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Acer C740 Chromebook review

The quick take

The C740 Chromebook is a basic upgrade over the best-selling C720, making just a few tweaks to the model released almost two years ago. The external hardware has improved with subtle changes, but the biggest improvement comes in the processor, which keeps the same great performance but bumps battery life by one or two hours — up to nine total. The keyboard and trackpad are unchanged and just as good as they were before, but the same can't be said for the screen — a 1366x768 TFT panel just isn't good enough by 2015 standards.

The Good

  • Proven strong build quality
  • Good keyboard and trackpad
  • Great performance
  • Battery life meets 9 hour rating

The Bad

  • Subpar screen
  • A little heavy compared to modern competition
  • Design is a bit tired at this point

Acer C740 Chromebook

Still a leading choice

Acer C740 Chromebook Full Review

With the launch of the C720 Chromebook back in October 2013, Acer instantly had a winner on its hands. The little 11.6-inch Chromebook had great power for the time, was built like a tank and could be found in your electronics retailer of choice for a great price. After a relatively lackluster hardware update cycle that spawned less-amazing C730 model, Acer continued to update and release new models of the C720 — and they continued to sell. Even at the start of 2015 when this, the C740 Chromebook, was announced the C720 was selling in amazing numbers.

So why mess with a good formula, Acer thought — and in the Acer C740 we have a true successor to that wonderful C720. A Chromebook that's nearly identical externally to that best-selling model for the last year and a half, with some internal spec bumps and a few small design improvements. The Acer C720 wasn't just a best-selling device, it was also one of our favorites here at Android Central — and now we're going to see if the C740 can carry to the torch.

Read on for our full Acer C740 Chromebook review.

About this review

We're writing this review after a little over a week using a production model of the Acer C740 (particularly the C740-C4PE) with 4GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, running on the stable channel of Chrome OS and kept up to date throughout the review period.

Acer C740 Chromebook

An oldie but goodie

Acer C740 Chromebook Hardware

If you walked into a coffee shop and saw someone typing away on an Acer Chromebook you'd be hard-pressed to name which particular model they were using, and the C740 looks nearly identical to the millions of C720's already out in the wild. Coming from that ultra-successful model Acer made just a handful of changes — the hinges are more sturdy, the corners are reinforced, there's extra support on the lid and the lid itself has a new sleek brushed metal pattern in a darker color.

The design is a bit tired, but it's tough and effective.

Those few tweaks don't actually change how the C740 Chromebook feels, and honestly the change in look is extremely minimal as well. But after using the C720 for over a year, I have to say I wasn't dying to see any changes. This Chromebook is still built to be bumped around, tossed in a bag, hit on by little kids and come away looking no worse for the wear.

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Acer C740 Chromebook

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Acer C740 Chromebook

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Acer C740 Chromebook

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Acer C740 Chromebook

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Acer C740 Chromebook

In general the design is still kind of a hot mess of different textured plastics, with lightly-sparkly grey inside, matte black on the bottom, glossy black around the screen and now a faux brushed metal on the lid. This is not an attractive laptop even by last year's standards, and is further from cutting edge design compared to the 2015 competition. Looks aren't everything, and I'm hardly embarrassed to be using it in public, but there's nothing about the C740's look that will draw any envy from your friends when they see it.

The C740 is still kind of a hot mess of different plastics.

The port layout is as basic as the design, and everything is where you'd expect it. Power, HDMI, USB and headphone/mic line the left side, with a lock slot, USB and SD card matching it on the right. The ports have plenty of room to work with multiple things plugged in, and that's possible because the C740 is a little thick by today's standards. And at 2.87 pounds it still lands in the light and portable category for sure — I usually draw the line at three pounds for laptops 13-inches or smaller — but other 11-inch offerings are coming in at least a half pound lighter, and that's a noticeable difference.

Acer C740 Chromebook

Not many changes

Acer C740 Chromebook Specs

Chromebooks don't exactly vary wildly in their specs, and the C740 has all of the basics covered. An Intel Celeron processor runs the show, along with 2 or 4GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. You get standard ports, a basic screen resolution and few bells and whistles to go with it.

