When I received the Acer C670 to review, I commented to my wife that the world has come full circle. When I started my career first in networking then in telecommunications, I had a green screen CRT that tied me back into mainframe. Now, I have a Chromebook that ties me back into the Cloud. The only difference is that power and performance in a Chromebook is far superior to a dumb terminal.
The Acer C670 Chromebook is by all accounts a middle-of-the-road spec’d device. But don’t let that fool you or pass it over. At only $149, it is an exceptional value for what it does and it has plenty of horsepower to meet your needs as a lightweight, almost always connected device. Truthfully the keyboard on the C670 is one of the better chicklet-style keyboards I’ve tested and it is large enough to feel like you are typing on a full sized keyboard. While the display on the C670 could stand to be a bit better, overall this Chromebook is one to consider if you need something lightweight, small and always ready-to-go for your Google Doc and other online editing needs.
The C670 is clamshell, laptop style device that has an 11.6″ LCD display that renders a 1366 x 768 display at 135 ppi (Pixels Per Inch). The display is powered by an Intel HD chipset that shares
some of the 2GB of DDRL3 SDRAM that is installed in the unit. Powering the C670 is the Intel Celeron N2830 processor clocked at 2.16Ghz. The Wi-Fi connectivity built into the C670 supports 802.11ac.
Some will look at the processor and RAM combination and assume that the C670 is under powered. Remember that for all intents and purposes, a Chromebook is little more than a Chrome browser. That means it doesn’t really need a lot of horsepower to run smoothly. That is very much the case with this device but I will cover that in more detail in the Performance section.
Like other Chromebooks and lightweight Windows PCs of this same caliber, the C670 has 16GB of eMMC storage on board. That can be expanded up to 128GB via the SD slot that is built into the unit. Again, I’ll remind readers that with a Chromebook, all of your storage is in the cloud. In the case of a Chromebook, it is Google Drive. You only have the local storage there for those times when you are offline or download something to the device rather than to your Google Drive account.
Physically the unit is 11.77 x 7.95 x 0.73 inches (L x W x H) and weights 2.4 lbs and has 1 USB 2.0 port, 1 USB 3.0 port, 1 HDMI port, a SD Card slot, audio out port for headphones and the power
connector to charge the unit. The battery is a 3-cell Li-Polymer battery that is 3200mAh which provides 8.5 hours of battery life. I’ll discuss it more in the performance section but the battery life on the C670 is stunningly impressive.
The primary input of the unit is the touchpad just below the keyboard. The C670 does not have a touch screen which may be a turn off for some but at this price point, it isn’t surprising to not have a touchscreen.
Finally, the outer shell of the C670 is what Acer calls Moonstone White. I have to say that when I first saw it, I was underwhelmed. White=dirty looking after a few dozen times into the carry bag. I have to say I’ve been impressed so far. The shell has held up amazingly well with no discoloration or even scratches. Adding to that, the overall build quality of the device is solid. For example, the hinges for the display are nice and tight and hold the screen steady.
The beauty of a Chromebook is their simplicity and how well behaved they act on what would be considered pedestrian hardware. If you compare them to a full fledged laptop then yes, they will seem under powered. But because of how efficient Chrome OS is and the fact that very little is actually stored on the device, the mid-range Celeron processor in the C670 is more than sufficient.
Over the course of the first week with it, I spent several days using the C670 as my primary computer. The exercise taught me two things about this device. First, for 95% of what I need to do, it works. I worked from my home office the first week so Wi-Fi connectivity was abundant both here and my local coffee shop so that was never an issue. But even doing my day-to-day work it more than met the need. For my Exchange email I simply tapped into the online Exchange app on my corporate server. For my documents and spreadsheets I used Google Docs and Google Sheets (You can read about my transition to Google Docs in Part 1 (Foundation) and Part 2 (Google Docs)). I had to work on a few presentations so I leveraged Google Slides for that work and of course I managed to edit the site and Gmail all while online with the C670.
