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back to article Acer C720 Chromebook with Haswell battery boosting goodness

You know, sometimes you’ve got to wonder what enables a design to go into production. I’m looking at the Acer C720 Chromebook and appreciating its dinkiness, the non-reflective 11.6in TFT screen and the fact that it was more than happy to take a bog-standard USB Ethernet adapter and run with it. Acer C720 Chromebook Acer's C720 …

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Mandatory comment on the resolution

It's too low sorry.

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Re: Mandatory comment on the resolution

Normally I would agree but on a 11" screen, its not that bad actually.

On anything 14" and above its criminal however.

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Re: Mandatory comment on the resolution

Yes it is low, but it is also small and pretty cheap, so it has *some* excuse for that choice.

Also I personally hate Caps-lock keys, as I am a poor typer and sometimes find I hAVE TYPED A LOT IN CAPS having hit it accidentally when going for the 'A' key. I see little use for that function in this day and age of simply putting titles in bold or larger fonts. Good to see it used for something else, but ideally just get rid of it (or make it smaller and further from the 'A' key).

As for printing, that is a pain not being easy to do locally. While I find it a rare need, it is sometimes needed for boarding passes, Groupon vouchers, etc.

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Holmes

Re: Mandatory comment on the resolution

I remember an article in BYTE magazine from '90 or thereabouts (time of the UUCP howtos, getty tips-and-tricks and reviews of the SPARCstation 1) calling for the well-deserved demise of CAPS LOCK. I can't remember whether it was actually written by Jerry Pournelle.

Instead we got the Windows Key (which, I note, this here Chromebook is admiringly bereft of; I say!)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Mandatory comment on the resolution

"the dual OS set-up running Chrome and an alternative flavour of Linux is definitely appealing "

Can't you just wipe the Chrome OS crap and put Windows 8 on it? Then at least you have a fully featured OS that can run a proper version of Office.

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Pint

Re: AC 09:48

Poor attempt at trolling.

Incidentally, who cares about MS Office for home use? For the odd letter Google docs is perfectly adequate, and most folk would have a lot more fun with the £200 or so for Win 8 + Office than pointless formatting.

Unless, of course, you are the sort of person who just has to write letters in green ink with odd fonts to make a point?

Here, have a beer and hope your MS fixation gets better in 2014.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: AC 09:48

Seconded.

Been a home PC user for 22 years. Never needed it for home document creation. Not once. Have only ever missed Office when somebody emailed me a .DOC or .XLS of some description and I needed to see the contents and gmail/google means that isn't a problem and hasn't been for years.

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Re: Mandatory comment on the resolution

"Can't you just wipe the Chrome OS crap and put Windows 8 on it? Then at least you have a fully featured OS that can run a proper version of Office."

No, you'll have Windows 8 !

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Windows

Re: Mandatory comment on the resolution

Caps Lock...I hated it so much I actually used to prise off and throw away the cap. Until I had to write something in SQL.

(Funny, MySQL doesn't seem to mind either, yet I GRANT you ALL TUTORIALS seem to have been written LIKE this;

PITA!

. Am I missing something?)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: AC 09:48

"For the odd letter Google docs is perfectly adequate"

Microsoft Office Web Apps is also perfectly adequate, except better and it actually works properly with document formatting...

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Re: AC 08:45

"Microsoft Office Web Apps is also perfectly adequate"

Maybe, but you still don't need Windows to use it, nor the ability (AFIK) to install anything locally, so a Chromebook is still usable with that.

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Re: AC 09:48

But it points out something that more should be commenting on, which is despite all the claims that "The big bad M$ will lock us out with UEFI, oh noes!" that it was GOOGLE that took what WAS a bog standard laptop and made it so locked down that you can only run Google OS and a handful of hacked bootloader Linux versions. Oh and no dual booting allowed last I checked, you have to wipe Google OS before you can run anything else.

Say what you will but I can take any Windows 8 laptop and be on my way to booting up any flavor of Linux, BSD, or previous version of Windows in mere minutes, while the Chromebook simply can't do nearly as much and restricts your choices.

