Acer Chromebook Plus 514 review: going beyond the Chromebook basics

Acer's Chromebook Plus performs well in most areas, without really excelling

Acer Chromebook Plus 514
(Image credit: Acer)
T3 Verdict

A solid, decent performer, with the Chromebook Plus label attached that ensures a certain level of quality. While it can't match the premium-level Chromebooks out there, the Acer Chromebook Plus 514 offers great value for money for office work and student use.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Compact and durable design

  • +

    Good performance for most tasks

  • +

    Plenty of on-board ports

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Battery life could be better

  • -

    High-end games can drop frames

  • -

    No biometric login options

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As well as aiming to be one of the best Chromebooks around, the latest version of Acer's 514 Chromebook has the Plus label attached, putting it at the vanguard of the new Chromebook Plus scheme, a badge of quality for Google ChromeOS laptops.

We'll talk more about Chromebook Plus below, but our Acer Chromebook Plus 514 review will tell you everything you need to know about this laptop – from the battery life you can expect, to the performance it offers, to the latest features available in ChromeOS.

Like most other Chromebooks, this is angling to be one of the best laptops for students as well as everything else, and if you're after more tech buying advice, then we'd direct you towards our comprehensive lists of the best laptops and best 2-in-1s you can buy.

Acer Chromebook Plus 514: price & availability

The Acer Chromebook Plus 514 starts at £399.99 in the UK and $399.99 in the US, with a higher spec version (the model we reviewed) costing £499.99 / $499.99. 

At the time of writing these laptops haven't gone on sale, but should be soon, from the usual electronics retailers. When they do, the embedded widget above will show you the best current prices in your region.

Acer Chromebook Plus 514 review: design & screen

Acer Chromebook Plus 514

(Image credit: Future)

Chromebook Plus is a certain benchmark that laptops have to reach to get the premium label attached to them, and that benchmark includes having at least a 1080p HD screen. The Acer Chromebook Plus 514 goes better than that, with a 14-inch, 1,920 x 1,200 display that's sharp and reasonably bright: it does the job for watching videos and working on documents (though the 16:10 aspect ratio works much better for the latter task).

As for the rest of the design of this laptop, it's all rather straightforward. We like the two-tone texture effect on the laptop lid, the bezels around the screen are reasonably thin, and the Acer logo (outside and inside) is subtle enough. It has a weight and a plastic feel that tells you this isn't a top-tier laptop, but it also feels solid, and Acer says it meets MIL-STD-810H7 military-grade durability standards.

The backlighting around the keyboard keys is nicely done, and typing is a pleasurable experience: the keys are soft to the touch and have a decent amount of give to them. The trackpad is large and really responsive, though when you tap on it you again feel the relatively low price of this laptop – a MacBook Pro trackpad it isn't. It works fine, and that will do for most people.

In terms of connectivity there's one built-in HDMI port, one USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A port, and two USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C ports – that's a good amount of connectivity options, and Wi-Fi 6E is supported too. Above the display there's a 1080p webcam (another Chromebook Plus requirement), and in our testing it maintained a picture that was reasonably sharp and clear in a variety of lighting conditions.

Acer Chromebook Plus 514 review: performance & battery

Acer Chromebook Plus 514

(Image credit: Future)

The review model sent to us was the Chromebook Plus 514 CB514-3H-R8XC, with an AMD Ryzen 5 7520C processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD installed. Apart from the 8GB of RAM, those specs are above and beyond what a Chromebook Plus laptop needs, and it translates into performance that's more than adequate for most web-based and app tasks – from editing documents to streaming videos to checking social media.

We found the Acer Chromebook Plus 514 coped well with having several dozen tabs open, and while there are cooling fans on board that kick in quite regularly, they're nice and quiet. We didn't notice any problems with the chassis getting overly hot, and this looks to be a laptop that will work well wherever you go – from lying on the sofa to sitting in a lecture theatre (the compact 14-inch size helps with that too).

We tested out the Acer Chromebook Plus 514 with a variety of tasks, including writing out this review, watching movies on YouTube, playing music on Spotify, and editing images in Google Photos – and the laptop barely skipped a beat. We did notice a few stutters in high-end Android games such as Asphalt 9, but these mostly ran well enough too, so you've got no real worries here in terms of performance.

