We review two new models, including Acer's new Chromebook that offers military-grade durability.
Chromebook sales are one of the few bright spots in a declining PC market, according to research firms like Gartner. That's not surprising considering these lightweight laptops are typically priced well under $500.
Chromebooks run on Google's Chrome operating system and, while they can be used offline to some extent, they're mainly designed for online applications such as Google Docs.
That makes them appealing to an increasing number of people as our use of cloud apps rises. But are they destined to remain at the budget end of the market?
We looked at two new Chromebooks from Acer and HP, and we're pleased report that in one case, at least, there are signs the sector may be evolving.
Acer Chromebook for Work 14
Until now, Chromebooks have been mostly popular among students, educational institutions and budget-conscious buyers. Acer aims to change that with its upcoming Chromebook for Work 14, which boasts military-grade durability for more demanding business use.
Acer says that the Chromebook is compliant with US Military Standard testing (MIL-STD 810G) and has been tested to withstand up to 60kg of downward force as well as drops of up to 122cm.
It also has a spill-resistant keyboard, with a gutter system under the keyboard and touchpad that's able to drain up to 330ml of liquid through the chassis and out of the base without damaging the internal components.
The 14-inch screen is clad in scratch and shatter-proof Corning Gorilla Glass – an industry first for Chromebooks.
Design and specifications
Powering the Chromebook 14 is a 6th generation Intel Core processor, so performance isn't going to be an issue. Other specifications include 16GB or 32GB of eMMC storage; 2GB, 4GB or 8GB of dual-channel LPDDR3 RAM; and 720p webcam. Acer claims 12-hour battery life and it weighs 1.45kg.
The 14-inch screen will be available in Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) or 1,366 x 768-pixel resolutions. Purchasing the Chromebook for Work 14 will also qualify users for 100GB of free Google Drive access.
It has an in-vogue feel of what a laptop should look like in 2016. It's metallic grey with laser-cut edges. We really like the keyboard, too. Our fingers seemed to skim effortlessly over the keys.
However, it's not all amazing: the trackpad needs work, mainly because its click is too deep.
Australian availability and pricing had yet to be announced at the time of writing, although based on US pricing (US$349) it's likely to cost a bit more than a typical Chromebook – but still offer very good value considering its ruggedness and quality.