Acer makes my favorite business-class Chromebooks, and it looks like the new Chromebook 714 will continue this trend, with its capacious 14-inch display and, in a first for a Chromebook, integrated fingerprint reader.
That latter feature may not seem like a big deal. But it is to me: One of my enduring frustrations with Chrome OS is the scarcity of what I think of as easy but explicit sign-in options. That is, I don’t like implicit sign-ins, like you get with Windows Hello facial recognition or, in Chrome OS, with Smart Lock, which is based on the proximity of your smartphone or some other device. I prefer to manually, or explicitly, sign-in. But I would like that it be quicker than typing in my Google account’s long password.
With Windows, I typically sign-in with a fingerprint reader when available or a four-digit PIN when it’s not. Chrome OS offers a PIN sign-in option, but because my Google account is a managed G Suite account, I’m forced to use a 6-digit PIN. (I’ve never figured out how to change that in the G Suite admin tools, despite multiple attempts.) It’s not great.
The Chromebook 714 solves this problem and lets me sign-in the way I’d prefer (easily and explicitly). So we got off to a great start.
Beyond that, the Chromebook 714 offers a premium, all-aluminum design that Acer says that it delivers military-grade (U.S. MIL-STD 810G1) durability related to moisture and temperature extremes, and it can survive drops up to 4 feet and withstand up to 132 pounds of downward force. I’m not going to test either of those claims, but the 714 is certainly handsome and well-made, and nothing like the all-plastic Chromebooks you still see at other price points.
The IPS display is standard fare, and unlike last year’s excellent Chromebook Spin 13, it’s a standard 16:9 panel, and not a 3:2 panel. It’s also only Full HD (1920 x 1080), which I’d be OK with if there was at least a 1440p upgrade option. On the good news front, there is a multi-touch option, and since the display can actually lay flat, that might even be useful, especially for Android games and apps. And while the top and bottom bezels are, of course, large, the side bezels are quite small.
(Regarding the Spin 13, remember that that Chromebook was a convertible design, and as such its 3:2 display with multi-touch and pen support make a lot more sense. The Chromebook 714, by comparison, is a standard laptop form factor, for which I assume the demand is much higher, especially in the business market.)
For a Chromebook, the 714’s internal components are pretty high-end: The review unit is powered by an 8th generation 2.2 GHz Intel Core i3-8130U processor, 8 GB of RAM, and 64 GB of eMMC storage. But you can spec one out with faster Core i-series processors, 16 GB of RAM, and 128 GB of eMMC storage if needed. That isn’t so fanciful, as you can now run Linux apps on Chromebook, including the Android Studio development environment.
Connectivity is excellent dual-band 802.11acn Wi-Fi with 2×2 MIMO technology and Bluetooth 4.2. I don’t believe there is a cellular data option.
Expansion is modern and perfectly suited to the task: There’s a USB-C and full-sized USB 3.1 port on the left and a USB-C port and microSD card slot on the right. There’s no HDMI for video out, but it’s 2019 and the unit’s USB-C ports can handle DisplayPort video-out.
The keyboard is backlit is stock Chromebook. It’s too early to tell if it’s more than just adequate, but I’m a little surprised by how similar, if not identical, most Chromebook keyboards seem to be. The large glass touchpad is excellent, with great accuracy and performance, and support for multitouch gestures. It’s also protected by Gorilla Glass.
Sound output is surprisingly loud and crisp, and the 714 ships with dual far-field microphones as well so that you can use voice control to interact with Google Assistant from across the room.
From a portability side, the Chromebook 714 is a bit on the hefty side, thanks to its 14-inch display panel, and it weighs 3.31 pounds. That won’t be an issue for someone my size, but those with a smaller frame may want to check one out in person before they decide. But battery life is great, according to Acer, with 14 hours-ish of video playback time and over 11 hours of web browsing over Wi-Fi.
One thing you might be wondering is what makes this Chromebook business-class, aside from the quality of the construction and the desirability of Chrome OS in certain scenarios, including frontline workers, healthcare, retail, and other industries. Well, the Chromebook 714 is part of Google’s Chrome Enterprise program—is, in fact, currently showcased on their site—and has been certified as Citrix Ready, meaning that it is compatible with the Citrix Receiver, XenApp, and XenDesktop applications.
The Chromebook 714 is also Android app and Google Play Store compatible, of course, opening up buyers to the world’s biggest app store. This, combined with a growing collection of business-focused apps in the Chrome Web Store includes access to apps like VMWare, Cisco Webex, Cisco Jabber (Android), Salesforce (web), and many others.
The Chromebook 714 is available now, and starts at just $500, though that particular model comes with a Pentium CPU, 8 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of eMMC storage. The review unit, with a Core i3 processor, 8 GB of RAM, and 64 GB of storage is a reasonable $650. A top of the line model, with a Core i5-8250U processor, 8 GB of RAM, and 64 GB of storage, is $750.