Acer Enduro Urban N3
Specialty computers are the hardest to evaluate. Designers often make trade-offs that probably make sense as individual choices, but when they all arrive in a device they don’t add up to a device that makes sense. The Acer Enduro Urban N3 is a good example of an interesting idea that works well enough but doesn’t offer a compelling value proposition except for a small number of users, and even those users would likely want more than they will get out of the device.
The Enduro Urban N3 centers around good components, but the subpar camera, basic HD display, odd water resistance rating, and lack of LTE/5G limits its abilities.
PC Evaluation Criteria Analysis
Read the Serious Insights Business Laptop Evaluation Criteria here.
Serious Insights built its laptop evaluation criteria to analyze features of laptops designed for work. Acer packed a good CPU inside a more durable than average case, with basic, components, but I would not classify the Urban N3 as a business laptop—it just has too many missing features, including a privacy switch on the camera. The low scores mostly reflect missing elements bringing down the score below average. For instance, the Enduro Urban N3 does not include any specialized collaboration features, nor does it offer security features beyond those found in Windows.
I get the idea beyond the Urban N3, but the execution doesn’t reflect the intent. A laptop built for carrying around from city park to campground should be lighter, ideally no more than 2.5-lbs. At over 4-lbs the Enduro is not just heavier than it should be, but thicker and wider as well.
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Acer Enduro Urban N3 Display Analysis
Acer Enduro Urban N3 Analysis Commentary
The 14-inch1080p IPS display, while slightly above average in brightness, can’t compare to laptops with roomier, more square aspect ratios which are starting to make Full-HD read as “budget.” The lack of touch and pen input also ticked down the score. The biggest issue was the huge bezels that just scream out for more screen. HDR support and a wide viewing angle makes it a good candidate for content consumption.
There is something to be said for a basic keyboard with a basic trackpad. That thing to say is: easy to master. Those coming from more sophisticated devices may find the lack of tactile feedback on the trackpad hard to get used to.
Acer included the Intel Core i7-1165G7 2.8 Ghz. Processor. The review unit includes 16GB of DDR4 RAM. Those specs place this laptop as above average for performance.
Beyond the Kensington security slot, the Urban N3 doesn’t offer enhanced digital security. What it does offer is solid durability and drop protection with The optional antimicrobial treatment may make sense for some. 4-corner protection. Tested to be meet Military Standard (MIL-STD 810H).
No special collaboration features.
Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1, along with a bevy of covered ports, including USB-C with Thunderbolt make for perhaps the most compelling set of features on the Urban N3. An “urban” design would benefit from LTE/5G as an option.
I have always liked the faux-military styling on laptops. The Enduro Urban N3 looks good and sturdy. Holding it feels secure. But this laptop is just bigger than it needs to be. The same design ported to a smaller footprint would be much more appealing.
The Enduro Urban N3s box reflects sustainable design, but the laptop does not appear to use either recycled or sustainable materials in its construction.
No Acer or 3rd-party software is included in the build. Since this is not marketed as an enterprise device, this category was not included in the analysis calculation.
What we like
The Acer Enduro Urban N3 offers good basic performance. Our review unit shipped with a solid Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, decent graphics in the Iris XeGraphics and a 1TB SSD for storage. A reported 13 hours of battery supports all-day use.
The plastic case with covered ports keep unused ports out of harms ways. Under those covers the N3 sports an USB-C Thunderbolt port, 3 USB-A ports, a full-sized, spring-loaded SD card slot, and HDMI. Plenty of connectivity in a world where most devices reduce the number of ports, limiting connectivity options without a hub.
The Urban N3 does not support touch or pen, but that back to basic elements make it one of the least confusing devices I’ve seen in a while. There is no guesswork about how the basic trackpad with two buttons work, or what they spacious keyboard’s function keys deliver.
This is a laptop with a COVID-influenced design, with some versions combining an ionic silver coating across chassis, keyboard, and touchpad with an antimicrobial Corning® Gorilla® Glass display.
I like the overall aesthetics of the Enduro Urban N3, but it needs several improvements to deliver on its design promise.
What could be improved
Good marketing requires audience alignment. It is not clear who the Acer Enduro Urban N3 was made for. “Urban” implies using in a city, which usually doesn’t imply ruggedized features, unless the target is bicycle delivery teams. Urban situations rarely put a laptop in the kind of dust or water jeopardy the N3 was design to combat. Its features suggest rural, not urban.
The device is very dust resistance, which it owes to the covered ports when stowed. It touts a water removal system including Aquafans, but it is only rated for splashes. While the N3 may stands-up to a good amount of water penetrating the keyboard to be whisked away its water rating only suggests its ability to handle minor splashes.
I am not sure why an antimicrobial coating on the Corning® Gorilla® Glass adds much value on a laptop with no reason to touch the display.
While the increased brightness increases the environment in which the laptop works, its 1080p display, especially post CES 2022, just seems so 2020. More rectangular displays offer more real-estate, a bigger canvas, which hybrid workers need with the increased demand for video conferencing and productivity with apps that look squeezed on smaller displays.
The display also appears less modern as it snuggles inside some very wide bezels. Those bezels could be there to increase the shock from drops, but they don’t make sense in a design marketed for creation and consumption on the road.
The power supply is an odd one for a modern laptop. A traditional power port and power supply, on a laptop that can be charged via USB-C. Unlike a gaming laptop where a large power supply may drive fast charging and performance. As the transition to USB-C-based power becomes standard, it seems odd, especially on a device with this many ports, to expand the board design with non-USB-C charging.
The Enduro Urban N3 wants to be something it isn’t. It will serve. It will perform well, but it won’t feel like that small urban companion you may imagine when looking at the marketing literature. But if you occasionally visit dusty areas with light spray of water, it may be a serviceable option when the alternative is a better laptop that will be challenged by the first dusty wind that blows its way.
Acer Enduro Urban N3: The Bottom Line
Acer’s intensions were good with the Enduro Urban N3, but the laptop proves too thick, too wide, too heavy, while its display is too small. Those facts don’t short the good performance and durability Acer designed in. I remain confused about who this device was designed for. If Acer keeps this product line moving forward they need to beef up the IP water rating, shrink the footprint and move to a larger display. The need to actually implement their design intent and create an “urban” laptop that truly feels urban.
I think there is a market for durable, sustainable, light performance, small footprint laptop and I encourage Acer to take a shrink ray to the Urban N3 and make a 13-inch version that steals all of its reductions from the screen bezel and the keyboard edges. Full-width keyboard. Full-width display. That’s an “outdoor urban design” that will make me look twice.
Acer provided the Enduro Urban N3 for review. Images courtesy of Acer.
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