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Acer Chromebook Plus 514 Review: Getting Work Done for Less

Acer Chromebook Plus 514 Review: Getting Work Done for Less

7.8/ 10
Score

Acer Chromebook Plus 514 (CB514-4HT-359X)

Occupation

  • Long battery life

  • Best webcam performance

  • Bright, matte touchscreen

  • Durable construction

  • 512 GB SSD

Cons of

  • No keyboard backlight.

  • Lots of flex on keyboard, touchpad

  • Slower 5Gbps USB-C ports

Just about all Acer Chromebooks — from basic to premium — I've tested over the years come recommended, and the Acer Chromebook Plus 514 (CB514-4H/T) is no different. It meets all the requirements to be stamped as a Chromebook Plus model, offering good performance and better battery life. It has a respectably bright display with a matte finish to limit glare. And it has more storage than you'd normally find at a starting price of $400. It's a simple, robust Chromebook for school, work or home. And, again, it's easy to recommend.

Acer Chromebook Plus 514 (CB514-4HT-359X)

Price as reviewed. $400
Display size/resolution 14-inch 1,920×1,080 touch LCD
CPU 1.8GHz Intel Core i3-N305
memory 8GB LPDDR5 4,266MHz
Graphics Integrated Intel UHD Graphics
Storage 512 GB PCIe NVMe SSD
Networking Intel Wi-Fi 6E AX211 + Bluetooth 5.1
Ports USB-C 3.2 Gen 1 (x2), USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 (x2), microSD card slot, 3.5mm combo audio jack
Operating system ChromeOS

Acer offers a few configurations of the 514. I am reviewing one. CB514-4H/TEspecially the CB514-4HT-359X. It has a 16:9 display and two USB-C ports, but no HDMI display. The configuration I tested is $400 and includes a protective sleeve. It's a Costco exclusive, available in-store and online starting April 22. And although I haven't, there will be versions of the 514 with a backlit keyboard.

The CB514-4HT-375Z, which is the same configuration as the 359X sans protective sleeve, will be available from Acer and Amazon in May for $400. Other configurations will be available directly from Acer and elsewhere. A model with a T in the model number means it has a touchscreen.

Chromebook Plus 514 CB514-3H/T Initially launched last year with AMD processors instead of Intel. This version also has a 16:10 display ratio, isn't as tall, as wide, and has HDMI output but only one USB-C port. The starting price is also $400 but can be found on sale for $300. I wouldn't be surprised if this is eventually true for the CB514-4H/T as well.

The right side of the Acer Chromebook Plus 514 is locked on a wooden table in front of a light gray sofa. The right side of the Acer Chromebook Plus 514 is locked on a wooden table in front of a light gray sofa.

Acer placed a USB-C port on each side of the Intel 514 for fast charging from the right or left.

Josh Goldman/CNET

About Chromebook Plus

As Google's Chrome OS has evolved, so have Chromebooks. Now they range from basic models to premium options for under $200 up to $1,000. This can lead to shopping to meet your needs, especially if you're on a budget. To make this process easier, Google introduced the Chromebook Plus category.

With the Chromebook Plus, you're guaranteed to get at least the following specs, starting at $399:

  • 12th-gen Intel Core i3 or AMD Ryzen 3 7000 processor or better
  • 8GB or more memory
  • 128GB or more storage
  • 1080p IPS LCD or better
  • 1080p webcam with temporal noise reduction

You'll find Chromebook Plus models with better specs, such as a faster processor or more memory. But at least you know that if you see a plus in the name, you're getting features and performance that won't disappoint. Chromebook Plus models also come with three months of Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Express on the web, three months of Nvidia's GeForce Now cloud gaming service and a 25% discount. LumaFusion's video editing suite.

The Acer Chromebook Plus 514 is open and facing left on a wooden table in front of a light gray couch. The Acer Chromebook Plus 514 is open and facing left on a wooden table in front of a light gray sofa.

Josh Goldman/CNET

Performance and battery life

Again, Chromebook Plus specs mean you'll get at least an Intel Core i3 processor, which is better than what you'll typically find in lower-end models. However, not all Core i3 processors are the same. The first three Chromebook Plus models we tested had Core i3 U-series processors, which have two performance cores, or P-cores, designed for raw speed.

Acer Chromebook Plus 514 on a wooden table in front of a light gray sofa open and facing right. Acer Chromebook Plus 514 on a wooden table in front of a light gray sofa open and facing right.

The 514's hinge design raises the back of the Chromebook for better typing angles and cooling.

Josh Goldman/CNET

The core i3-N305 used in this 514 trades P-cores for extra efficient cores, designed for amazing performance and better for small operations and background tasks. The result is slower performance than U-series chips. For basic productivity work, you're unlikely to notice. I certainly didn't. However, the N305 is not capable of doing much. Its P-cores and E-cores divide the work demands using the latter to handle background tasks. You can see our benchmark testing results at the end of the review.

On the plus side, you get better battery life. Acer claims up to 11 hours, and the Chromebook Plus 514 lasted 11 hours and 1 minute on our video streaming battery rundown test. Battery time always comes down to what you do, and in my hands-on testing, you can expect between 7 and 8 hours of typical use. Plus, it recharges quickly via USB-C. (USB-C ports are 3.2 Gen 1, though, limiting their transfer speeds to 5 Gbps.)

The Acer Chromebook Plus 514 is open and facing backwards on a wooden table in front of a light gray sofa. The Acer Chromebook Plus 514 is open and facing backwards on a wooden table in front of a light gray sofa.

It may all be plastic, but at least the lid treatment gives this Chromebook some visual interest.

