Chromebooks have come a long way since the CR-48 debuted 10 years ago. You have your choice of Chrome OS hardware ranging from ultra-budget to lavishly expensive — Acer’s new Chromebook 514 lands somewhere in the middle. Paired with Intel’s 11th generation Tiger Lake CPU and ultrafast storage, the Chromebook 514 is a solid laptop for the right buyer.
Acer sent us a pre-production sample of their Chromebook 514 (CB514-1W). The launch configuration and accessories are subject to change.
Design, hardware, and what’s in the box
The Acer Chromebook 514’s clamshell design won’t win any design awards. The aluminum lid is classy, but the bead-blasted plastic chassis looks cheap compared to similarly priced laptops like the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2. One glaring issue I found is the panel gap between the display and bottom-center of the frame, and I found that dust had accumulated inside the bezel. The hardware is totally competent otherwise, and the rigid body gives me confidence that it’ll survive some abuse. The stereo speakers underneath the system are okay for voice, but don’t expect high-quality and loud audio from it.
Our unit has an Intel Core i5-1135G7 Tiger Lake CPU, 8GB of RAM, and super-fast 256GB PCIe NVME storage—this configuration may or may not be available in the US when the device officially launches. The 11th-generation CPU’s quad-core processor has a high TDP, meaning that the system needs a CPU fan to whirr away under normal use. There’s a long intake vent on the bottom of the unit, with two outlet air vents next to the hinge to dissipate heat. Despite my taste for completely silent systems, I’m surprised how quiet the fan is, especially with the Chromebook’s horsepower. The computer stayed cool on my lap, even while running demanding apps.
The Chromebook 514 has an impressive port selection. There are four ports on the left side of the unit: two USB-C with Thunderbolt 4 — both ports used for data transfers and 45W fast charging — one HDMI, and one headphone jack. The other side has one USB-A 3.0, a microSD card slot, and a Kensington lock. I wish Acer moved the second USB-C port to the right so you can charge the laptop from either side.
The 14-inch screen on the Chromebook 514 is nothing special. It’s using a 16:9 1080p IPS panel, and while it gets fairly bright, it isn’t sufficient for outdoor viewing. The anti-glare coating partially makes up for it, and is great for prolonged indoor work. Colors are decently accurate with good off-angle viewing. My configuration doesn’t come with a touchscreen, but Acer plans on offering the option later this year. On top of the slim bezel is a 720p webcam, and while its quality is nothing to write home about, the privacy cover is a nice touch.
Our Acer Chromebook 514 sample came with just a 45W PD Type-C charger, and no other accessories or manuals. The final hardware that ships later this year will include all the usual bits of paper.
Keyboard and trackpad
I’ll admit that I’m very particular about the typing experience on a laptop — the Pixelbook is one of the few laptops I enjoy typing on. The Acer Chromebook 514’s plastic deck keys aren’t “Pixelbook good,” but it’s sufficient for hours of daily typing. The keyboard is back-lit, and it has slim key travel with a nice tactile feedback.
The trackpad on this unit is decent. It’s not big, but the Gorilla Glass material offers a pleasant texture and above-average accuracy. The click is firm and not loud, either. It’s a vast improvement from the Spin 311 I reviewed recently, and one of the better trackpads I’ve used on a Chromebook. There’s a fingerprint scanner on the right side of the pad, which performs well despite its tiny size.
Software and performance
The Acer Chromebook 514 will come with several CPU configurations, but the unit I received is powered by an 11th Gen Intel Core i5-1135G7 Tiger Lake processor clocked at 2.40GHz and an Intel Xe GPU. It’s also equipped with 8GB of LPDDR4X memory and 256GB of PCIe NVME storage. We doubt this will be the base configuration when this Chromebook launches.
Upon booting the Chromebook for the first time, Chrome OS prompted me to update to the latest software. It weirdly locked me into a two-month-old Dev channel build, which I couldn’t update in Chrome OS settings. I chalked this up to the device being a pre-release sample. Setting up my Google accounts was a breeze, though, and my account was ready within minutes thanks to Google’s cloud sync.
Despite running unfinished software, the Acer Chromebook 514 is incredibly fast. I typically run Figma, Photopea, a few photo-editing Linux apps, and around thirty Chrome tabs — even that isn’t enough to slow this laptop down. Intel’s Tiger Lake CPU is speedy, but the super-fast storage is the highlight here. In short, it blows the eMMC flash found on most Chromebook out of the water. Copying files is way faster, apps take noticeably less time to load, and the UI performs smoother. There are the occasional system slowdowns — understandable since it’s running a work-in-progress build.
There are some annoyances using Chrome OS on a non-touch laptop. For example, it’s quite cumbersome to manage notifications in the system tray. To dismiss a single notification from a group, you’ll have to click and drag the notification off to the side, which is difficult on a trackpad. Android apps are also largely optimized for touchscreen, and the lack of proper display scaling continues to be a nuisance. If these two things are deal-breakers, you should consider purchasing the touch-version of this Chromebook.
Even the cheapest Chromebooks have reliably decent battery life, but this one has more power-hungry hardware. Acer claims that you’ll get up to ten hours from a single charge, but with my heavy usage, I’m getting around six to seven hours before rushing to the charger. That’s probably enough for a solid day of work, though you’ll be cutting it close. I suspect that the Dev build I’m on hasn’t been optimized to save power, so the production model will likely be better with battery.
Acer’s Chromebook 514 is a refined, middle-ground laptop that gets the job done. It doesn’t have a flashy design, good audio, or a touchscreen, but most people won’t need these. It performs exceptionally well with heavy workloads thanks to the Intel processor and NVME storage. The typing and touchpad experience are good, too. It nails the basics, even as a pre-production model, and that’s really all that matters.
Acer says its Chromebook 514 will start at $599 USD, or €549 EUR. While the configurations and prices haven’t been completed yet, I think $599 is high for the base model Chromebook. There are more versatile Windows laptops around that price range like the Lenovo Flex 5, which performs better than my nearly maxed-out model. Time will tell how Acer will price its configurations — I hope the i5 model is priced the same as the base, even if it doesn’t have as much storage as our unit.
The Acer Chromebook 514 will be available to purchase in Europe, Middle East, and Africa this coming August, but you’ll have to wait until October if you live in the United States. If you don’t want to wait, we wholeheartedly recommend the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 for just $30 more.