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Acer Chromebook 314 (NX.AWGEK.003) review: Too much Chromebook for too little?

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
299
inc VAT

A nice design and impressive screen for a low-cost Chromebook, but the price shows in poor performance and limited connectivity

Pros 
Decent full HD touchscreen
Slim and light design
Keyboard isn’t bad
Cons 
Minimal connectivity
Poor performance
Rotten sound
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We’ve come to expect a lot from Acer’s Chromebooks, especially when it comes to value. It’s not that the manufacturer always gets it right – we’ve seen enough Acer Chromebooks saddled with a ropey screen or a woefully slow CPU – but when it does it hits a near perfect balance between price, features and performance, which is a whole lot trickier than it sounds.

With the Acer Chromebook 314, however, it’s almost battling to give you too much Chromebook for your money, with an eight-core CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 14in Full HD touchscreen at a price where other manufacturers are offering dual-core CPUs and dim, HD-ready, non-touch displays. Surely it doesn’t add up?

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Acer Chromebook 314 (NX.AWGEK.003) review: What you need to know

This really is a Chromebook with a 14in 1080p screen, an eight-core CPU, 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage at a remarkably low price. It’s also slim, light and generally well designed.

Yet, loath as I am to look a gift horse in the mouth, not all is well with the Chromebook 314’s pearly whites. It isn’t in any way a bad Chromebook but you need to be realistic about what you’re getting for your £299.

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Acer Chromebook 314 (NX.AWGEK.003) review: Price and competition

Generally speaking, Chromebooks at this price point have a few things in common, including dual-core or quad-core Celeron processors, cheap-feeling build quality and 1,366 x 768 HD Ready screens.

There are exceptions, though. The Asus C523 can now be found for around £250 to £300 and, while it has a Celeron CPU, it has a 15.6in Full HD screen. Acer’s own Chromebook 315 (£299) has a similar screen and specification, while HP has the x360 14b-na0500sa, which upgrades the CPU to a Pentium Silver N5030 and still crams in a 14in 1080p touchscreen. Plus, while it’s now getting a bit long in the tooth, the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet is a cracking little Chromebook convertible, albeit with a smaller 10.1in 1080p touchscreen.

Acer Chromebook 314 (NX.AWGEK.003) review: Design

The Chromebook 314 isn’t a convertible, although it has a touchscreen you can push back flat against the desktop. If you’re not fussed about touch interactions or running touch-centric Android apps, an almost identical, non-touchscreen model could be yours for £60 less. The only significant difference is that it has 64GB of storage rather than our review sample’s 128GB.

Otherwise, it’s a conventional, slimline clamshell: just 19.7mm thick at the thickest edge of its sculpted, wedge-shaped profile and occupying an area 325 x 223mm on your desk. Narrow bezels on each side of the screen minimise the size and help focus the attention and the weight is 1.5kg. While the materials are plastic with a metallic finish rather than brushed aluminium, the unit as a whole appears to be solidly built. The hinge feels robust, there are no weird edges and no signs of undue flexing or creaking.

One thing the 314 is missing, however, is connectivity. There’s a USB-C port on the left-hand side, but the only USB-A port is USB 2.0. Given that you’ll need the Type-C port for charging, that doesn’t leave much to go around. As for wireless connectivity, you’re looking at a familiar combo of dual-band, 2x2 MIMO Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 5.0.

Acer Chromebook 314 (NX.AWGEK.003) review: Keyboard and touchpad

It’s only really apparent once you start using it that the Chromebook 314 has been built to a budget, and that partly comes down to the keyboard and touchpad. The keyboard itself isn’t bad. It has a spacious layout with good-sized Shift and Ctrl keys, even if I’m not a huge fan of the split-key design on the left Shift and Return keys, where one chunk of the key is actually the key next door. The keys have a slightly uneven wobble if you move your finger tip across the key cap, but the action is crisp and you don’t notice the wobble while you’re typing.

The touchpad is perfectly functional, but there’s no mistaking the plastic for glass and it’s noticeably less sensitive than the touchpads on Acer’s more expensive Chromebooks. You can, of course, use the touchscreen instead, but I find it weird prodding the touchscreen of a non-convertible Chromebook, and while Chrome OS is becoming more touch-friendly, it’s still not something that feels like a must-have.

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Acer Chromebook 314 (NX.AWGEK.003) review: Display and sound

The Chromebook 314’s screen isn’t exceptional, but it is good for the money. The resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 looks a lot better than 1,366 x 768 on any screen above 11in in size and it doesn’t have the gritty presentation or visibly irregular brightness levels of some budget 1080p displays. It helps that it reaches a maximum brightness level of just over 300cd/m², where many cheap Chromebook screens struggle to hit the mid-200s. However, it only covers 59.1% of the sRGB colour gamut, while colour accuracy is comparatively poor, with an average Delta E of 5.08. In practice, it’s great for browsing the web, editing documents and even watching streaming video, but I couldn’t edit photos or video and feel confident about how the colours were going to come out.

Audio output, meanwhile, is par for the course for a slimline, budget Chromebook. It’s just about listenable at church-mouse volumes but gets thinner, brasher and more congested the more you turn the volume up. Do yourself a favour and get some Bluetooth headphones, or plug a wired pair into the 3.5mm audio socket provided.

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Acer Chromebook 314 (NX.AWGEK.003) review: Performance and battery life

While we’re hearing good things about some of Mediatek’s new Chromebook CPUs, the MT8183C Acer is using here is one of the older ones. It has eight cores running at a maximum 2GHz, which means it’s faster in some multi-threaded tests than comparable Celeron N4500 and N4200 Chromebooks.

In Geekbench 5’s multicore test, for example, it scored 1,380 versus 1,237 from the older Celeron N4500 Acer Chromebook 514, and 1,088 from the Celeron N4200 Acer Chromebook 317. However, that still makes it slower than the Acer Chromebook Spin 513 (Qualcomm Snapdragon 7C), let alone any Chromebooks we’ve tested recently with the faster Pentium Gold CPUs.

More worryingly, the Acer Chromebook 314 comes out slower in more application-focused benchmarks. It was slower than both Celeron devices in our multitasking test and slower in the BaseMark, MotionMark and CRXpert 2.0 benchmarks, which give a relatively accurate picture of performance in real-world, browser-based applications.

Its 3D graphics performance is also poor, returning an average of only 20fps in the ageing GFXBench Manhattan benchmark at 1080p (offscreen). Most tellingly, I found the Acer Chromebook 314 occasionally felt a little slow in general use, particularly with seven or eight Chrome browser tabs active. Of course, the same goes for the Celeron-based Chromebooks. If you want snappy performance, you’re generally going to need to spend a little more.

One upside of the low-power spec is that battery life is very good. In our video rundown test, the Chromebook 314 kept going for just over 13 hours: a superb result.

Acer Chromebook 314 (NX.AWGEK.003) review: Verdict

Up to a point, the Chromebook 314 does a pretty good job of convincing you that you’re using a mid-range £400 Chromebook, even though you’ve spent £100 less. However, neither the touchpad nor the keyboard get the feel quite right, while the performance keeps reminding you that this is still a low-end laptop.

If you’re only interested in browsing and using Google’s Workspace apps, you’ll probably get by, but for anything else you’re going to wish you had splashed out a little more on something faster. Even then, we’d recommend the cheaper non-touchscreen option. It has less storage but it’s arguably better value.

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