Tech Review: Acer R11 Chromebook

I have an Acer R11 Chromebook that I use as my ‘daily driver.’  This computer is the one I take with me everywhere I go. It is small, lightweight, a convertible with a touch screen and does everything I need it to do.  Check out my thoughts on this machine after about two months of use below.

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A Brief History of my Purchase

I’m now a proud owner of a blue recertified Acer R11 I’ve dubbed “The Blue Bomber.” (After Mega Man, who has a similar hue.) I’ve owned this Chromebook for a little over two months and thought I’d give my thoughts on using it for an extended period of time.

I bought this device after asking for buying advice on Reddit. I had a limited budget and wanted to get the most bang for my buck. I didn’t want to buy a refurbished or recertified machine but I had trouble finding a machine with everything I wanted for a low price. After asking for advice here, I decided to go for an Acer R11 through an official Acer recertified reseller. The R11 came with a typical 3-month warranty and I got it for under $200, including taxes and shipping. The reseller used a site I had never heard of before called Rakuten and I was a tad nervous to use it. However, the computer came on time with no issues with shipping or quality. I’m not sure I’d regularly use that site but I have no complaints about the service. I was able to get everything I wanted in a Chromebook but one feature, the lack of USB C ports, for this price. That’s okay because I really only notice the lack when I’m searching for the proprietary power charger shipped with the unit.

The body seems to be mostly plastic with a metal plate on the top. The R11 is a nice shade of blue, one I find very pleasant and darker than the initial pictures suggested. It is a convertible Chromebook so the hinges are pretty big and rugged and seem to be made of metal. The R11 has a nice texture all over the body, which helps prevent slippage and dropping on my part. Since I’m prone to dropping things, I really appreciate the added texture. In fact, dropping a machine is why I didn’t own a Chromebook for over a year.

I previously owned a 2015 Asus Flip with 2 gigs of ram. I loved the machine, especially since it was one of the first machines with Google Play, but it was a slippery beast. The all aluminum chassis looked nice but I could not hold on to it to save my life. Finally. the Flip slipped (flipped?) from my grasp one day and crashed onto the floor, rendering the screen black and useless The machine itself still worked but I couldn’t see or touch anything. Because of that, I wanted to make sure any new Chromebook I bought had a really good texture or had a really good case I could buy with it. This R11 has a texture that grips my small but accident-prone hands. I’ve not dropped this yet and that is a miracle unto itself.

The specs of the Chromebook may sound a bit modest, but I’ve had no issue with them so far. It is the Acer R11 CB5 (Model #CB5-1325-C67Q) that comes with 4 gigs of RAM, 32 gigs of storage and an Intel Celeron N3060 processor at 1.6 GHz with 2 cores. It has an 11.6 inch IPS Screen at 1366 x 768 resolution. As stated above, it is a convertible with a multi-touch screen, a full SD port, two USB 3.0 ports, a combined audio/mic port, and an HDMI output port. There are two speakers and a front-facing webcam.

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“How I spent my summer with the Acer R11.” By Warren C. Bennett

Despite what these specs might seem, this machine really does everything I need it to do. Outside of a few issues, I am very pleased with my purchase.

Work

Right now I work with developmentally disabled adults, so my workplace is in a group home setting. Although we have a Chromebook to use at the house (An HP with a 14 or 15-inch screen. Unsure of the model number,) I often use my own Chromebook because it frees up the work unit for other staff to use. In this capacity I use the R11 for writing documentation, looking up recipes for meals and finding various pieces of information for the people I support. Although the device is small, it works well in this capacity since all of what I need to do is via external websites. I can even clock in and out using this Chromebook, if I so desire, and also take a look at my pay and schedule. I have used the Chromebook to show off videos and PDFs to my workplace associates and the people I support as well.

I’ve also used it to further my career in this industry. Although I am working on changing careers (going from Healthcare into Tech,) I decided to take a class so I could change titles and show that I am willing to educate myself at whatever position I hold. I used the Chromebook for this class and it took me about three weeks to watch all the slides and take the required tests.

Writing

After a multiyear break because of life, I’m starting to write again and I bought this little Chromebook to help facilitate that. I’ve written blog posts on my blog, articles on various topics, short stories, novels, and screenplays. The last short story I had published was in Sound and Fury: Shakespeare Goes Punk back in 2015, (Blatant plug) and I’ve been itching to start again. I’m in the process of testing out various writing apps and websites, setting my Chromebook up as a very portable and sophisticated writer’s resource. So far I mainly use Google Docs, but the quest continues. I will write up an article on my search and put it up soon that is targeted for any writers using Chrome OS that are in the wild.

