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Acer Announces Trio Of Chromebook 13 Models Running Nvidia’s Tegra K1 SoC

There’s a flood of chromebooks coming soon, and Acer is quick out of the gate with its Acer Chromebook 13, which will be available in a trio of SKUs. Most notable about these new laptops, however, is the beast within: the Nvidia Tegra K1 SoC.

All three models sport the Tegra K1 chip as well as 13.3-inch displays, although one model offers a resolution of 1366x768 while the other two boast full HD panels.

$279.99 will get you the lower-resolution CB5-311-T7NN model with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of SSD storage, and Acer says this SKU can manage an impressive 13 hours of battery life. The CB5-311-T9B0 ($299) also has 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, while the CB5-311-T1UU ($379.99) doubles up with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. The two higher-res Chromebook 13 models promise 11 hours of battery life.

The Acer Chromebook 13 models are fanless and measure 0.71 inches thick and weigh 3.31 pounds. Additional features include 802.11ac WiFi with a 2x2 MIMO antenna, two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, built-in speakers and mic, and 720p HD webcam.

A fourth version, with a 1366x768 display, 4GB of RAM, and 16GB of storage will be marketed to educational institutions and commercial buyers at a cost of $329.99.

Contrary to a rumor that was floating around last week, there is no touchscreen Chromebook 13 model -- although considering Acer’s product lineup, it’s not unreasonable to assume that one may be coming at some point in the future.

Chromebook makers seem to be paying more attention to the inexpensive machines as sales are trending upward, and largely because there doesn’t appear to be much wiggle room on internal chromebook specs, companies are having to find ways to differentiate themselves in an increasingly crowded market.

A key way to do so is with the processor; Intel has been successful getting its chips into plenty of models--and we’ll be seeing Bay Trail-M processors in some new chromebooks, including the already-released ASUS C200 and C300 models--but Nvidia is now pushing in as well.

We’ll spare you the rehash, but you can get intimately acquainted with the Tegra K1, comprised of the 4-Plus-1 quad-core ARM 15 CPU and Nvidia Kepler-based GPU, here. Suffice it to say that it will be interesting to compare Intel-based chromebooks with models running Nvidia’s chip.

Nvidia is feeling confident, according to this chart it distributed

In any case, Acer’s new spate of chromebooks is thus intriguing, but theres suddenly competition on price from Windows-based notebooks -- even from within Acer. The company’s $249.99 Acer Aspire (E21-511-C59V) beats out the least expensive Chromebook 13 on price, for example, and there are more like it coming from multiple PC makers soon.

However, for its part Acer told us it’s unconcerned that lower-priced Windows notebooks could disrupt its chromebook business, which the company says comprises some 46.7 percent of the total chromebook market. Acer’s reasoning, though, offers some telling insight into how it and possibly other companies view chromebooks in general -- as merely complementary devices, an addendum to the full Windows PC experience. (Which is a stance we would not necessarily argue with.)

Even so, one has to wonder that when average consumers are wandering the aisles of a Best Buy or cruising Amazon looking for an inexpensive computer, will they stick with what they know and buy a cheap Windows notebook or take the plunge on a more expensive chromebook? The latter may become a tough sell.

Follow Seth Colaner @SethColaner. Follow us @tomshardware, on Facebook and on Google+.