Acer’s Chromebook Spin 311 ($249.99 as tested) looks like your typical 11.6-inch Chromebook. It comes decked out in a plain silver plastic chassis. Thick bezels frame the undersize display, which itself is a low-res, somewhat dim affair. Inside, it follows the standard budget Chromebook recipe of using an Intel Celeron CPU and 4GB of RAM while offering just 32GB of local storage (as eMMC flash memory). What the Spin 311 can do that other Chromebooks at this price usually can’t, however, is pull double duty as an Android tablet, with the touch screen able to rotate 360 degrees into tablet mode. The small display and meager components will have most users looking elsewhere, but younger students will appreciate the added versatility this Chromebook affords, letting you play Android games when the remote school day is done.
The Spin 311 looks like any number of small Chromebooks that are attempting to pull off a mini-MacBook look. The compact chassis is silver, with contrast afforded by matte-black keys and piano-black display bezels.
Unlike an Apple laptop, though, the Acer isn’t made of brushed aluminum but basic plastic. Some flex on the lid and bottom panel is evident, but not to the degree of becoming worrisome, largely because the unit’s trim dimensions don’t allow for large expanses of plastic. Also unlike MacBooks and other modern laptops that feature wafer-thin screen bezels, the borders around the Spin 311’s screen are super-thick. The effect of such beefy bezels makes the overall design look clunky, while also making the small display appear to be even smaller than it is.
Measuring 0.8 by 11.7 by 8.1 inches (HWD) and weighing 2.6 pounds, the Spin 311 certainly isn’t an onerous traveling mate, but it also isn’t the trimmest among 11.6-inch Chromebooks. By comparison, the Lenovo Chromebook 3 is slightly more compact at 0.7 by 11.3 by 8.1 inches and lighter at 2.4 pounds. Move up in price, and the displays get bigger while the footprint stays roughly the same. The premium 13.3-inch Google Pixelbook Go, for example, measures 0.5 by 12.2 by 8.1 inches and weighs just 2.3 pounds.
The keyboard feels a bit cramped to my adult hands, but school-age kids will likely find it suitable. The keys are a bit narrow but feel snappy and responsive. As with other Chromebooks at its price, the Spin 311 lacks keyboard backlighting. The buttonless touchpad recorded my mousing gestures accurately and offers the perfect amount of travel, with firm feedback for mouse clicks.
The Acer’s 11.6-inch display combines touch support with a 1,366-by-768-pixel native resolution. It falls short of being able to display full HD video and looks a bit grainy when seated close to the display, but 1080p screens simply aren’t on offer at this price. A pixel measure of 1,366 by 768 is only acceptable here in 2021 at this screen size or smaller; you have every right to demand 1080p in any larger panel.
While testing the machine, I had it dialed to the maximum brightness setting at all times for the simple reason that the display otherwise looked dull. Even then, it looked dim when weak winter sunlight shone through my office window.
The touch support is useful for tapping to open and close apps, control YouTube videos, and nudge your active windows around. The small size of the display makes finer control with a fingertip challenging, and the display does not offer pen support that would help with tap-and-poke accuracy.
The touch display is of greater use when playing Android games than when navigating Chrome OS. Putting the “spin” in the Spin 311 is its 360-degree hinge, which lets you fold the display all the way around into tablet mode. You can also prop the notebook up like a tent or rest it, kiosk- or easel-fashion, on the keyboard. In addition to the Chrome Web Store, the convertible comes with the Google Play Store installed to make it easy to add Android apps and games to the Chromebook. Finding this 2-in-1 versatility in a Chromebook at this price is rare and is the Spin 311’s chief attraction.
A 720p webcam above the display offers acceptable video quality, with an oversaturated picture with some noise evident and slightly reddish skin tones. For a 30-child Zoom scrum in a crowded virtual classroom, it’s likely fine; for chats with your boss, less than optimal.
The Spin 311’s downward-firing stereo speakers rise to a decent volume but sound predictably tinny. They suffice for videos and games, but music playback will require headphones or a Bluetooth speaker for full enjoyment. The system offers Bluetooth 5, the latest iteration of the wireless standard, but it is limited to 802.11ac Wi-Fi, which is a generation behind the current 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) specification. (Budget systems like this largely haven’t adopted Wi-Fi 6 quite yet.)
