With the immense success of applications like Office 365 and tools like OneDrive, Microsoft has done well to stay in the cloud. That's also where ultra portable laptops like the Acer Aspire One Cloudbook 11 comes from. Available in two screen sizes, 11.6 and 14-inch, the Acer Cloudbook is a low-cost, lightweight, system that takes full advantage of Windows 10.
Given how every configuration is equipped with an 1.6GHz Intel Celeron dual-core processor and 2GB of memory, the Cloudbook isn't built for power. Nor is it convertible to a tablet, the way the Asus Transformer Book Flip TP200SA or HP Pavilion x2 are, despite having similar specifications.
Instead, it's a compact laptop that practically requires you to use online applications because it only has 32GB of storage on tap. It even comes with a 1-year subscription to Office 365 and 1 TB of OneDrive cloud storage packed in to persuade you into a cloud-based lifestyle.
Minimal by design, the Cloudbook has two USB ports (only one is USB 3.0), an HDMI port, and a headphone jack. Its exterior has a dimpled texture (similar to a golf ball) that covers the screen lid, which gives the system a nice tactile feel when carrying it around.
Meanwhile, the matte screen is good for using the computer in sunlight, but the picture starts washing out when it's tilted too far forward or back. Combined with the unsurprisingly weak downward firing speakers, with a volume that changes depending on surface the laptop is sitting on, the Cloudbook isn't a greatest option for watching streaming video.
The small laptop also has very small keys, and F-keys in particular feel microscopic. I wouldn't rely on the Cloudbook for long computing sessions, but found that it works best for writing quick emails, browsing the web and writing short documents before tucking it away again. Its relatively large touchpad recognizes gestures like pinch and zoom, which sort of helps make up for the fact that it doesn't have a touchscreen, but not by much.
Then there's the matter of its low-resolution webcam, making it less than ideal for video conferencing. Generally speaking, if you're looking for a no-frills, low-cost, notebook that relies on the cloud to do almost all the heavy lifting for apps, then this is it.
No cloud required
Despite its heavy reliance on the cloud (as its name indicates), there's no practical difference between using a Cloudbook or any other Windows 10 laptop. There's a full desktop environment, the digital assistant Cortana and Microsoft Edge. You're encouraged to stay within the Microsoft ecosystem for productivity and entertainment, but you're not limited to first party apps.
Unlike Chromebooks, which requires you to use Chrome OS, the Chrome browser and its apps, you have the full power and versatility of Windows 10. That means you're not necessarily limited to using Groove Music and web players to stream music. You could install iTunes or the Amazon music player, if that's where you keep your music. And you can switch to a different browser if you're unsatisfied with Microsoft Edge.
If you're already accustomed to using cloud applications, then there won't be any noticeable shift in the Windows experience. The only difference between a Cloudbook and any other Windows 10 PC is relatively low-end hardware and that it doesn't have a lot of memory or storage space. Although, you might not want to install too many apps locally: it's good to have more options and flexibility.
Specifications and performance
One of the Cloudbook's greatest features is how small and light it is. I could hardly feel the difference of carrying it inside my backpack, so the Cloudbook scores high marks for mobility. However, you'll need a reliable online connection to make the most of the machine. Although it's not quite as reliant on the cloud as a Chromebook, it presumes that you're already comfortable with keeping as little on the local drive as possible.
The 32GB model has almost half its hard drive filled up with Windows 10 and default apps right out of the box. That should be plenty of room for small apps like Netflix or Hulu Plus, and you could even install one or two games like Asphalt 8: Airborne, but it's a limitation that you'll always need to keep in mind.
Here is the Acer Aspire One Cloudbook 11 configuration sent to TechRadar for review:
Spec Sheet - subhed
CPU: 1.6GHz Intel Celeron N3050 (dual core, 2MB cache, up to 2.16GHZ with Turbo Boost)
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics
RAM: 2GB DDR3L
Screen: 11.6-inch, 1,366 x 768 LED-backlit
Storage: 32GB eMMC, SD Card Reader
Ports: 1 x USB 3.0 port, 1 x USB 2.0 port, HDMI, headphone jack
Connectivity: 802.11a/c dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
Camera: 640 x 480
Weight: 2.54 pounds
Size: 11.5 x 7.95 x .70 inches (W x D x H)
The Cloudbook features hardware that's comparable to laptops like the Asus Transformer Book Flip and HP Pavilion x2, so choosing the right system is mostly a matter of price. You might also consider extra features, like how the Asus TP200SA and HP Pavilion x2 both have touchscreen displays and convert into a tablets.
For all intents and purposes, the Cloudbook is a purely straightforward laptop with a very low price point. The least expensive configuration starts at $169 or £179 (about AU$386), and the most expensive (14 inch, 64GB) is exclusively available in the US and costs $249. There's only a $10 difference between the 11.6- and 14-inch 32GB models.
Although the Asus Transformer Book has more storage, memory and ports, which makes it a more attractive buy, Acer's minimal features means a low price. Both it and the HP Pavilion x2 have touchscreen displays, and the two systems feature hardware that has about the same weight and size as the Cloudbook.
In terms of added value, both the Pavilion x2 and Acer Cloudbook come with a free year of Microsoft Office 365 and 1TB of OneDrive storage, giving the two machines a leg up one the Asus.
Given the Cloudbook's hardware, you'll want to limit yourself to online and web applications as often as possible. However, the solid state drive helps programs launch quickly, and you can use some lightweight apps like Photoshop Express for basic photo editing without a significant performance drop. Cortana's responsiveness to voice commands doesn't seem to suffer much, either.
Even though the Cloudbook's hardware is comparable to the aforementioned Asus and HP systems, benchmarks indicate that its battery falls hour short compared to its competitors. In my testing I found the budget Acer notebook to last for 6 hours and 39 minutes at best. That's really the only factor that matters, since all other areas of performance match very closely to each other.
The Cloudbook is designed to be reliant on online applications, so overall performance isn't too important. Except the problem is that the same can be said for any low-memory system running Windows 10. Deciding to pick up a Cloudbook compared to almost any other budget laptop comes down to price and usability concerns, like how the Cloudbook's screen has some bad viewing angles.
A 1-year subscription to Office 365 and 1 TB of OneDrive storage
While the Acer Aspire One Cloudbook 11 wants to be considered as a Chromebook alternative, there's almost nothing that differentiates it from any other Windows 10 PC, especially if you're already accustomed to using online applications. The low price is certainly attractive, but it's countered by some of the system's faults.
It's good to have a lightweight laptop handy, especially when you're on the go. I love that I barely noticed its weight as I carried it around. Although the Cloudbook's name makes it seem like you need a constant online connection, that's not necessarily true. The 32GB model has enough room to stay productive even when you're offline.
The Cloudbook's poor viewing angles and speakers get annoying fast, especially when you're watching streaming video with the computer on your lap. The keyboard, which doesn't have backlighting, is a bit too cramped for my large fingers. Then there's the low-resolution webcam. However, my biggest gripe is that, despite its size and hardware, the system has a significantly shorter battery life than some of its competitors.
The Acer Aspire One Cloudbook 11 doesn't stand out in any way compared to practically any other Windows 10 computer. Online applications make its hardware almost a non-issue, which leaves its battery, screen, price and overall comfort its most important aspects. Unfortunately, the Cloudbook falls short in every category except price. At the same time, there is still a such thing as being too cheap.