User Interface, Display and Audio Quality
Perhaps the only eye-catching feature of this laptop is the keyboard’s unusual layout. There’s a surprising amount of room available despite the small chassis thanks to a keyboard that uses almost every available millimeter of space. Unfortunately, the layout is strange. The bottom row of keys is large and fat, resulting in left CTRL and ALT keys that are comically over-sized while other keys, such as Backspace, are smaller than they need to be.
The top row of the keyboard, which would normally host the F keys, instead is home to specialized function keys. Back, Forward and Refresh keys are placed alongside the brightness and volume controls. The power button is part of the keyboard and reacts to the length of time it is pressed. A short press will log out the currently active account, while a long press will shut down the system.
Below the keyboard is a large, wide touchpad which supports several multi-touch gestures including two-fingered right clicks and drag-and-drop. There are no buttons to be found – instead, a click is accomplished by depressing the lower half of the touchpad itself by default. Tap-to-click can be enabled in system settings, however.
There’s plenty of room for your fingers to stretch out, and the touchpad surface is a pleasant, slightly rough matte texture. The multi-touch support, however, could use some work. Scrolling, the most basic of gestures, does not feel smooth. Even some Windows laptops offer smoother two-finger scrolling. I’m unsure if this is a touchpad issue, or perhaps caused by the Atom processor. Whatever the cause, this is a feature that needs improvement if any Chromebook is to feel as slick and modern as its simple OS suggests.
Display and Audio Quality
Although the Acer’s display is just 11.6” it has a resolution of 1366×768, which is typical for laptops of this size and provides a great deal of usable screen real estate while maintaining a compact shape. Although other ultraportables might have larger displays, the effective usable space won’t be improved despite a less portable chassis.
Quality is average at best, but this isn’t a disappointing standard for an inexpensive laptop. In Lagom test images there was clear difficulty rendering the most extreme ends of the gradient test image, and the contrast test images also revealed that the darkest and brightest colors were bleeding together enough to prove indistinguishable. However, the black level performance was average and the rendering of the gradient test image was smooth throughout the middle. There are much better displays available, but they’re usually found on laptops costing at least several times more.
Audio quality, to my great surprise, is solid. This is a small laptop, so the speakers do have a relatively low maximum volume. Kept within their range they are neutral and even provide a hint of bass during music that demands it. More importantly, the existence of this bass does not result in distortion. This laptop would work for someone who only needs to fill a small room, such as an office or dorm, with sound.