Studying

Earlier this year I decided to start studying to be a Certified Cisco Network Associate (CCNA). I actually bought the R11 with this in mind, since I wanted something I could easily use in tablet mode to read the Official Cisco CCNA PDFs. As I mentioned above, I also ended up using it to further my career in the current job by studying to go from a Residential Counselor to a Direct Support Professional (DSP) as well. The transformable nature of this device has been a Godsend, allowing me to read PDFs and websites while reclining or relaxing while having the ability to use it to create when I need to do so. The R11 won’t do everything I need it to do for the CCNA certs, but it does the majority of it. As far as I know, I can’t run any simulations on it for what I am studying, but I do have a Windows PC that has that ability.

Gaming

The R11 with its 4 gigs of RAM and (comparatively) low rez screen is surprisingly functional as a gaming platform, especially with older games found on the Google Play store. The Chromebook can handle games like Knights of the Old Republic, the Infinity Engine games from Beamdog and other older PC appearing on Google Play well. I’ve also been able to get Portal Knights up and running, with a glitch here or there, along with various emulators and the like. I find Pac Man 256 to be easier to play on the Chromebook than a touchscreen since physical keys make running the mazes that much easier. There really is a great depth of gaming experience to be found on this machine even if many would scoff at the OS and the amount of ram involved. I’m writing an article that will just be about my gaming experiences and get it put up soon. I’m just waiting to get a controller in to try with the system. I am still testing the capabilities of the machine and love the idea of finding out what exactly it can do as a gaming device.

Media Consumption

I use this R11 to surf the web and consume media. Since the recent rollout of messages for Android, I also use this to text back and forth with people from my phone. I have tried out the various media streaming services, such as Netflix and Hulu, and find it is easy to consume mass quantities of content on the device. Although the screen isn’t the highest resolution (I believe it’s considered HD but I also know that definition has changed a bit in the last few years) movies work well on it and doesn’t seem to be hindered in quality. Some services work better in app form and others work better on the website, but all eventually work. I am very happy with this combined with the battery life.

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And now for something completely different – In which the author summarizes his likes and dislikes of this machine.

LIkes

Portability – The small size means i can almost fit it in a bigger pocket if I had to do so. I never would, but I love the fact there is so much machine packed into such a small form factor. I like the 11.6-inch size because it is just big enough to be comfortable yet small enough to not take up much space in my backpack.

Build quality – The case may be mostly plastic, but I really think it is a high-quality build. The metal on the top keeps the screen from being damaged and the textured outside keeps me from dropping it. I really adore the texture, it sticks to my hands like glue.

Keyboard – Slightly smaller than a full sized keyboard, it has good travel and a good feel. I’ve used it for typing and playing games (With and without a mouse) and I have no issues with it whatsoever.

Battery life – The Battery life has been good so far. I haven’t clocked out exactly how long it lasts, but I often can go two days without charging. (Depending on my usage.) I haven’t had to charge it in the middle of the day after a full charge, which is exactly what I want. I can take it out with me to coffee shops or work and not worry about taking my charging cable. I’m guessing it has at least six hours of life in it.

OS With Google Play – I like Chrome OS. It’s simple, fast and easy to use. If a person has used a web browser or a cell phone, that person can use Chrome OS. I love the addition of Google Play because it adds so much functionality to the ecosystem without removing any of what makes Chrome OS great. Now, I still use a Windows machine and Macs for different purposes (Like Photo Editing) but this Chromebook is my current daily driver.

Tablet Mode – Using the R11 in tablet mode is a bit heavier than a regular tablet but that doesn’t bother me much. I tend to rest the computer on my chest or stomach when I read, so that handles much of the ‘weight’ of the machine. Chrome OS isn’t exactly a Tablet OS though and it does take a bit to get used to using it in that form factor. However, just like my Flip, I use it more than I expected.

Dislikes

Screen brightness outside. Inside the Screen is bright and crisp, full of color and motion, unless in a room that has a lot of windows and a lot of sunlight. But that leads to the Outside… it can sometimes be hard to see, even with brightness is pushed up to the max. Mix that with my next dislike and the Screen can sometimes unviewable outside a building.

Screen Glare. The screen has a glossy finish and this really promotes glare on the screen. This effect is especially noticeable outside but glare is often the case even inside. I don’t know why Acer went with such a high glare screen but I am not a huge fan. This doesn’t really get in the way of me working inside a building, but glare is now on my list of things to avoid when I purchase a new laptop down the road.

The sound is a bit weak. It’s not bad sound but I can’t turn it up as much as I’d want. Using headphones or a Bluetooth speaker mitigates this, but I’d still love to have better sound. This is especially true when showing others videos or movies with this device.

The trackpad is decent but finger gestures don’t seem to work in certain spots. This is something I have noticed on my two previous Chromebooks as well as the one I use at work. I don’t know if it is a symptom of a budget system or just of Chrome OS itself, but a few gestures only seem to work on a certain part of the trackpad. This is noticeable when I used 2 fingers to simulate a ‘right’ click. I have to make sure I use the two-finger gesture in a certain part of the trackpad so it triggers. I got used to it, but it still is a tad annoying.

No volume rocker outside the unit for tablet mode. This can be annoying when I am watching videos or playing a game in tablet mode. I can lock the screen in tablet mode, at least, but it took me a bit to figure that out.