CategoryFeatures
Display11.6-inch Active Matrix TFT Color LCD at 1366x768 resolution
ProcessorIntel Celeron 3205U dual-core at 1.5GHz
Intel HD graphics
Memory2 or 4GB DDR3L SDRAM
Storage16GB, SD card expandable
Connectivity802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wifi
Bluetooth 4.1
Ports1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0, HDMI, headphone/mic
CameraHD Web Camera
High Dynamic Range
Battery3920 mAh lithium-polymer
Charger65W charger
Proprietary connector
Dimensions287.02 x 203.2 x 20.32 mm
Weight2.87 lb (1.30 kg)

Acer C740 Chromebook

A display at the end of its life

Acer C740 Chromebook Display, speakers and camera

For all of the praise I (and others) have heaped on the C720 for being such a great Chromebook choice, it was made despite its poor screen. That exact same screen experience is here on the C740, and I really wish that wasn't the case. The 11.6-inch 1366x768 TFT display was on the lower-end of quality back at the end of 2013, and looks downright ancient now in 2015.

The screen size is right, but the quality isn't up to par with 2015 competition.

I actually quite like the 11.6-inch screen size for how portable it makes the laptop as a whole, and don't particularly hate the resolution (though 1600x900 at this point would be nice), but the real issue here is the panel quality itself. It's grainy, has poor viewing angles and is rather dull when it comes to color reproduction. The screen gets pretty bright, but at max brightness starts to wash out the already poor colors. We really deserve better in 2015, even at this price point — especially when Acer itself offers nicer screens in its latest 13- and 15-inch models, as do other manufacturers.

There are a pair of speakers underneath the palmrests of the C740, near the edges and nestled inside of little vents that drive downward. Rubber feet on the bottom of the laptop give them a bit more room to breathe, which helps the sound. The speakers don't offer a very deep sound, but they get plenty loud enough for a random Hangout or some time listening to podcasts or music. They won't be a replacement for an external speaker or a decent set of headphones, but they get the job done.

The same can be said for the webcam mounted above the screen, which gets the job done but isn't going to blow you away. Acer calls it a "Hight Dynamic Range" camera, with no more details offered. Though it's not that big of a deal, really, because video chats are more dependent on your Internet speed than anything else — the camera itself isn't likely to be a limiting factor in the quality of your video calls.

Acer C740 Chromebook

No complaints

Acer C740 Chromebook Keyboard and trackpad

The C740 Chromebook comes with a full-sized keyboard in a standard Chrome OS arrangement. It may not look that nice, but the keyboard is great for typing anything from tweets to novels (and this review), and I never had issues with any aspect of it. The key caps are slightly textured, don't wobble around, and have plenty of travel to them.

The trackpad isn't exactly huge, but is pretty large considering how little space Acer had to work with on the palmrest here. It's a bit slicker than the rest of the plastic around the keyboard deck, and normal one-finger tracking, two-finger scrolling and multi-finger gestures work just fine. It isn't ever going to be as slick or nice as a higher-end glass trackpad, but as far as plastic trackpads go I like this one.

Acer C740 Chromebook

Extra hours

Acer C740 Chromebook Battery life

Acer put a 3920 mAh battery in the C740, which is actually a hair smaller (by 30 mAh) than the C720 — but even with that being the case the new model is rated for nine hours of life, a half hour more than the old model. Though the rating has received a small bump, I actually found the improvement to be much larger. Using the C720 for some time I regularly got five to six hours of battery life (versus the eight and a half quoted), while on the C740 I regularly got seven to nine hours of life.

The C740 is rated for 30 extra minutes over the C720, but I found the gains to be larger.

Battery life is always best given as a range considering how much usage can differ and impact the battery, but the fact that when I went easy on it I could actually hit the quoted nine-hour battery life is a good sign. Of course I regularly have a dozen or more tabs open at any given time on my laptops and to that end usually land closer to the seven hour mark, but I'm completely okay with that. This still marks a one to two hour bump over the C720, all while not taking any hit in performance.

The charger included with the C740 Chromebook is very similar to what you'll find on any other Acer Chromebook, meaning it's a "brick" style rectangular power source, with a big cable going out one end to the wall and a thin cable out the other end heading to the laptop. It ends in an L-shaped "pin" style plug meaning it can swivel around as needed, but is a bit more fragile than the larger rectangular options out there. The power brick is a bit larger than what you'll get from some Chromebooks as well, and I'd personally prefer a smaller package that goes directly into the wall and gives you just one cable to deal with.

Acer C740 Chromebook

No complaints here

Acer C740 Chromebook Performance and real-world use

After seeing the last generation of low-powered and fanless Intel processors — particularly the Bay Trail N28XX series — really flop in Chromebooks with bad performance, I'm happy to see Acer go with the Intel Celeron 3205U in the C740. Sure it means there's a small fan system and vent in the hinge area, but it also means I can have absolutely zero worry about performance on this laptop.

Sure there's a small fan, but the performance is absolutely great.