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Headmaster

Admiringly?

ITYM "admirably". HTH!

(And yeah, Jerry was actually right about quite a lot of things, too.)

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Holmes

Is that enough RAM?

Don't know enough about the difference between W*ndows and *nix memory requirements for Chrome, but on Windows a working set of 2Gb or more, just for Chrome, is pretty easy to get.

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Re: Is that enough RAM?

Well I haven't experienced any ram/performance issues with my 11" Samsung Chromebook.

Then again I'm a more 'normal' user in that I would only tend to have say 4 tabs open at a time.

I don't quite get the need for 40 tabs being always open as mandatory. Especially on a 11" screen.

Again it's probably a case of "if this device doesn't work quite the way you want it to, then it probably wasn't designed with you in mind".

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Re: Is that enough RAM?

2GB is a sh*t ton of RAM, modern developers are spoiled with the amount they have to work with. OS X 10.9, which is a complete Un*x system and is hardly described as light weight, has a working set of under 1GB. iOS, which is a cut down version of OS X, runs with everything (kernel, apps, video memory, the lot) inside of 1GB.

Having an SSD rather than a conventional disk helps here, as much of the rest of a modern system's RAM is used as disk cache due to the speed difference between CPU and disk drive. SSDs help reduce this.

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Anonymous Coward

It might be virus free, but.....

How safe are your vital documents (containing your vital IP), on Google's servers? I'd love the answer to be "Absolutely safe," because the solution looks otherwise perfect, for me.

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Trollface

Re: It might be virus free, but.....

"Absolutely safe"!

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Re: It might be virus free, but.....

Oh very safe indeed, as they have another back-up held off site.

In an unmarked building.

That no one publicly knows exists...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It might be virus free, but.....

Hehe ... My exact point. Our IT has already put the wifi MAC address block used by Chromebooks in a blacklist. While I can understand their rationale, it annoys me immensely as my Samsung arm chromebook has had its factory spyware booted only twice (to enable developer mode and enable USB boot) and replaced with Debian.

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Re: It might be virus free, but.....

"...Chromebooks in a blacklist .While I can understand their rationale..."?

I can't, care to explain? It's not like you can't do everything the chromebook can do with a windows laptop which will be insecure due to the virus risk?

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Has potential ...

... but I think I'll wait until someone succeeds in putting a 'proper' Linux distribution on it, since this could be an ideal 'chuck it in a bag'-style laptop.

I can live without the Chocolate Factory's spyware, though.

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Re: Has potential ...

Peppermint 4 vote. Can't see any reason it wouldn't work.

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Re: Has potential ...

Duly noted.

Shall take it for a spin in a VM to see if I can get on with it - in the meantime, have an upvote.

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Re: Has potential ...

I think this already has a fully supported linux distro on it, Chrubuntu or so. I read quite a few posts about this on slashdot 2 days ago. Works fine according to most and is a very enjoyable machine.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Has potential ...

All the major Linux distros are already supported for dual boot. An SSD upgrade to 128 GB is $99. What with all the attention these are getting this week you will have trouble finding one at the list price. Amazon is sold out.

I think the dinky size of the SSD is to discourage people from thinking they could put Windows on.

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Re: Has potential ...

Yes, I was just remembering that too. Here's the topic

http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/13/12/29/195242/chromebooks-have-a-lucrative-year-should-wintel-be-worried?

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Re: Has potential ...

Is it still crippled with the 30 second scare screen when it boots into developer mode? I know, Ctrl+D makes it go away but it's still an annoyance. Also is it like the C710 with two versions, the older with an 847 and the newer with the U1007. Last I looked the newer version wasn't broken open to getting something like SeaBios on it. It would be good to know ahead of time if the same was true for the C720.

One last point just to be clear, this is Acer as in the headline not Asus as mentioned frequently in the text, correct?

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Re: Has potential ...

