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The Acer Chromebook Spin 713 ($699; bestbuy.com) is a premium and impressively powerful Chromebook that’s especially ideal for remote work or folks in higher education. It’s also the first Chromebook that’s certified for Intel Evo — a shiny label that means it meets the company’s high standards for performance, battery life and connectivity — and the first to offer speedy Thunderbolt 4 ports that allow for fast data transfers and compatibility with multiple 4K displays.

We’ve spent the past few weeks with the Chromebook Spin 713, and also had an exclusive chat with Josh Newman, VP and general manager of mobile innovation at Intel, to better break down the Evo platform and what it means for you.

Does this high-end Chromebook live up to the hype? Let’s dive in.

The who, what and how

Who it’s for: The Acer Chromebook Spin 713 is for folks who want a powerful Chromebook with a vibrant display, excellent keyboard and a healthy selection of ports (including the latest Thunderbolt 4 standard). It’s especially ideal for those who rely primarily on Google’s own services and can live with the limitations of Chrome OS.

What you need to know: The Spin 713 is the first Intel Evo-certified Chromebook, which means it’s built to deliver powerful performance, long battery life and the latest connectivity options within a highly portable design. It lives up to some of those claims in our testing, though its webcam, microphone and speakers leave something to be desired.

How it compares: The Chromebook Spin 713 is one of the most powerful Chromebooks we’ve tested, outpacing the Galaxy Chromebook 2 and Lenovo Chromebook Duet in our tests. However, if style is your concern, the Chromebook 2 features a much sleeker and more attractive design — in addition to a QLED screen that pops a bit more. The Spin 713 and Chromebook 2 are both on the premium side of things, with starting prices just under $550, so the less powerful $279 Duet is worth considering as a budget option.

A sturdy design with a great keyboard

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The Acer Chromebook Spin 713 is a portable tank that puts substance over style. At 0.67 inches thick and 3 pounds, it’s not the thinnest or most attractive laptop we’ve used, and its silver design doesn’t pop the same way the Galaxy Chromebook 2 does. But we like that it has a sturdy, substantial build that seems ideal for the road.

In fact, it’s crafted from aluminum and carries a MIL-STD-810H durability rating, which means it’s been tested to endure basic drops, splashes of water and exposure to dust. The Spin 713’s convertible design made it easy to prop up the display in stand mode or fold it up and use it as a tablet, though it felt pretty chunky when we did the latter.

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When in laptop mode, we found Chromebook Spin 713 to offer one of the best keyboards we’ve tested on any laptop. Its keys offer deeper travel than even some of our favorite laptop keyboards in the Surface Laptop 4 and Dell XPS 13, and while they’re not as soft to the touch as Dell’s keys, they deliver a bouncy amount of feedback that made long days of typing feel comfortable and satisfying. The laptop’s smooth touchpad also fared well, making it easy to zoom into webpages or see all of our open apps with a quick three-finger swipe while offering a snappy click.

We just wish this keyboard had media controls — while there’s a handy function row for changing the brightness, adjusting volume or seeing all open apps, there’s no easy way to pause or play media with a quick tap.

A good selection of ports — and the power of Thunderbolt 4

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There’s a plus side to the Chromebook Spin 713 being thicker than many modern laptops, as you’ll get lots and lots of ports. In addition to featuring a USB-A port for older accessories, a microSD card slot and an HDMI port for external displays, the Spin 713 is the first Chromebook with two Thunderbolt 4 ports — the fastest, most modern kind of USB-C connection around.

So why does this matter? Thunderbolt 4 allows for faster transfer speeds than traditional USB-C ports, and ensures that pretty much any USB-C gadget you plug into it — from storage drives to advanced 4K monitors — will work smoothly. It can also handle data transfers, power and video signal all through a single cable, which means that you can connect a USB-C monitor and have it provide some extra juice while also extending your display.

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“If you’re doing content creation on large video files or things like that, you know that you’re going to get the best performance for those more advanced devices,” says Newman. “But for the most part, [it’s] knowing that … when I’m sitting down to do a project for two hours on the big monitor, I have confidence that with one wire plugged in, it just works. I don’t have to configure a bunch of different things or have to worry about whether my desktop setup is going to light up.”

The Spin 713’s Thunderbolt 4 port worked well in our testing, allowing us to plug in our Satechi USB-C hub and connect to an external monitor and keyboard with no pesky lag. It also came in handy for charging, as we were able to fully juice up the notebook from about 10% to 100% in just under two hours.

Gorgeous display, so-so speakers and poor webcam

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We loved working and playing on the Chromebook Spin 713’s rich and vibrant touch display, which has a generous amount of vertical real estate. Like the Surface Laptop 4, the Spin 713’s 13.5-inch screen has a 3:2 ratio, which is taller than what you’ll see on most mainstream laptops and allows you to see more of a webpage or spreadsheet at once without having to scroll. And with a sharp 2256 x 1504 resolution and strong brightness and color, the Spin 713’s display made everything from work documents to YouTube videos look detailed and lively.

