I don't like to over think my purchases. I do like to study my options, but not to excess. No amount of planning can substitute for hands-on experience. I approached the purchase of the Acer C7 Chromebook with those principles in mind. I reasoned as follows:

  • If I spend $199 on the low-end Chromebook, I can't justify buying a Windows laptop later if I'm unhappy with the Chromebook.

  • I know a Windows laptop will meet my needs.

  • But, I could save a bundle on a Chromebook.

  • The Chromebook has super powers available to it.

I went with the Chromebook. I found it satisfactory for doing real work but it had a few shortcomings. Free apps from the Google Store supplied most of what was missing. In the end I took advantage of the Chromebook's secret power, and that made it a very satisfying buy. I am not alone in my enthusiasm, Chromebooks sales are growing at a phenomenal rate.[1]


Acer C7 (C710) ChromebookCredit: by Brent Farwick, May 2014

Pros and Cons



  • It's cheap,  $199 plus tax.

  • It boots fast, really fast, like seven seconds fast.

  • It's snappy and never seems to lag.

  • It's nearly silent—one tiny fan runs intermittently.

  • Solid state drive means no drive noise.
  • It runs cool so it's comfortable on the lap.

  • The display is crisp.

  • It has OK battery life—3.5 to 5.5 hours in my experience.

  • The included Google Docs office suite is excellent.

  • Google Drive serves as backup and  file manager. Its intuitive 'Move To' command is handy—easier than remembering Shift-Drag.

  • It can store files and docs in several ways:

    • Online in Google Drive.

    • Offline independent of Google Drive.

    • Synced—the same files synchronized and saved both online and off.

  • The built-in photo viewer/editor is adequate and a snap to use.

  • No anti-virus software required—Google guards the system.

  • It never gets sluggish from accumulated cruft as Windows does.

  • The Chrome browser is first rate.

  • Flash video playback is excellent, as is Html5 video playback.

  • It's possible to remotely operate a Windows computer via Google Remote.

  • It can print to the cloud using any Wi-Fi enabled printer.

  • Built-in PDF generation: in lieu of physically connected printers, Chromebook features print-to-PDF functionality.

  • It offers a reasonable number of accessory ports (see specifications below).


  •  Windows applications do not run on the Chromebook, e.g. no PhotoShop or MS Office. However, Google Docs can read and write MS Office formats.
  • It's a small computer with limited storage.

  • The 16 gig solid state hard drive is not very big by today's standards.

  • The touchpad is twitchy. A mouse improves matters.

  • ***UPDATE: 12/10/2014 When I first bought my Chromebook, it would not download photos from my camera via USB cable, only via a removable SD card or via WiFi. Not only that, it now recognizes my Nook eReader via its USB cable and also charges it via the USB cable—it would not charge via the USB port when I purchased it. I'm not certain if this is due to a ChromeOS update or if it's due to Crouton being installed (further down this page).

I began using the Chromebook as soon as I unpacked it, and have used it as my only computer for more than a month. The experience was mostly positive but there were some annoyances. I missed my favorite text editor. I had no experience with a touchpad, and the C7's touchpad seemed too sensitive to me. I could not find a basic 2D CAD program that met my technical illustration needs.

I solved two of  these problems to my satisfaction with the stock Chromebook. I turned off the tap-to-click setting on the touchpad, and added a mouse—much better. Then I installed the free Caret editor app and it proved to be an acceptable substitute for my favorite text editor.

I quickly got used to Google Docs. MS Office on the desktop is more powerful, but I don't need a Mack truck to drive to the grocery store, and I don't need a desktop office suite to write articles, web pages, and invoices.

Chromebook's Secret Power

Despite all of this, I found myself missing a conventional operating system. I knew about Chromebook's secret power, but was afraid I'd brick the Chrome OS if I tried accessing that power. Ultimately I went for it.

What is this secret power? Chromebook's OS (Operating System) is a very lean version of Linux. They've stripped out the complexity making Chromebook the fastest booting computer available. Because the underlying OS is Linux, and because Google gives its users full access to the OS, there is an option to add Linux. Choose between dual booting, or adding Linux directly on top of the Chrome OS. I chose the second option.

Following the simple instructions I found on the web, I installed Linux using the Crouton installer. Installation was easy, and glitch free. I can switch effortlessly between the Chrome OS and Linux—both remain active. I quickly installed some Linux programs, including a 2D CAD program and my favorite text editor.

Linux on the Acer C7 ChromebookCredit: screenshot_by_brent_farwick_5-14-2014

I'm happy with the results, and enjoy having the best of both worlds at my fingertips. The Chrome OS and Linux share Chromebook's Download folder—very handy. The two systems run at the same time—one can switch instantly between the two environments.

The installation of Linux via Crouton took about a half hour. Before adding Linux, backup all user files, and make a recovery image of the Chrome OS. Linux is a whole new world, expect a learning curve.

I'm as happy with this inexpensive Chromebook as any computer I've owned. Microsoft and Apple should be worried[1].

Bottom line? With or without adding Linux on top of it, the Acer C7 Chromebook is a steal and a pleasure to use. Thumbs up!


Specifications for Acer C7 (C710) Chromebook:

  • Intel Celeron processor

  • Intel HD Graphics

  • 2GB RAM

  • 16GB SSD (Solid State Drive)

  • Acer Wi-Fi b/g/n

  • Bluetooth 4.0

  • Acer Webcam (at the top of the display)

  • Lithium-Ion Battery

  • Google Chrome Operating System

  • Widely available in the US at $199

  • Ports:

    • 1 microSD card reader

    • 3 USB 2.0 ports

    • 1 Ethernet port

    • 1 HDMI port

    • 1 audio out, 3.5mm

    • 1 VGA out

[1] http://bgr.com/2013/12/31/chromebook-sales-growth-2013/