Just a few years ago, we only had a new Chromebook release every so often. Each new device that showed up was cause for excitement, mainly because we’d get some new feature of some sort that we didn’t have in a Chromebook before it. We’d get excited over things like IPS screens, backlit keyboards, glass trackpads and fingerprint scanners. Anything new was cause for a bit of celebration, even if the Chromebook as a whole was a bit of a letdown.
These days, most of the big features you want in a laptop are present in all sorts of Chromebooks. They don’t all have every single feature, but we’ve seen enough great screens, great keyboards, and great chassis on enough devices at this point to not fall head over heels for the latest, newest thing. At this point in the Chromebook story, it really comes down to user experience, cutting the right corners, reasonable asking prices, and striking the perfect balance between all of those things while keeping the performance in a solid spot. And, much to my surprise, the Acer Chromebook 514 does that just about as well as any Chromebook I’ve tested. Let’s talk about why.
Functional build quality
Let’s start with the obvious: there’s nothing out of the ordinary with this clamshell Chromebook. It isn’t going to wow you with its looks or design and it really doesn’t need to. With an aluminum lid and plastic bottom, it feels sturdy, looks nice, and generally does what you ask it to do. The design is clearly Acer, with a boxy top and slightly-sloped sides that make it look thinner than it really is, but overall the 514 is thin, light, and highly portable. At just under 3 lbs. and only 16.7mm thick, there are very few bags that this Chromebook won’t fit into comfortably.
There is a USB Type-C port on both sides that is USB 3.2 and an additional USB Type A port with USB 3.0. The only other port is a headphone/mic jack, so I was a bit bummed to realize there’s no discrete way to expand your storage on this Chromebook. Sure, there are very tiny expandable USB Type A drives, but a microSD slot is always a welcome addition to any Chromebook in my opinion. At the time of filming this review, a 128GB model is listed on Acer’s website, and when it becomes available, it would definitely be the option I’d point towards.
The bottom is one smooth piece since there is no need for fans on this ARM-powered device. We’ll get into the processor stuff in a minute, but one of the big benefits to this Chromebook coming with the MediaTek Kompanio 828 is the lack of fans. You’ll also notice a lack of speaker grills, too, and that’s because we get upward firing drivers on this one, and they don’t disappoint.
All the right moves on the keyboard deck
I really wish this speaker setup was something far more standard on 14-inch Chromebooks. The Pixelbook Go famously made upward-firing speakers a standout feature and although no Chromebook since has been able to quite match the audio quality of that now-legendary setup, I still appreciate the clean sound that these upward-facing speakers produce. The stereo separation is better, the clarity is never obscured by your leg or the surface that the Chromebook is on, and it gives the speakers the best possible chance of sounding good.
The speakers on the Acer 514 are what I’d call pretty decent – not exceptional, but better than most. Again, they are helped by their positioning on the keyboard deck, and I enjoyed using them for YouTube watching and a few video chats along the way. The highs are crisp, spoken word is very clear, and there are enough mid and bass frequencies to make music actually sound nice. They aren’t crazy-loud, but they have enough volume to get the job done.
Those speakers are flanking a very comfy, backlit keyboard that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed typing on. I tend to not love Acer’s keyboards in most Chromebooks, but I really like this keyframe on the 514. There’s a nice bit of travel, a good click, and no issues with oddly-colored keys making it tough to see the characters in mixed lighting situations.
Then there’s the trackpad. I love this trackpad. It is massive, it is Gorilla Glass, and it has one of the most satisfying click mechanisms I’ve ever used. I’ve said it so many times, but it bears repeating: if you nail the keyboard and trackpad, you’ve tackled half of the Chromebook user experience. Yes, there are other factors, but the keyboard, trackpad and screen are the parts you directly interact with when using the device, so getting those right makes a world of difference, and Acer just nails the keyboard and trackpad on the 514.
