Acer Unveils Chromebook 13 Powered By NVIDIA Tegra K1 SoC

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | August 11, 2014 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: webgl, tegra k1, nvidia, geforce, Chromebook, Bay Trail, acer

Today Acer unveiled a new Chromebook powered by an NVIDIA Tegra K1 processor. The aptly-named Chromebook 13 is 13-inch thin and light notebook running Google’s Chrome OS with up to 13 hours of battery life and three times the graphical performance of existing Chromebooks using Intel Bay Trail and Samsung Exynos processors.

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The Chromebook 13 is 18mm thick and comes in a white plastic fanless chassis that hosts a 13.3” display, full size keyboard, trackpad, and HD webcam. The Chromebook 13 will be available with a 1366x768 or 1920x1080 resolution panel depending on the particular model (more on that below).

Beyond the usual laptop fixtures, external I/O includes two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI video output, a SD card reader, and a combo headphone/mic jack. Acer has placed one USB port on the left side along with the card reader and one USB port next to the HDMI port on the rear of the laptop. Personally, I welcome the HDMI port placement as it means connecting a second display will not result in a cable invading the mousing area should i wish to use a mouse (and it’s even south paw friendly Scott!).

The Chromebook 13 looks decent from the outside, but it is the internals where the device gets really interesting. Instead of going with an Intel Bay Trail (or even Celeron/Core i3), Acer has opted to team up with NVIDIA to deliver the world’s first NVIDIA-powered Chromebook.

Specifically, the Chromebook 13 uses a NVIDIA Tegra K1 SoC, up to 4GB RAM, and up to 32GB of flash storage. The K1 offers up four A15 CPU cores clocked at 2.1GHz, and a graphics unit with 192 Kepler-based CUDA cores. Acer rates the Chromebook 13 at 11 hours with the 1080p panel or 13 hours when equipped with the 1366x768 resolution display. Even being conservative, the Chromebook 13 looks to be the new leader in Chromebook battery life (with the previous leader claiming 11 hours).

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A graph comparing WebGL performance between the NVIDIA Tegra K1, Intel (Bay Trail) Celeron N2830, Samsung Exynos 5800, and Samsung Exynos 5250. Results courtesy NVIDIA.

The Tegra K1 is a powerful little chip, and it is nice to see NVIDIA get a design win here. NVIDIA claims that the Tegra K1, which is rated at 326 GFLOPS of compute performance, offers up to three times the graphics performance of the Bay Trail N2830 and Exynos 5800 SoCs. Additionally, the K1 reportedly uses slightly less power and delivers higher multi-tasking performance. I’m looking forward to seeing independent reviews in this laptop formfactor and hoping that the chip lives up to its promises.

The Chromebook 13 is currently up for pre-order and will be available in September starting at $279. The Tegra K1-powered laptop will hit the United States and Europe first, with other countries to follow. Initially, the Europe roll-out will include “UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, France, Germany, Russia, Italy, Spain, South Africa and Switzerland.”

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Acer is offering three consumer SKUs and one education SKU that will be exclusively offering through a re-seller. Please see the chart below for the specifications and pricing.

Acer Chromebook 13 Models System Memory (RAM) Storage (flash) Display Price MSRP
CB5-311-T9B0 2GB 16GB 1920 x 1080 $299.99
CB5-311-T1UU 4GB 32GB 1920 x 1080 $379.99
CB5-311-T7NN - Base Model 2GB 16GB 1366 x 768 $279.99
Educational SKU (Reseller Only) 4GB 16GB 1366 x 768 $329.99

Intel made some waves in the Chromebook market earlier this year with the announcement of several new Intel-powered Chrome devices and the addition of conflict-free Haswell Core i3 options. It seems that it is now time for the ARM(ed) response. I’m interested to see how NVIDIA’s newest model chip stacks up to the current and upcoming Intel x86 competition in terms of graphics power and battery usage.

As far as Chromebooks go, if the performance is at the point Acer and NVIDIA claim, this one definitely looks like a decent option considering the price. I think a head-to-head between the ASUS C200 (Bay Trail N2830, 2GB RAM, 16GB eMMC, and 1366x768 display at $249.99 MSRP) and Acer Chromebook 13 would be interesting as the real differentiator (beyond aesthetics) is the underlying SoC. I do wish there was a 4GB/16GB/1080p option in the Chromebook 13 lineup though considering the big price jump to get 4GB RAM (mostly as a result of the doubling of flash) in the $379.99 model at, say, $320 MSRP.

Read more about Chromebooks at PC Perspective!

