Chromebook variety has grown over the last several years as these laptops moved from fringe devices into the mainstream. There is one thing that hasn’t changed too much with them, though, and that’s size. Except for the occasional 15-inch Chromebook, manufacturers have stuck with screen sizes of 14 inches or smaller. It wasn’t until last year that the first 17.3-inch model was released, the Acer Chromebook 317 — 10 years after the first Chromebook arrived.
The 317 is essentially a portable all-in-one Chrome OS desktop, otherwise known as a Chromebase. The big display makes multitasking a breeze. You can stream a YouTube video in the corner while you work on a presentation and keep an eye on email or chat — all without overlapping windows. It is big and heavy compared to all the smaller Chromebooks here, so it’s not a great option if mobility is a priority. But it’s certainly small enough to move around the house and with more than 10 hours of battery life in my tests, you can work all day and still have time left for a video chat with family, gaming or streaming a movie.
- Compelling, premium features for its price
- Excellent battery life
- Slower Pentium processor and eMMC storage
The Acer Chromebook 317 I tested is $500 but it actually starts at a low $329, £299 in the UK or about AU$590 in Australia. At that price, you’re getting a Chromebook good for productivity basics, but still with a big full-HD 17.3-inch screen. The $500 version is markedly better inside and out with a faster Intel Pentium processor, twice the RAM, a full-HD touchscreen, a backlit keyboard and a 1080p webcam that improved sharpness and detail in my video chats compared to the typical 720p webcams. Basically, spending the extra money not only gets you better performance but an overall improved experience.
Acer Chromebook 317 (CB317-1HT-P5PF)
|Price as reviewed||$500|
|Display size/resolution||17.3-inch 1,920×1,080-pixel touch display|
|Processor||1.1GHz Intel Pentium Silver N6000|
|Memory||8GB LPDDR4X 2933MHz|
|Graphics||Integrated Intel UHD Graphics|
|Storage||64GB eMMC flash memory|
|Ports||USB-C (x2), USB-A (x2), audio/mic jack, HDMI out, microSD card slot|
|Networking||802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) Bluetooth 5.0|
|Operating system||Google Chrome OS/Android 11|
|Weight||4.8 pounds (2.2 kilograms)|
That said, the performance is still a notch or two below that of an Intel Core i-series processor or an equivalent AMD Ryzen chip. So, if you need the fastest performance, you’ll have to consider other options. Also, if you think you’ll download a lot of apps or keep your files, photos and videos on the Chromebook, its 64GB of eMMC flash storage will fill up fast (and it’s slower than a solid-state drive). There is a microSD card slot for storage expansion, and there’s always cloud storage.
The lower-end storage and processor keep this 317 from being a truly premium Chromebook, but honestly, this should satisfy most needs for a general-purpose family machine. The big screen is definitely a bonus when you want to have multiple windows open. It especially makes schoolwork easier compared to the 11.6-inch models typically handed out by schools. (Or at least, that was the feedback I got from my kids.) And, while the display’s color accuracy and brightness are just OK, they didn’t take away from watching movies and gaming on it. Having Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) helps, too, especially if you subscribe to a streaming-game service like Google Stadia, Nvidia GeForce Now, Amazon Luna or Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.
Obviously, the larger size — it’s just under 1 inch thick — and its nearly 5-pound weight make it better for use around the home or office than carrying around campus or a regular commute. (If you need a Chromebook that’s smaller and lighter, here are our best recommendations at the moment.) But unlike many 17-inch Windows laptops we’ve tested in the past at this price, battery life here is good: Although Acer rates it at up to 10 hours, mine ran for 11 hours, 58 minutes on our streaming video test.
It’s a little disappointing there isn’t an HDMI output to make the 317 less complicated for connecting to an external monitor. Then again, with two USB-C ports (one on each side), you can always connect a hub to handle all your needs when you want to actually use it more like a desktop than a laptop.
The Acer Chromebook 317 is an easy choice for a WFH Chromebook that is rarely if ever going to leave your home. I would highly recommend spending the extra money if possible for the $500 configuration. Whether you like to run several apps in the background or love to keep every tab you’ve ever opened open, the extra RAM and better processor will keep things running smoothly. Add in extra features like the full-HD webcam, backlit keyboard and touchscreen, and the deal just gets sweeter.