Chromebooks are getting serious. After just having shipped the first full-fledged Core i3-powered Chromebook, Acer's escalating again, with a new Chromebook 13 that comes with Nvidia's K1, which is to say a hell of a lot of graphical horsepower.
What's that mean in practice? Nvidia's K1 isn't quite as impressive in a Chromebook as it is in Nvidia's Shield Tablet. The chip is the same, but the software running it isn't, so don't expect to run K1-optimized Half-Life 2 on this thing just yet. The work developers do for Android won't just magically carry over. Chrome-powered K1 can handle Unreal Engine 4, but for now the Chromebook 13 is mostly employed to handle rich web content a la Google Earth and an assortment of casual WebGL-enabled games.
The Acer Chromebook 13's K1 brains offer way more than just graphical prowess, though, like a projected 13 hours (!) of battery life, and a quartet of CPU cores that provide multitasking power unparalleled in the pokey Chromebook world. Put that in a 13-inch, full keyboard-sized package, complete with an option for a 1080p screen, and you've got a decent computer on your hands.
As for the hardware, it's a pretty device—about as nice as stark white plastic can look and feel—with a few kinks. I had some hands-on time with a unit and while that full-sized keyboard was a pleasure to type on, the pressure of my palms resting next to the touchpad made clicking super iffy, and that's an issue that can counteract even the most insane graphical powerhouse. Hardware issues aside though, the graphical and multitasking demos were smooth as butter. The Chromebook 13 really cooks.
With a starting price of $270 (for the 1366x768 version with a 16GB SSD and 2GB RAM, the Chromebook 13 is also a hell of a deal, and a harbinger of more powerful Chromebooks to come. You can trick this puppy out with 32GB SSD, 4GB of RAM, and a full HD screen for $370.
Whether the rest of the Chromebook 13 can live up to its guts is something we'll have to spend some more time with a unit to find out. But the line between laptops and Chromebooks has blurred more than ever, and that's something worth getting excited about.