Better than expected screen
Speaking of the screen portion of that equation, I was shocked at how well this screen performed in real use. The stats don’t come off as wildly impressive, but you are getting a 1080p IPS touchscreen with anti-glare treatment at 250 nits of brightness, so it’s not a crummy screen on paper. But my experience with 250 nit screens has not been great and I generally don’t expect much when I see that number on the spec sheet. For this Chromebook, however, I was pleasantly surprised.
With an anti-glare coating that doesn’t wildly degrade the screens quality, those 250 nits held up quite well in a variety of environments. Sure, I had to keep the brightness cranked to 75% or more most of the time, but with this Chromebook on my desk right by the window with full sunlight outside, it held up just fine and I wasn’t really put off by it. While I always feel like touch input on matte-finished screens feels a tad bit odd, it works just fine here. It does need to be noted that this device is not compatible with a USI pen – or any stylus for that matter – and while the screen isn’t a huge overall win for this Chromebook, it isn’t really a detractor, either, and paired up with that fantastic keyboard and trackpad, I found working on this Chromebook to be really enjoyable.
MediaTek Kompanio 828 performance
Now that we’ve talked about all the outside bits, what about this brand-new processor from MediaTek? How does it perform? Well, the short answer is: it’s pretty great! For daily workloads, this Chromebook held its own, handling my multi-desk, multi-window workflow like a champ. If you’re into benchmarks, we have those – 26,000 on Octane and 65 on Speedometer 2.0 – but with devices like this I’m not entirely sold on those numbers. What really matters is how it feels to actually use the thing, and I had very little issue with performance on the Chromebook 514. Sure, there were hiccups here and there, but for the most part, I I didn’t have to think about speed on this Chromebook very often. Maybe part of that was the 8GB of RAM our model has, but I really think most of it is due to the effectiveness of this new Kompanio 828.
Does that mean we’re looking at Intel Core i7 type performance? Of course not, but it is right on par with something like the Snapdragon 7c Gen 2, if not a bit snappier. I didn’t work too much with a second display as this Kompanio 828 only outputs 1080p to an external monitor, so my ultrawide QHD monitor on the desk really wasn’t an option; but all of my windows open across my standard 4-virtual-desk setup, confined to the internal display rolled along just fine in day-to-day scenarios.
With an unknown SoC like this, there are always some other questions we need to answer apart from just raw performance, so let’s get to those real quick before we wrap up. With the Kompanio 828, you get Bluetooth 5, Wi-Fi 6, and battery life that feels almost eternal. Acer rates it at 15 hours, and though you’d need to come off of that 75% – 100% brightness I mentioned before to get that sort of number, I was easily getting 12+ hours on a charge even with my brighter screen settings. For the most part, this Chromebook served as my after-hours weekend warrior, and I only had to charge it about once a week. Standby keeps the battery where you leave it when not in use, so if you are only opening it here and there, your battery life feels untouchable. The only other device I’ve used with so much confidence away from the charger is the Lenovo Chromebook Duet 5, and this 514 from Acer is right in the same camp when it comes to battery longevity: and it is absolutely liberating.
Finally, we have to mention AUE – or the Google-mandated expiration date on this Chromebook for regular OS updates. With this device and others that will come with the Kompanio 800 series, we’re looking at a June 2029 end date on updates, so that means you’re good to go for 7+ years at this point.
It would be easy to look at the Acer Chromebook 514 and shrug it off. I’ll admit I only had a passing interest in it off the bat because I wanted to get my hands on the untested Kompanio 828 inside of it. But as I’ve used it and carried it in my bag for the past few weeks, all the pieces that make up this Chromebook have just impressed me far more than I expected. The superlatives like the keyboard, trackpad and battery life all help to prop up the less-flashy elements like the just-OK screen, plastic chassis, and mid-range performance. And this is exactly why we can’t review a Chromebook just based on a spec sheet. It’s about the entire experience, and Acer’s put together a bit of a surprise with the 514. And at
$399 $449 for the model we tested, I’d give anyone looking for an affordable laptop an absolute green light to snag one of these right away.