The Acer Aspire E1-572-6870 puts a fourth-gen Intel Core i5 processor -- a 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-4200U, to be exact -- and Intel HD Graphics 4400 into a sub-$500 15.6-inch laptop.
The CPU and integrated graphics combo has shown up in more than a few expensive ultrabooks we've tested, and has turned in very good performance and excellent battery life. This E1 is the least expensive laptop we've seen to feature them, though, which is what makes it a bit more attractive to those who have an aversion to older components.
The fact is, to use the newer processor, other corners have to be cut to keep the price low. In this case it seems the processor is surrounded by less power-efficient components and in a chassis that feels like a budget laptop.
On the upside, it doesn't necessarily look like a budget laptop. With just a simple silver Acer logo on top, the plain all-black body blends right in at the coffee shop, lecture hall, or conference room. It is all plastic, though, and there's noticeable flex on the lid and keyboard deck, so it's nothing you can be too rough with.
The plastic does keep it lightweight, though: it weighs just 4.5 pounds, and traveling with its power adapter brings that up to 5 pounds. Considering its size -- it measures 1 inch high by 15 inches wide by 10.1 inches deep -- that's very reasonable, and the rounded corners and edges make it easy to slide in and out of a bag.
If you're not planning to hook up to an external display at all, the 15.6-inch LCD gives you a fair amount of room to work and play. Its 1,366x768-pixel resolution is typical for its class, but it's not the brightest display. Coupled with its glossy face, you might have trouble seeing things in bright direct lighting. (Don't do that and you should be fine.)
Viewing off to sides is better than most; there's some color loss, but it really only inverts when viewed from below, so just make sure it's appropriately angled up. Also, it's not a touch screen, which isn't a surprise at this price, but makes using Windows 8 a little less enjoyable.
|Acer Aspire E1-572-6870||Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 14||Samsung Ativ Book 9 Lite|
|Display size/resolution||15.6-inch, 1,366x768||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||4,096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz||9,192B DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz||4,096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz|
|Graphics||32MB Intel Graphics 4400||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 (64-bit)||Windows 8 (64-bit)||Windows 8 (64-bit)|
Without a touch screen, you can instead use the touch pad for swiping in from the sides to do things like switch between open windows or popping out the Charms bar. There are, of course, other ways to do these things, but it's nice that the touch pad support is there if you want it. The touch pad is responsive, and your fingers easily glide across its surface. There's support for multitouch gestures for scrolling or pinch zooming in and out.
Instead of a large click pad, the E1 has a bar along the bottom of the touch pad for left and right clicks. The thing is, it seems like the design originally had separate buttons because there's a dead spot in the middle of the bar. This means if you press down toward the middle of the bar instead of out toward the edges, nothing happens. Not the end of the world, but frustrating nonetheless.
The keyboard, on the other hand, is a pleasure to type on. After using many island-style keyboards with almost no key travel, the fact that you can actually feel this Aspire's keys move is really nice. The keys are just large enough and still have good spacing, and there's a number pad as well.
It's not backlit, so if that's a must-have for you, you'll need to spend more money. Also, because of the touch pad's size and positioning, there's not a lot of room to rest your left palm. You'll probably want to crank up the palm-check setting on the touch pad, too, otherwise the cursor might be a bit too jumpy for those who drag their palms.
The laptop's stereo speakers are on the bottom of the laptop and fire downward. The feet on the bottom of the chassis keep them from being blocked entirely, but it's still not the best place to position them. It doesn't help that they don't get all that loud, either. They do sound good, though, so that's something.
It's worth noting that unlike many thinner and lighter laptops that have sealed bodies, the E1 can be easily opened up. That gives you access to the 5400rpm 500GB hard drive and 4GB of memory. Should you want to boost performance by replacing the hard drive with a solid-state drive or bump up the amount of RAM to 8GB (there's one open slot), you can do it with little difficulty.
Likewise, you can quickly pop off the battery pack at the back and replace it when you need to -- no service call necessary.
|Video||HDMI and VGA|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jack|
|Data||2 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
What's a little trickier is putting in an optical drive. There is a spacer for one on this model and, if you don't look carefully enough, you might think it has one. It doesn't. Another configuration does include a DVD burner, so if having a built-in optical drive is a necessity, it's an option.