The deep red text and orange explosions of Marvel’s “Black Widow” trailer really popped on this screen, and we could make out every detail on Taskmaster’s intricate mask. Even working in Slack and Google Docs was a joy on Acer’s machine, as black text looks bold, distinct and easy to read. The notebook automatically shifted into tablet mode when we flipped the keyboard around, and when we did, doing things like pinching to zoom and using the on-screen keyboard felt responsive with no noticeable lag.

However, we’re not quite as enamored with the Spin 713’s relatively quiet and tinny speakers. We found the laptop’s volume to be far too low for listening to podcasts clearly, and while music fared better, most tracks were too tinny for our tastes. Pop-rock songs like Pronoun’s “I’m Right Back in It” lost a lot of their oomph, with hard-to-hear bass and a thin soundstage that provided little room for the individual instruments to breathe. The speakers were reliable enough for quick video calls, but we still wish they could pump out more volume.

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The notebook’s 720p webcam is also a bummer, taking blotchy and pixelated shots that made us look dark and fuzzy in medium lighting and completely blown out under good natural light. When we hopped on a video call, a colleague immediately noticed the dip in quality from our usual Logitech C920 camera. The Chromebook’s microphones were similarly lackluster, producing voice recordings that, while audible, had a fuzzy quality and were marred by a decent amount of background noise.

This Chromebook can handle serious work (and play)

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The Acer Chromebook Spin 713 offered plenty of power for handling our usual multitasking routines over long workdays.

Powered by the latest 11th Gen Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB solid-state drive (SSD), the Spin 713 allowed us to jump between more than 30 Google Chrome tabs and six different apps without any noticeable stutters. The system’s fan did become pretty audible under this heavy load, but not obnoxiously so. Graphically rich Android games like Injustice 2 and Into the Dead 2, ran smoothly and looked crisp on Acer’s Chromebook, with no skips or crashes as we mowed down zombies and beat up The Flash.

To put the Spin 713’s Evo-certified power in perspective, this laptop beat out the $699 Intel Core i3-powered Galaxy Chromebook 2 by a solid margin in various benchmark tests that measure how well a notebook can handle advanced web applications. It’s not surprising to see a Core i5-equipped laptop beat out one with Core i3, but it speaks well to the type of power you’re getting for the price on the Spin. The differences between the two machines were less noticeable in everyday use — both juggled lots of tabs, apps and games with little issue — but the Spin 713’s added muscle could make it a more future-proof device.

The Spin 713’s battery life isn’t stellar, lasting just under six and a half hours of constant 4K video streaming on our endurance test. That’ll get you through a decent chunk of the workday, but you’ll want to have a charger handy if you’ll be doing visually intensive tasks for hours at a time.

The Chromebook’s runtime is slightly behind the seven hours we got out of the Galaxy Chromebook 2, and far behind the Lenovo Chromebook Duet 2’s excellent eight hours and 45 minutes. Our endurance test consists of a 4K video looped with brightness set to 50% and connectivity disabled until the battery dies.

The pros and cons of Chrome OS

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The Spin 713 is undoubtedly powerful, but it’s worth considering whether Chrome OS is for you before taking the plunge on a premium Chromebook like this one. Google’s operating system is largely built around the company’s own web apps (Chrome, Gmail, Docs, YouTube) and is dead simple to use. Once we logged in to our Google account, we were accessing our bookmarks, emails and documents within seconds.

The downside to this simplicity is that you won’t quite find the same robust app experience that you would on Windows or macOS. Chromebooks do let you download any Android app on the Google Play Store, but those are largely mobile-optimized apps that aren’t built for a big screen. The Android versions of Slack and Discord felt very awkward and limited on the Spin, to the point where we opted to just use those services in a web browser instead. Fortunately, those two services, in addition to our usual go-tos like Outlook, worked smoothly in-browser, even with dozens of tabs running at once.

We found the Spin 713 to have everything we needed for our daily workflow, but we recommend doing some research on your go-to apps first — especially if you do lots of intensive visual work. And, as Newman points out, there are some ways to get more out of a Chromebook if you’re willing to do some extra legwork.

“You can do Windows through Parallels [an emulation app] on Chrome. You can do Crostini Linux if you’re a code developer,” says Newman. But ultimately, even the most powerful Chromebooks are best for those who rely primarily on Google’s own software.

“If you’re in the Chrome ecosystem and you love Chrome, now you have the power to do incredible things with it in a beautiful device,” says Newman.

Bottom line

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The $699 Acer Chromebook Spin 713 is a true workhorse of a Chromebook, delivering fast performance, a superb keyboard and a beautiful display within a durable, road-ready design. The port selection really shines here compared to the competition, with a pair of future-proof Thunderbolt 4 connections as well as plenty of legacy ports for your existing peripherals.

Unfortunately, the Spin 713’s webcam is pretty lacking, so it’s worth considering an external camera or looking elsewhere if you want to be as clear as possible during meetings. And while the Spin isn’t a bad-looking laptop, those who care about style should take a look at the much sleeker Galaxy Chromebook 2, which also offered better battery life in our testing.

Still, if you like living in the Google ecosystem and don’t mind paying up for a zippy, versatile Chromebook that can juggle all of your documents, emails and Slack chats with ease, the Spin 713 is one of the best options in its class.