Back in May of this year, we took a trip up to New York to take part in Acer’s annual hardware event and got to spend a bit of time with the Acer Chromebook 714 and 715. We came away from the event pretty impressed by this new duo of Chromebooks namely because of two features in particular: a numeric keypad and fingerprint scanner. While the 714 we are reviewing today doesn’t have the keypad built in, it does have the fingerprint scanner and basically all the other features that the 715 has as well. I’ve spent the good part of two full weeks with the 714 as my primary Chromebook, and I have some thoughts as to why this might be just the right Chromebook for many of our readers.
The Acer Chromebook 714 has a lot going for it, and one of the main wins is the build quality of this device. Clad in all aluminum, the 714 puts off a modern, classy, and understated vibe. It feels solid without weighing a ton (3.31 pounds) and adheres to the MIL-STD 810G testing spec which allows it to stand up to 48-inch drops and up to 132 pounds of downward force.
All this comes in a package that is only 0.7 inches thick, so the general feeling of this device is slim, light, and highly-portable. The 714 is a standard clamshell with a fold-flat hinge, but I never find a reason to do this. I’ve simply never found myself in a situation where I felt the necessity to roll back my display onto the table: but you might. The bigger highlight of the hinge is the fact that you can raise the lid with one finger with no need to hold down the bottom portion of the Chromebook. For me, this subtle but awesome feature makes me feel like the device is simply more considered and thought out than others that don’t do this.
The screen on the 714 is a bit less rosy. There are benefits, but clear drawbacks as well. For the good stuff, we have a full HD, 1920×1080 IPS panel with good viewing angles and solid color reproduction. The side bezels are nice and slim with the top and bottom ones not being too chunky either. In a standard lighting situation, the screen was just fine to use and I really like 1080p screens at 14 inches.
With a tad bit of scaling (110% is my favorite), things stay sharp and are easy to see from a standard distance. At this resolution I also still get plenty of screen real estate when using the Chromebook without a second display and I like that versus the smaller 12.3-inch screens on the Pixelbook or Pixel Slate.
Where this screen falls down, however, is in its brightness. Sure, it is matte finish and anti-glare (with touch), but the overall brightness is just a disappointment. I hate that this has been an issue of late with these higher-end Chromebooks, but it is. I was only able to squeeze 170-180 nits out of this panel, and that is simply not bright enough for many lighting conditions. At my desk near a window, for instance, I had to keep the brightness cranked up to 100% all day long. For all the battery gains you get for only pushing a 1080p screen, you end up undoing many of them when you keep the brightness up to 100% all the time.
Keyboard & Trackpad & Fingerprints
I’ve never been a huge fan of Acer’s keyboards, but I’ve never hated them either. In general, they tend to be decent across the board and don’t really do anything better than others on the market. That holds perfectly true for the keyboard in the 714: decent, backlit, and functional. I just don’t love the click mechanism as I find it to be a tad mushy. I’m also testing the ASUS C425 that has the same keyframe as the fantastic C434 and the typing experience is miles different between the two. Again, not a deal-breaker, but not a standout keyboard here, either.
The trackpad, on the other hand, is simply fantastic! The large, Gorilla Glass surface is a pleasure to navigate and the click mechanism is slight, quiet and assuring. This trackpad is as good as any you’ll come across and I’m so glad Acer chose to go with the much larger, more-square trackpad versus the oddly-thin surface they put in the otherwise standout Chromebook Spin 13. Simply put, I have zero complaints about this trackpad and I don’t think anyone else will, either. It is just great.
Down there with the keyboard and trackpad is a new addition to the Chromebook world: a fingerprint scanner. Now, before you go jump into the comments section to tell me about the Pixel Slate’s fingerprint scanner, please note that I said Chromebook. The Slate is a tablet first and foremost and there has yet to be a Chromebook (clamshell or convertible) with a fingerprint scanner. We know that many more are coming, but this small addition right beneath the keyboard was a game-changer for me.
It is fast and simple to set up and since using the 714 on a daily basis, I miss it on every other Chromebook I use. The position is perfect and whether on the desk or in your hands, the scanner is simple to find and use. I honestly don’t want to ever go back to typing a password to get into my Chromebook ever again. I know Windows and Macs and all our phones have had biometric ID for some time, but there is something new and refreshing about the arrival of it on a Chrome OS device not made by Google.
Ports and Speakers
The port selection on this device is familiar, but welcome. I’ve said many times that the dual USB Type C, single USB Type A layout is my favorite and that hasn’t changed. Flanked with the common microSD card slot, headphone/mic jack and Kensington lock, this port selection is versatile and makes dongle life a thing you can tease Macbook owners about. The speakers are decent and bottom-firing, but don’t expect to want to use them very often. Laptop speakers tend to be the epitome of mediocrity and these fall right in that line. They’ll do for conference calls, but don’t expect to enjoy an action flick on them any time soon.
Inside, our review unit has the 8th-gen Core i3 8130-U, 8GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. All available models of this Chromebook come with a standard 8GB of RAM (thank you, Acer!) and 64GB of storage. I’d like to see 64GB as the standard and 128GB in upgraded models, but Acer has gone with 64GB across the board for the 714 and I honestly don’t get too bent out of shape with that. Chromebooks are made to leverage the web and that’s how I use them.
You can get the internals downgraded to the Pentium 4417U or upgraded to the Core i5 8250U or 8350U, but the Core i3 we tested was plenty fast for anything I could possibly throw at it. Yes, it comes with a fan, but I never heard it if it did come on at all and I’ll take a fan in a clamshell all day if it means I can get this sort of performance out of a Core i3. Battery was also as good as advertised and I was able to easily get 8-10 hours of mixed use to get me through a full day with no worries whatsoever.
So, in the end, who is this Chromebook for? It is being marketed towards the enterprise folks without being aimed only at them. The MIL-SPEC and Citrix-ready branding make it an easier purchase for businesses, but this device is also easily bought by consumers as well. While I think it is a great fit for many businesses, I think there are many consumers who may enjoy it as well if the price is right. With the build quality, great trackpad and fingerprint scanner, I can see many folks jumping on this one.
But the MSRP isn’t where I’d ultimately like to see it. The Pentium model starts at $499, but with the dim screen I’d love to see that closer to $399 or $449 and I’d feel much better about recommending it. The Core i3 model we’ve been testing is $649, and with all the Chromebooks out there at a much lower price point (ASUS Flip C434, Dell Inspiron Chromebook 14, HP Chromebook x360, etc.), there’s no way this one makes sense. If the screen was closer to the quality of the panel on the Spin 13, I’d say the package would be good enough to get closer to that price point. But it just isn’t even close.
For now, I’d say hold off on this one until we start seeing sales. As it is being targeted towards the enterprise, it might take a bit of time to see those price drops. With Acer choosing to make this one much more widely-available in consumer markets already, however, I’d assume we’ll see the price dip down soon enough. If it comes down into the $400-$500 price range, my thoughts would shift quite a bit as I think this Chromebook offers a lot for the money and could be a device that user not only enjoy but can confidently own knowing it will stand up to a lot of abuse.