Towards the end of last year Google unveiled “Chromebook Plus,” a new standard to help customers get better Chromebooks. Acer is among the first to adopt it, and after spending a fair bit of time with the Acer Chromebook Plus 515, there’s definitely something here.
Chromebooks have long had the reputation of being cheap laptops with limited functionality. But, as many are finally starting to learn, there’s more to it than that. Chromebook Plus is the biggest push to prove that Chromebooks are more than just a browser that we’ve seen in a long time. You can read our full coverage to learn more, but the basic concept of Chromebook Plus is to have a lineup of laptops that have a certain level of horsepower, quality, and features.
The Acer Chromebook Plus 515 is the one I’ve had the chance to use for the past couple of months, and I think it really embodies this concept well.
This laptop is a $400~ machine that has a plastic build and a 15.6-inch, 1080p display. That’s reasonably run-of-the-mill for ChromeOS, but what’s notable here is how it all comes together. The build is plastic, but it doesn’t feel cheap. There’s flex to the laptop deck and the lid, but the hinge is strong, and the whole thing feels nice whether you use it on a desk or your lap.
Something that really stood out to me on the hardware front was the keyboard, which feels really good given the price point of this machine. Keys are tactile and the layout is super comfortable on the big size. On either side you’ll also find top-facing speakers which, while by no means incredible, are a big step up from the usual downward-firing speakers you’d usually find in this price range. My only big complaint in this part of the machine is the trackpad, which is usable towards the top, and a bit too mushy at the bottom. It gets the job done, of course, but I can’t wait for the day when these haptic trackpads that HP and other brands are really getting right nowadays start making their way to cheaper machines.
Another thing I want to see more on machines like this is a fingerprint sensor. It’s too basic of a feature to not have at this point, and I really feel Google should have had it as a requirement in Chromebook Plus.
There’s also no backlighting on the keyboard, which is a bit of a shame and something I do expect at this price. Acer does say this is an “optional” feature, but I can’t find any trims that actually offer it in the US. Similarly, there’s no touchscreen, again being “optional” but not offered on the version sold in the US.
The display on the Chromebook Plus 515 is nothing to write home about, but it’s good. It’s reasonably sharp at 1080p, and gets way brighter than I expected to. I wouldn’t go as far as to use this outdoors on a sunny day, but for the indoor setting most people buying a 15.6-inch laptop intend to use their machine in, this is more than acceptable. The one big tweak I did make, though, was to adjust the scaling. The default setting leaves UI elements quite small which felt a little off to me, so I boosted it to 115% size (1670×939).
As far as performance goes, the Intel Core i3 (12th Gen) and 8GB of RAM has been more than enough for the tasks I’m throwing at it – general web browsing, writing articles in Google Docs or WordPress, occasional video calls, etc. With 10 or so tabs open, it doesn’t feel bogged down, which is a huge plus in my book. And even if you don’t use that additional power in normal browsing tasks, it’s useful to have on hand because ChromeOS just keeps getting more feature-rich. It’s super easy to jump into Linux if you need stronger apps and, if you also carry an Android phone, cross-device features are just getting stronger and better.
Battery life is similarly, unsurprisingly great. I’ve been able to pull around 8 hours of active use, but more so have had this as a standby machine in the couple of months I’ve had it. It holds its battery quite well over time, and I don’t often have to think about charging it up. It also charges over USB-C, meaning virtually any charger can fill it up (but the included one will be the fastest). Having USB-C ports on both sides is deeply appreciated too.
The port situation is good, with those two USB-C ports, a full-size HDMI port, a USB-A port, and also a headphone jack. It’s a standard package for a Chromebook, and I think a great layout for a big machine like this that’s going to be used around the house. That HDMI port was super handy for plugging into a TV, as it’s something so many other laptops completely forgo.
Chromebook Plus as a standard is a great push on Google’s end, but it was always going to depend on the hardware that its partners actually put out. The Acer Chromebook Plus 515, to me, feels like a great interpretation of Google’s vision. It’s a solid overall laptop that only makes compromises in the places where you won’t feel it. The performance, display, and keyboard are all great, and that’s what matters most. At its usual $399, the Acer Chromebook Plus 515 is a really solid option, but you’ll likely never pay that full price. Right now, the machine is sold at Best Buy for $299, which is a great deal for a really good laptop.
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