Acer C720 Chromebook tested with Ubuntu: Not bad for $200

Acer’s Chromebooks may not be flashy, but they’re some of the cheapest laptops around, with prices starting at about $200. Despite the low price, these thin and light laptops are surprisingly capable little machines — and if you’re not a fan of Google’s Chrome OS software, you can run a full-fledged desktop operating system like Ubuntu.

Michael Larabel from Phoronix installed Ubuntu 13.10 on a $200 Acer C720 Chromebookrecently, and found that the $200 laptop was able to hold its own against machines with much higher price tags.

Acer C720 Chromebook with Ubuntu

The Acer C720 Chromebook comes in a few different configurations, but the Phoronix tests were run on the cheapest model, sporting an 11.6 inch 1366 x 768 pixel anti-glare display, a 1.4 GHz Intel Celeron 2955U dual-core Haswell processor, 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of storage.

The laptop also has a USB 2.0 port, a USB 3.0 port, SD card reader, and HDMI output.

Phoronix found that the Acer C720 could almost keep up with a machine with an Intel Core i5 Sandy Bridge processor in some graphics benchmarks, and was well ahead of older computers with Intel Core 2 Duo chips in many CPU and graphics tests.

Since the Acer C720 is so new, there are still some hardware issues — Ubuntu doesn’t currently support the touchpad, for instance. But you can always plug in a mouse.

Installing Ubuntu or other Linux-based operating system on Chromebooks is usually pretty easy. You just need to enter developer mode and enable support for legacy BIOS (or even use a tool like ChruBuntu which lets you run Ubuntu and Chrome OS side-by-side without rebooting). Unfortunately it’s not so easy to install Windows on a Chromebook, so if you need a cheap laptop running Microsoft’s operating system, you should probably just buy one that runs it out of the box.

  • AlanGriffiths
  • Carlos Vargas

    Personally despite there already being a fix for the trackpad for ubuntu, I’m perfectly alright with this as I dislike trackpad use in general. I’d prefer it off when I can because of accidental misclicks when typing.

    • http://home.comcast.net/~tomleem BigGoofyGuy

      I usually attach an USB mouse since the touchpad is not always easy to use. There are times I rearrange things that I never intended to move.

    • Me

      I disable the trackpad on my ThinkPad X230 but I use the trackpoint all the time.

  • http://home.comcast.net/~tomleem BigGoofyGuy

    I think that is neat. Ubuntu would not be the only other operating system I would install (excluding Windows). I would try either ReactOS http://www.reactos.org or eComStation http://www.ecomstation.com .

  • Michael Thompson

    That is very cool for a 200-dollar Chromebook.

    • Cal Rankin

      I agree.

  • http://drgeorge.org/ ricegf

    My 720P should arrive within hours (same as above but 32 GB SSD and multi-touch screen for $300). I look forward to trying Chrubuntu beside ChromeOS on it!

    • Joe Halder

      Yes, but that one doesn’t have 4gb of ram IIRC, it’s only 2gb, I opted for the 4gb/16gb model (although it seems like it’s being EOL’d, I can’t find them on Amazon). If John Lewis ever gets a Coreboot build up that supports booting Windows, I’d be all over it… Or if Ubuntu supports the touchpad natively on 14.04, I’d install that. Until then, it’s ChromeOS/Crouton.

      • http://drgeorge.org/ ricegf

        Yes, 2 GB RAM, though I would have paid a bit more for 4 GB had that model come out first. However, it ran the Amiga 500 emulator without missing a beat, so 2 GB may do all I need. I’ll know more once Chrubuntu or Crouton is running.

        The OS feels incredibly light and fast after years of Windows and Gnome use, and I *really* love the touchscreen! Only 24 hours in, but I’m very happy with it thus far. Great job, Acer!

  • Christian Koncz

    while this is indeed good news, the phoronix article is very misleading as the devices that the chromebook is compared to are a couple of years old already. The Core i5 macbook pro to which this device is favourably compared to is the mid-2010 version. So watch out, don’t read too much into this. Don’t get me wrong, the C720 is still impressively fast to keep up with a 3-year old Macbook pro, but it wouldn’t stand a chance against a 2013 model. Understandable, since that one costs 10 times as much.

    • Jon

      Most of Phoronix’s tests and articles are misleading.

    • SPM

      The 2010 Core i5 Macbook Pro is still a fast machine and for the Acer 720 Chromebook to beat it is damn impressive. It is certainly no slouch.

