Need a slightly pricier Chromebook alternative? Why not Acer’s TravelMate B115?

Netbooks are dead, of course, and thank goodness. No one wants to revive that unfortunate product category. Still, with $150 Chromebooks on the horizon, there’s clearly a need for small, lightweight, affordable netbook-like products that run Windows.

Call ’em new-age netbooks.

And companies like Asus and HP aren’t the only PC manufacturers exploring ways to give Microsoft an edge in the low-cost laptop war. Much like the Asus Eee Book X205, Acer’s TravelMate B115 is one answer to Google-powered Chromeooks. Acer calls the inexpensive little Windows 8.1 notebook “a great match for students” and unpretentious travel enthusiasts.

At well under an inch in thickness and under 3 pounds, the TravelMate B115 easily ticks the first two boxes: small and lightweight. The display isn’t uncomfortably tiny though, offering 1,366 × 768 pixel resolution in 11.6 inches of real estate.

The quality of the screen is far from ideal, but on the bright side, you can manipulate the thing through touch interaction to get the most out of the pre-installed Windows 8.1 software.

Since we’re looking at a machine designed to keep up with one’s travel needs, it’s not surprising that Acer sacrificed power in favor of energy-saving ability. The Intel Celeron N2940 Bay Trail processor under the hood is hardly a beast, but it helps the mini-laptop last an estimated 10 hours on a single charge.

A generous 4 gigs of RAM are offered as standard to handle multitasking, but you can always double that to 8GB. Meanwhile, the absence of solid-state storage is unlikely to put a lot of smiles on the faces of power users. But tech hoarders are in luck, getting plenty of space via a 500GB HDD.

The port selection is unusually rich for a Chromebook rival, including everything from HDMI to Bluetooth 4.0, USB 3.0, and two USB 2.0 connectors. That’s probably one of the reasons the TravelMate B115 can’t quite compete against Chrome OS 11 inchers in affordability, as it’s priced at $379 in the US and $439 CAD up north.

That’s for 4 GB of RAM and 500 GB internal storage, all of which are superior to features accommodated by Chromebooks in the $200 to $250 price range. Still, it’d be nice to see Acer slash the B115’s retail costs to, say, $300 this Black Friday. Forget nice, it’d be fair to charge no more than $300.

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