Source: Acer

August 11, 2014 | 11:24 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

More wins for Nvidia, and you point to the Denver 64 bit variant(PcPer Article), while the Ad image states quad core Multi-Tasking, there are going to be problems if the technical Press continues to use the name K1, and fails to qualify the K1 name, with either 32, or 64 bits after the K1 name, the press is going the have to call it K1 (32 bit), or K1 (64 bit) in order to disambiguate the K1 branding! I'm not saying that the quad core K1, variant is not good, because the graphics on the K1 has set a new high bar for the industry to follow, with its support for the full desktop driver versions of openGL, OpenGL, etc. Nivida should be forced by the FCC, and FTC, as a condition of getting the K1 Denver variant approved for sale, to call it the K1-A, or some other brand the differentiates it form its 32bit counterpart this CPU brand name obfuscation has to stop, and Nvidia is NOT the only manufacturer with too much naming obfuscation. The FTC needs to address Branding obfuscation in the naming by companies, as well as in the print/online media, the technical press needs to add qualifying terms to their reviews to Disambiguate the branding of product variants, so the readers can be sure what CPU(32 bit, or 64 bit in this case), or other part is going in the product described. Now that the 64 Bit K1 variant is getting design wins, there needs to be a way to explicitly tell which K1 is discussed, and this is just one more case for there to be a requirement that a full OEM manufacturer's specification sheet be listed, or linked to, a specification sheet that is as complete as the one that is required by the FCC/FTC/other for product approval.
It is becoming to difficult to comparison shop for electronic/computing devices, because of lack of complete specification sheets, and Branding obfuscation.

\Soapbox rant

Hopefully Nvidia will move more into the netbook market with a 4 Denver Core SKU in the future, the Tegra K1 variants are benching well, and a 4 core Denver Laptop SKU would probably give the core i3 some headaches, while eating the i3's graphics for lunch! Graphics wise using/merging the desktop and mobile graphics microarchitectures is Nvidia's big win. Maybe the mint box, and system 76, other, Linux OS based OEMs, will get some designs built around the K1. The Netbook form factor is where the K1, and future variants will give Nvidia more wins in the future, if the Denver Core is anything like the Apple Cyclone, then Nvidia is in the netbook race for sure, and laptops are not to far off. providing the K1 products come with full Linux distros.

August 11, 2014 | 01:39 PM - Posted by Sonic4Spuds

The main problem with any ARM based chip is that it doesn't have wide spread support in standard operating systems. Mint for example doesn't provide and ARM based version, so you won't see something like this used in a Mintbox or most other linux hardware platforms.

August 11, 2014 | 06:31 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Mint is just one Linux distro, and Steam OS should be coming to the Tablet, I can not see Gabe ignoring any Tablets that have the K1, the graphics driver support is there for the K1, at full desktop levels, and there are plenty of Linux distros out there, and porting whatever Linux distro's desktop for Linux availability will not require as much modification of the desktop APIs, the K1 comes with the full desktop versions of the Linux drivers, Nvidia has made sure of that. Mint will have Tablet support, via the upstream work for Canonical's Main upstream tablet distro/variants, and You can be sure there are Jetson/other development hardware, running Ubuntu development distros. The Linux Kernel runs almost the entire ARM based ecosystem, with very little other Kernels registering on the ARM ecosystem RADAR. If the Mint fork is unhappy with that Gnome version, they can always reach back to that main branch at the House of Debian, as the Debian folks are working with the Steam OS folks, and the Mint box's OEM could get it from the main branch in a more closely derived Debian Mint edition, Gabe wont mind sharing either, its all open source for the Apt-Getting, Steam OS being from the same branch which gave rise to the distro that gave rise to the Mint fork. Most of the cross compiling has already been done, and the SDK, and Tool chain support is there starting yesterday, by many months, or the K1 would not be in any products for sale, products that require the Linux Kernel, you know that Kernel that Android needs to host the Android VM, that allows Android to be an "OS" in the first place!

And Gaben went to the tree and took upon the knowledge of the great Debian branch, and the great voice spoke to him, in great profanity to all those others that hath borked the kernel with their sub par kludges that hath violated this canon! And Gaben was in great awe, and took the knowledge that the Debian angles imparted upon him, go forth onto the gaming people, and bring forth an open gaming OS distro, free of the constraints of the evil Beelzeballmer! A so it has come to pass that this first gaming prophet, Gaben begat his gaming OS.

August 11, 2014 | 06:34 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

edit: Linux availability

to: Tablet Availability

Better reviewing before posting, before posting, damn it!

August 11, 2014 | 05:24 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

Ah sorry, the linked article does mention the dual denver core one but I was referring to the quad core ("4+1") A15 variant (see page two of that article). The processor in this Chromebook is the quad core A15 CPU+Kepler GPU version.

EDIT: I have updated the article to specify four A15 CPU cores for clarity. Thanks for commenting.

August 11, 2014 | 02:57 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Just to get a ballpark figure (and I know we're comparing apples to oranges) what is the equivalent NVidia or AMD gpu compared to a K1?

August 11, 2014 | 05:21 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

As per our overview, the GPU portion of the Tegra K1 with its 192 CUDA cores is the equivalent of a single SMX unit on a 700-series NVIDIA graphics card. Not clocked as highly and such though.

August 12, 2014 | 04:18 AM - Posted by Jon Pennington (not verified)

So now we need to see a shootout between the Acer and Samsung ARM/13" (1080p) Chromebooks...