  • Pete

    I wonder what percentage of Chromebooks out there that weren’t given away practically for free are actually running Chrome OS as the main OS.

    • Gittles

      im running it as a chromebook with chrome OS. i love it it, for what i need, basic internet browsing, streaming videos its great. i have a better laptop for my work, so this is a good filler for everyday use

      • Anonymous

        Chromeshit

      • bla

        Crome OS has its place, the truth is real Linux is too much for a lot of people and I cannot believe how overrun with popup generators and data miners you average persons windows computer is to the point there pretty much crippled. Crome is simple attractive and its userbace will have a very hard time breaking it

  • tfosorcim

    Is Linux Mint the only OS which requires you to have an ethernet connection when performing a fresh installation, so that you get ALL its functionality?
    The specs on Google Play indicate no ethernet port on this device.
    One more way to cheapen up the “computing experience”?

    Oh, by the by: you might ask those paragons of PC design who sell “Ultrabooks” for $1000 and (way) up why THEY’RE leaving out the ethernet connection. It sounds really cool to be able to say, “…but I don’t need ethernet…”.
    Until you need an ethernet connection.

    • tinkicker

      You can buy the previous generation C710 like I did (C710-2856), also for $200…it has the ethernet port, a VGA port, three USB’s and an SD slot. In fact, if you’re going to run Linux OS’s, the C710 can be bought with a 320GB hard drive instead of the small SSD. Compared to the C720, the C710 is upgradeable, with replaceable RAM (up to 16GB) and the afore-mentioned hard drive. The C720’s components are all soldered…better get what you really want when you buy it! The primary improvement in the C720 is the Haswell chipset which gives 2-3 times the battery life, so if you can’t stand to be plugged in the wall, that’s the route to take.

      • Weston Konik

        the C720 SSD is no soldered. it is an M.2 SATA SSD. you can swap it out for a 32, 54, or 128Gig M.2 SATA SSD (the MyDigitalSSD ones are on AMAZON)

      • tinkicker

        You’re right…I had read that before and forgotten it. But the RAM is definitely soldered. Better buy all you can afford the first time.

      • Weston Konik

        that is True. they did sell a 4GIG model for $250, but no longer. you can get a C710, and that uses a normal SATA HDD. you can swap it out for an SSD (depending on the thickness, you may need to take off one side of the SSD case), and you can upgrade the ram.

      • bla

        You could not reasonably find 16gb of ram that would be compatable with the C710 and even if you did you would not get a performance boost by installing it. If you wish to replace the ssd in the C720 you can do so. People like to bitch but the truth is very few people bother to upgrade any laptops except changing out the hdd or battery because there is very little you can do and what can be done is almost always not worth it. The C710 is definitely no exception. there is no reason to upgrade the battery of the C720 and 2gb of ram is plenty to support the rest of its hardware.

      • tinkicker

        Personally I max out every laptop I buy, having examined what I can do to them BEFORE I buy them. And 2GB is NOT plenty if you like browsing the web with lots of tabs while you stream video…like I and probably one or two others in this world do.
        People buy chromebooks for two reasons…either they aren’t techy and just want a lightweight client to browse with, or they are techy and want a cheap experimenter laptop for Linux or want to see just how far ChromeOS will go.

    • Rhett Pendleton

      I haven’t needed an ethernet connection in about 10 years

  • Jay Lee

    To install the touchpad drivers, run:

    curl -O -L http://goo.gl/kz917j; sudo bash kz917j

    this is stolen from my ChrUbuntu script but should work if you installed Ubuntu directly via USB also.

    • Patrick

      Works! But it is a bit screwed up. LEft and right is slow, up and down is fast. Is there a fix?

  • Paul Longfield

    Installing Chrubuntu 13.10 on the C720 does support the touchpad.

  • MisterReason

    When they get the track pad to work, I’m in.

  • Jürgen

    Hello,
    that sounds really great!! Thanks for your article and providing the results :-) I think of using the C720 as a travel computer for e-mail, skype, etc. And I love my ubuntu on my laptop at home – so the perfect combination…
    My question: does the webcam work under ubuntu?
    And researching the web it looks like the touchpad problem is already solved – is that right?
    Thanks in advance for your replies!
    CU Jürgen

  • Devon

    How does running the two operating systems affect the battery life?

  • Igor Barinov

    . and if you get curious and/or lazy, try Ubuntu based Bodhi Linux iso with custom kernel built just for c720:

    beta: http://sourceforge.net/projects/bodh…es/3.0.0-beta/
    stable: http://sourceforge.net/projects/bodh…ecialhardware/