Chromebooks had a big moment when the pandemic hit due in part to the searing desperation of parents looking for a computer so their kids could do school from home. But before the chaos, Chromebooks were regarded mostly as an enthusiast’s device, or perhaps as a secondary companion to a more capable machine stationed back home.
The Acer Chromebook Spin 713 exists in direct contradiction to this idea. It’s a different kind of Chromebook from the Google Pixelbook I’ve been using for the past four years. The model I reviewed here costs $700 for an 11th-generation Core i5, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage. It’s got a wealth of ports, including an HDMI port for hooking up an external monitor. From this alone, you would think this was a laptop made for business—and it is! Kind of. But at its core, it’s still a Chromebook, which means it also comes with concessions you wouldn’t have to make with a Windows PC around the same price.
The Chromebook Spin 713 looks like a Windows laptop the IT department head assigns you on your first day at a new job. It’s decidedly utilitarian with its gray-on-gray chassis and plain white backlighting. Unlike Google’s Chromebooks, which exude a playful style, and even Samsung’s Chromebooks, which are as over-designed as their smartphones, it feels like Acer pulled from its usual stock of available designs and slapped Chrome OS on top. It’s strategic for propagating the platform, but I long for something as inspired as an Android smartphone.
If you can vibe with the rugged look, the Chromebook Spin 713 boasts an impressive screen. The 13.5-inch 360-degree flippable touchscreen display has a 3:2 aspect ratio that is perfectly attuned to Chrome OS’s touch-forward interface. It’s a 2250 x 1504 resolution, which is weird for screenshots but works well when you’re reading and browsing on Chrome OS. Of course, videos will be black-boxed in full screen, but it’s a typical trade-off for laptop living. I didn’t mind it, and I loved the ability to flip over the Chromebook and watch 90 Day Fiancé from the bath.
The Chromebook Spin 713 reviewed here has some impressive specs for its $700 price tag. There’s an Intel 11th-gen Core i5-1135G7 processor inside clocked at 2.4GHz, with Turbo Boost up to 4.2GHz—and yes, this is as possible on Chrome OS as it is on Windows. It has 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. It also sports Wi-Fi 6 connectivity. There’s a 720p webcam at the top of the screen, but it’s not the best for low-light video-conferencing situations. All of this comes in a nearly 3-pound package, just a bit more than the Pixelbook and Pixelbook Go, but about the same as the highly-specced (and well-rated) Samsung Galaxy Chromebook.
There are so many ports on this laptop that it deserves a dedicated section. I’ve used a long line of Chromebooks with a mere two USB-C ports: one for power and another for an adapter. Thankfully, I didn’t need an adapter with the Spin 713. It has two USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports on the left side, plus an HDMI port and a headphone jack. On the laptop’s right side is a standard USB-A port for your favorite wired mouse, plus a microSD slot for extra storage and a volume rocker and power button. I still had to use an SD card adapter to get my photos off of my DSLR, but it’s so much easier when you have all those ports already accessible on the device.
The Chromebook has always been my preferred tool of the trade because they’re light laptops that typically come with very comfortable keyboards. The Acer Chromebook Spin 713's 78-key membrane keyboard is no different. I love typing on the device and managed up to 96 words per minute in a quick typing test. The keys themselves are a bit shaky when pressed, but I still found them as satisfactory to tap on as my super worn-in Pixelbook. The white backlight is nice and bright at night, too, though I wish Chromebook makers would get on board with see-through keys for those of us with vampiric working tendencies.
The trackpad on the Spin 713 is OK, truly. But it suffers the same fate as other Chromebook trackpads I’ve used. Sometimes when you’re dragging your finger, all of a sudden it feels like you hit a wall on the touchpad. I can’t explain what it is, but it’s enough to inspire me to plug in a mouse when I need it (or go to my desktop computer). There were also a few instances when it felt like my finger-drag overshot the point I wanted to click on. Chrome OS is meant for use with fingers on the screen, and I’ve been a user long enough that I’ve adapted to how to get around. But if you’re new to the platform, the touchpad requires a bit of a break-in period.