Keeping in mind that I'm using the 4GB of RAM model (which I will always recommend), I didn't experience a single performance hiccup on the C740 no matter what I did or how many tabs I had open. Scrolling is still smooth even on heavy pages and with lots of tasks running at once, and the only thing I could find that choked up this Chromebook was playing full-screen 4K streaming video from YouTube — that isn't a light task, and when I dropped it down to 1440p the C740 could actually handle that with few hiccups.

If I haven't made it clear up to this point, here's another chance for me to reiterate — spend the few extra bucks for a model with 4GB of RAM, no matter what Chromebook you get. It makes a huge difference now, and you'll thank me later as Google continues to add more capabilities and features to Chrome OS.

Acer C740 Chromebook

A great choice, with a couple caveats

Acer C740 Chromebook Bottom line

After spending a good bit of time using the C740 Chromebook, I'm left with very similar feelings to using the C720. Just like the previous model, I actually really enjoy using the C740 — it has awesome performance, a good keyboard and trackpad, solid build quality and the battery life will get you through whatever work you have to do. I also have to say I like using it despite the subpar display and lackluster design, which have not aged well from 2013 to 2015.

Those two points weren't as big of marks against the C720 considering the competition just wasn't as strong at the time, but now with other great choices out there that are lighter, look nicer and have better displays, I start to look a bit more critically at the C740. It really comes down to the point that the experience of using the C740 Chromebook is still solid, even though it lacks some of the creature comforts and extras you may be able to get from other models.

Should you buy the Acer C740 Chromebook? Still a good choice

If you already have an Acer C720 — and considering how many sold there's a decent chance — then you shouldn't be chomping at the bit to get an Acer C740 in your hands. The hardware is nearly identical, and you'll only see a modest performance increase — the only real gain from moving to the new model is one or two extra hours of battery life.

Buy the Acer C740 Chromebook

If you're looking to pick up your first Chromebook or are maybe upgrading from an older lower-end model, I think the Acer C740 needs to be on your short list of choices. The performance is really great, battery life is good, it's built to take a beating and the keyboard is full-sized and easy to type on.

The only real downside is the screen. For students or children who may be rough on a computer, the lower-quality screen is a lesser issue, but for some it may be a deal breaker — if you're worried, be sure to go look at it before you buy. Chances are you can deal with the screen to get this great total package.

