Acer Chromebook 13 Performance

I commented on the previous page that performance can at times feel lacking with the Chromebook 13. I think a large part of that comes from the NVIDIA Tegra K1 SoC, unfortunately. I’ve used an NVIDIA SHIELD, and going from an 8-inch tablet to a 13.3-inch laptop you’d think maybe they could push performance a bit more, but in most cases it’s a wash. Being a Chromebook (laptop), however, most sites will default to a heavier non-mobile view that can take a bit longer to fully process and display, and interactions with the laptop during this time can be very sluggish.

Benchmarks alone don’t necessarily convey the complete performance experience, so let me preface this section by saying that the older C720 was clearly more responsive in certain workloads. If you’ve never used the C720 then the Chromebook 13 won’t necessarily feel too slow, but switching between the two – or running tests simultaneously on both laptops – shows that while TK1 is more power friendly, the Haswell Celeron ends up being faster in nearly every computational workload. Even graphics doesn’t generally favor TK1, though the difference in screen resolution certainly plays a role as the C720 was only available with a 1366x768 panel.

For our performance testing of Chromebooks, we end up using a lot of tests that we run on tablets as there aren’t many Chromebook benchmarks. Also keep in mind that some of our Chromebook results are quite old (relatively speaking), so while we are running the latest build of Chrome OS on the C720 and CB13, the other Chromebooks were tested more than a year ago. We also aren’t able to test the older models on newer benchmarks, so some of our charts only have a few results. With that out of the way, here’s a quick look at performance.

WebXPRT (Stock Browser)

Mozilla Kraken (Stock Browser)

Google Octane v1 (Stock Browser)

SunSpider 1.0.2 (Stock Browser)

Additional Performance Results
  Acer C720 Acer CB13
CrXPRT 96 55
CrXPRT Battery (Hours) 8.52 9.9
OORT Online (WebGL) 3270 4010
Spacerocks (WebGL - FPS) 18 30
WiFi FTP Download (Mbps) 100 115

And there’s the rub: no matter how much NVIDIA might like to say otherwise, when it comes to competing with Intel’s Core architecture there’s still a huge performance gap on the CPU side of the fence. If we were talking about a 10-20% difference, you could say I’m splitting hairs, but the C720 is well over 50% faster in all the non-graphics workloads, and in a few cases it’s close to twice as fast. Given we’re not even talking about particularly speedy processors to begin with – the Celeron 2955U is literally Intel’s “slowest” Haswell processor – a 50-100% improvement in performance is something you will notice.

Just typing in Google Docs – or heaven forbid, Microsoft’s Office 365 Word online, which can feel a bit like a pig even on a fast desktop PC – the experience can be anywhere from a bit laggy on the Chromebook 13 to downright slow. Open up a long Reddit page or other complex website and again performance starts to matter. I’m enough of a power user to appreciate added performance, even on a budget Chromebook, and the upcoming Chromebook 15 will certainly be interesting to look at.

Also of interest is the WiFi performance testing. Using my 3x3 802.11ac router and a 5GHz connection for both Chromebooks (though the C720 is only 802.11n), the two Chromebooks end up delivering pretty similar WiFi results. The Chromebook 13 is technically faster with its 1x1 802.11ac adapter, but while that should in theory allow well over 200Mbps of real-world throughput, in testing it topped out at 115Mbps. The C720 on the other hand manages 100Mbps; I'm not sure if it has a 2x2 or 1x1 802.11n adapter, but the net result is a relatively small difference in throughput.

With all this talk of performance, it’s important to take a step back again and ask the question: what are you going to do on your Chromebook? For every task that I might run that can push the performance limitations a bit, there are plenty of options where a Chromebook works fine. Both the C720 and the CB13 handled 1080p YouTube videos without a problem, and if you want to store an MP4 video locally they also handle that fine. For everyday Gmail (or other web mail) and Internet surfing, the Chromebook 13 is definitely good enough. And again, the keyboard just has a good feel to it, so as I write this review I may at times want to switch to my desktop, but that’s only because I prefer the desktop version of Word to Google Docs, not because of the typing experience.