The Chromebook Spin 713 is Intel Evo-certified, which means the laptop is a showcase device for Intel’s latest processors. It’s difficult to illustrate the true performance abilities of a Chromebook, however, because, by its very nature, it’s not supposed to be complicated or resource-intensive like a Mac and Windows machine. After all, it’s a Linux-based operating system based around a browser.
I also ran a GeekBench 5 test. It ranked the Chromebook alongside other Android devices because it identifies the machine as an Android 9 device. But a manual search of GeekBench’s benchmark charts for the same processor shows the Chromebook Spin 713 performs along the lines of Dell and HP’s mid-range Windows laptops.
In my general use, the Chromebook Spin 713 handled a variety of tasks with ease. I moved about 164 RAW and JPEG files from an SD card, and it took under two minutes to import them all to Chrome’s version of the desktop (which is just the Downloads folder). I also batch-processed about 19 RAW and JPEG photos in Lightroom Mobile, and the computer managed to process them all in about eight seconds.
My only complaint about the Chromebook Spin 713 is that it can be a bit noisy, and the fan activity is loud enough that my smartphone mic could pick some of it up. It also gets a bit hot around the middle of the keyboard area, as I found out while editing a short video clip in tablet mode.
The Chromebook Spin 713's battery tests were more disappointing. I thought it would hang around for a while since the estimated time on Chrome OS will indicate up to 10 hours of use as I’m dipping in and out of the screen. However, when I’d start a benchmark, the estimate would then drop from four to five hours, and that’s close to what the Chromebook Spin 713 managed in our battery test. It lasted nearly six and a half hours our battery rundown test, which consists of continuous video-streaming over wifi at 200 nits screen brightness. I’d also hoped that the Chromebook Spin 713 could hold on the way the Pixelbook does when I leave it on standby for a day or two. But I often returned to the laptop in desperate need of a charge.
No matter how hard you try to convince yourself with the Windows-like specifications and looks, a Chromebook laptop is merely a vessel for Chrome OS and all the cloud-storage solutions Google offers within its ecosystem. But there are perks if you’re an Android user and often on the go with a phone and laptop in tow.
The Chromebook Spin 713 tested here is running the latest stable build of Chrome OS 91.0.4472.114, which includes Nearby Share capabilities. That lets you quickly share files between your Chromebook and Android device—basically like Google’s version of AirDrop that should have come a long time ago, and it’s nice to have that capability available finally. You can also unlock the Chromebook with a Pixel device, and there’s built-in Google Assistant integration.
Google has also fixed how Chrome OS handles multiple windows. The Desks feature can be handy if you’re, say, multitasking between editing photos and writing the words to accompany them. Canvas is another nice value-add that lets you play and create with a third-party stylus. Finally, Chrome OS offers quick access links to recently downloaded and opened files next to the status bar, and while it’s convenient, it can get a bit crowded when there’s a flurry of notifications.
Keep in mind that with Chrome OS, the main concession is that you’re not using a full-fledged desktop operating system. The available Chrome extensions and web apps, plus compatible Android apps, will only take you so far with productivity. For me, a blogger who writes in a dark room all day, the Chromebook is suitable for typing, researching, and cropping a few photos. But someone with a more involved workflow shouldn’t even consider Chrome OS without a backup system in place.
If you’re shopping for a Chromebook, you likely already know what you’re getting yourself into. The Acer Chromebook Spin 713 is plenty capable within the limitations of Chrome OS. The latest Intel chip inside this convertible two-in-one laptop means you’ll be set for a couple of years. The Chromebook Spin 713 is an ideal machine for a student or nomadic individual who wants a computer that’s easy to maintain, with enough ports to accommodate every kind of situation.
The Acer Chromebook Spin 713 is priced competitively against the Google Pixelbook Go, which runs on older Intel hardware. Asus is also known for its impressive Chromebook devices, though we’re still waiting for their 11th-gen hardware.
Look, you can spend about $100 more to get a better deal on a Windows machine running similar specifications with more memory. But if you’re looking for a sturdy, high-powered Chromebook for whatever reason, you can’t go wrong with the Acer Chromebook Spin 713.