTek Kompanio 828 processor that sells for $ 399.99. We’ll have a review of this model soon, if you want to compare performance and specs.
Between its polished design and better-than-average Intel Core i3 processor, the Chromebook 514 promises to do well compared to other Chrome-based laptops, but it faces the stiffest competition from similarly outfitted models, like the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 Chromebook 13 ( 2021), which also uses a Core i3. It should fare better against those that have less potent CPUs, like the Dell Chromebook 11 (3100) and the HP Chromebook x360 14a, which use Intel’s Celeron and Pentium chips, respectively. The Asus Chromebook Flip CM3 is even more stereotypical of Chrome-based laptops in that it ditches Intel completely, using a MediaTek ARM processor, a common choice by manufacturers looking to keep costs down.
But, more importantly, this lineup of competitors shows the breadth of the Chromebook category. What was once made up entirely of small chassis and screens, and cheap designs, has since grown to include more premium materials, sophisticated 2-in-1 designs, and hardware ranging from lackluster to luxe.
We run three performance benchmark tests on Chrome-powered machines, testing performance in ChromeOS, Android and online. The first is Principled Technologies’ CrXPRT, a suite of simulated Chrome OS productivity apps, measuring how quickly a system performs everyday tasks such as applying photo effects, graphing a stock portfolio, analyzing DNA sequences, and generating 3D shapes using WebGL.
Here, the Acer 514’s Intel Core i3 processor delivered some of the best scores we’ve seen, beating out the similarly equipped Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 and blowing past the less powerful Dell, Asus, and HP competitors by a mile.
The second test is UL’s PCMark for Android Work 3.0, which performs assorted productivity operations in a smartphone-style window. The test mimics productivity operations ranging from text and image editing to data charting and video playback, and spits out a numeric score at the end.
The Acer shows its chops again in PCMark, with a score of 11,587 points, putting it neck-in-neck with the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 (11,684 points). Where most systems struggle to reach the 10,000-point threshold, the Acer Chromebook 514 still delivers one of the top scores of any Chromebook we’ve tested, thanks to the potent CPU and healthy allotment of RAM.
The same performance difference was seen in Basemark Web 3.0, where most Chromebooks fall far behind by hundreds of points. The only outlier is the Core i3-powered Lenovo, which creeps ahead, but not by much.
The two more specialized benchmarks we run focus on processing and graphics performance, respectively. The first is the Android version of Primate Labs’ Geekbench, which scores performance using a simulated mix of applications that covers real-world applications ranging from PDF rendering and speech recognition to machine learning.
The other is GFXBench 5.0, an Android stress test that measures graphics performance in both low-level routines like texturing and high-level, game-like image rendering that exercises graphics and compute shaders, scored in frames per second (fps).
The Chromebook 514 leads the pack in both Geekbench and GFXBench, with better processing and graphics than systems that use Intel’s Celeron or Pentium chips, or MediaTek’s low-powered processors. But it also edges ahead of the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5, which uses the same model of Core i3 processor. The Acer ekes ahead with a higher Geekbench score, but even in the graphics-focused GFXBench test, it managed to top the Lenovo by 2 to 4 frames per second.
Last, we test battery life with a looped video file, running at 720p resolution. With the laptop set to 50% brightness and with Wi-Fi disabled, we unplug the fully charged laptop and run the video over and over until the battery runs out.
And here the Acer really dominates, with nearly 12 hours of battery life in our rundown test. While it’s not a perfect simulation of all-day use, it still makes it clear that you’ll be able to get through hours of school or work on a full charge, without having to tether yourself to an outlet or even bring the power adapter along.
Beauty and Brawn, But at a Premium
There’s no denying that this new Core i3 version of the Acer Chromebook 514 is nice, if a bit expensive. From its stylish design to its high-end performance, it’s a premium powerhouse for a Chromebook. It competes with some of the best in the category, but that category will always have some limits to its appeal, due to the very nature of Chrome OS itself.
The slick Chromebook 514 is one of the best there is, but that also makes the competition fierce — and while the Core i3-powered laptop delivers some great performance and battery life, it’s up against the likes of the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 Chromebook (2021 ) and the Editors’ Choice winner Acer Chromebook Spin 713 (2022). And in that equation, it comes in as a little too pricey and not quite powerful enough to justify that extra expense. Still, if you’re ready to splash out on a fancy Chromebook, it’s a well-made machine that will not disappoint.