Last year, one of the hottest selling laptops was Acer’s C710 Chromebook. Part of that of course was the fact that it was one of the least expensive laptops around, priced at $199 for the base model. There were drawbacks to that model of course: the display wasn’t great, it had 2GB RAM, 16GB SSD, and battery life was rated at up to four hours with the 37Wh 4-cell battery. Today, Acer announced the updated C720, now sporting a Haswell CPU in place of the previous model’s Sandy Bridge based Celeron 847. Here’s the quick specifications overview.

Acer Chromebook C720-2800 Specifications
Processor Intel Celeron 2955U
(Dual-core 1.4GHz, 2MB L3, 22nm, 15W)
Memory 4GB DDR3L
Graphics Intel HD Graphics
(10 EUs at 200-1000MHz)
Display 11.6" Anti-glare
Storage 16GB SSD
Networking 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi
Battery/Power 4-cell (?), up to 8.5 hours
Pricing MSRP: $249
$240 Pre-order at Amazon.com

There are a few major changes, starting of course with the Celeron 2955U processor. While that’s going to be the slowest Haswell CPU around, the 1.4GHz clock ends up being at least 27% faster than the Celeron 847 based on clock speed alone, and architectural enhancements mean it’s more likely to be in the 30-40% faster range. Acer states that the new C720 will boot up in less than seven seconds, allowing you to get straight to work (or fun). Along with the CPU upgrade, the iGPU will also be better/faster. Intel calls the base level graphics “HD Graphics” in all of their recent Celeron range, but where Sandy Bridge had 6 EUs with DX10 capability, Ivy Bridge added DX11 and Haswell increases the EUs to 10. It’s not a performance powerhouse iGPU by any stretch, but it should be sufficient for most uses.

RAM also gets an upgrade to 4GB this round, with DDR3L memory reducing the power use. Perhaps more importantly, the display has been updated to have an anti-glare coating. It’s still a 1366x768 panel, but the use of anti-glare instead of gloss means outdoor operation of the C720 will be far more tolerable. The chassis has also been refined, and Acer notes that the new model is 30% thinner, and the 2.76 lbs. weight is 11% less than the C710 weight of 3.1 pounds.

Wrapping up the changes and upgrades, the webcam is still present, and it’s now an HD webcam (I’m pretty sure the previous model was not HD). There’s also a USB 3.0 port along with a USB 2.0 port, allowing faster transfer of files from the appropriate hardware. Given the limited storage capacity of the 16GB SSD (most likely eMMC), which is one area that didn’t get upgraded on the base model, I’m not sure how important USB 3.0 will prove to be, but it’s certainly a welcome inclusion. HDMI output and the SD card reader continue to be present as well.

All of this results in not just better performance, but you get significantly better battery life. Acer rates the C720 at up to 8.5 hours, so more than double the battery life of the C710. It’s not clear if the battery is still the same capacity or if that changed as part of the update, but we know that Haswell is capable of lower power states than Ivy Bridge, and significantly lower power states than Sandy Bridge, so the improved battery life is expected.

The Acer C720-2800 will be available later this month, with pre-orders supposedly going up today on BestBuy.com and Amazon.com. At present they do not appear to be on the respective websites, but I will update with the appropriate links. Pricing is higher than the previous generation C710, with an MSRP of $249, but with all the various upgrades I don’t think the $50 increase is too much. The more pertinent question will be how the C720 stands up to its Chromebook competitors like the HP Chromebook 11, which has an IPS display and a 2.3 pound weight, but it uses an Exynos 5250 GAIA SoC with 2GB RAM and lacks USB 3.0 and the SD card reader. That’s currently available for $279, and hopefully we can answer the question of how the various models compare in the coming months.

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  • Gigaplex - Thursday, October 10, 2013 - link

    Since they already said they'd be using it as an HTPC, the screen is not an issue since they'd be plugging into an external display. Reply
  • dylan522p - Thursday, October 10, 2013 - link

    Why don't they just use the Baytrail Atoms. I garentee they would put out less heat and use less power and probably perform similarly. Quad core Atom at 2.3ghz would be pretty good. Reply
  • savagemike - Thursday, October 10, 2013 - link

    I'm quite interested to see some testing between the Bay Trails and these low end Haswell parts. Bay Trail will certainly be less demanding, as you say. I'm not sure about performance at all. I think it might depend on the operation.
    Off hand though I'd bet it's close enough to go for the fanless and longer battery life options which Bay Trail might bring.
    Reply
  • lightsout565 - Thursday, October 10, 2013 - link

    How does this celeron Haswell compare to the bay trail 3740 in the asus t100? Reply
  • ShieTar - Friday, October 11, 2013 - link

    Well, real benchmarks are hard to find for both parts, but maybe we can scale:

    The Atom 3770 reaches 1.47 pts in Cinebench 11.5, multi-threaded, so lets say 0.15 pts per core and MHz. That should put the 3740 at about 1.1 pts multi-threaded performance.

    A Haswell 4670K gets 6.21 pts in the same test, so 0.44 pts per core and MHz. That could see the celeron at about 1.25 pts of multi-threaded performance.

    So, not that much faster on multi-threaded than the Atom, but on the same benchmark in single-threaded mode I get to performances of 0.3 pts for the Atom and 0.7 pts for the Celeron.

    This single-threaded performance edge should make the Celeron much more responsive on every-day tasks, I assume. What would be interesting to find out is the relative power-efficiency of the two offers. TDP is not very helpfull here, the 2955U is posted with a 15W TDP, but so is a i7-4600U incl. Hyper-Threading and 3.3GHz boost, so the Celeron should use much less in reality.
    Reply
  • dylan522p - Friday, October 11, 2013 - link

    You used the 4670k but you have to remember that has a larger cache. Find a part with similar cache and it will be lower. Reply
  • savagemike - Thursday, October 10, 2013 - link

    One thing I'm curious to know is if any of these newer Chromebooks will use the SeaBIOS like the Pixel does. That should open them up for a lot easier play with Linux or whatnot as replacement or multi-boot options. Reply
  • jabber - Friday, October 11, 2013 - link

    Instead of buying these devices to basically make them a different machine, why don't you just buy a different machine.

    Like buying a jetski and then turning it into a snowmobile.

    ChromeOS works great, just don't waste your time making a device do something it really wasn't designed for. The best experience is the ChromeOS on these devices.

    After all...it has linux on it already.
    Reply
  • Onkel Harreh - Tuesday, October 15, 2013 - link

    Some chromebooks offer excellent hardware compared to the other netbooks on the market. Reply
  • lagokc - Tuesday, October 15, 2013 - link

    If Linux can be installed on the C720 as it could on the C710 then it makes the C720 a pretty compelling deal. $250 for an actual Haswell laptop with an SSD? Reply

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