The journey of the Acer Chromebook Spin 13 has been a slightly odd one. Way back in May, we were up in New York where Acer debuted the device on stage and had units on hand for us to actually use. They were buggy and barely working, but the hardware seemed pretty close to finished. When they let us know that we wouldn’t see the Spin 13 until September or October, our excitement over the device cooled a bit.
As the months rolled by, excitement over this powerful Chromebook began to grow, and that excitement was warranted. Acer had shown off a powerful, thoughtful Chromebook that users were eager to know more about, and the months really began to get agonizing as we all waited.
When late September arrived and the Spin 13 had yet to launch, people started getting antsy. Around mid-October, we finally started seeing some retailers with stock and we got actual pricing. And the sticker shock was real.
Starting at $699 and moving all the way up to $999, affordablity was not really on the docket for the Acer Chromebook Spin 13, and we honestly didn’t expect it would be.
Now that we’re in the final stages of 2018, the Spin 13 is becoming more and more available, but still isn’t the easiest Chromebook to find from standard retail outlets. Acer seems to have launched this device with enterprise customers in mind, and for the time being, that’s where it is staying. That doesn’t mean you can’t get it, it just means the high prices aren’t likely to budge for the time being.
With a high price tag and matching high-end specs, we need to jump into this review and help you decide if the Acer Chroembook Spin is worth the premium price tag.
This device is well-built. It isn’t the sleakest, sexiest, or most attractive Chromebook you’ll find, but it looks nice. Utilitarian.
With the target audience being corporate folks, the overall aesthetic of the Acer Spin 13 fits in perfectly. With an all aluminum body, nice chamfered accents, and a relatively thin chassis, the Spin 13 just looks like it is ready for work. It is a little heavy at 3.25 pounds, but for a larger device (the 3:2 aspect ratio really makes this feel like a 14 or 15-inch device), that is very manageable.
There are a few sharp edges here and there, but overall the Spin 13 is well-built and feels premium. The hinges for the convertible portion are calibrated well, too, and the screen doesn’t wobble around when in your lap or on a desk. With the size of this one, you won’t be using the convertible feature to use it as a tablet, but the presentation and tent modes can be very handy when space is at a premium, and the Spin 13 handles these quite well.
The screen is one of the standout features of the Acer Chromebook Spin 13. The screen is large, colorful and looks great from any angle. The brightness is plenty for all settings we used the device in and the 3:2 aspect ratio makes the 13.5-inch screen feel much larger. I don’t think you can get away with 3:2 much larger than this, but Acer has nailed the screen real estate on this one. If you are looking for a screen to work from without feeling like you need a second display, this one gets the job done without feeling like an unwieldy beast.
The 2256 x 1504 is odd, for sure, but the benefit here is clear. You get great sharpness without pushing more pixels than necessary. This reaps benefits in both performance and battery life and I think Acer made a great choice on the panel for this one.
This section contains my couple real gripes with the Spin 13. First, the good stuff. The keyboard is backlit and the pen is stowable. Additionally, the EMR Wacom stylus is a bit bigger than most garaged pens and feels wonderful in the hand when writing. And, because it lives in the device, you always have it near. I can’t say enough how important that simple fact is.
Devices that have pen support with nowhere to keep the pen simply baffle me. So many times I want to use a pen and just don’t have it on me. I don’t care what features are included in a larger pen: the best pen is the one I have with me at the moment and I love that Acer has a place to keep this one.
Now, the let-downs. These aren’t deal breakers, but I just expect better from a high-end device like this one. First up, the keyboard is just average. It isn’t the worst I’ve used, but it is far from the best. Sure, backlighting helps, but squishy keys and a lack of a solid click make typing on this a pretty lackluster experience.
The trackpad, while made of glass, is quite shallow. Left to right, the size is fine. Top to bottom, though, the trackpad is inexplicably small. The surface feels great and the click mechanism is fantastic, but Chrome OS’ palm rejection keeps inputs from the edges from being picked up. With such a small area from top to bottom, this results in lots of missed inputs on the Spin 13 on a regular basis. I was frequently missing clicks and scrolls and it was honestly pretty frustrating.
