Acer has made three significant upgrades to its best-in-class Chromebook Spin 713. The first is that the device now has Intel’s latest 11th generation processors. The second is that the USB-C ports all support Thunderbolt 4. The third is that there is now a fingerprint reader option.
This isn’t the world’s most innovative spec bump. The rest of the Spin 713 remains the same. It offers a fantastic 3:2 touch display, an excellent backlit keyboard, a smooth touchpad, and good value for the premium components. However, changes are added. And they serve to put the Spin 713 far ahead of the competition than ever before. It’s still a Chromebook to buy.
A standout feature of the Spin 713 is its 2256 x 1504 panel. One of the best Chromebook screens I’ve ever used. The colors are really pop, the details are crisp and bright enough. The screen is glossy, barely visible glare and what I saw didn’t interfere with my work.
But my favorite aspect of this display (and this Chromebook as a whole) is the 3:2 aspect ratio. You get a lot more vertical space than you would on a standard 16:9 display of a similar size. Less scrolling, less zoom out, more space for all your tabs and apps. I’m a fan of 3:2, and I’m excited to see more laptop models take it up over the past year.
Another strength that Acer has bolstered with this model is its port selection. This is the first Chromebook to support Thunderbolt 4. Many premium Chromebooks don’t even support the older Thunderbolt standard. To the left of the spin are two USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports instead of one. So the Spin 713 is one of the cheapest machines in the world to include Thunderbolt 4.
The USB-C port also supports USB 3.2 Gen 1, DisplayPort and 5V charging. Elsewhere, in addition to a headphone jack and USB-A 3.2 Gen 1, you get an HDMI port and a microSD reader. Spin also supports Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0.
The fingerprint reader also helps give the Spin 713 an edge over its premium competitors. The lack of biometric authentication was one of our few knocks on the last model. The sensor is located under the arrow keys on the deck. It is the same color as the finish of the spin and is nicely camouflaged.
The Spin’s keyboard and touchpad are pretty good too. The keyboard is comfortable and backlit, but I wish the keys didn’t feel so plastic. The touchpad is smooth, accurate and fairly large.
Like its predecessor, this Spin 713 has two major drawbacks. The first was that the audio was thin and some distortion was audible at maximum volume. The second is that the spin’s aesthetic is practical. The finish is rather bland and the screen bezel is thick. I wouldn’t call it ugly, but it would fit in my school laptop cart.
That said, the Spin is fairly sturdy with an aluminum chassis and feels better than many plastic units you’ll find at this price point. The 360 hinge is easily reversible and I could see the screen wobble a bit while typing.
Performance is another area where the new Spin 713 should get a major upgrade. My review model is $699.99 for a Core i5, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. This is the basic configuration Acer will be selling to get started, but more pricing will be announced in August.
The Spin is the first Chromebook to be certified through Intel’s Evo program to recognize the best portable Intel laptops on the market. Spin did everything I needed, including editing a fair amount of photos and running multiple tricky apps at once on Zoom calls and Spotify streams.
So did last year’s Spin 713. What’s new this year is that we’re listening to our fans. Last year’s model was very quiet, but in this model the fans turned almost constantly. The noise wasn’t always annoying, but it was often audible. This makes me worried about the Spin 713’s ability to cool the Core i7. Even if Acer sells a Core i7 model later this year, most people would recommend sticking with the Core i5 model, unless you know you’ll need an i7. (The performance of the Core i5 here will be good enough for 90% of people.)
Also a bit worse is the battery life. I’ve been working consistently for an average of 7 hours and 29 minutes with the screen at 50% brightness, running some trials with multiple Android apps and some trials only on Chrome. It’s about an hour worse than average on the previous model, but both results are respectable for this price. With light chrome use, it took 55 minutes to charge the battery from 0% to 60%, which is a bit slower than last year’s model, but it’s about the same.
The Spin 713, like all Chromebooks, runs Chrome OS. All Android apps are supported through Google Play. Everything ran smoothly on this machine, both in clamshell mode and tablet mode. A lot of Chrome OS apps have improved since I used it on my 713 last year. Slack, for example, crashed everywhere last year and is technically usable now. That said, in general, I find that most of the services I prefer (Messenger, Slack, Reddit, Instagram, etc) have an equal or better experience in browser format. I like to offload distractions like Spotify and Twitter to their own apps so they don’t mix with Chrome tabs, but that’s about the extent of the typical Android apps on Chromebooks.
As with its predecessors, the Spin 713 is not a perfect Chromebook. As far as Chromebooks go, they aren’t cheap either. But last year has provided unmatched value, and that value has grown even more.
To explain the price this device offers at $699, take a look at the premium Google Pixelbook Go. You’ll have to pay $849 to get a Pixelbook Go with an 8th-gen Core i5 (which is now an older chip), 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage (half of this Spin configuration). Pixelbooks, of course, have some advantages over Spin. You get better build quality, lighter chassis and slightly better audio. However, the Pixelbook doesn’t have biometric authentication, has few ports, doesn’t support Thunderbolt 4, is 16:9, and isn’t convertible. It lags far behind in almost every way.
That said, if you don’t like the look of your laptop cart, the Chromebook Spin 713 is an amazing value. The power-hungry processor has slightly changed the calculus, but also has new features. And ultimately Spin is still on top.
Photo by Monica Chin / The Verge