Acer announced a rather large AMD-powered Chromebook at CES this morning (as did HP), the Chromebook 315. The new laptop has a 15.6" display and is available with up to 8GB of RAM and an optional touchscreen. The specifications on the base model aren't clear, but we'd guess you're looking at 4GB of RAM and a non-touch display for the bare bones, which Acer says will start at $279 here in the US. That's a pretty incredible price for a laptop with a 15W processor, though it's not clear how the AMD A4 9120C chip stacks up against comparable Intel products. An optional A6 9220C CPU gets you a more powerful Radeon R5 with three dedicated GPU cores (the A4 gets a Radeon R4 with two cores), and presumably is offered with the 8GB RAM bump.
Acer did not provide a full list of SKUs, however, so we're unsure how many models will actually be offered in terms of mixing up the touch, non-touch, processors, RAM, and storage configurations. They will be available soon, though: Acer says North American retail sales will begin in February. Specifications follow.
|SoC||AMD A4 (9120C) or A6 (9220C) dual-core|
|Display||15.6" IPS 1920x-1080 (touch and non-touch models)|
|Camera||"HD" 88 degree FOV webcam|
|Keyboard||Backlit on touchscreen model|
|Connectivity||2x2 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2|
|Ports||2x USB-C 3.0 (both allow charging), headphone jack|
|Dimensions||14.98 W x 10.09 D x 0.79 H inches, 3.79 pounds|
|Battery||Rated for 10 hours|
|Price||$279 and up|
AMD comes into the Chromebook game at an interesting time - there are no 15W Intel Chromebooks at this price point, and while AMD may lag behind Intel in some regards, Chromebooks still historically have seen the most action in the sub-$500 range. Intel's higher-end Y series and U series Core processors have almost exclusively been found in Chromebooks costing over $500. Few manufacturers have been keen to take up its budget range Pentium Silver and Gold chips, instead opting for cheaper and more efficient ARM options from MediaTek or Intel's own Celeron processor, based on the ancient and woefully underpowered Atom architecture.
If AMD can play at these kinds of price points and still offer strong battery life - the Chromebook 315 gets around 10 hours, according to Acer - it could well become a favorite in the entry-level Chromebook space. The primary drawback of budget Chromebooks to date has been laggardly performance. While functional, many of these cheaper Chromebooks simply aren't good to use with more than a couple of tabs open. And often, that's all people want them for, but I think there's a good chance for a disruptor here to open up an area that hasn't seen much vendor competition lately.