Well, we finally made it. We can finally say we have a Snapdragon-powered Chromebook that is available for purchase and I’m very, very glad for that. There were so many unknowns for the Snapdragon 7c in Chromebooks and we’ve been anxiously waiting for over 3 years to answer a bevy of questions. Is it going to be fast enough? Is the battery amazing? Are Android apps better on this chip than Intel or AMD-based Chromebooks? Can this Snapdragon 7c compete with the latest mobile processors from Intel? Is it wildly faster than the current ARM chips in Chromebooks like the Lenovo Chromebook Duet? Those are all great questions, and we’re ready to answer those and more as we weigh in on whether or not the Snapdragon 7c that powers the Acer Spin 513 is really ready for prime time in Chromebooks.
As always, a Chromebook is definitely the sum of its parts. While the highlight of this particular device is clearly the processor under the hood, we still need to talk about the outer parts because for the Spin 513, they are all quite good. The first thing you’ll likely notice is the thin and light build of this Chromebook. Coming in at only 2.65 pounds and only 15mm thick, there’s no denying the feeling of portability that comes with this one. It’s hard to capture in photos or video, but this thing just begs to be picked up and taken places – it’s kinda tablet-like in that way. Speaking of tablets, this Chromebook is obviously a convertible and can be used in all the ways you expect at this point: clamshell, tent, presentation and tablet modes are all here when you need them. While I don’t find much use in a 13.3-inch, 16:9 tablet, I do like the presentation and tent modes for all sorts of activities and the Spin 513 was as good as any at pulling off these use cases. It’s even better considering the quality of the screen you get, here. It’s IPS, so the viewing angles are great, the colors pop, and the brightness hits a respectable 300 nits. Really, I have no complaints here. Oh, and like just about every convertible Chromebook at this point, USI pen input is supported.
In the same vein, the backlit keyboard and glass trackpad perform great as well, making the typing and navigation on this Chromebook a very good overall experience. My only knock here is the fact that the entire bottom portion of this device is plastic. While it is reasonably firm and passes the corner hold test quite well (picking up the Chromebook from the front corner only), the center of the keyboard has far more give than I’d like and it cheapens the experience a bit. It’s not a deal-breaker, but the keyboard and trackpad do suffer a bit because of it.
On the sides of that plastic chassis we get dual USB Type C ports (one per side), a single USB-A port, headphone/microphone jack, power button and a volume rocker. While not the most robust I/O layout, it is enough to get you connected to what you need when you need it.
On the the inner parts
Now, let’s talk about what’s inside this Chromebook. Our test model came equipped with the Snapdragon 7c, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of eMMC storage. There is an optional upgrade to 8GB that I’d recommend since Acer only charges $30 more for that upgrade and more RAM is always worth it. The story here is really the Snapdragon 7c and while I’d love to report that performance was super-smooth and fast, that’s not really what I found to be true. Don’t get me wrong: this Chromebook doesn’t feel slow per se…it just definitely isn’t fast. From time to time I’d see stutters and lag in animations and under my standard workload, it couldn’t really keep up. Extending to my 1440p ultra-wide monitor wasn’t a great experience either as the Snapdragon 7c chip is limited to a 1080p extended display output. When pushing two monitors, things slowed down a lot and there was never a time that I was able to forget that I was running on a lesser processor.
Probably more disappointing is the Android app performance. I fully expected Android apps to fly on this thing since Qualcomm Snapdragon chips are the standard in nearly all Android phones. It was actually the opposite, however, and games that play surprisingly well on the lesser Lenovo Chromebook Duet and its MediaTek MT8183 processor were pretty awful on the Spin 513. Call of Duty Mobile wouldn’t let me move the graphics up past the lowest options and PUBG Mobile was just as choppy and messy on this Chromebook as it is on Intel devices. Somehow, the under-powered MT8183 in the Duet is better at Android apps than this Snapdragon 7c and I honestly don’t know why. This could change down the road, but for now, there’s no direct benefit to running Android apps on this Chromebook versus the current competition.
Battery was about as good as advertised, giving me about 10 hours of heavy use with the screen at 75% brightness. Crank that down to 50% and you’ll get closer to the advertised 13.5 hours of screen time Acer touts for this machine. With no fans to worry with and the thin, light chassis, I did really appreciate the tablet-like battery in the Spin 513.
Here’s the thing, though. Price always informs value and this Chromebook has shown up at a very low price right out of the gate. At launch over at Walmart, the entry-level Acer Chromebook Spin 513 is priced at $349. Sure, I was a bit let down by the Snapdragon 7c, but at $349 this device gets a bit of a pass in the performance department. After all, the speed we’re seeing here matches other Chromebooks in this range and even exceeds a few. On Acer’s website, they list the prices of this Chromebook starting at $529 and I was afraid I’d have to tell all our readers and viewers to skip this one for now. There are simply too many awesome Chromebooks in the $500 price range to settle on this sort of speed. But at $349, this Chromebook really separates from the pack.
There are very few Chromebooks that give you such good hardware for so little money. With an excellent screen, a solid keyboard and a great trackpad, the outer package of the Spin 513 earns it’s asking price. While the speed of the Snapdragon 7c isn’t amazing, it isn’t a deal breaker at this price at all. With so many users happy with the Lenovo Chromebook Duet, I think the same value proposition applies with this Spin 513. With a very approachable price tag, users will get a great overall Chromebook for the money, enjoying perks not usually present in affordable devices. Because of this, I can easily recommend the Spin 513 if you are after a thin, light, ultra-portable Chromebook and aren’t after break-neck speeds. It’s a solid laptop for the money and I’m hopeful that over time, the Snapdragon 7c gets some kinks ironed out and gets far better with Chrome OS and Android applications across the board.