> Is it still crippled with the 30 second scare screen when it boots into developer mode?

> I know, Ctrl+D makes it go away but it's still an annoyance.

Yup. And my partner keeps pressing space (as prompted) to reset it back to default ChromeOS when I put it in developer mode!

Having said that I find I need full Linux less and less on my Samsung Chromebook as ChromeOS improves.

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Got one for Christmas;

Positives;

* 6.5 second boot to log-on, instant sleep and restore with no worries about will it make it or not that you get with Windows.

* Instant browser, and gmail just works.

* Plugging in a USB to my Android phone and tethering just worked.

* (claimed) 9 hours on battery - the promise of a whole day on the move without a charger

* Size & weight

* Screen - good and resolution on this size screen more than adequate.

* Feed HD videos on the SD card - just works

Negatives;

* No Bluetooth tethering

* No SMB mounts to allow access to Windows file servers.

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Happy

I got mine last Christmas

The OS is improving nicely and so far hasn't given me any niggles. It's become my travel laptop/device of choice over my 13" Windows laptop and 7" tablet.

As you say it tethers nicely and does the job.

The only issue I have with recommending them 100% is printing. For me its not an issue as I try to keep printing to a minimum. My take is if I have to print then I've failed but many shall we say 'senior' people love to print everything and that's the rub. Okay the setting up to print isn't tricky but for the average numpty its a few clicks and a new concept too far.

We'll see what develops this year.

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Re: I got mine last Christmas

Speaking as one who is approaching not admitting to being in the 'senior' category and who not only doesn't print squat but scans important documents to be free of the paper storage headache, I have to say the printing situation on a Chromebook is a total non-starter and it is why I returned a pair I had purchased as gifts.

There is no reason for not being able to directly access simple things like IPP or postscript. Likewise there is no reason to have to buy another printer that is cloud print enabled or set up a computer with Chrome running on it to act as a print server. There is no reason to have to send a document hundreds or thousands of miles to one of Google's data centers, who will undoubtedly scrape it for any and all useful data, so they can send it back to a printer that is about a dozen feet away. Lastly, the thing I print out most is a boarding pass and so far I've never had to worry if Chrome was installed on the print server or if it the network printer was sufficiently Googled wherever I've gone.

As you say, we'll see, but I'm not holding my breath. I'm thinking there is too much money in Google's cloud printing service for them to give it up and let's be honest, if it isn't making money Google shuts it down as many Google Reader fans well know.

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Re: I got mine last Christmas

Got to agree about the printing issue. Love my sARMsung and used it daily for about a year but.....the frustration when I want to print something. Grrrr.

Web, email, netflix, photo viewing even the odd game or two. All work great. Just annoying that I have to get out my tablet or lappy to print something as simple as a eBay receipt or posting note.

If Google would only fix this!

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Re: I got mine last Christmas

I too might be in or around the 'senior' end of the spectrum, and I'm sure we all have different printing needs, but for me printing is no problem. Running Crouton/Ubuntu 13.10 and installing UbuntuOne cloud storage (along with Libre Office, Gimp, Firefox, Thunderbird etc) I just drop a copy of what I need to print into my UbuntuOne folder and then use my aging Desktop to print.....

I don't need to print much and I don't usually carry around design documents for nuclear submarines, so it all just works fine for me.

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Re: I got mine last Christmas @Colonel

Unless the "Running Crouton/Ubuntu 13.10 and installing UbuntuOne cloud storage (along with Libre Office, Gimp, Firefox, Thunderbird etc) I just drop a copy of what I need to print into my UbuntuOne folder and then use my aging Desktop to print..." is only a couple of clicks away and doesn't require any technical skills, printing is a big problem because the majority of people do have a problem setting up such complex systems.

It's really unbelievable how many people dismiss printing as old-fashioned and "not that big of a deal" as Jobs would have put it. Printing from "legacy" computers to "legacy" printers is easy. And when you print that 50 page PDF "through the clouds" on your meager 256kb uplink... it's just stupid.

