The minute I begin to talk about Chromebooks with things like bright high-res displays, 3:2 aspect ratios, glass trackpads, Core i5 processors, 8GB of RAM, NVMe storage, aluminum build and convertible form factors, I’m sure your mind starts tallying up the price tag of those nicer elements. I know mine does. When Chromebooks have nearly all the best pieces available, I freely assume the price will be extremely high like what we see in devices like Google’s own Chromebooks, the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook or ASUS Chromebook Flip C436. When talking about those higher-end devices, you may even be conjuring up images of the prior version of the Chromebook we are reviewing today: the high-priced Acer Chromebook Spin 13 that started around $900 about 18 months ago.
The new Acer Chromebook Spin 713 bucks this trend in all the right ways, however, as it refines what we had in the very-good Spin 13, removes a few things from the equation, and produces what I would consider to be my favorite Chromebook of 2020 so far. Let’s dive in and see what Acer has put together and why it is worth your attention.
Let’s start with the build quality, because this is a place Acer didn’t impress me with in the first iteration of this Chromebook. The Spin 13 felt pieced together as an afterthought and not as a crafted, though-out laptop. Thankfully, the Spin 713 doesn’t fall down nearly as hard in this area this time around. While not the most carefully designed Chromebook I’ve used, the overall feel is far more refined and cohesive than its predecessor. With an aluminum lid and bottom, plastic keyboard deck, solid hinges, reasonable weight (3.2 pounds), and decent thinness (16.7mm), this Chromebook feels good and looks good. Good, not great.
There are places where the seams don’t quite line up perfectly and there are sharp edges here and there, but nothing that bothers me or really affects how this Chromebook is used. There’s very little flex to the entire thing and Acer has weighted it in such a way that even with a 360-degree hinge, you still get that coveted one-finger lift on the lid.
One nice addition that gives me peace of mind is the MIL-STD 810G compliance that means this Chromebook can survive drops of up to 4 feet and downward force of up to 130 pounds. For a device that looks this sleek and professional, that is really a big deal. Flagship Chromebooks and their high prices don’t usually come with the ruggedness you’d expect in the lower-end education-focused devices, but this one packs it in. I don’t plan on throwing it around too often, but if the worst happens, I know it will survive. That’s a very different feeling than when I carried around the $1000 Samsung Galaxy Chromebook. That peace of mind is worth something for sure.
Oh my, this screen. I absolutely love this display. I love it so much that it almost completely makes me forget any other issue I might have with this Chromebook every time I open the lid. When there is a part of the Spin 713 that I find that aggravates me (like that so-so build quality I just mentioned), I open it up and gaze up on the massive canvas of the 13.5-inch 3:2 display and any frustrations I had just melt away. Yeah, I know Samsung has a really nice, bright, punchy 4K AMOLED panel on the Galaxy Chromebook, but I’d choose the Spin 713’s screen every single time.
The main draw? Screen real estate. With a 3:2 aspect ratio at 13.5-inches, you get the same vertical space as you’d find on a 15.6-inch 16:9 laptop. Sure, you drop a bit of space from the sides, but the feeling of massive space is still there and makes using this Chromebook without a secondary display an absolute joy. Add this breathing room to the pin-sharp resolution (2256×1504), high brightness (400+ nits), great viewing angles (it is IPS), and punchy colors and I think it is quite clear that this screen is without peer in the Chromebook world. It was my favorite feature of the Spin 13 and remains my favorite part of the entire Spin 713 experience. Other Chromebook manufacturers should really take note.
Keyboard, Trackpad & Pen
The hits just keep coming as we move down to the interactive input methods. I’ve long disliked Acer’s keyboards and had issue with them being a bit too mushy and lacking tactile feedback when typing. To each their own: Acer’s keyboards just haven’t been my favorites in a crowded market where there are so many good options available. Thankfully, Acer has improved the Spin 713’s keyboard and I really enjoy typing on it. The backlit keys are easy to see, the click feels good, and the travel is enough that I don’t find myself making mistakes very often on these keys. While it’s still not my absolute favorite, it isn’t an issue any longer.
The trackpad, however, is as good as they get. Huge, covered in Gorilla Glass, and solidly build, this trackpad checks all the boxes. There’s nothing here to gripe about at all and only positives to talk about. I love the massive size of the surface, I love the smoothness of the glass, and the click is reassuring and solid. Again, Acer delivers what it feels like all Chromebooks above $500 should deliver with the trackpad and, combined with the solid keyboard experience and gorgeous screen, you have the core interactive bits that make for a stellar overall Chromebook experience.
