It's the middle of the afternoon on a Friday and I'm typing this out on my back deck using a Chromebook. I love the darn things and any time I can get away from a desk during the workday I try to do it, and always with a Chromebook in tow. To me, a really well-built mid-range Chromebook with plenty of power and plenty of storage is just right.
Of course, the best Chromebook for me might not be the best Chromebook for you. But if you're like me and want a modestly priced Chromebook that outperforms and out delivers, I think Acer has just what you're looking for in 2021 with the new Chromebook Spin 514.
It's not sleek and light as a feather. Not all of them have a backlit keyboard, nor do any have a glass-covered trackpad. But what it does have makes up for it — a beautiful 14-inch display, a very tough build of anodized aluminum, the best hinge system you'll find on any model, user expandable storage, and a new AMD Ryzen 3 CPU.
The durable build quality and amazing set of hinges aren't new. Acer has used basically the same design language for its premium Spin series of Chromebooks for a few years now. That doesn't take away from them, though, because the thing is super tough and the hinges are light as a feather until they lock into position. It's hard to describe, but trust me, it works. Other companies need to copy it.
Acer isn't the first company to offer expandable storage in a Chromebook, either. But the Spin 514 does it the right way, with an empty M.2 slot so you can hit up Amazon or Newegg or wherever and grab a terabyte of storage and drop it right in without voiding any warranties.
And of course, Acer's Spin 514 isn't the first Chromebook to use an AMD chip or even the first to use an AMD Ryzen chip. But from what I've seen and heard during the product briefing, and from what Ara Wagoner tells me as I bug her to try different things with the review model she has, Acer is doing it right.
AMD Ryzen mobile APUs aren't the same Ryzen chips you find in a desktop, but they tend to use the same principle when it comes to power. The Ryzen 3 3250 inside the Spin 514 is a dual-core chip with two virtual cores clocked up to 3.5GHz and it's own tri-core 1200MHz Radeon GPU. It's the cost of a cheap dual-core Intel Celeron that so many Chromebooks have under the hood, but it performs like the Intel Core i3 Chromebooks so many of us didn't want to spend the extra money on.
The issue with a mobile Ryzen chip is the same as it is with a desktop chip — these things get hot. That means the 15 watts of power going through the chip can potentially crank the heat up to 95-degrees Celcius before it's throttled down, and that's going to quickly happen unless the company building a laptop using one knows what it's doing. Acer seems to know exactly what it's doing.
What you don't notice much in the few photos of the 514 are all the vents that supply air to a powerful but quiet cooling fan. In case you've never built a PC or opened one up, the right cooling makes all the difference when it comes to performance. We do know (Thanks, Ara!) that you can really use it without it burning your lap or getting sluggish. The cooling system works.
The heat coming off the top of that Ryzen chip — and there will be plenty of it when you're only talking two physical cores — can be efficiently pulled away by using a fan that's not starved for ambient air. This doesn't just give you more time before your CPU will reach a point where it slows down because of thermal throttling, it means your CPU will never reach a temperature where it's forced to lower the clock speed because things are too hot.
The Ryzen chip will run in its normal low-power state most of the time, but when you need the power, like when playing a game or watching a full-screen HD video, the boost clock will kick in and crank it all up to 11. This is going to eat away at your battery faster, but with that right fan and plenty of ventilation, your temperatures will never climb high enough to slow everything down and make your game or video choppy and make you hate it.
This is probably a vision of things to come and we'll see plenty of Ryzen powered Chromebooks with beefy cooling solutions in 2021. But as of right now, if you're in the market for a high-end Chromebook at a mid-range price, Acer has your back coming this February.
Acer's Best Chromebook Right Now
Can't wait for the Spin 514? Buy Acer's best today.
There's a lot of reasons to love the Spin 713 — the 2K screen, the ample port selection, the beefy internals — but what I think I adore the most is that while other Project Athena Chromebooks were chasing ultra-thin, ultra-minimal designs, Acer instead focused on providing a complete experience at a reasonable price.
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