Acer Chromebook 315 review
The Acer Chromebook 315 CB315-3H makes a lot of promises for a low price. We put it through its paces to see if it lives up to expectations.
REASONS TO BUY
Large HD screen
Good battery life
REASONS TO AVOID
Basic keyboard and audio
Looking for a low-cost laptop? Then look no further than this Acer Chromebook 315 review
At first glance, this laptop appears to check all the boxes, with a large, Full HD touchscreen, adequate battery life, and a capable processor. Of course, there's also a price tag of less than £300.
However, impressive specifications do not always imply a positive customer experience. So we got our hands on the Intel-powered Acer Chromebook 315, the (not very) snappily titled CB315-3H, to see how it works in practice.
To that end, we put in a significant amount of time writing emails, managing our Google Calendar, listening to music, watching movies, surfing the web, and other activities.
The Acer Chromebook 315 runs on Chrome OS, an easy-to-use interface that heavily relies on having an internet connection because it stores most of your files online. What's the reason? You don't need a lot of built-in storage, which helps to keep the price of the laptop low.
If you're still not sure what kind of laptop you want, check out infospa's best laptops, best 2-in-1 laptops, and best lightweight laptops guides, which are packed with great advice and top products.
If you enjoy gaming, be sure to check out T3's best gaming laptops guide, which includes systems with serious pixel-pushing power.
ACER CHROMEBOOK 315 REVIEW: IS A CHROMEBOOK RIGHT FOR YOU?
First, a word of caution if you've never used a Chromebook before. (If you have, proceed to the next section.)
Because there isn't much of an operating system, Chromebooks are generally less expensive than Windows or Mac laptops. You get an internet browser, a folder for downloaded files, and that's about it.
This may appear to be limiting. But it's surprising how much you can do with web-based software, much of which is provided for free by Google, such as Google Sheets (for spreadsheets), Google Docs (for word processing), and Google Drive (for cloud storage).
The main limitation of Chromebooks is their reliance on a constant internet connection; while there are ways to work offline, they are typically cumbersome. On the plus side, you won't be slowed down by buggy software and endless updates, which are common problems with Windows operating systems.
The system under review here is from Acer, a well-known manufacturer with multiple products in our best Chromebooks buying guide. We recommend that, in addition to reading this review, you also look at some of the systems in that guide, as well as its advice, before making a purchasing decision.
ACER CHROMEBOOK 315 REVIEW: DESIGN
This is the most stylish and appealing Chromebook we've seen at this price point. The look is sleek metallic and reflects light in an aesthetically pleasing way, similar to that of a MacBook.
But keep in mind that it only appears to be metal: it's actually plastic, which can be a bit disappointing when you first feel it in your hands. As long as you're prepared for that, it's quite lovely.
The laptop is hinged and can be opened all the way around. This device isn't the lightest at 1.9kg, but it's certainly light enough to carry around.
Surprisingly, the keyboard only occupies the top half of the base. (Specifically, 115 x 330mm out of a total available size of 250 x 366mm.) That leaves room for a surprisingly large trackpad (78 x 106mm) beneath the spacebar, as well as a lot of empty space.
It's a strange layout, and when we used it on the sofa, we tended to rest our right hand to the right of the trackpad, leaving our left hand with nowhere to go, resulting in some strain and discomfort. We're confident that we'll eventually develop better typing habits, but it takes some getting used to.
The keyboard isn't exactly high-end. Although it works perfectly, the keys are light and flimsy, and typing on them isn't the most pleasurable experience. There is no backlight, and the Enter key is unusually thin and easy to overlook.
On the plus side, there is a number pad, which is invaluable for tasks like entering data into spreadsheets. In use, the trackpad is smooth and intuitive. It responds fully wherever you click, and we like how it makes an audible noise when you do so. Furthermore, its large size means that your fingers will never have to struggle to reach it.
ACER CHROMEBOOK 315: SCREEN
The screen size of the Acer Chromebook 315, which is a generous 15.6in in diameter, is one of its best features. That is quite large for a Chromebook, and it is ideal for watching TV and movies. You'll also be able to see people on Zoom calls in greater detail, which may or may not be a bug depending on how attractive your friends and colleagues are.
A larger screen can also help you be more productive when working, studying, or organizing your home. You can comfortably fit multiple windows side by side on your screen, for example, and view extra columns and rows of a spreadsheet without having to reduce characters to magnifying glass proportions.
The screen has an anti-glare coating that allows you to work with sunlight behind you while also working beautifully as a touchscreen.
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ACER CHROMEBOOK 315: SETUP AND OPERATION
The Acer 315 is just as simple to set up as any other Chromebook. All you need is an internet connection and a Google account. If you don't already have one, you'll need to use your phone or another computer to set one up.
