The Acer Aspire V5 is a thinnish, run-of-the-mill 15-inch laptop, conservative in design, and modestly priced at $729 for this Intel Core i5 configuration. But, it includes a touch screen, and not as a special feature worthy of promotional point-of-sale stickers, but simply as a matter of course, because that's what (according to one reading of the tea leaves) you'll expect from all but the cheapest of budget laptops in the world of Windows 8.
I've seen this exact configuration for as little as $699; it includes a Core i5 CPU, 4GB RAM, a 500GB hard drive, a backlit keyboard, and an optical drive. Even more impressive, I've seen a configuration that trades down to a Core i3 CPU but keeps the rest of the specs, including the touch screen, for $529 as a Black Friday promotion at Best Buy.
If you're looking for an inexpensive entry point to the Windows 8 touch experience, that's going to be hard to beat; the V5 is decent-looking for a $700 laptop, but for $529, with its edge-to-edge glass and big, buttonless touch pad, it's a real looker.
That said, the plastic body looks best from a distance -- seams are too evident close up, and the thick lid and tiny keyboard keys won't help this pass for a high-end system. The 1,366x768-pixel screen resolution feels low for a 15-inch laptop, although that's still what you're most likely to find in this price range. My biggest complaint is the smallish four-cell battery, which only ran for about 3.5 hours in our tests -- it keeps the V5 from being a real road-worthy midsize laptop.
|Price as reviewed||$729|
|Processor||1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317M|
|Memory||4GB, 1600MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||500GB 5,400rpm|
|Operating System||Windows 8|
|Dimensions (WD)||15.0 x 9.9 inches|
|Height||0.9 - 1.0 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.6 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||5.4/6.0 pounds|
Design, features, and display
The Acer Aspire V5 is without a doubt a product of its times. Like so many other 2012 laptops, it's much thinner than older midprice 15-inch laptops. It's a clear dividend from the emphasis on superslim ultrabooks. The V5 isn't an official Intel ultrabook, but the diet most laptops have gone on leave it looking like something we'd be amazed by a couple of years ago.
Of course, nearly every other mainstream laptop is similarly thin now, from Dell's Inspiron z line to HP's sleekbooks, so yesterday's enviably thin is today's merely average.
The V5's matte-silver plastic body looks fine, especially from a few feet away. But, up close, it lacks any personality or detail. The body flexes a bit under the fingers, and the single black plastic screen hinge feels especially cheap. If you pick up the Black Friday $529 version of the V5 you'll still feel like you found a machine that looks more expensive than it is. For $700-plus, there are some better-looking laptops out there.
The wide interior panel is dominated by a keyboard that goes nearly edge to edge and includes a full number pad. It's surprising, then, that the individual letter keys are on the small side, and the number pad keys are even narrower, leading to plenty of room between the very widely spaced keys. The keys wiggle a bit under your fingers, but the keyboard tray itself has less of that bouncy flex feeling that I'd expect to find in a very low-cost laptop. The keyboard is also backlit, a feature we still rarely see in a budget laptop.
The touch pad is pleasingly large, and of the button-free clickpad variety often reserved for more expensive laptops. With plenty of space, multifinger gestures such as the two-finger scroll, have room to breathe, although the touch pad response is a bit jumpy compared with the best non-Mac examples. Fortunately, with a touch screen, you won't have to struggle with the awkward Windows 8 touch pad gestures as much. And, in fact, I found myself using the screen for a lot of basic navigation, much as I did on the Acer Aspire S7, another non-transforming touch-screen clamshell.
That 15.6-inch touch screen is both a system highlight and one of its disappointments. The screen is crisp and bright (for a budget laptop), and the edge-to-edge glass over the entire front face gives it an upscale look. The touch panel is very responsive -- I have yet to find a Windows 8 laptop or hybrid that has a sluggish touch screen. But, the 1,366x768-pixel native resolution feels dated and low-end in a 15-inch laptop. Some things, such as the Windows 8 main menu and some of Microsoft's native apps, scale well to that lower resolution, but Web surfing in particular felt off, with too-large text and limited screen real estate.
Audio is predictably thin-sounding, but the speakers at least get reasonably loud. For YouTube videos it'll work, but music begs for headphones.
|Acer Aspire V5||Average for category [midsize]|
|Video||HDMI (VGA via dongle)||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone jack||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||1 USB 3.0, 2 USB 2.0, SD card reader||2 USB 3.0, 2 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet (via dongle), 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
Connections, performance, and battery life
The Acer Aspire V5 has a decent selection of ports and connections for such a thin 15-inch laptop. But both space and budgetary considerations mean the VGA and Ethernet jacks are only available via an external dongle, and there's only one USB 3.0 port (but two USB 2.0 ones).
Acer offers about two dozen configurations of the V5, but that includes different screen sizes and models with and without separate number pads. This exact Core i5 configuration is $729, but I've seen it available for $699. The most interesting version is the Best Buy exclusive V5-571P-6648 SKU (this is the V5-571P-6499), which is on sale for $529 right now. It trades down to a Core i3 CPU, but otherwise largely mirrors our review unit, including the touch screen.