Unlike just a few years ago, Chromebooks now come in a variety of sizes. Currently, they range all the way from 10.1 inches to 15.6 inches, including 11.6″, 13″, and 14″ models.
While all these sizes have some representation, the bulk of Chromebooks right now fall in the 13.3″ category. As great as 13.3″ devices are for portability, most don’t provide the best pixel layout. 1080p on a 13.3″ screen renders most elements quite tiny.
The best pixel layout I’ve seen thus far on a 13.3″ device is the HP Chromebook 13 G1 or the Chromebook Pixel (granted it is a 12.85″ device). The HP 13 G1 utilizes a 3200×1800 pixel layout, rendering objects as if the device was actually using a 1600×900 pixel display. This keeps things a bit larger (fonts and UI elements) while still keeping the display super-crisp.
The Pixel does a similar trick, utilizing a 2560×1700 pixel panel to render an effective 1280×850 layout. 1080p displays can adjust resolution, but there are UI elements that get fuzzy and Chrome OS doesn’t have too many options on resolution. Hi-DPI displays like the HP 13 and Pixel handle these additional resolutions with ease. Across many resolutions, the display has the extra pixels to keep things crisp and sharp without dithering.
If you want to see what different resolutions look like on your Chromebook, you can hit CTRL + SHIFT + (+ or -) and cycle through resolutions available. You’ll quickly see there aren’t many options and there are rendering issues with everything but standard 1080p, thus the user is usually better off leaving things at 1080p.
With the lack of additional resolution options on these 1080p 13.3″ displays, I am constantly reminded that 1080p really belongs on a 15.6″ screens.
The Acer Chromebook 15 feels completely at home with a 1080p panel. Objects are the right size, no scaling required. Working from my lap never felt so comfortable.
15.6″ devices also have the advantage of more space for keyboards, trackpads and internal elements. It’s likely a factor in the popularity of this size across both Windows and MacOS devices. Just a quick trip to your local Best Buy or HH Gregg will lead you to the conclusion that people like 15.6″ devices. There are always tons of this size Windows notebook in stock. And Apple chooses to outfit their best specs in the 15.6″ version of their Macbook Pro.
15.6″ is a legit, worthy form factor.
So why have we only seen one Chromebook this size? As of this writing, 5 of the top 15 top-selling Chromebooks on Amazon are versions of the Acer Chromebook 15. I have one in my house and have owned a couple of them off and on for work. I enjoy the size of the screen and comfort of the keyboard and trackpad. It isn’t the most well-built device and is due a refresh, but overall there is a lot to like.
And by the numbers, it seems Chrome OS users like it quite well.
So where are the others? Why have we not seen 15.6″ devices from other OEMs and why hasn’t Acer refreshed the Chromebook 15?
My guess would be the lack of consumers up to this point using Chromebooks as productivity tools. The median user is likely using a Chromebook as a secondary device, mainly at home, and mainly for consuming content or social media. And I completely get that and appreciate that fact.
Apple clearly outfits the larger Macbook Pro with the most bells and whistles because they assume it will be used as a productivity machine. Video edits, song production, photo work, and other heavy lifting is normally done on larger screens. If no one is doing this type of work on Chromebooks, then why would anyone want a larger screen?
It’s a fair question, I suppose.
But when a device is selling well, I have to wonder why that isn’t enough to warrant some other OEMs to get in on the action. Look, I understand 15.6″ devices aren’t for everyone. They aren’t always for me, honestly. But I appreciate what the Acer Chromebook 15 brings to the Chromebook ecosystem, and I can’t understand why other manufacturers have not.
I don’t really have an answer to this. I only state the question in hopes that by starting a conversation around it, some other OEMs might catch wind of the clear market for these devices and begin giving us some real choices.
What do you all think?