Again, these are issues that shouldn’t be a problem on devices that command these prices.
Ports and Speakers
Speakers on the Spin 13 are also pretty pedestrian. Though there aren’t many good sets of Chromebook speakers around, that doesn’t excuse these higher-end devices in this department. With what Google has done with the Pixel Slate, I hope this changes in the next year. Acer’s speakers on the Spin 13 are actually below the low bar already set for Chromebooks, delivering pretty bad high end response and way too much midrange. Not surprisingly, there is little to no bass response.
Ports are a different discussion, though. I really love the port layout on the Spin 13 with it’s dual USB-C, single USB-A, headphone/mic jack and microSD card slot. With newer, slimmer devices coming out like the Pixel Slate, we’re seeing the ommission of things like USB-A, headphone jacks and SD card slots. In some ways I get it, but for devices focused on productivity like the Spin 13, I’m glad those things are all available and ready for users to take advantage of.
Internals and Performance
Like with the screen, performance is a place where the Acer Spin 13 smashes it. We tested the Core i5/8GB version, but as we’ve tested other Chromebooks with the 8th-gen Core i3, we can confidently say you won’t have any issue with performance regardless of which model you end up with.
Battery life has been very solid, too, getting 10 hours easily without too much thought. Just know that if you want to push this device hard, it can take every bit of it. Where it fails a bit at inputs or looks, the Acer Spin 13 absolutely crushes performance and is the fastest Chromebook I’ve used.
From time to time, you’ll hear the fan kick in, but those times were few and far between for me. I’m not a big proponent of fans in portable devices, but the killer performance really made me care less about the fan. Sure, the fan ports aren’t the most attractive thing in the world, but as I said above, this thing isn’t built to be an art piece: it is built to perform.
Here’s a breakdown of what Acer is offering:
- Core i3/4GB/64GB – $699
- Core i3/8GB/64GB – $799
- Core i5/8GB/128GB – $899
- Core i5/16GB/128GB – $999
Right now, the i5/8GB model is all that you can find around standard retailers. If you are a corporate customer, you can choose any of these models through resellers, though. I’d go with the i3/8GB model if I were looking to purchase one.
Eventually, we expect to see more models hit standard retail channels, but we don’t know exactly when that will happen.
Overall, the Acer Spin hits a ton of high points and checks off a lot of boxes for a lot of users. It is well built with a fantastic display that feels larger than the 13.5-inch spec sheet implies. The pen is great and always there, battery life is solid, and performance is insane.
So, are a mushy keyboard, slightly cramped trackpad, and shoddy speakers enough to sway you from buying one?
At the MSRP, I’d suggest yes. After all, the best overall version of this device (m3/8GB) still costs over $800 after tax, so poor input methods and bad speakers feel like things we shouldn’t be worrying about. Additionally, there are other Chromebooks that are built quite well for hundreds of dollars less that will give you a similar overall experience. Oh, and the Pixelbook is constantly on sale for $100 less, too.
So, it comes down to price, and we all know that Chromebooks tend to drop in price as the months wear on. The issue here is we don’t know when Acer plans to even offer these up to the general public, so that will delay the eventual sale prices as well.
There aren’t any Chromebooks that offer all the bells and whistles that Acer offers at this price point right now, so that’s another thing worth thinking about. When you add up the 3:2 high-res screen, stowed stylus, aluminum build, 13.5-inch display, backlit keyboard, convertible form factor, glass trackpad, and insane performance, you can start to make the case for a $800+ device.
Only you can decide if what Acer has offered is actually worth the asking price. I can confidently say that if the price comes down $100-150, this becomes a simple and easy recommendation. For now, though, the choice comes down to whether or not you want or need all that Acer is offering with the Spin 13 and, if you do, whether or not you are willing to part with the dollars to get it all in one package.