Larger Chromebooks seem to be making a bit of a comeback recently. While most of the ChromeOS devices you can buy tend to favour small formats, usually built around a 13in display, with many people now using them as a workhorse in the home, a bigger panel can be a real benefit.
Acer has recognised this new trend and its response is the Chromebook 515, complete with a 15.6in display. But, does bigger always mean better?
Design & Build
Plastic and metal construction
358 x 241 x 24.9mm dimensions
Those used to the lightweight, compact nature of Chromebooks might be a little taken aback when they first encounter the 515.
It’s a large device in this category, with its sizable dimensions making it something of a surfboard when compared to the likes of the HP Chromebook x360 14c, but around the same as the other recent big ChromeOS machine, the Asus Chromebook Flip CX5.
The materials used in the construction do keep the weight to manageable level, with 1.7kg feeling just about comfortable to lug around. Plastic is deployed for the base section, while the majority of the lid is made from metal with a matte finish that looks smart and reminiscent of many other Chromebooks I’ve reviewed lately.
You won’t find any of the fancy 2-in-1 style hinges on the 515, as it thinks of itself as a laptop rather than hybrid, presumably due to the lack of a touchscreen. You can push the display down flat on a table though, if that’s the sort of thing you like to do although I’m not sure who does and what for.
For the most part, it’s a stable setup, but jiggling the device a little bit did see the display tilt back, so the hinges aren’t quite as tight as they could be. That being said, I didn’t experience any problems with the angle changing by itself during my time with the device.
On the bottom of the 515, there’s a large ventilation grill to keep things cool, plus twin downward-firing speakers. Everything is kept stable and in place on a desk thanks to the two rubber feet at the front and a long rubber bar at the back.
Keyboard & Trackpad
Full keyboard including number pad
Gorilla Glass TouchPad
When I reviewed the Asus Chromebook Flip CX5 I commented on how the addition of a number pad to a Chromebook just felt wrong, as it offsets the keyboard from the centre of the display and complicates the simplicity that makes Chromebooks so nice to use.
Acer has taken the same approach with the 515 and it still leaves me with the same impression. Personal gripe aside, the main keyboard took a little bit of getting used to, as it’s a bit spongy and of course not central. But after about half an hour I reorientated myself and found that I could quite happily type away at near my usual speeds.
I did make more errors than normal though, so unless you really want a number pad on your laptop, I’d suggest testing an Acer Chromebook 515 before you buy one (the same goes for the Asus).
The number pad itself is perfectly usable, albeit with slim keys that can feel a little cramped at times. But, if you enter figures into Google Sheets or other office software on a regular basis, you’ll find it a very handy option to use. A backlight also makes typing on the Chromebook 515 possible in the dark.
Beneath the keyboard, you’ll find a pill-shaped indentation that’s home to the fingerprint sensor. This is becoming more of a regular feature on Chromebooks lately, although I’ve never seen one this slim but it seems to work ok even though more surface area would be preferable.
The touchpad is a solid one, thanks to the Corning Gorilla Glass panel on top. Cursor movements are swift and accurate, with the pad itself a good size for moving it around. Multi-touch gestures are supported and all work well, with smooth responses to the fingers.
Screen, Speakers & Webcam
15.6in Full HD IPS display
Obviously, one of the major selling points of this device is the display. With the Chromebook 515 you get a 15.6in Full HD IPS panel, which offers plenty of space for displaying web pages, streaming entertainment content and working on office documents.
As mentioned earlier, there are no touchscreen capabilities on this laptop in the UK which is a bit of a shame, but this does mean you get a less glossy screen which doesn’t suffer from reflections as much as those with touch-enabled panels.
A Core i3 model with a touchscreen is available in the US for an extra $50.
The quality of the display is good, with sharp definition and colour, although the latter can feel slightly muted at times. While the matte screen avoids glare and reflections, making it good to use outside, the 320 nit maximum brightness counterbalances this as it really isn’t a strong enough backlight to cope with very sunny days.
Acer seems to be positioning this device as one for ‘hybrid’ workers (those who work at home and the office), so there’s a good chance that it might spend its life on a desk in the back bedroom, where it would fare very well indeed.
Above the display, there’s the standard webcam for video-calling, another essential feature for the modern hybrid worker. Acer doesn’t state the quality of the camera, but Google Chat offered 720p as the highest setting available, so I think it’s safe to assume that this is the accurate maximum quality.
With enough light, you get a decent image on the calls, but it’s quite easy to overpower the camera with strong light sources, which in turn blows out the surfaces it touches.
Basically, if you sit next to a window while on a call, it’ll look like there’s a bright spotlight shining on your face. If you want to protect your privacy when not using the camera, there’s a physical lens cap that you can slide over to cover the camera. Simple, but effective.
The twin speakers can generate a surprising amount of volume, with no noticeable distortion when on its loudest setting thanks to the DTS Audio and Smart amplifier features.
Higher frequencies are definitely the most prominent, with bass pretty lacking as is usual for a laptop, but for streaming video content and a bit of light listening to music, it will serve its purpose.
