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Acer toughens up its kid-focused Chromebook keyboards

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Acer is taking an interesting approach to durability with four Chromebooks it announced today. Specifically, the kid-focused laptops’ keyboards are designed to be hard to damage.
The Chromebook 512 (C852), Chromebook 511 (C734/C734T), Chromebook 314 (C934/C934T), and Chromebook Spin 311 (R722T/R723T) join Acer’s education-focused machines with keyboards featuring “mechanically anchored keys.” According to the company, that makes it difficult for users—especially curious young students—to rip keys out of the laptops, while still offering keyboards that are easy to repair or replace.
An Acer spokesperson further explained the keyboard to Ars, saying that a ridge under each key makes it difficult for fingers to get under and pop it out.
“The ridge holds it in place better than other designs,” the spokesperson said. “This design helps minimize damage to the Chromebook and reduces the likelihood for needing service.”
Even students who know it’s not wise to try to take apart their keyboard can still have accidents. The keyboards should be able to withstand up to 11 fluid ounces of liquid through an integrated drainage system that “helps protect internal components,” Acer said.
In addition to the tough keyboards, all of the laptops’ chassis are said to meet durability standards used by the US military, specifically MIL-STD 810H and MIL-STD 810F for sand and dust. Acer claimed that the new Chromebooks can withstand a 48-foot drop or 132.3 lbs of weight due to a “reinforced design,” including a shock-absorbent bumper. Acer’s announcement also pointed to “widened brackets and reinforced I/O ports.”
The Chromebook 314 has upward-facing stereo speakers with DTS Audio and tweak-able bass and treble.
Enlarge / The Chromebook 314 has upward-facing stereo speakers with DTS Audio and tweak-able bass and
The priciest is the Chromebook 314 (starting at $430 in March). It has a 14-inch IPS touchscreen with a 1080p resolution. The machine is meant to be compact and weighs 3.2 lbs. Inside, it gets up to a four-core Intel Pentium Silver N6000, 8GB of LPDDR4X memory, and 128GB of eMMC storage. Acer said the laptop will last up to 10 hours before needing a charge.
The company also announced the Chromebook 511 (starting at $350 in February) and Chromebook 512 (starting at $350 in January). You can get the former with up to a quad-core Intel Celeron N5100 and the latter with up to an N6000. They each claim up to 12 hours of battery life.
The 511 is an 11.6-incher for younger learners; it has a plastic coating that meets the UL/IEC 60950-1 safety standard and the ASTM F963-16 toy safety standard.
Meanwhile, Acer’s Chromebook 512 comes with a 12-inch screen at a 3:2 aspect ratio, rather than the wider 16:9 aspect ratio the other machines use. That means 18 percent more vertical space, so you can scroll less.
All three machines have 720p webcams that use temporal noise reduction, which is supposed to boost image quality by “analyzing and utilizing information from multiple frames simultaneously” and fighting glare. Acer said this feature is especially helpful in low-light situations.
Finally, the Spin 311 ($400 in March) is an 11.6-inch convertible. It’s the only new Chromebook featuring a screen reinforced with Gorilla Glass and Acer’s antimicrobial coating, which fights bacteria with a silver-ion agent.
The machine uses a MediaTek MT8183 with four big Arm Cortex-A73 cores and four little Cortex-A530 cores. Like the other three new Chromebooks, the Spin 311 supports Wi-Fi 6.

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