I recently decided to replace my unreliable, heavy and cumbersome laptop – with something reliable, light and portable. After initially setting my sights on a MacBook Air, and then spending several days ogling them on Apple’s website, I did a few sums in my head and realised that I didn’t have a spare €1,000 lying around. This laptop would have to be cheap. Dirt cheap, actually, as a few more sums revealed that even €250 would be a bit of a stretch.
I’ve often seen relatively well-equipped laptops, advertised in shops as “Ideal for Facebook!” – as though sharing photos of your dinner, or telling people that you’ve just been to the bathroom represents the pinnacle of an expensive machine’s potential. It’s like advertising a Ferrari as “Ideal for popping down to Tesco!” Or an 84-inch Ultra High Definition Smart TV as “Perfect for the Emmerdale Omnibus!” Oh Icarus, fly not so near the sun, lest thy waxen wings doth melt.
While I loftily sneer at people who use Facebook (which is pretty much everyone, except me… and probably my 85-year-old granny), my own laptop needs are far more basic than I’d ever care to admit. I rarely have reason to use any programme other than Chrome or Word, I don’t play games (because I’m an adult) and I can’t remember the last time I edited an image with anything more complicated than Microsoft Paint. Even if I could somehow scrape the money together, could I really justify buying an unnecessarily powerful machine?
I eventually settled on an Acer C720 Chromebook. At €229 in Currys/PC World, it was well within my modest price range. In addition to being affordable, it’s extremely quick and has a battery lifespan of over eight-and-a-half hours. Which is almost eight-and-a-half hours longer than my Windows laptop. By using Google’s Chrome browser as an operating system, and relying entirely on free online apps, including Google Docs, rather than Microsoft’s expensive and resource-hogging software, the Chromebook is so much faster and more responsive than the average Windows laptop. It’s also ridiculously easy to use. If you’re over 40, you won’t even need to ask a child to show you how to use it.
Upon switching the Chromebook on for the first time, I was greeted by an audible silence. Which wasn’t very audible at all, what with being silent and everything. Indeed, like all silences, it was actually completely silent. However, for the purpose of illustrating just how silent it was (no more silent than any other silence), let’s just pretend that it was so silent that the aforementioned silence was audible and could therefore be heard for miles. Yes, it was so quiet that if you had a pin, dropped it and then listened really carefully, you could actually hear the noise it made as it collided with a solid wooden floor. This might also work with linoleum, laminate flooring, concrete or tiles, but not so much with carpet. The point I’m trying to make here, somewhat laboriously, is that the Acer C720 is a very quiet machine. Silent, actually. In stark contrast with my previous laptop, there is no whirring fan-noise and no overheating.
The inbuilt speakers are, in a word, terrible. They are more tinny than a massive tin full of tins at the bottom of a tin mine. The sound quality is only marginally less infuriating than that of a teenager upstairs on the 46A, blasting out his favourite tunes on his phone. But forget about all that. The Acer C720 doesn’t pretend to be a multimedia machine. And who plays music through the speakers on their laptop anyway? They’re always terrible.
Thankfully, there is a headphone jack – although it is as tight as an unnecessarily crude simile. It’s a minor design flaw on an otherwise well-built laptop, but it makes an ordinarily simple task far more stressful than it ever should be. If you’re using those ludicrously expensive ‘Beats By Dr Dre’ headphones, you’ll need to be really careful not to break them when unplugging. Incidentally, you might also want to take a long look at yourself…
If, like me, you’re a bit of a fat-handed twat, you’ll find the keyboard slightly awkward at first. It isn’t quite full-sized, and there isn’t a lot of key travel, so you’ll probably find yourself making lots and lots of
ty[od typos until you get used to it. But you will get used to it – and every other computer will seem massive afterwards.
The Acer C720 isn’t for everyone. It looks nowhere near as impressive or as flashy as a MacBook, the keyboard is tiny and you’re limited to whatever apps are available in the Chrome Web Store – which means it doesn’t support Skype. But if you just need an inexpensive, portable, no-nonsense laptop for basic web surfing and word processing, it’s ideal. “Ideal for Facebook!” even…