I can sort of understand (not really) the lack of USB support for printing, but Apple's CUPS has been the standard on Linux and OSX platforms for ages. If they just supported PCL/PS over IPP protocol many people would be satisfied.

But no. Bastards.

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Re: I got mine last Christmas @Colonel

I don't disagree with what you are saying, printing is important, and your view "Unless the.... is only a couple of clicks away and doesn't require any technical skills, printing is a big problem because the majority of people do have a problem setting up such complex systems." is certainly valid for many people. My only worry is that you may deter those with some limited technical skills to try the solution I went for. I am not clever enough to write the code and do geeky stuff myself, but I did give the "How to..." a go and followed the very clear step-by-step guide here:

http://www.howtogeek.com/162120/how-to-install-ubuntu-linux-on-your-chromebook-with-crouton/

and it worked straight out of the box :-) [the small script just downloads and installs everything automatically - takes ages but I cooked the supper while it was doing it].

There is a choice of 'flavours' of Linux (Ubuntu) and most of the software I mentioned is installed automatically. Installing additional packages from the on-line 'App store' is easier than most Windows installs I have done in the past, so give it a go! And a big 'thank you' to How-to Geek and those that made it possible!

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Display

Had a go on one of these over Christmas -- it's a nice form factor, it's fast and has good battery life. The only reason I didn't buy one is that I was underwhelmed by the display (I had the same issue with the Asus T100, which also has an unremarkable screen).

Think I'll wait for the new Samsung to be released (or the new Dell if it's any good).

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The C720

I got one to replace my Samsung ARM which developed a nasty trackpad and there's no comparison - the C720 is far faster with a hugely improved battery life.

My Macbook Air hasn't even been switched on for the last week. There are a few things I still need it for (Chromebooks can read from an external DVD drive but don't play DVD movies for instance), but over the last year the list of things I need more than a Chromebook for has diminished to virtually nothing.

My battery charge shows 88% and is predicting over 9 hours left. This is probably correct as I've had a full day's usage out of it before now (including streaming Fringe episodes on Netflix).

As regards the memory question, I have over a dozen tabs open without any impact. The only time I ran into an issue was when I had multiple Google+ tabs open and then it struggled after the first few - but those are very heavy, constantly-polling pages.

To respond to "safety of documents" - the cloud is the cloud. Whether or not you use cloud storage is a separate question to whether or not, having made that choice, the Chromebook is a valid access device to those documents. If you don't do cloud, you probably won't consider Chromebook. But if you do cloud, it's ideal.

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Chromebooks do the job....

Been using a chromebook for a year... don't want to use anything else for personal use. Only really use my Ubuntu machine when forced to ( and then this is mostly to apply updates), Home Win machine went in the bin long ago and good riddance. Compelled to use a Win machine professionally, certainly not out of choice.

All these supposed 'issues' with cloud machines are frankly, nonsense. 2 GB local memory and 16GB SSD really are more than adequate (it really isn't that long ago these were KB and MB capacities in hardware), additional cloud capacity you will never exhaust.

Ooh! the big bad spy man will look at my data. Yeah, they are going to pick my cat photos out from the millions of other accounts because there are all these agents with time on their hands who want to trawl through my shit, I really am not that interesting, they can knock themselves out!

I am not dumb enough to save anything dodgy out of my control, encrypted thumbdrives are still around right?

If you have got problems tethering then pick an ISP with a shed load of hotspots you can easily access. Cloud enabled printers are in the tens of pounds price range and really not that hard to set up. I thought everyone knew they stiff you on the consumables so avoid printing and save the planet and your bank balance.

A Chromebook and Lastpass fulfills 99.9% of my personal IT use, here's hoping this is the case until the direct neural implant is invented!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Chromebooks do the job....

I have had a Samsung Chromebook for over a year and I find I need full Linux (via crouton) less and less on my Samsung Chromebook as ChromeOS improves.

For travelling its the first choice. And for home its better than a tablet around the house.