Acer Chromebook 13: Subjective Evaluation Acer Chromebook 13 Battery Life and LCD
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  • johnny_boy - Sunday, January 25, 2015 - link

    Sure, and they are HUGE. This chromebok is not only in an ultrabook form factor, but it is also completely silent, being fanless.
  • savagemike - Friday, January 23, 2015 - link

    That sounds like a good deal but a $300 i3 isn't every day pricing is it? I have a Chromebook I paid $150 for. An Acer c720 with the Haswell Celeron. It's no problem to load Linux up in a parallel boot and I can do anything I need to with it. Mostly though I have just left it as ChromeOS native and it's a great little machine to do this or that. Easy and simple to use and maintain. Battery lasts forever. Could upgrade the SSD if I wanted - it's M.2 so still a little more expensive but not a huge deal.
    A lot of use for $150.
  • kmmatney - Saturday, January 24, 2015 - link

    OK- I don't know how anyone who has been using Microsoft OSes sicne the Win 3.1 days can never have run across a virus. It's been a while for me, but I've certainly come across them now and again since I started "computing" in the DOS 5.0 days. Especially when they started spreading by USB stick with the fantastic autorun feature. I don't remember that last time I personally had one, but friends and family (and even a few work computers) do get them on occasion. Mainly it's stupid highjacking stuff.

    I agree that a $299 Core i3 15.6" laptop smokes any Chromebook, and ultimately is more useful.
  • Shadowmaster625 - Friday, January 23, 2015 - link

    I know this lag of which you speak. It is extremely irritating. That's why I love my 4.5 GHz G3258. It can run too many things at once, but it absolutely screams at web browsing. 100mS sunspider score. lol.
  • Daniel Egger - Friday, January 23, 2015 - link

    Why does it all of a sudden seem to me that an iPad 2 and a Bluetooth keyboard would be a much better choice than this?

    - Closed system to protect from malware: check

    But then the iPad takes off:

    - It's much faster
    - The store has many more titles then the Chrome store and generally a higher quality
    - You don't need to lock yourself into the Cloud if you don't want to
    - The screen is much better all around
    - It's lighter
    - There's an LTE option

    Heck, if you desperately want a closed system but still much better system all around, why not get a Surface RT?
  • Refuge - Friday, January 23, 2015 - link

    What is the price of the Ipad 2 + Bluetooth Keyboard? lol

    I feel like you are comparing a Tesla with a Geo Metro saying it gets better gas mileage AND is faster. While not un-true, it is also woefully misleading.
  • buevaping - Friday, January 23, 2015 - link

    "Window Surface 2 Rt" To close to "Windows Surface Pro 2". People thought it could do windows. Better would have been "RT Surface 2" Problem with limited apps and developers. Not even another major browser besides EI. And"EI" is no chrome killer. To Refuge that commented. There is threat of substitution with iPad. You don't have to go for latest and greatest. 1st iPad Air(still better display) with discounted keyboard case.
  • kevith - Friday, January 23, 2015 - link

    Everytime I have used a web service, like Google docs, Office, Dropbox, OneDrive etc., the very low speed of transferring files is killing me. I have a 60/60 Mb/s connection, that often is utilized less than 1%.

    The idea of "cloud" is somehow ok, but until the speed is raised dramatically, it´s way, way to slow for my temper.
  • teldar - Friday, January 23, 2015 - link

    I'd like to see it compared to the Stream 14. Any chance of that happening at some point?
  • aryonoco - Friday, January 23, 2015 - link

    Jarred, I wanted to thank you for the most honest, useful, unbiased, comprehensive and well-written Chromebook (and Chrome OS) review I've ever read.

    I am in the camp that thinks Chromebooks can do 100% of what a lot of users want to do with their laptop (especially older and non-tech savvy types) but overall, this was the best description of all the pros and cons of Chromebooks I've seen. It makes a very good case for why Chromebooks are good for some people, but also why they are probably not the right tool for others.

    Thank you for your attention to this segment. I very much look forward to your thoughts on the upcoming Rockchip and Broadwell Chromebooks (and the Toshiba Chromebook 2 1080p version if you can get your hands on one).

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