Acer Chromebook 13 turns on 4K graphics

However, the laptop lacks a screen to play the video

Acer Chromebook 13 rear right facing (1)

Acer Chromebook 13 rear right facing (1)

Acer is cranking up graphics in its latest Chromebook 13, a 13.3-inch laptop that has an processor capable of rendering 4K video.

The Chromebook 13 has Nvidia's Tegra K1 processor with 192 graphics cores. The laptop is one of the first with K1, which can render video at 3840 x 2160 pixels, four times the resolution of conventional high-definition.

The laptop itself won't have a 4K display, but can connect to a 4K TV through an HDMI port.

Two models of the laptop will be sold -- one with a full high-definition (1920 x 1080 pixel) screen, and the other with a 720p (1366 x 768 pixel) display. The laptops start at $279, and will start shipping in September. They will initially ship in the U.S. and later in European countries and South Africa.

Battery life ranges from 11.5 hours with a full HD screen to 13 hours with a 720p screen. The laptop weighs 1.5 kilograms. Other features include up to 32GB of storage, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, two USB 3.0 ports and up to 4GB of DRAM.

Chromebooks, which run Google's Chrome OS, are low-cost laptops for people who do most of their computing online. Most applications need wireless connectivity, but more offline features are being introduced.

The graphics capabilities provided by K1 are typically found in full-featured laptops. The chip could be overkill for Acer's Chromebook 13, which relies on the web for content and has limited storage. But 4K video streaming came to Youtube and Netflix on a limited basis this year, and is expected to reach other websites in the coming years.

In some features, Acer's laptop is similar to Samsung's Chromebook 2 13.3, which has a similar display and an eight-core Exynos processor. Both have processors based on ARM Cortex-A15 CPU design. But Samsung's laptop is more expensive, starting at $399.

Chromebooks are becoming big business for Acer, which grew quickly as a Windows PC maker but started losing market share once the netbook craze fizzled in late 2010 and early 2011, due to the iPad's popularity. The company has made a concerted effort to boost Chromebook performance as web-based video and apps demand more system resources.

Acer most recently shipped a Chromebook C720 with Intel's Core i3 processor, which has an 11.6-inch screen and is perhaps the fastest Chromebook to date. However, it lacks the graphics capabilities of Chromebook 13.

Chromebooks accounted for 35 percent of all U.S. commercial laptop shipments to date by mid-July, growing by more than 250 percent compared to the same year-ago period, according to a study by NPD. By comparison, Chromebooks accounted for around 6 percent of consumer laptop sales in the period.

Chromebooks are also sold by Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Toshiba and others. More Chromebooks are expected to be introduced later this year.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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Agam Shah

IDG News Service
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