Discussion about

August 11th 2014 12:02 am

Face-off: which laptop would you buy?

There’s a $350 laptop you can buy that was described in the following way –

Design: Cheap, net-book like design. Entire thing is made of plastic. Palm rest that flexes when you grip it. [2.8 pounds so] weighty compared to the competition. Slightly thicker too.

Display: Poor-quality display. 1,366 x 768 screen [where if you] dip the screen too far forward, everything very quickly becomes washed out.

Keyboard: Underlying panel will bend a bit if you type vigorously enough. If you hit them too gently, you’re likely to suffer some missed key presses. The keyboard probably won’t recognize every single keystroke.

Performance: The performance gains here aren’t so huge.

Battery: 7 hours and 53 minutes of continuous video playback.

Software: Cannot, in good faith, recommend [the OS] to everyone. There will be people…who need the flexibility to install whatever apps they want.

What would you rate this device? Keep that number in mind.

Now here’s another $350 laptop you can compare it to –

Design: Cheap build materials. Whole thing weighs 2.4 pounds.

Display: 1,366 x 768 IPS screen offers wide viewing angles. Wish the screen were brighter.

Keyboard: It’s reasonably easy to type on. The underlying panel feels a bit unsteady, and the keys are quite noisy.

Performance: Solid performance. Performance almost always felt smooth. Lightweight apps…ran smoothly with no hiccups.

Battery: Long battery life. 10 hours and 40 minutes of video playback.

Software: Runs traditional desktop apps. Almost no bloatware.

Now what would you rate this second device? Given that it’s lighter, features a better screen, has a better keyboard, lasts nearly 3 hours longer on battery, able to run more apps, and yet still costs the same?

And oh, I forgot to mention, the second laptop is actually a 2-in-1 hybrid. The screen is detachable so the device can be used as a tablet; a nice convenience if you don’t want to spend money on a tablet.

As you might have guessed, the first laptop described is a Chromebook-based, Acer C720 while the second is a Windows-based, ASUS Transformer Book T100.

Dana Wollman of Engadget reviewed both products, and gave both products an equal score of 81%. The above descriptions are actual quotes. I didn’t paraphrase, it’s what Dana actually wrote about each device. Don’t believe me? Read the reviews yourself:Again, these aren’t two reviews from different people; these are from the same person.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the power of expectations.

On an absolute basis, one device is clearly better than the other; but the expectations for what a Chromebook is supposed to do is so much lower that relatively, the Acer C720 feels like a better device than it really is. The ASUS Transformer T100, on the other hand, gets compared to other Windows laptops (or the iPad Air) and doesn’t look as good in the comparison.

When you strip those pre-conceived notions away, however, pound-for-pound, the ASUS Transformer Book T100 is a better buy than the Acer C720.

Writing from The Cornerplay (cornerplay.com), where we post once a day about technology, gadgets and entrepreneurship.

sort by

8 replies

I think you misunderstand how Engadget scores are created. The 81 global score is a unique ranking of products based on extensive independent research and analysis by our expert editorial and research teams. The Global Score is arrived at only after curating hundreds, sometimes thousands of weighted data points (such as critic and user reviews). (Engadget's description, not mine) Thus the 81 is not specifically from Dana

However, Engadget did give both laptops an 8/10

You can see the collection of reviews here:


1 like dislike

Hi TgD, for a second there I thought you were engadget staff LOL!

I hear what you're saying, but my point still stands -- the reviewer is clearly describing a superior product over the other, yet both products scored the same despite being geared for the same usage.
0 like dislike

I'm not quite sure what you're trying to say here and accuse Dana of. Simply because a device may do one or two things better while being completely equal in other areas does not automatically make the device better. Additionally, devices need to be compared to direct competitors, where they sit in the market, when they released, etc etc.

Now when you look at the scores from the product database (links from TgD already posted) and hover over them you will see the following:

Better than average, but some issues still hold it back from being truly excellent.

This should give you a clearer idea of what the 81 means, and I personally think they are accurate representations of the products. Both products offer good value propositions, but each one has flaws that don't make it a better product.
0 like dislike

Let's speak specifically, instead of generically.

The T100 and C720 are direct competitors -- they both target the same market in light computing needs.

Both cost $350.

One has a better form factor, better display, better keyboard, significantly longer battery life and can run more programs (and offline too).

Should they both get the same score?
0 like dislike

Looking at the exact quotes you pulled, neither one is better than the other. Both are cheap, both have display issues, both keyboards are knocked for issues and both have issues with design.

Both are targeting the low price point segment, but the argument about software is up to debate. While the T100 can run software offline almost everything you (general, not you specifically) use now that would fall under "light computing needs" access the internet in some way. Email, Facebook, Skype, Evernote, Skydrive, docs, etc all need access to the internet. If you need to use more than your standard fair of web-connected services than yes, the T100 makes more sense. This is clearly laid out in the conlcusion of the C720 i3 model. However, ChromeOS does offer offline support for Google Services and as the Android app conversion happens they will begin to create offline caches.

And while the T100 may be the "better" option in your opinion you're glossing over the fact of ease of maintenance. A Windows laptop will be inherent to more issues related to web security and be subject to updates. ChromeOS on the other hand offers a much easier form of management without the worry of security; yes web injections are still possible but Chrome is quick to fix these.
0 like dislike

That's...incredible. It's amazing how two people can read the same thing and conclude such different things.

As for the Chrome OS is better argument, my [very long] thoughts here: cornerplay.com­/2014­/07­/19­/chromebooks­-vs­-windows/
0 like dislike

It's easy to pick a side and interpret reviews differently, we all do it. The thing you have to do is read them fully and take everything in as it's presented. It's also easy to extrapolate an opinion from a single line quote, but once you dive deeper into the review you realize that single quote may not paint the whole picture.
0 like dislike

I disagree that I wasn't reading it fully -- the message as whole is that the C720 is on absolute terms a worse computer than the T100. But for some reason it got the same score.

Now you may wonder whether there are things about ChromeOS Dana prefers that she didn't mention -- but those things weren't mentioned. If you took the reviews only for themselves, the conclusion is clear.
0 like dislike

4 users following this discussion:

  • frankspin
  • TgD
  • dave
  • ice9

This discussion has been viewed 3981 times.
Last activity .