As for battery life on the Acer Chromebook Plus 514, watching a letterboxed movie at maximum brightness and low-ish volume reduces the battery level by an average of 18 per cent per hour – that's around 5-6 hours of video watching in total. In more general use, you're looking at 3-4 hours, so this is a laptop that's going to last you half a day away from a plug socket rather than a whole day.

Acer Chromebook Plus 514 review: features & software

Acer Chromebook Plus 514

(Image credit: Future)

The Acer Chromebook Plus 514 is fitted with two upward-firing, DTS-enabled speakers, one on either side of the keyboard. These speakers can reach an impressively high volume level without any audio distortion, and they're good enough for casual music listening and movie watching – there is some tinniness and shallowness to the sound though, which reflects the laptop's competitive price.

Then there's ChromeOS: it seems as though Google may keep certain features for Chromebook Plus laptops in the future, but at the moment it's not clear how this will play out. What is certain is that ChromeOS continues to improve, and continue to add in more artificial intelligence (AI) features – useful for everything from erasing parts of a photo to reducing background noise on a video call. It's something Google is investing a lot in with its phones, too.

If you've never used a Chromebook before, it's basically just a web browser. That may sound quite limiting, but if you think about the apps you use every day, most of them are on the web – and ChromeOS handles everything like security protections and file backups automatically, which can be a pain on Windows and macOS. Its lightweight nature also means it's less likely to slow down over time.

ChromeOS comes with support for Android apps too, just as you'll find in many of the best phones, giving you even more options in terms of the software you can run. Some Android apps are better optimised for large displays and keyboards and trackpads than others, but it's another plus point for this Chromebook Plus laptop. You can do some cool syncing tricks with Pixel 8 Pro and other Android phones – though not iPhones (as you would expect).

Acer Chromebook Plus 514: verdict

Acer Chromebook Plus 514

(Image credit: Future)

If you know that a Chromebook is what you want to go with for your next laptop upgrade, then the Acer Chromebook Plus 514 offers a bang for buck balance that's difficult to beat at the moment. There are cheaper Chromebooks out there, and more expensive options too, so this one strikes a nice balance.

By getting that Chromebook Plus label, it's got a badge of quality that you can rely on: in terms of its screen, its webcam, and its internal components. That said, there are Chromebooks out there that are much more polished and snappy in performance, and with more impressive screens (and touchscreens) – in the end, as always, it really comes down to how much you want to spend.

What we can tell you is that in our testing, the Acer Chromebook Plus 514 performed perfectly well, coping competently with just about everything that ChromeOS gave it to do. This strikes us as a great option for doing office work on the go, and the value for money here means it's going to have a lot of appeal for students as well.

As long as you're aware of what the limitations of ChromeOS are, and you're happy to work within them, then the Chromebook Plus 514 from Acer is a sensible and solid choice. While it doesn't have anything that particularly stands out, it covers everything you need in a more than satisfactory way, and we'd say it's money well spent.

Also consider

If the laptop we've reviewed here doesn't appeal, the HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook is just about the best Chromebook around right now: it offers plenty of performance, a superb design (including a 13.5-inch touchscreen), and even an integrated SIM slot for getting online without Wi-Fi. It's also rather expensive, which might put you off.

If you'd rather not spend so much money, the Acer Chromebook 516 GE is half the price of the HP, but also significantly more than the Acer Chromebook Plus 514 we've reviewed here. One of the reasons you might want to pay the extra cash is that the Chromebook 516 GE is better from a gaming perspective, if that's something you're interested in.

David Nield

Dave has over 20 years' experience in the tech journalism industry, covering hardware and software across mobile, computing, smart home, home entertainment, wearables, gaming and the web – you can find his writing online, in print, and even in the occasional scientific paper, across major tech titles like T3, TechRadar, Gizmodo and Wired. Outside of work, he enjoys long walks in the countryside, skiing down mountains, watching football matches (as long as his team is winning) and keeping up with the latest movies.