Acer Chromebook 15 CB515-1HT-C2AE Review
The new Acer Chromebook 15 CB515-1HT-C2AE stands out as a cheaper alternative to the premium Google Pixelbook, and should please diehard fans of the Chrome OS platform.
- Spirited overall performance
- Large 15.6-inch HD screen
- Great battery life
- Solid overall value
- Awesome speaker placement
- Lacks dedicated video output
- Some distortion in audio
Premium Chromebooks are making a reassured comeback thanks to the lead of Google’s Pixelbook. For sometime now, Acer has been ahead of the game, having introduced the Chromebook 15 in 015 with a larger scree, a luxurious build, and spirited internals. It was always one of the large-screen Chromebooks available — and 2019, it returns with refreshed hardware for even better performance.
Our review unit is the Acer Chromebook 15 CB515-1HT-C2AE, a thin and light notebook based on Google’s Chrome OS operating system. It is among the first 55 Chromebooks with full Google Play Support, meaning you can download and install Android apps directly to your laptop while enjoying web-based apps via Google’s Chrome Web Store. It is backed by a 15-inch, 1080p touchscreen powered by Intel’s Celeron N3350 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage.
Does the Acer Chromebook make a cut as the best 15-inch Chromebook you can buy right now? You bet it is.
Acer’s Chromebook CB515-1HT-C2AE sports a Pure Silver finish save for the keycaps and the bottom of the device. If anything, it comes out as a gorgeous laptop with a clean metallic exterior that does an excellent job hiding your fingerprint smudges throughout the day. There is a metallic trim that outlines the base and touchpad, while a dull black strip borders the display frame and extends down into a dark hinge.
The hinge revolves to a full 180 degrees, making it possible to place the Chromebook completely flat and face up, so you can easily share the screen with colleagues, and pretty much anyone else. But that also means you don’t get the cool Tent or Stand mode that you’d otherwise find in a 2-in-1 convertibles, the like of Google Pixelbook and Samsung’s Chromebook Pro. Practically, the dull-black hinge does a good job visually concealing the existing gap between it and the base, unless you put the Chromebook up close to your eyes.
At 14.9 inches wide, 10.2 inches from front to back, and 0.75 inches high, this Chromebook is thinner than Lenovo’s ThinkPad 13 Chromebook (0.78 inches) even with its larger screen, but slightly thicker than Asus’ Chromebook Flip C302CA (0.54 inches).
The Chromebook 15 remains the only choice if you want to run Chrome OS on a 15-inch laptop. HP and Acer have 14-inch models, and the rest have 13-inch screens – and sometimes, smaller. With a bigger chassis comes good connectivity.
On the left side, you’ll find a USB-C 3.1 Gen 1 port with power input support alongside a USB-A 3.1 Gen 1 port. On the opposite side there is a headphone/microphone combo jack, a microSD card reader, another USB-A port and an additional USB-C power that also supports power input.
It doesn’t have an HDMI or DisplayPort, but those can always be hooked via the USB-C ports with the correct adapter. Also missing is an Ethernet port, instead Internet comes via 2 x2 Wireless AC supporting Wi-Fi connections of up to 867Mbps and Bluetooth 4.2.
As previously mentioned, the CB515-1HT-C2AE’s touch screen is based on IPS technology, which readily offers rich colors and wider viewing angles as compared to older TN displays. However, the viewing angles largely depend on the content being viewed. For instance, the included backgrounds on the Acer Chromebook 15 looks gorgeous, vibrant and sharp. Plus, the Chrome OS interface looks pretty, with perfect blacks and sharp, highly colorful icons, just like you’d have them on a high-res smartphone. But once you pull up a movie from Google Play, the colors look slightly washed out.
The visual excellence is backed by a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, something that’s becoming standard on Chromebooks. In the same category, we have Chromebooks like the Google Pixelbook and the Samsung Chromebook Pro that break the 2,400 x 1,60 barrier, but in the process, they do sacrifice physical screen size (12.3 inches) in order to achieve the higher resolution. Still, the Chromebook 15 can go higher with a crazy 2,160 x 1,215 resolution, only that it isn’t a ‘recommended’ setting.
On the Chromebook 15, Acer delivers sweet sound with two up-facing speakers on either side of the keyboard. Simply said, Acer did rip out the number pad to have the speakers in place. It also means that they had to compact the keyboard to a small degree, taking up around 11 inches of space from the left to right. Being a 15-inch laptop, this design doesn’t affect typing whatsoever, it feels comfortable even for those coming from a large mechanical keyboard.
The keys are well laid out, feel a little bit wide, and each key press is awesomely firm and quiet. The keyboard has white backlighting, something you’d readily appreciate in dark environments than in well-lit spaces.
Meanwhile, the touchpad is super responsive, and allows you to move the curser at the lightest touch. It supports Chrome OS features such as two-finger scrolling, right and left swiping, right-click to tap, and more. Its color matches the Pure Silver screen, while sending a glass-like feel to your fingertips.
The Acer Chromebook 15 CB515-1HT-C2AE is powered by Intel’s Celeron N3350 processor. This is an entry-level processor, consisting two cores with a maximal clock speed of 2.4GHz, and 2MB of cache making it a perfect candidate for inexpensive laptop models. It is designed to offer stable performance, only for non-demanding routine tasks, including light web browsing, work in text-based programs or general multimedia playback.
For a chip that provides great performance while only eating six watts of power, the N3350 gets the job done well, backed by 4GB RAM and 32GB storage capacity. It’s at best a sideways move from the Celeron 3205U processor in last year’s Chromebook 15.
The Chromebook 15 feels extremely zippy on daily Chrome OS functions, including loading applications, surfing the web, and streaming video. That muscle is partly due to the operating system itself, which is much ‘lighter’ than Microsoft’s Window operating system. Chrome OS mostly depends on web-based apps, although it now supports Google Play Android-apps as well.
Intel’s processor includes Intel HD Graphics 505, a basic integrated option that’s not designed for high-resolution gaming. You can get away with basic graphics at low settings, and it even performs better than the Rockchip RK3399 found on the Asus Chromebook Flip C101P. Still, without a dedicated, discrete graphics chip or a stronger Intel processor, the CB515-1HT-C2AE’s display can only be best enjoyed when watching video.
Acer’s product page lists the Chromebook CB515-1HT-C2AE’s battery at 14 hours, but the 3220mAh battery has a maximum duration of 12 hours as correctly indicated on the Chromebook. For a Chromebook, 12 hours on a single charge is very achievable, meaning you get all day battery life in college or at work on a single charge.
The new Acer Chromebook 15 CB515-1HT-C2AE stands out as a cheaper alternative to the premium Google Pixelbook, and should please diehard fans of the Chrome OS platform. Now that it includes Google Play makes it an even better choice for college students who need the convenience of a smartphone in a laptop. Outside lack of dedicated video output, you get peppy performance backed by a thin and light form factor and an excellent battery.
Is there a better alternative?
The Asus Chromebook 15 CB515-1HT-C2AE is the largest Chrome OS device with a 1080p touchscreen you can buy right now — and it remains one of the best Chromebooks overall. The closest competitor that comes to mind is actually in-house, Acer’s own Chromebook 15 CB515-1HT-P39B. It features a 15-inch non-touch display, but includes an even better quad-core Intel Pentium N4200 processor in a similar, timeless design.
Should you buy it?
Yes. If you’re considering jumping on the Chromebook bandwagon, Acer’s latest 15.6-inch offering is a great place to start. For the price, it’s a solid value as a budget laptop and, unlike its smaller-screen peers, it can easily work as either a portable companion or your main home PC.