The Spin 311 scores a point for offering both kinds of USB ports but loses one for lacking an HDMI output. You’ll find two USB 3.1 Type-A ports and two USB Type-C ports, one each on either side of the laptop. Helping to cover for the lack of an HDMI video output is the USB-C ports’ support for DisplayPort, giving you an option for connecting an external monitor.
In addition to the two USB ports on the left side, you’ll notice a headphone/microphone combination jack and a microSD card reader. Given the Spin 311’s paltry 32GB of internal storage, the microSD slot is a useful avenue for expanding local storage.
Bookending the two USB ports on the right side are a Kensington lock slot and a volume rocker. Since you’ll have dedicated volume buttons and a mute button on the top row of the keyboard, you won’t reach for the volume rocker when the Spin 311 is in laptop mode, but it comes in handy when the keyboard is disabled during tablet mode.
With a dual-core Intel Celeron N4000 processor and 4GB of memory, the Spin 311 offers enough muscle to navigate Chrome OS smoothly. It boots up in 10 seconds, which is average for a Chromebook, and offers smooth performance under most usage scenarios. Only when I had a dozen or more browser tabs opened did it feel sluggish, but the same can be said about my MacBook Pro. (See more about how we test laptops.)
In our benchmarks, the Spin 311 performed as expected, finishing ahead of the Lenovo Chromebook Duet and its ARM-based MediaTek CPU and behind pricier Chromebooks based on the Intel Core i3, such as the Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook and the HP Chromebook x360 14c. Rounding out the charts is the Lenovo Chromebook 3, which features the newer and slightly faster Celeron N4020 versus the Spin 311’s Celeron N4000. The HP Chromebook x360 14c also has the advantage of 8GB of RAM, double that of the other four Chromebooks here.
The Spin 311 basically tied the Lenovo Chromebook 3 in these tests, which isn’t surprising given their similar specs. Both systems finished well off the pace set by the two Core i3 Chromebooks but ahead of the ARM-based Lenovo Duet.
As we saw in the first two tests, the Spin 311 and Chromebook 3 sat squarely between the Core i3-based systems and the ARM-based Duet.
We’ve recently added UL’s PCMark for Android Work 2.0 test to our Chromebook regimen. This test suite runs in a small smartphone-style window and mimics productivity operations ranging from text and image editing to data charting and video playback.
The Spin 311 again finished ahead of the Lenovo Duet and behind the pair of pricier, Core i3-based Chromebooks. The Lenovo Chromebook 3 was reviewed before we started using the PCMark for Android test, but I’d wager it would have finished very near the Spin 311.
Finally, to test a Chromebook’s battery life, we loop a locally stored video with screen brightness set at 50 percent, audio volume at 100 percent, and Wi-Fi disabled until the system quits.
Laptops with small, low-res screens typically offer decent battery life because powering the display pixels is the single greatest drain on battery resources. Unfortunately, that logic does not extend to the Spin 311, whose tiny 3-cell battery ran out hours before the other Chromebooks here. You can expect a longer runtime under more normal usage scenarios than continually playing a video, but it’s not competitive with similarly sized Chromebooks.
With its plastic chassis and an 11.6-inch display backed by an Intel Celeron processor and 4GB of memory, the Acer Chromebook Spin 311 at first blush looks like an average budget Chromebook that’s one rung up from an entry-level, ARM-based model. With its touch panel and 360-degree hinge, however, it’s an Android tablet in addition to a Chromebook, adding tremendous value to this $249.99 machine.
For parents looking for a serviceable Chromebook for grade-school students, the Spin 311 will fit most budgets while also giving kids the ability to play Android games after they have finished their last Zoom class and Google Classroom assignment of the day. Even considering its convertible versatility, however, most users would be better served spending a bit more for a larger Chromebook. With only a 11.6-inch display, the Acer is best suited for smaller hands and lighter tasks.Source