Josh Goldman/CNET

Design and features

Chromebook Plus specs don't exactly include anything design-wise, but the models look good. The Acer Chromebook Plus 514 is all plastic, making it a relatively light 3.2 pounds (1.5 kg). Its two-tone lid has been refined to class things up. The rest of it is just smooth gray plastic with a dark gray bezel around the display. A notch runs the length of the base to make it a little easier to open.

When the back is raised, the display is positioned in a way that raises the back for a slightly better typing angle and cooling. Upward facing speaker grills frame the keyboard nicely. The speakers sound pretty thin, though — not clear and completely unpleasant, but just with a low hiss. You'll probably want external speakers. or Headphones most of the time.

A quick view of the Acer Chromebook Plus 514's touch display on a wooden table in front of a light gray sofa. A quick view of the Acer Chromebook Plus 514's touch display on a wooden table in front of a light gray sofa.

The Chromebook Plus model has a screen background that changes from day to night.

Josh Goldman/CNET

Similarly, the built-in dual mics get the job done but aren't anything special. My voice sounded clear to everyone I spoke with, although one person said I sounded stuffy (it's allergy season). The webcam, on the other hand, is remarkably good, even in low light. It's a 1080p camera, as promised, and video looks sharp and detailed in good light.

In low light or when backlit, there are settings to brighten your shot and reframe you if you move around. Although the image softens in dim light, noise is generally suppressed. Plus, there's a physical privacy slider so you can instantly block the lens.

The 14-inch Full HD display, like the rest of the package, is just as good. My review model has touch, which is a nice addition, especially with the screen's matte finish. Combined with its 300-nit brightness, you can actually use the display in bright conditions and still see what you're working on. While my preference is for a 16:10 display for work, if you're considering it for work and streaming video or cloud gaming, this model's 16:9 aspect ratio is a better fit.

Top-down view of the Acer Chromebook Plus 514's keyboard and touchpad. Top-down view of the Acer Chromebook Plus 514's keyboard and touchpad.

Josh Goldman/CNET

The keyboard and touchpad are serviceable. The keys have a decent amount of travel and a pleasant tactile pop to them. It's not backlit, but it's an option Acer offers, so you just need to track down a model with it. The touchpad has a smooth glass-like feel and is reasonably responsive. Like many hinged touchpads, there's a dead zone for clicks at the top. Also, the keyboard and touchpad have a significant amount of flex. It doesn't bother me, though, and it doesn't seem indicative of the overall stability of the system. In fact, Acer says it's been independently certified for MIL-STD 810H6 military-grade durability.

The Acer Chromebook Plus 514 is better than its price, and it's the best you can hope for for $400. My rating would be a little higher if it had a backlit keyboard and maybe a USB 3.2 Gen 2 USB-C port. As it stands, though, it's still pretty easy for me to recommend it, especially if you're able to pick it up on sale for even less.

Geekbench 6 (Android version) Multi-core

Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus 14 5204Acer Chromebook Plus 515 (CB515-2H-31NY) 5059HP Chromebook Plus x360 14c 4991Acer Chromebook Plus 514 (CB514-4HT-359X) 4395

Note: Longer bars indicate better performance.

3DMARK Slingshot Unlimited (OpenGL ES 3.0)

HP Chromebook Plus x360 14c 14708Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus 14 14601Acer Chromebook Plus 515 (CB515-2H-31NY) 14458Acer Chromebook Plus 514 (CB514-4HT-359X) 10804

Note: Longer bars indicate better performance.

3DMARK WILDLIFE UNLIMITED

Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus 14 7800HP Chromebook Plus x360 14c 7218Acer Chromebook Plus 515 (CB515-2H-31NY) 6258Acer Chromebook Plus 514 (CB514-4HT-359X) 4454

Note: Longer bars indicate better performance.

Google Octane 2

Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus 14 83436HP Chromebook Plus x360 14c 82927Acer Chromebook Plus 515 (CB515-2H-31NY) 82640Acer Chromebook Plus 514 (CB514-4HT-359X) 56328

Note: Longer bars indicate better performance.

CrXPRT 2

Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus 14 178HP Chromebook Plus x360 14c 177Acer Chromebook Plus 515 (CB515-2H-31NY) 175Acer Chromebook Plus 514 (CB514-4HT-359X) 136

Note: Longer bars indicate better performance.

Motion Mark

Acer Chromebook Plus 515 (CB515-2H-31NY) 1226.23Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus 14 1120.41HP Chromebook Plus x360 14c 1012.68Acer Chromebook Plus 514 (CB514-4HT-359X) 802.3

Note: Longer bars indicate better performance.

YouTube Streaming Battery Drain Test (in minutes)

HP Chromebook Plus x360 14c 704Acer Chromebook Plus 514 (CB514-4HT-359X) 661Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus 14 630Acer Chromebook Plus 515 (CB515-2H-31NY) 629

Note: Longer bars indicate better performance.

System configurations

Acer Chromebook Plus 514 (CB514-4HT-359X) ChromeOS 123; Intel Core i3-N305; 8GB LPDDR5 RAM; 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD; Integrated Intel UHD Graphics
HP Chromebook Plus x360 14c ChromeOS 117; Intel Core i3-1215U; 8 GB LPDDR4 RAM; 128GB PCIe NVMe SSD; Integrated Intel UHD Graphics
Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus 14 ChromeOS 117; Intel Core i3-1315U; 8GB LPDDR5 RAM; 128GB eMMC storage; Integrated Intel UHD Graphics
Acer Chromebook Plus 515 (CB515-2H-31NY) ChromeOS 117; Intel Core i3-1215U; 8 GB LPDDR4 RAM; 128GB UFS storage; Integrated Intel UHD Graphics

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