On Sunday evening, Acer announced its latest entry into the company's impressive (and still-growing) lineup of Chromebooks, which run ChromeOS rather than Windows or macOS, and have thus far been aimed almost exclusively at the budget market.
However, we've seen manoeuvres in the last 12-24 months to push Chromebooks up the performance ranks a little, such as with the Acer Chromebook Spin 714, a 2-in-1 with a touchscreen, a more powerful processor and more RAM (and a slightly higher price tag) than we've gotten used to seeing on ChromeOS devices.
Now the Chromebook Plus has joined the party, and I got a sneak peek at the thing in person at Sunday's launch event.
The Acer Chromebook Plus, launched on Sunday 1 October, is a more powerful and professional-looking laptop than most Chromebooks I've seen or used so far. Acer's claim it's got "double the speed, double the storage and double the memory" of your usual Chromebook is backed up by 8GB of RAM and a bigger onboard SSD, although the double-speed claim will have to be tested when we get a unit in for a full review...
A Chromebook for creatives?
Most interesting to me, though, and most of our readers, will be the fact that the Acer Chromebook Plus seems to be aimed more purposefully at creative pros and college/university students than most previous models.
Google has included AI-assisted editing tools in the photo-editing suite onboard the machine, including the Magic Eraser, which I had a go on at the event myself and was fairly impressed by.
At the launch event, Acer's representatives emphasised this professional ambition for the Chromebook Plus, as now we're seeing college/uni students and young professionals emerging who have primarily, and sometimes exclusively, used Chromebooks during their school education, so going to either Windows or macOS devices isn't a natural choice for them. Hence the need for a pro device that's capable of heavier-duty tasks than your normal school-issue Chromebook.
Pro styling for under £500
What struck me too about the Acer Chromebook Plus was how sleek it looked, because let's face it, many Chromebooks so far look just as cheap as the price tag suggests.
With this one, though, the higher-specced models will have an option of an Intel or AMD-powered processor (Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 7520) and 8GB of RAM for £499 in the UK at launch. There will also be a cheaper model on offer, with either a Ryzen 3 or i3 processor, available for £399.
Usually, at these price points, you're getting laptops or Chromebooks you don't care that much about ('Does it work without instantly crashing or catching fire?' is a bigger consideration than 'What brand is it? Does it look nice? Will important people respect me?' at this level), but looking at the Chromebook Plus, I can see that changing.
It looks really nice. And not just "for a Chromebook", but just really nice, full stop. The lid looks refined with a part-textured surface, the chiclet keyboard and 'ocean glass' recycled plastic touchpad are comfortable to the touch and seem very responsive and tactile, and the rounded lines rival laptops twice that price in the styling department. I mean, it's not exactly a Predator or Macbook Pro yet, but it doesn't look cheap. And it doesn't seem to act cheap either, what with the video-editing-capable RAM and striking first impressions of its photo-editing skills.
So colour me intrigued for a Chromebook, for once...