In my case I averaged about 4 Chrome tabs open at once but there were times where I had as many as 8 open. Regardless of how many I was running, the C670 never faltered. Not once did I have a situation where typing was behind on the screen from what I was typing on the keyboard. Streaming video from YouTube, even in full screen, was never stuttered even with multiple tabs open. Indeed most times I was streaming audio from Google Play Music while working and again, no issues.
The other huge benefit that the C670 had during my time of reviewing was the battery life. It was nothing short of outstanding. Like really outstanding. On the tin it says the battery will last 8.5 hours. Every day I used the Chromebook in earnest I was pushing more like 9.5 to 10 hours of use without having to charge the device. Mind you, I was scraping the bottom of the barrel at 5% remaining but the fact is it made it through the day. Of course, I think this is likely not a realistic case as I forced myself to use the C670 full time. The reality for me is that this will be my evening work in my comfy chair with a glass of vino device or going to and fro from meetings while in the office and not having to trudge around my laptop. Everything I do note wise is in Evernote so I simply run the Chrome app for it and it syncs up as I go. I can easily see the C670 making it a day or two on a full charge in my “normal” use which is what dominated my second week with this device.
For my second week with the C670, I took it with me on a business trip. As I expected, the battery life made it easily through a day and if I had a light meetings day, I could make it two plus do some editing here on the site, some surfing and streaming video or music back at the hotel. Performance wise, it was rock solid. I took notes with the Chromebook using Evernote, all of which
Somewhat related to performance, I have mixed feelings with regards to the keyboard and the touchpad on the C670. On the positive side, the keyboard is outstanding. It is a comfortable keyboard to use, especially for one on an 11.6″ screened device, with smooth and quiet typing action. I was able to type comfortably with it for long stretches of time in meetings without any comfort. The wrist rests on either side of the touchpad were plenty big for my hands which added to the comfort.
On the negative side, there is the touchpad. To be clear it works and it works well. One tap to select, two-fingers tap to “right click”, etc. Nothing terribly exciting or outside of your typical garden variety touchpad. But it feels cheap. In fact it is the only part of the C670 that feels like this is a $150 device. Everything else, even the could-be-better display, is better than what I expected for this price point. There are times when you tap the touchpad that it feels loose and if you press hard for a physical click, it sounds pretty cheap. Again, you have to put it into perspective: There are mice out there that cost more than the C670. But if this one thing were improved, it would make the already good experience with this device that much better.
I’ve hinted at the display a few times so let me cover that off for you. It isn’t bad and it has a nice wide viewing angle given the size and LCD nature of it. It also has an anti-glare matte finish which makes it a bit easier to read in sunlight. That said, the colors are not super crisp and in fact overall the display seems a bit muted when it comes to color. But it is certainly passable, especially if you are going to use this unit a few hours a day. Worst case, you connect up the C670 with an HDMI cable to a monitor (Chromecasting is not natively supported in Chrome OS – yet).
I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about Chrome OS because I’m assuming if you are reading this review you already know about it and are looking for a recommendation on a device. That said, Chrome OS is based on the open source Chromium project which is what Chrome OS and the Chrome browser are based upon. It is a very lightweight OS and utilizes a hardware standard to give users a comparable experience regardless of the Chromebook they buy.
As I put in my Google Docs migration articles, the easiest way to look at Chrome OS is a glorified version of the Chrome Browser because fundamentally that’s what it is. Yes there are a few differences obviously (like a task bar, device and system settings, etc.) but all of these are served to you from the Chrome browser that runs in Chrome OS.
If you are in the market for a lightweight, easy to use and zippy feeling Chromebook, the Acer C670 should be on your list. I appreciate that newer and faster models are out there but at $150, it’s hard to beat the price for what you are getting. The battery life is simply outstanding and the smoothness in the use of it makes it a joy. The C670 isn’t perfect – I’m not a big fan of the touchpad and the screen could be a little better – but overall, I have enjoyed using this device to the limit.
You can get the Acer C670 Chromebook on Amazon from $149.99