The offline photo editor can now handle images of the size produced by my digital camera.

When at home I tend to use the Chromebook in conjunction with my NAS, and avoid Google Drive as much as possible. Also the inbuilt SSH is really a handy feature to have.

My Linux Desktop only gets really used for editing docs and photos where a real OS and big 1920x1080 monitor is and advantage.

My only gripes about the Chromebook are:

1) Cloud printing. This is just wrong. Why can't I print directly to my WiFi printer?

2) Google docs saving as PDF (or print save as PDF) creates HUGE PDF docs. (Skydrive is much better here)

3) I would like an offline doc editor which does not sync with Google Drive.

4) 720p res screen would be nice

5) No ability to mount NAS SMB shares so have to use a web interface to NAS

As for Google spying I have a Google account just for my Chromebook and delete it periodically and create a new one.

Its not perfect, but with the death (murder) of decent Netbooks its the best alternative.

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Meh

Re: Chromebooks do the job....

4) 720p res screen would be nice

Eh? 1366x768 is 720p (plus a bit) ... or did you mean 1080p?

Yes, 1080p would be nice, but there is a trade-off ... the more pixels you dsplay the more GPU grunt you need to update them all at an acceptable rate, and so the more battery life you consume just driving the screen.

On a device like this -- given the screen size, the price, and the intended uses -- it doesn't seem unreasonable to sacrifice a spot of resolution to gain battery life.

Also, Chromebooks owe a good part of their success to the fact that thay're a lot cheaper than (say) a Retina iPad, and that price point is achieved in part by limiting the resolution. The Chromebook Pixel has the resolution, If you have £1k+ to spend, but for that sort of money you might prefer a 13" Retina MacBook Pro (which is only 300g heavier).

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Up yer bum.

It's a frightening future, but one which is coming to most.

I have the original EEE PC and it runs Mint lovely, resolution is too low, mind you. But I can create within a tunnel, and I know where my work is.

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Re: Up yer bum.

Also, you can print over WiFi to your home network printer, or via cable to any other convenient one.

(Thumb up, but not up yer bum, honest.)

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> but how often do you replace a printer

To be fair, it is probably no more expensive than a replacement ink cartridge.

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@ Adam 1

True, as I bought a replacement printer for a friend who had been sold a Lexmark and discovered it would cost more for a set of inks than a new Epson (that took 3rd party cartridges, unlike the Lexmark).

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Re: @ Adam 1

Good point, in many cases people will save money by buying a newer printer. The industry profits hugely from people who keep old machines and carry on paying extortionate prices for ink, while newer machines are more competitive because reviewers and specifiers look at ink costs.

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Caps Lock alternative key ..

"an alternative key command should be offered for the Caps Lock"

How about rapidly hitting the shift key twice in sucession or as Google suggests pressing 'Alt + the search key' to toggle Caps Lock.

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From what I have read the RAM is soldiered onto the motherboard which is a pity. I would want 4gb and a bigger ssd. Just a pity it's crippled by design.

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I would hardly say "crippled" as it appears to do what it was intended, be a cheap way of gaining web access and running a selection of light tasks that is probably enough for most home use.

You can get other Chromebooks with 4GB and bigger SSD for around the £250 mark, so if it really matters go for one of those.

After all, this sort of design won't be bloated in time with AV software running and lots of pointless toolbars and auto-updating software that can't use the OS' mechanism for updates, unlike certain well known alternatives.

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Indeed, as I mentioned above, if you don't like the spec then it wasn't designed with you in mind. But you could be surprised.

However, I can think of plenty that would find it useful.

Plus as I say to a lot of Chromebook skeptics, just try one. It's not the device to end all other devices it's another tool in your armory alongside, laptops, tablets and smartphones.

For me it fits the niche of "I like using a tablet but I miss the sheer speed of having a keyboard but don't want to lug around a full size laptop". My svelte 13" Dell just feels like putting breeze block in my bag.

For the price I'll thrash it for two years, buy another, log in in and I'm back up and running.

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