A Summary

I don’t regret my purchase in the least. I really like this little computer since it is light with a long battery life and does everything I want it to do. There are a few issues that I will look at when I buy a new Chromebook, whenever that is, but they don’t bother me that much. I do wish I could use it outside better, but luckily I am not backpacking in Yellowstone or anything at the moment. If a person needs a good low-cost computer to use, that person could do a lot worse than buying this model R11.

Chillin’ At Sky Harbor

I haven’t been to Sky Harbor International Airport in close to 20 years.  Coming off the United aeroplane into the terminal, I noticed it looked almost exactly the same as it did when I saw it last, which is not exactly a good thing. There are football field lengths of this brownish swirly carpet that looks like the worst part of the 80’s vomited up debris and called it good. The chairs are functional but ragged, maybe having been updated sometime in the 90’s.  There are some concessions to the modern age like flat screen monitors and signs espousing wifi, but it would be easy to use this terminal as a set for something from two or three decades ago.

I’m all for doses of nostalgia, but seeing Terminal 2 at Skyharbor makes me wonder if the powers that been have updated the decor at all within my lifetime.  It sure doesn’t look like it.  Sometimes I come back to places and have a warm fuzzy feeling “This place hasn’t changed!”  Sometimes I come back to a place while scan the worn out decor and think “…this place hasn’t changed.”  Take a look for yourself:

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Hello Arizona, I am back.

Almost to the day of leaving Arizona in 2016, I am here for a weekish long visit.  I am excited and nervous to be back, even for a little while.  I know one thing: I crave tacos. Lots and lots of tacos and other bits of Mexican goodness.

I can already feel the heat radiating off the windows and smell the great Mexican food in the air.

 

Video of the Day: Chris Davis’ Fallout 1 Retrospective

I came across this video the other day at work. It’s a good overview of the first Fallout game.  I’d never heard of this youtuber before, but I think I will be keeping an eye on his History of Isometric CRPGs series.  Be warned that this video contains major spoilers for the plot of the game but there is plenty of notice before this occurs.  I do like the combat in the original Fallout games but the UI is pretty bad. I even thought so back in the 90’s, but that didn’t stifle my enjoyment of the game.

 

A few new Random Thoughts

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I haven’t posted in this blog since 2014. A couple of weeks ago I had a thought that I’d clean the place up a bit and start posting again. I sat in wonderment about all the content that was on this blog, a place I thought of as dead and buried. I went through all the old pieces, wondering if I should keep them visible or not when I saw the date of my last post. July 3rd, 2014. That date hit me like a punch in the gut.

For those of you that don’t know, the last two and a half years have been pretty hard for me. I spent most of the time taking care of my mom who was terminally ill. She came down with (Developed? Contracted? I don’t know the right term) that demon cancer. I had moved from Arizona in 2012, moved back to Arizona to take care of her in March/June of 2014 and left again near the end of November 2015 when it seemed the cancer was in remission. I came back a mere four months later when the cancer came back with a vengeance take care of her again. She passed away on July 3rd of this year, going home to her Father after a hard-fought battle.

I saw the date on the last post for this blog and it stopped me in my tracks. Two years to the day I stopped posting on Random Thoughts… When I stopped, I had no idea what the future would bring. I didn’t know I’d be going back and forth from New York to Arizona so often. I had no idea I’d be spending the last days with my mom, taking care of her as she left this mortal coil. I had no clue that I’d be sitting here now in her old apartment, a month after she passed, trying to take stock of my life and get myself back together.

Life is funny that way. You never know what is going to happen. (I could say it’s like a box of chocolates, but hat is way over done. In all honesty, you only don’t know what you are going to get if you don’t read the insert that tells you the type of each chocolate in the box. Unfortunately, life doesn’t come with such an insert.)

So here I am, sitting in Arizona, thinking about New York and restarting Random Thoughts. I made all the posts private for now, since I want to start with a clean slate and a very minimalistic page with a clean design. I only have a vague sense how I’m going to use this blog but I do have ideas. I will probably restart columns like Random Thoughts for a Friday again while reviewing movies and games. I will also write about my own triumphs and struggles as I go through life and my experiences as a writer. I will pontificate on various subjects that I find interesting, from the history of game companies to the ins and outs of being a Christian in the modern world. I’m sure there will be lots of music from the 80’s and various other pieces that strike my fancy. In short, this blog will continue to be a reflection of my own varied interests and random thoughts.

I hope you all will stay for the ride. I have a strong desire to start writing again and blogging is a good way to do that on a regular basis. It’s been a tough couple of years and I’m going to be using this blog as a catharsis of sorts. It will help me focus on the future, cut through the emotional baggage I’m carrying and just help me to have fun again.

I miss just being silly and having fun.

Welcome to Random Thoughts. Or welcome back to Random Thoughts. You can be sure it will be random and hopefully thoughtful. I hope my writings make your day better in some small way.

May God Bless y’all.