Acer is adding a Chromebook to its Vero lineup, which it says is meant to offer laptop buyers an “eco-conscious” option. Like the (rather disappointing) Windows laptop that came before it, the Chromebook Vero 514 is made using recycled plastics, has a chassis that’s 99 percent recyclable, and comes in packaging that’s 90 percent recycled paper, according to the company. Acer’s press release even suggests that part of the Chromebook’s packaging can be “transformed into a multi-purpose triangular laptop stand,” if you’re loathe to throw anything away.
Before we go over the recyclability, though, let’s quickly go through the specs — it weighs in at just a hair over 3 pounds, which is reasonable for a laptop with a 14-inch screen, and is powered by a 12th-gen Intel processor with Xe graphics. You can spec it out with a variety of processors, including the five-core Pentium Gold 8505 (don’t let the core count fool you, only one is for performance while the rest are efficiency cores), the Core i3-1215U, the Core i5-1235U, and a Core i7-1255U. Those are all relatively low-power chips, appropriate for an eco-minded computer, but if I were looking for a laptop I’d probably go with either the i3 or i5 and avoid the Pentium entirely.
The 1080p screen is covered in Gorilla Glass, which should make it feel reasonably nice if you opt for the touchscreen model. Its 300 nits of brightness won’t be enough if you’re constantly working in bright sunlight, but it’s still a step up from the 227-nit panel found on its Windows counterpart. The 514 should also improve on the original Vero’s color rendering; while the Windows model can only display 66 percent of the sRGB gamut, Acer’s promising 100 percent coverage for its Chromebook.
When it comes to ports, the 514 has a healthy selection — two USB-C ports, which can be used to fast charge the battery up to 50 percent in 30 minutes, one USB-A port, an HDMI port, and a headphone jack. The computer also comes with a “flare-reducing” 1080p webcam.
As for the laptop’s ecological footprint, Acer says that the trackpad’s surface is made up of 100 percent “ocean-bound plastics,” while the keycaps are made of 50 percent post-consumer recycled plastic. 30 percent of the chassis’ plastic is recycled. While that’s not necessarily as impressive as, say, a $1,200 MacBook Air which has a 100 percent recycled chassis, it’s nice to see Acer providing relatively granular details like Apple. I wasn’t able to find any numbers backing up Asus’ claims that its Chromebook Flip CX5 has an “eco-friendly design” because of its “recycled materials built-in.”
Acer also claims that the Chromebook is easy to repair and upgrade, with standard screws letting you access the memory and storage (which you may need to do, given that the biggest SSD you can get with the 514 is 256GB). While that’s not on the level of what Framework’s doing with its almost completely repairable and upgradeable laptop, that computer is almost double the price; the base model 514, comes with the Core i3, 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD, starts at $499.99.
That’s another improvement versus the Windows version, which starts at $700, and doesn’t provide a particularly great value at that price point, according to my co-worker Monica Chin’s review from last year. The 514 is also running ChromeOS, which is widely considered to be less demanding than Windows — that could help the 514 stay out of the landfill for longer, which is nothing but good news from an environmental perspective.
Overall it seems like Acer’s addressed quite a few of the problems we had with the original Vero laptop. However, I’d like to echo a note that Monica hit on in her review of that computer: it’s hard to consume your way to ecological responsibility, and if you do have to buy something it should last a long time. One option for those looking to get a computer that’s a bit eco-friendlier is to install ChromeOS Flex on an old Windows laptop purchased from a local used computer store or dug out of a closet (implementing the “reuse” step of reduce, reuse, recycle). But if you want something with a bit more modern hardware, including creature comforts like a fingerprint reader, Acer says the Vero 514 will be available at Best Buy starting in “mid-October.”