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

35 Comments
  • That screen though. I love the Acer c Chromebooks series and I have a C720 and I kind of want to upgrade but those screens need to change. I think the Toshiba Chromebook has a LCD 1080p for 300-350 or so correct, I wonder when a new model of that will come out Posted via the Android Central App on my Nexus 5 or Nexus 7 2013
  • The 4gb Toshiba goes on sale for $249 every now and then. $299 normal. $279 on amazon. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Thing is, Acer has really solid screens on its newer 13- and 15-inch models... it just hasn't taken that quality and put it down into the C740. That really shows how much the C740 is tied to the original C720 and not necessarily its current lineup. But I agree, the C740's screen is a weak point now — as I note in the review. I still like it despite the screen though, which is really saying something about the whole experience and value.
  • It would be nice if at least 1600 by 900 was on all chrome books Posted via my Nexus 6
  • A resolution bump would be nice, but at 11.6" I'm not dying for it. The real issue here is the panel quality itself more than just resolution.
  • As much as I hate 1366*768 screens it actually isn't that bad on a 11" screen. However, a switch to a richer IPS screen would have been the least they could do.
  • Possibly a better option is the current 13 inch on the google store, since it is a 1080p and just over an inch larger screen for the starting price of $220.
  • Great site for comparing chromebooks, besides no prices:
    http://prodct.info/chromebooks/#f&
  • Yup, we reviewed it before. It's a pretty good Chromebook, but bigger isn't always better. Also the C740 has a faster processor.
  • How are Chromebooks for long-term use. I'm in the process of hopefully starting college and would love to avoid Windows. To me they seem pretty solid, but I would love input from others. Posted via the Android Central App
  • So long as you get one with solid specs (I seriously recommend 4GB of RAM), they stay fresh and functional. Obviously the weight of web pages and how much resources are needed to run extensions/apps will increase over time, but the OS itself stays clean and is constantly updated. Of course if you ever see any kind of sluggishness you can "powerwash" them back to new and sign back in to start over in about ~30 seconds, which is a huge plus.
  • Thanks. From what I've seen they run pretty smooth. Good to know about getting a 4gb RAM model also. As an Android user I like the idea of having access to all my Google content with such ease. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Hey, Andrew. I know it's a little off topic, but do you ever write reviews and do your work on a chromebook? Posted via Android Central App
  • Quite regularly. We work in a web-based editor that lets me do a lot of writing on Chromebooks, and I'll usually carry one when I'm just planning to be out of the house for a few hours and know I won't need Lightroom or lots of locally-stored files. Every once and a while I'll just use Chrome Remote Desktop to access my home PC and do those things as wlel.
  • Over one year of use with my Acerc720p (Intel i3 processor & 4gs of ram). My main use for this laptop was entirely for my college purposes.
    Chrome OS - very solid and great for work (can handle all work needs with Google services). Only down side is obviously needing an internet connection to save/sync in order to finish work on another laptop/phone/desktop.
    One thing I've done lately is even given myself a bit of gaming. Dual boot Linux and a wide array of games available on steam can be run smoothly. To give you a gist, I can play counter-strike GO just perfectly.
  • Awesome. I have T-Mobile, so I get 5gb of LTE Hotspot each month, so syncing would be okay. Thanks for the input. Sounds like it is the best way to go for what I want and need. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Nice. I got the Acer c720 (celeron processor 2gb ram), upgraded the SSD, and put Linux on it. Got me through the Computer Science program and I'm building my first Android app on it. I sold my macbook pro because the chromebook basically replaced it. Highly recommend this line to anyone.
  • What Linux distro are you using? I'm considering getting the C720p w/ the i3 to put Gallium OS on, for the same purpose. Java dev / hopefully android app development.
  • So they took the best device to ever carry ChromeOS, took basically everything that made it great, threw it all out the window, slapped a bullshit 64gb solid state chip in it, and wiped their asses with it on its way out the door. Fuck you Acer!
  • Uh... what?
  • I see AC wireless, damn, I wish my 720 had it.
  • How this can compete with asus x205?
  • Similar device price and specs-wise, but kinda apples and oranges looking at a Windows machine. Can expect the Chromebook to run a bit smoother on the lesser hardware considering the lower resource requirements, but if you need windows, Chromebook isn't going to be an option.
  • Ive got one and it is smooth in most situations also better battery + fanless + smaller price + much less weight. The only thing that there is modification with 4gb ram but overall this device looks bad. There are similar Chromebook solutions from Asus btw. So this new Acer model looks really strange for me.
  • Your Asus x205 can't boot and be signed in with a browser window loaded in 2 seconds. But actually they are two different things, it is like asking: How can that mixer compete with my high end knife?
  • To move from a laptop, only 2 usb's is kinda scary. Posted via the Android Central App
  • 2 USB ports is completely standard for a Chromebook, and not uncommon on most laptops, especially at 11".
  • I know, but still ... maybe higher end ones have more, though none I've seen in stores. (I just don't like trackpads for a start). :)
  • Every Chromebook has 2 USB ports. Don't think there are any that have more.
  • I was hoping to upgrade my C720 but this doesn't look like it's worth it. The party I hate the most about my C720 is the bland screen. Everything looks subpar on it, especially photos. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Yup, if you've got a C720 there's little reason to get a C740.
  • No mention of the ambient light sensor. Notice it is no longer next to the mic like in the C720? Where did it go? Did they delete the auto brightness feature?
  • I bought the original acer ac700 the day it came out 4(?) years ago and while I've been through multiple phones and tablets since then, I haven't had to buy a new laptop since, thanks to the solid build and the clean OS. However, while it still works as well as the day I got it, I'm finally at a point where its just so behind technologically that I need to update. I obviously love the acer 11 inch build, but I worry that this model will outdate itself quickly. Do you think, for a long term use purchase, this model will hold up well or are other models (15 inch) or brands (Toshiba) going to age better?
  • I purchsed 200 of these for my school. They are perfect except the screen backlights are failing every day. Of the 200, i have sent in 24 so far, about 2 a day. They are out of service for the 10 days or so to get them repaired. I cannot recommend these knly for that reason. They seem durable, and we keep them in well padded cases, even during use. The just have a high failure rate.
  • Screen Resolution is 1366x768? I see this on A LOT of Chromebooks, even the large models, with large screens that the higher resolution actually looks better on. I'm using an Acer C740 Chromebook right now, and I have the resolution set at it's actual maximum: 1536x864. 1366x768 is what it has labeled as "Best", yet, 1536x864 actually looks better to me. The Acer C720 Chromebook also does that. ANd, I saw at walmart, an Acer Chromebook similar to the C740, but it was like a larger variant of it. Similar hardware, larger screen, same basic thing. With a screen that big, it still was set at 1366x768, labeled as "Best". Yet I clicked on the next one up, the max: 1536x864. For a screen that large, the 1536x864 looked a lot better! Why do they do that?! To every Chromebook user out there: Your Chromebook's set default resolution, likely goes a bit higher res. Try it!