Once you've entered your username and password, you're only a few steps away from getting started, such as deciding whether or not to sync your device with your Android phone. You can skip most of these and come back to them later if you want to get started quickly. That way, you can be up and running in a matter of minutes.
Even if you've never used a Chromebook before, there isn't much of a learning curve here; after all, you do almost everything in the browser, with your main apps grouped at the bottom. The only other thing to be aware of is the basic folder structure, which organizes your Google Drive files and direct downloads in one convenient location that can be opened and closed at any time. As the screenshot above shows, it all adds up to a clean and minimal workspace.
Although Chromebooks are generally geared toward cloud storage (you get 15GB of free Google Drive storage, for example), there are times when you need to store things locally. For example, if you were going on a long trip, you might want to download some movies to watch later. As a result, the inclusion of 64GB of flash memory storage is much appreciated.
ACER CHROMEBOOK 315: PERFORMANCE
The Acer Chromebook 315 is available in two configurations: AMD and Intel. The model we received for review is powered by a dual-core 1.1GHz Intel Celeron N4020 processor and an Intel UHD Graphics 600 processor.
This configuration is not as powerful as a typical Windows or Mac laptop. However, it does not have to be for the primary tasks you're likely to use a Chromebook for, such as web browsing, word processing, video streaming, and music listening. We discovered that the Acer Chromebook 315 performed smoothly and efficiently for all of these activities, with no issues to report.
When you open multiple tabs on a cheap Chromebook, things typically begin to slow down. We didn't have that problem with the 315, going beyond 10 tabs and still finding everything working perfectly. Obviously, if your internet connection is poor, you may encounter issues, but in our experience, this is not the fault of the device.
The LCD screen has a full HD (1080p) resolution and is ideal for watching TV and movies. The image is admittedly a little flat: more expensive laptops have sharper colors, better brightness, and 4K resolution. Is it, however, spending a lot more money for what amounts to minor improvements? It depends on your priorities, but for the most part, we'd say no.
The audio may detract from your enjoyment even more. The stereo speakers are located at the bottom of the device, sending sound into your desk or lap, which is less than ideal. Even if you prop up the bottom of the laptop for better clarity, it still sounds tinny. On the plus side, you can crank up the volume, which compares favorably to other Chromebooks we've tested.
ACER CHROMEBOOK 315: CONNECTIVITY AND BATTERY LIFE
The Acer Chromebook 315 has good connectivity. There are four USB ports in total: two USB-C ports and two USB-A ports. A headphone jack, a microSD card slot, and a Kensington security cable slot are also included (not included).
These are divided between the left and right sides and are well spaced so that your various plugs and leads do not interfere with one another. And here's something we're really excited about: you can power your device from either the left or right USB-C port.
This means that even if your power outlet is in an awkward location in relation to where you're sitting, you won't have to awkwardly twist your plug to get it into the socket. This helps to protect your device in the long run. Darn it, you'll still have a backup even if one of your power ports fails.
It goes without saying that data transfer speeds aren't particularly fast, but that's to be expected from a device at this price point. Similarly, the HD, 30fps web cam is nothing to write home about, but it gets the job done.
However, there is one true gem in the 315's crown: battery life. The 3-cell Lithium Ion battery claims "up to" 12.5 hours of battery life, and we found it to be close to this target in some fairly resource-intensive tasks.
We spent a total of nine hours and 35 minutes offline watching full-screen Marvel movies via the Disney+ Android app, which is more than enough to get you through a long journey. Then, to test battery life over WiFi, we streamed HD videos from YouTube, and the Acer lasted a whopping 11 hours and 16 minutes.
With that kind of battery life, we'd recommend the 315 to anyone who spends a lot of time away from a power outlet.
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ACER CHROMEBOOK 315: VERDICT
To summarize, we believe the Acer Chromebook 315 is one of the best budget Chromebooks on the market today, and it is an excellent choice for schoolchildren, students, and, well, most people.
Don't get us wrong: this is not a high-end product. There are no fingerprint readers, optical drives, or styluses. Furthermore, the keyboard, webcam, video playback, and audio quality are all subpar. But, for under £300, you get a sleek and attractive laptop with a generous-sized touchscreen, a substantial battery life, and a processor capable of running multiple tabs smoothly.
Of course, it is not for everyone. If you need a business laptop, you'll need something more powerful and expensive. If you enjoy intense gaming, you'll have to rely on web-based platforms like Google Stadia. And, like any other Chromebook, you won't be able to run resource-intensive creative software like Photoshop or After Effects.
Most people, however, will not want to do any of that. They simply want a laptop for basic tasks like web browsing, listening to music, watching videos, and all the other things we now need to do online, such as writing emails and making Zoom calls. This Chromebook does everything you need it to do for such tasks, on a beautiful big screen, and at a very reasonable price.