The rise of AMD-powered Chromebooks has arrived, with Acer’s new Chromebook Spin 514 being one of the first big launches. After a brief spin with it last year, I’ve been using the Spin 514 with its AMD Ryzen 5 5000 series processor for the past few weeks. Here’s what you should know.
Starting with the physical hardware, the Acer Chromebook Spin 514 is a relatively standard “affordable high-end” ChromeOS laptop. It has a 14-inch, 1080p display with a touchscreen that sits on a 2-in-1 hinge. It’s a pretty standard IPS panel and gets the job done well. It won’t impress, but most folks won’t find anything to complain about, either. My only real gripe is the brightness, which I find just doesn’t get nearly bright enough for anything but indoor use.
The body of the Spin 514 is made primarily from plastic, but it still feels very sturdy. There’s no flex to the keyboard deck, and the display also won’t flex, even if you try. You can get a creak or flex from the bottom portion of the machine if you try hard enough, but all in all, this is a very well-built laptop, despite the fact that it doesn’t feel quite as “premium” as something made from more metal.
Ports are also a big positive of the physical hardware here. Along the left side, you’ll find USB-C, USB-A, and full-size HDMI with a headphone jack to top it all off. Along the right side, there’s a Kensington lock, another USB-C port, and the power and volume buttons. While I could do with a second USB-A port or a microSD card slot, this is a solid array of ports that should avoid the need for most folks to carry around dongles.
The keyboard on the Acer Chromebook Spin 514 is also pretty excellent on the whole. I do wish Acer’s keyboard switches had a bit more of a tactile “click” instead of the slightly mushy push you’ll get, but the keys are well-spaced, have solid travel, and feel good under the finger. Could they be better? Yes! HP has really become my gold standard in the Chromebook space, but Acer isn’t exactly lagging far behind. The trackpad is also stellar, with a smooth glass surface that held up well over a few weeks.
What about performance?
The Spin 514 review unit I’ve been using is packing AMD’s Ryzen 5 5625C processor with Radeon graphics. In short, it’s been a stellar overall performer. Throughout running dozens of tabs while researching posts while having Telegram, Spotify, Slack, and occasionally an Android app or two open, the Ryzen 5 paired with 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD held up wonderfully. I did notice on a couple of occasions that the machine would heat up a bit faster than I’d expected and, in turn, kick on its fans, but that wasn’t constant.
The very short version is this: ChromeOS is not a particularly performance-heavy platform, and if you’re using it primarily for web apps and Android apps, you’re not going to push this machine to its limits. There’s plenty of headroom on this chip, though, to run Linux apps without any issues.
And as for battery life, I’ve been quite happy on the whole. In my aforementioned use during a work day, I was able to pull around 5-7 hours before getting a battery warning. So, in my moderate use, I’d be able to get around 6-8 hours from a full charge drained all the way. Your results may vary, but in typical ChromeOS use, this is a machine that won’t give you battery anxiety but also won’t be particularly impressive.
On the whole, everything about the Acer Chromebook Spin 514 is solid. The Ryzen chip offers plenty of power, and the hardware is done well. However, what gives me pause is the price. The configuration I’ve been testing runs. At that price, I’d really want to see some form of biometrics – you’ll be stuck with a PIN or password here – or something to make this machine stand out.
This Chromebook is a good option – it’s just not breaking any new ground. Because of that, it’s really only as good as its price is. I wouldn’t payfor this particular configuration and would rather wait on a sale. the same machine with a Ryzen 3 5125C processor for $549. Again, I feel that price is a little high, but when it goes on sale, such as the it’s selling for at the time of this review, it’s much more compelling.
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