Acer Chromebook 13 Performance

I commented on the previous page that performance can at times feel lacking with the Chromebook 13. I think a large part of that comes from the NVIDIA Tegra K1 SoC, unfortunately. I’ve used an NVIDIA SHIELD, and going from an 8-inch tablet to a 13.3-inch laptop you’d think maybe they could push performance a bit more, but in most cases it’s a wash. Being a Chromebook (laptop), however, most sites will default to a heavier non-mobile view that can take a bit longer to fully process and display, and interactions with the laptop during this time can be very sluggish.

Benchmarks alone don’t necessarily convey the complete performance experience, so let me preface this section by saying that the older C720 was clearly more responsive in certain workloads. If you’ve never used the C720 then the Chromebook 13 won’t necessarily feel too slow, but switching between the two – or running tests simultaneously on both laptops – shows that while TK1 is more power friendly, the Haswell Celeron ends up being faster in nearly every computational workload. Even graphics doesn’t generally favor TK1, though the difference in screen resolution certainly plays a role as the C720 was only available with a 1366x768 panel.

For our performance testing of Chromebooks, we end up using a lot of tests that we run on tablets as there aren’t many Chromebook benchmarks. Also keep in mind that some of our Chromebook results are quite old (relatively speaking), so while we are running the latest build of Chrome OS on the C720 and CB13, the other Chromebooks were tested more than a year ago. We also aren’t able to test the older models on newer benchmarks, so some of our charts only have a few results. With that out of the way, here’s a quick look at performance.

WebXPRT (Stock Browser)

Mozilla Kraken (Stock Browser)

Google Octane v1 (Stock Browser)

SunSpider 1.0.2 (Stock Browser)

Additional Performance Results
  Acer C720 Acer CB13
CrXPRT 96 55
CrXPRT Battery (Hours) 8.52 9.9
OORT Online (WebGL) 3270 4010
Spacerocks (WebGL - FPS) 18 30
WiFi FTP Download (Mbps) 100 115

And there’s the rub: no matter how much NVIDIA might like to say otherwise, when it comes to competing with Intel’s Core architecture there’s still a huge performance gap on the CPU side of the fence. If we were talking about a 10-20% difference, you could say I’m splitting hairs, but the C720 is well over 50% faster in all the non-graphics workloads, and in a few cases it’s close to twice as fast. Given we’re not even talking about particularly speedy processors to begin with – the Celeron 2955U is literally Intel’s “slowest” Haswell processor – a 50-100% improvement in performance is something you will notice.

Just typing in Google Docs – or heaven forbid, Microsoft’s Office 365 Word online, which can feel a bit like a pig even on a fast desktop PC – the experience can be anywhere from a bit laggy on the Chromebook 13 to downright slow. Open up a long Reddit page or other complex website and again performance starts to matter. I’m enough of a power user to appreciate added performance, even on a budget Chromebook, and the upcoming Chromebook 15 will certainly be interesting to look at.

Also of interest is the WiFi performance testing. Using my 3x3 802.11ac router and a 5GHz connection for both Chromebooks (though the C720 is only 802.11n), the two Chromebooks end up delivering pretty similar WiFi results. The Chromebook 13 is technically faster with its 1x1 802.11ac adapter, but while that should in theory allow well over 200Mbps of real-world throughput, in testing it topped out at 115Mbps. The C720 on the other hand manages 100Mbps; I'm not sure if it has a 2x2 or 1x1 802.11n adapter, but the net result is a relatively small difference in throughput.

With all this talk of performance, it’s important to take a step back again and ask the question: what are you going to do on your Chromebook? For every task that I might run that can push the performance limitations a bit, there are plenty of options where a Chromebook works fine. Both the C720 and the CB13 handled 1080p YouTube videos without a problem, and if you want to store an MP4 video locally they also handle that fine. For everyday Gmail (or other web mail) and Internet surfing, the Chromebook 13 is definitely good enough. And again, the keyboard just has a good feel to it, so as I write this review I may at times want to switch to my desktop, but that’s only because I prefer the desktop version of Word to Google Docs, not because of the typing experience.

Acer Chromebook 13: Subjective Evaluation Acer Chromebook 13 Battery Life and LCD
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  • jaromski - Sunday, February 1, 2015 - link

    just ordered a refurbished for $167 from acer outlet w/ hd screen to replace my wife's dell xps13 w/ win8.1, crapping out just outside warranty period of course.

    we've been hardcore windows users for years, but collectively tired of the upkeep, further tied into google services and web so the clean slate of chrome os will be a welcome change. windows binary compatibility is a double-edged sword, and frankly the time investment to maintain compatibility isn't worth the bother, in our house at least.
    Reply
  • Alexvrb - Sunday, January 25, 2015 - link

    My non-tech-savvy mom has been using a Win8 touchscreen laptop (hybrid, actually but she always uses it in laptop mode) for about two years without any issue. Nowadays you can get plenty of low-cost Win boxes that are dead simple to use and significantly harder to infest. Especially if you primarily use the Modern UI variant of IE11 and apps from the Store. If you're talking about Windows 7 and earlier, yes I'd agree that they're significantly riskier for those who are computer illiterate.

    Anyway I find it funny that many praise the Google-flavored walled garden approach, which used to be a source of much hate directed against Apple products. Better still when MS implemented a Store of their own, people pissed and moaned endlessly. I still see posts complaining about the Windows Store and railing against apps on Windows. Like MS really had a choice in the matter - that's where the market headed.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, January 26, 2015 - link

    To be fair, the Windows Store is generally slow, hard to find useful apps, and far more limited in selection than Android or Apple App Stores. You could argue it's a chicken vs. egg problem, but MS for better or worse has the legacy and baggage of backwards compatibility. If they dropped it, they would lose a huge reason for why people use Windows. Heck, Windows RT is almost dead already for precisely that reason. Reply
  • Alexvrb - Monday, January 26, 2015 - link

    On the phones the store is already pretty decent. Pretty much everyone on Win8 that cares will be upgrading to Win10 (for free), with an improved Store populated increasingly by Universal Apps that can run on Win phones, tablets, and more traditional PCs - fullscreen or windowed on the desktop.

    Under new leadership they seem to be handling the mix of touch-only, hybrid, and non-touch devices much better. ARM builds will probably vanish for now except on phones. However with Windows RunTime, they could release a future port of Windows on ARM or MIPS and that would have access to their library of apps.
    Reply
  • AmdInside - Sunday, January 25, 2015 - link

    I'm actually reading this on my Chromebook even though I have a super high end laptop and desktop to game with. The Chromebook just works, is great as a web browser if you need to type, and I can leave it in standby and just reach for it whenever I want. Instantly pops up. No worries about security. Love my Chromebook, Reply
  • darkness2 - Tuesday, January 27, 2015 - link

    then why dont use it as a gaming computer :) Reply
  • deontologist - Friday, January 23, 2015 - link

    So you slackers, where's that nexus 9 review? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, January 23, 2015 - link

    Talk to Josh. ;-) Reply
  • mukiex - Friday, January 23, 2015 - link

    Well Josh better get UP ONS, 'cause I wanna see in-depth Denver perf =D Reply
  • PC Perv - Friday, January 23, 2015 - link

    At this point he should not bother with the Nexus 9 review. Nothing good will come out of it. Reply

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