Specs & Performance
11th-gen Intel Core i3/i5
Acer opts for a 3GHz Intel 11th Gen (Tiger Lake) Core i3 processor in the Chromebook 515, which is a decent bit of silicon that copes well with the demands of ChromeOS.
Without a touchscreen, there’s little point in using the Chromebook 515 for games as they remain mainly touch-focussed. But when it comes to working on Google’s office software, streaming Netflix content, or having lots of tabs open while using Chrome, I didn’t notice any slow-downs or other hitches.
The processor is aided by 8GB of LPDDR4X RAM and a 128GB PCI-Express SSD for storage. This whole combination could be deemed a little overkill for a Chromebook, as ChromeOS is a lightweight operating system, but I’m not complaining and if you want to open up the device to use Linux apps, then this extra oomph will definitely be useful for desktop-class software.
In the US, both Core i3 and i5 models are available now with the latter arriving in the UK in Q3. Acer’s website mentions a Core i7 option too but I’m told that won’t be released in the UK.
Here’s how the Acer Chromebook 515 fared in our standard set of benchmark tests so you can see how it compares to some of its rivals:
Ports & Connectivity
2x USB-C (3.2 Gen 2)
With its larger frame, the Chromebook 515 has room for some ports that you don’t always see on Chromebooks. These include a full-size HDMI port and a microSD card slot.
Joining these are two USB-C (3.2 Gen 1) and one USB-A (3.2 Gen 1) port as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack. There’s also a Kensington Lock if you want to secure the device to a table while out and about.
In terms of connectivity, the 515 has some decent appointments. Wi-Fi 6 will keep things sprightly online (so long as you have a Wi-Fi 6 compatible router of course), plus there’s Bluetooth 5 for connecting to speakers and other peripherals.
Battery Life & Charging
3-Cell Lithium-Ion battery
65W maximum charge rating
45W charger included
Acer doesn’t state the size of the battery in the Chromebook 515, but it does reveal that it’s 3-cell, Lithium Ion variety and has a maximum charge supply of 65W. You won’t get this out of the box though, as the charger included in the box is rated at 45W.
The company states a 10-hour lifespan on a single charge, but in our looped HD video test I saw the battery drain from 100% to zero in pretty much bang on 8 hours.
This is a bit disappointing, as the Asus Flip Chromebook CX5 managed an hour and forty minutes more. You’ll still get through a working day, but maybe need to recharge if you want to use the device in the evening.
That supplied charger will get you from 0- to a reasonable 39% in our usual 30-minute test.
Software & Apps
Plenty of offline apps
Can run Linux
If you’re not sure what a Chromebook runs in terms of software, it isn’t Windows or macOS, but Google’s own ChromeOS.
If you’ve ever used the Chrome browser then it will appear immediately familiar. Thanks to the simplified nature of the OS, it’s easy to get to grips with and is often a good choice when recommending devices to family members that don’t know much about computers.
It’s also easy to give tech support remotely thanks to some of the built-in features such as Chrome Remote Desktop.
Google has a good range of free software that runs on Chromebooks, such as its office suite (Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Slides), plus other personal productivity apps like Google Keep, Google Tasks and Google Calendar.
Of course, you’re not limited to these, and you’ll find plenty of alternatives in the Chrome Web Store. You can also run many Android apps on a Chromebook, plus as we mentioned before there’s the option of setting up Linux.
Add these together and you should have pretty much all bases covered, and it won’t cost you any extra.
Price & Availability
You can buy the Acer Chromebook 515 (CB515-1W) at £499 in the UK from Currys (it’s exclusive for now) or from $649 in the USA direct from Acer.
Alongside the version I’ve tested here, you can opt to move up to more powerful processors, with the top option being an Intel Core i5, as well as more storage and RAM.
Core i3, 8/128GB – $649/£499
Core i3, 8/128GB, touchscreen – $699
Core i5, 8/128 – $799
Core i5, 16/256GB – $999
The main contender to the 515 is the Asus Chromebook Flip CX5 which has dropped from its initial £650/US$869.99 price tag to around the same list price as the 515.
Although, if you don’t require a huge display, then you’ll find plenty of decent offerings in our roundup of the best Chromebooks.
The Acer Chromebook 515 is a decent offering for those who want a large display and plenty of power for general ChromeOS duties.
The omission of a touchscreen in the UK (and only on i5 models in the US) will be a downside for some, but the lack of glare on the display could well make up for this.
Acer is positioning the 515 as the Chromebook for hybrid workers, and I can see how this could be a very useful device to have on your desk at home, albeit one that might struggle outside due to the dim display.
Acer Chromebook 515: Specs
15.6″ Full HD (1920 x 1080) IPS display (16:9 aspect ratio)
3GHz Intel 11th Gen (Tiger Lake) Core i3 processor
8GB of LPDDR4X RAM
128GB PCI-Express SSD
2 x USB-C (3.2 Gen 1)
1 x USB-A (3.2 Gen 1)
Micro SD card reader
3.5mm headphone input
357.9 x 240.5 x 24.86mm