The Ergohacks Verdict

After one day with the R13 I knew I wanted to keep it. I’ve used Chromebooks on and off since the first CR-48 and they’ve always frustrated and delighted me in equal turns. The simplicity of working just inside a browser has been amazing and with HTML5 web apps the list of things that you can’t do has gotten extremely small. When it’s worked it’s been great. The problem has been twofold – hardware that isn’t quite up to scratch and the fact that if you go offline you’re almost completely out of luck.

So that does the R13 do to fix this? There have always been Chromebooks available with decent specs – if you’re willing to pay a lot for it. The problem is that once you get up to those levels of cost it’s hard to make an argument not to go for a upper-end Windows ultrabook or a lower level Mac. The R13 had 4gb of RAM, 64gb of storage, charges via USBC and a battery that is quoted to go for 12 hours and actually gets pretty near it. It’s powerful enough that I’ve not had problems with tabs reloading unexpectedly and it’s been stable and quick the whole time. It’s also got one more trick – it’s got a touch screen and is reversible. Flip it around and you’ve got a 13 inch tablet.

So why would you want a ChromeOS tablet? Make a couple of changes in the OS and you can opt into the beta to get the Android app store on it. Not every Android app will work and many just aren’t optimised for a tablet – never mind a 13″ one but many do work and they bring two crucial elements. First many of them work offline and second, there’s an app for almost anything. I’ve managed to play Minecraft, write WordPress posts offline, edit images and video in Adobe Clip, access newsgroups, ssh into our Ergohacks server and a range of other things. The beta isn’t quite perfect and I’ve also had a couple of crashes but I’d tend to blame the apps more than Google for this.

In total the R13 is a real machine and one that I can work on reliably at a price that’s not outrageous.  I originally wrote that I’m not quite ready to give up my desktop full time but with the exception of a couple of odd pieces of hardware like a slide scanner and gaming the R13 has been equal to every task I’ve thrown at it. Highly recommended.

Ergohacks Essential

Buy it from Amazon  

Price: ± £390.00
Included: Acer R13, USB-C Charger and Quick Start Guide

Design

The R13 is a good looking laptop and particularly so for it’s pricepoint. It’s an aluminium block with squared off sides and edges. Around the edges are the USB-C charging point (that can also be used for data and with a breakout box), a USB 3.0 port, a HDMI port, a microSD card slot, a combined 3.5mm microphone and headset port and a Kensington port. There is also a power button and a volume rocker that have a distinctly tablet style.

The keyboard uses dark plastic keys that are good if not great to type on and have a reasonable travel, avoiding being mushy. The layout is typically ChromeOS with no caps lock or function keys but rather web navigation keys such as back and reload. If you’re coming from Windows they take a bit of getting used to but once you adapt to them are actually quite useful and certainly more so than the function keys ever were. The trackpad is mid sized at and feels quite responsive to use – thankfully it also accepts gestures.

The only potential flaw in the design is the hinge. Unlike most of the bodywork it’s plastic and while it does work reasonably it’s not as tight gripping as it could be and hence the screen can move about a lot more than I’m happy about. It’s worse if you try to actively use the touchscreen in laptop layout and you need to hold the screen with one hand while touching. I’m also a little concerned about its durability. It’s held up the three weeks of testing I’ve done but bends in directions it shouldn’t far too easily.

Specification

Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 22.5  x 32 cm
Item Weight: 1.48kg
Colour: Brushed aluminium
Waterproof: No
Release date: October 2016
Materials: Aluminium and plastic body

Technical Specification
Operating System: ChromeOS
Processor: 210GHz MediaTek
Memory: 4GB
Display: 13.3″ 1920 x 1080 IPS
Camera: Fixed HDR Webcam
Wi-Fi: 802.11 ac 2x MIMO
Bluetooth: Yes
Storage: 64Gb and expandable microSD card slot
Input: Touch Screen 10 point
Ports: USB-C Charge, 1x USB 3.0, HDMI,
NFC (Near Field Communication): No
Battery: Integrated non-removable 54 Watt Hours with  quoted 12-hour usage

Warranty: One year free from manufacturer defects

Requirements

It was once true that ChromeOS needed an always available internet connection and while this isn’t quite true these days and the advent of Android apps on ChromeOS is making it even less so it’s still nearly necessary. You can be away from wifi for a while but if you don’t spend the majority of your time in areas with decent wifi this may not be the system for you. The system will also require that you have a Google account.

Build quality

About Acer

Acer is a well known Taiwanese multinational that specialises in mid-range laptops but also makes a range of screens, VR devices, smartphones and other peripherals. They make a wide range of Chromebooks including the C720 which was my last Chromebook.

 We based our Ergohacks Verdict on three weeks of tinkering, testing and using the R13 provided by Acer during August and September 2017. This article was first published on 5 September 2017.