Why hello, 2014. Computer shoppers, I have some bad news: some of the products you see out there will feel like they came from 2011. Maybe that's because some of the biggest changes in electronics are happening in phones and things that go in your pocket. Alas, poor budget Windows laptop: you're stuck in time.
The Acer Aspire E1-472G is a laptop I'm sure I've seen before somewhere. The deja vu occurred the moment I first snapped open its plastic lid. This the big-boned budget laptop, packed with capable but generic specs, ready to serve you decently, but not impressively. It's harder to accept than ever. The one new addition? The latest entry-level Nvidia GeForce 820M graphics, which are better than you'd otherwise get. It's a shame they're stuck in a laptop that feels so low-rent in design and comfort.
But, here's the good news: it's a fair deal for what you get, and with a little extra boost from new entry-level Nvidia graphics that debuted very recently, there's a whiff of something fresh. But these graphics aren't really good enough for serious gamers -- so don't get too excited. You're also paying $100 extra for those graphics, plus RAM. Do you need them?
|Acer Aspire E1-472G-6844||Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 14||Samsung ATIV Book 9 Lite|
|Display size/resolution||14-inch, 1,366x768 screen||14-inch, 1,366x768 touch screen||13.3-inch, 1,366x768 touch screen|
|PC CPU||1.6GHz Intel Core i5 4200U||1.6GHz Intel Core i5 4200U||1GHz AMD A4 Quad-Core|
|PC Memory||8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz||8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz||4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz|
|Graphics||2048MB Nvidia Geforce 820M||1792MB Intel Graphics 4400||512MB AMD Radeon HD 8250|
|Storage||500GB 5,400rpm hard drive||128GB SSD hard drive||128GB SSD hard drive|
|Networking||802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0||802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0||802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0|
|Operating system||Windows 8.1 (64-bit)||Windows 8 (64-bit)||Windows 8 (64-bit)|
Design: Functional, generic
Black plastic underneath and a white, glossy lid and keyboard deck design with silver stippled dots give this laptop a generic feel. It's the type of plastic that feels entry-level. This Acer E1's not unattractive, but it's yet another variant on what we've seen before. It's basically the same as the E1 series from last fall (we reviewed a 15-inch version back then).
Windows 8 attempted to transform PCs, but the host is partially rejecting the graft. Lots of "old-fashioned" PCs are still out there, and this Aspire is a classic example. There's no touchscreen. There's no click pad. The chassis feels like any other generic laptop. You make your way around using this Aspire the old-fashioned way, with keyboard and trackpad.
The keyboard, which is plenty wide, feels cheaper than other laptops. So does the matte plastic trackpad, which doesn't have click-- you'll have to use the click bar beneath instead. Off-edge finger gestures to bring up the Charm Bar, for instance, don't work smoothly.
The display, with its lower resolution and worse-than-average picture quality and viewing angles, just isn't good. You get what you pay for, but actually, at $599, I'd expect a little more.
Speakers that fire out of grilles in the bottom are loud enough, fine for everyday use. A door on the laptop's bottom lets you swap your own battery, but this 14-inch Acer doesn't have an easy-open door for hard drive/RAM swapping like the 15-inch E1 did.
Performance: Boosted graphics, extra RAM
In terms of raw under-the-hood specs, you get a fair amount of PC here: 8GB of RAM, a decent ultrabook-level Intel Core i5 processor, and 500GB hard drive. An extra Nvidia GeForce 820M graphics processor with 2GB of VRAM is this particular Acer config's main calling-card feature, since it's part of Nvidia's new graphics line.
The Haswell Intel Core i5-4200U processor matches what we saw last year on the Acer Aspire E1 572-6870, and is the type of ultrabook-level CPU that's cropped up on a lot of laptops, including some priced much higher. It performs well, and is a no-compromise solution for a PC shopper looking for a solid no-frills upgrade on a years-old machine. It's a great CPU for a budget starter laptop, and it's definitely better than some budget processors we've seen horned into other laptops at this level.
Now, about those Nvidia graphics: how good are they, and are they worth getting this Acer for? You can choose an Acer Aspire E1 with otherwise identical specs, half the RAM, and no Nvidia graphics (just Intel integrated) for $499. That extra $100 buys 4GB of extra RAM and boosted graphics...again, not a bad deal.
We were able to run BioShock Infinite with UltraDX11 at 16.5 frames per second and at Medium settings at 28.9 fps, on an admittedly low-res display. That's still good enough that you could consider this an adequate way to play mainstream games, if you really hold back your expectations. BioShock Infinite played fine, with some screen tearing, while older games like Left 4 Dead 2 played very smoothly. We ran this Acer with Nvidia graphics turned off, and the built-in Intel integrated graphics performed at about half the frame rate. So, yes, these particular Nvidia graphics seem worth it...just don't expect the type of gaming boost you'd get from Nvidia's higher-end GPUs.