As a Long term Chromebook who uses nothing other than ChromeOS personally, you could say I’m both invested and have a bias towards this platform.
In reply, I’d answer as a person working in technology for over 35 years. I’ve used just about every platform on a server and a desktop and maintained many of them in enterprise and personal environments. For 90% of users and businesses out there, I wouldn’t recommend anything else moving forward.
Devices like Chromebooks are the way forward both at home and in business, and if you can’t get behind that, that’s perfectly fine..
This post however isn’t about the pros or cons of the Chromebook and ChromeOS ecosystem, it’s about a specific ChromeOS device.
The Acer Spin 513 is a low to mid-range Chromebook it runs off a Snapdragon ARM64-based processor and has (well this one does) 4G/LTE connectivity built into it.
Acer suggests a battery life of about 14hrs, I’ve had about 12 hrs out of mine over this week so was easily able to go into London, use it as I would the Acer 714 Chromebook I own and go all day without a charge.
Within that description, there were two things which drove me to purchase this device (refurbished for under £300 on eBay)
I’m personally looking for two main things in any device laptop or phone I buy and that’s
The days of laptops having 3 to 5 hours of battery life and a phone lasting for 8 hrs being seen as acceptable are well over. If a device can’t last over 12hrs of solid use I’m no longer interested. I shouldn’t have to carry a power supply with me while I’m out and about and at most I should be carrying a tiny sharing using for the training ride home from somewhere.
I also don’t want to or need to be hunting for free wifi when I’m out and about, looking for and purchasing in a coffee shop or the home of the golden arches. I want to be able to turn on my device and have the internet there and available with unlimited connectivity. We are living in an internet society and I’d expect this from a Linux, OSX or Windows driven device as well.
So there are questions I’m sure which will make a more interesting review…
What’s the speed like?
I bought the Spin 513 as an impulse purchase based on some feedback of LTE ChromeOS devices on the ChromeUnboxed Discord channel and a little googling. that lead me to a great sub £300 deal on Ebay followed by some due diligence.
Then after the purchase, I watched some videos and read some reviews from sites I trust and thought, “I’ve bought a lemon here” because almost all of the state that this is a slow Chromebook.
I’ve been using the Spin 513’s older sibling the Spin 713 Intel i7 for over a year daily, and I’ll tell you right now the Acer Spin 513 is not a slouch for opening tabs, opening Chrome browsers across multiple virtual windows, having PWA’s and Shortcut Windowed apps open, VSCode on the Linux shell and 5 or 6 android apps.
After many years of using ChromeOS and having my workflow designed to be used with them (so much I gave up on Linux because I was driving everything as though I was using a Chromebook)
The Spin 513 has taken what I’ve thrown at it on the go and handled it with glowing colours. For the price as well it’s over exceeding my expectations and I’ve no complaints.
I will say I’m not a gamer, I don’t game, and I have zero intent on Gaming, however, I do have a stadia account and F1 and the Starwars game I will pick up once a year both ran perfectly.
Ignore the reviews this is device has more than enough speed for most
Is the 4G any good?
I was thinking to myself why do all Chromebooks not come with sim card socket? I came to the conclusion that it was down to cost and probably the reason why Google added Phone Hub to the OS so connecting and tethering from a phone was easy.
I’m old though and I do love the idea of having a sim in the device so when I lift the lid away from home I’m on the internet with no fuss.
I’ve tried this with Smarty, Voxi and EE in the UK and I get comparable speeds locally and in London, as I do on my Pixel 6 Pro phone.
I’d not used a 4G sim on one of these devices and it was just the case as expected of pop in a sim, it connects and you’re done.
Don’t expect the Spin 513 to take phone calls however, it doesn’t have that functionality this is data only..
Always on internet is a must and this delivers
Is the battery life all that?
The Acer site for this device has this logo next to it and states further down the page says 13.5hrs of battery life.
We all know that these figures are marketing teams pitching a user who used a web browser with a couple of tabs on, Bluetooth off and the screen brightness cranked right down.
In the real world as I stated above a day on the train, in London, watching youtube, remote accessing servers, reading webpages etc I did get 12hrs out of the device. I’m pretty sure if I had this in flight mode or something and the screen turned down a little I could get that 13.5hrs out of the device.
My USB-C PD charger got from 5% to 80% in about 20 minutes as well so all in all I’d say the battery was helped by the Snapdragon processor which is optimised for mobile devices held its own.
Good battery life, charges quickly bit lower than manufacturer suggests
What’s ChromeOS on an ARM processor like?
They say you remember you’re the first time, for me it was running the Mac M1, and on Chromebooks this is my first time, and I’ve had to do a little shift in my app usage to accommodate the processor.
For most users what I’m about to run through here won’t be an issue because they won’t open the Linux shell. When you do and download a Deb file to install it probably won’t because most Linux Deb files are compiled to work under the x86/64 architecture used by Intel Chips. The Snapdragon uses the ARM instruction set so you’re looking for a Deb file you’ll need to look for an arm64 based deb file
Take a look on my previous monster post on using ChromeOS to explain a bit better what this means.
Linux shell aside howe er running on a processor designed for use on mobile android devices does seem to give better battery life when running Android apps on ChromeOS. they run well and almost everything I use Linux for on a Chromebook has an Android App.
If you’re a Linux shell user you may have problems otherwise you’ll never notice it
Should I get one?
This is the right price range for performance and portability, its a Chromebook for being on the go, its not a powerhouse however the portability options are a step up from most. Acer are committed to the ChromeOS Platform and ever since those first clamshell devices came out have continually put out well built, value for money hardware.
I’d have no problems recommending this to anyone as a first ChromeOS device.