They did drop the garaged stylus from this year’s version, however, and that makes me a little sad. I always say that the best pen is the one you have on you and internally-stowed pens are obviously the best at this. Acer did include USI pen compatibility, so when those pens do start to arrive later in the year, you’ll be able to snag whichever one you choose and ink away. We tested the pre-production HP pen we have in the office and it works as expected, but until retail pens start to arrive, we’re withholding judgment on the entire experience.
Ports & Speakers
At this point, I usually have to regurgitate the same stuff about USB Type C and maybe a legacy Type A port. That stuff is all still here in the form of a USB Type C port on either side that can handle data, charging, audio, and display functions and a legacy USB Type A port for dongle-less living. You still get a headphone/mic jack and a microSD card slot on this one as well, but there is a port that makes a comeback in the Spin 713 that we’ve not seen in a while on a consumer Chromebook: the full-size HDMI port. Yep, this Chromebook has one, so if you’re in a pinch and need to hook up to a display in a hotel or at a meeting, all you need is an HDMI cable. I’ve actually used it a few times already and can say that I didn’t realize how much I missed the luxury of it being there. With this port setup, you can function fully without dongles in nearly every scenario and that is flexibility that can’t be matched by most.
The speakers on this Chromebook are just plain awful, though. My bar is pretty low on laptop speakers across the board, so when speakers are really bad, I have to point that out. Positioned on the bottom of the Chromebook, these small, quiet, tinny speakers sound poor on a the desk and worse in the lap. If you plan on consuming content on this device and its wonderful screen, make sure and bust out the headphones. For what it’s worth, my AirPods Pro connect up just fine and sound great with the Spin 713, so I don’t really use the speakers for anything more than reference when watching a video or playing a game.
All the great features of this Chromebook – like the improved build quality, ruggedized exterior, fantastic screen, great keyboard/trackpad and versatile I/O – wouldn’t really amount to much if Acer chose to skimp on the interior parts. Thankfully, that isn’t the case. Inside, you’re getting the latest 10th-gen Core i5 processor from Intel, 8GB of RAM, 128GB of NVMe SSD storage, Bluetooth 5 and Wi-Fi 6. Those internals rival the ASUS Flip C436 and Samsung Galaxy Chromebook and you can feel it when you boot this thing up. It is insanely fast, smooth and responsive with any task you throw at it. Not surprisingly, I didn’t run into a single performance issue the entire time I’ve been testing the Spin 713 and I don’t think many of you will, either.
The battery life is a champ here, too, easily coasting through the 10-hour barrier and not exhibiting the shorter-than-average lifespan of the ASUS Flip C436 or paltry battery life of the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook. Sure, there are fans here, but I almost never noticed them and never had to worry about overheating or throttling when really pushing the Spin 713 pretty hard. A Chromebook with this much overhead is important when you consider the 8 years you may own it. With a AUE of June 2028, this device will continue getting updates for a very long time and will likely still feel fast that far in the future.
If it isn’t clear already, I think this is one of the best Chromebooks you can buy at this point in 2020. Want a fast Chromebook? You got it. Want a larger, sharper, brighter display? Done. Need a convertible? OK. Really care about keyboard and trackpad inputs? Acer has it for you. Want a durable, rugged Chromebook that will last as long as the updates do? Sure thing. This Chromebook is so good at so much, it is hard to consider too many other options in this price range. At $629 MSRP, it is wild to think that we’re only one generation removed from Chromebooks like the Dell Inspiron Chromebook 14 or Lenovo Yoga C630 that cost the same or more and fell short of this new Spin 713 in so many ways.
Even a comparison to its own predecessor is staggering when you consider this configuration was/is $900+ just 18 months ago. Acer has managed to put together a device that skimps on a few small things (no finger print scanner, here) and keeps all the important pieces to make a high-end Chromebook experience for a much more affordable asking price. If we assume the standard Chromebook sales will happen and we see this device regularly dip into the $500 – $550 price category, I honestly am not sure how others will compete at this point.
Devices like the Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook push this trend as well at, and it makes competition difficult for manufacturers. In the end, this all benefits us as consumers because all prices will eventually have to come down as a result. This much Chromebook for $629 is a no-brainer and I’d argue that most people looking for the high-end, flagship Chromebook experience will likely find what they are looking for in the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 without shelling out nearly as much cash as the competition is asking for.
If you are on the fence, buy this Chromebook. If you are looking for a nicer machine with faster internals, buy this one. If you are trying to figure out if the savings are worth it over a Galaxy Chromebook or ASUS Flip C436, I’ll help you out: yes they are. This is without doubt my favorite Chromebook of 2020 because of all that you get for your money and how long it will likely last you. Functional, fast, and durable make for a compelling package all around and I’m glad to recommend anyone looking for those things in a Chromebook to go and buy the excellent Acer Chromebook Spin 713.