Acer Aspire M5 481PT review: The safe Windows 8 laptop bet

Sarah Tew/CNET

A third-gen 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U processor has plenty of punch, loading Windows 8 applications and other software without a hitch. The laptop felt fast and functional during my time with it. The 500GB hard drive has a 20GB solid-state drive (SSD) cache for some added zippiness in frequently used applications and files, too, and the 6GB of included RAM is a little more than the 4GB baseline average in your typical budget laptop. In our benchmark tests, this M5 was neck and neck with the similarly equipped Acer V5.

Sadly, this $729 configuration does not include Nvidia graphics, which the last M5 I reviewed pre-Windows 8 did have. Having Nvidia graphics for added gaming power would complete the package perfectly, but truth be told, no one except for gamers would really miss having it. Acer currently sells another Acer M5, the 581T, with a larger 15-inch display for $699, but it also lacks Nvidia graphics, and it doesn't have a touch screen.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Battery life and warranty
It's nice to see the Acer M5's battery do so well: we squeezed 6 hours and 2 minutes out of the three-cell battery during our video playback battery drain test. That exceeded the 15-inch Acer V5's time by nearly 2 hours. Few laptops in this category do better, and you should be able to get a good solid day out of the M5 by managing screen brightness and other power settings.

Acer includes a standard one-year warranty with the Acer M5 481PT. Acer's Web site does a decent job of making FAQs and documentation easy to find, and offers e-mail, chat, and phone support options, although you'll have to enter your serial number to get the phone number (it's 866-695-2237).

Sarah Tew/CNET

Conclusion
This slight tweaking of the previous Acer M5 offers up a touch screen and good, solid battery life, plus a DVD drive, in a compact and reasonably attractive form for a good price. It's not eye-popping in any single way, but the sum total feels like a safe way to invest in Windows 8 for those apprehensive about convertibles and crazy detachable tablets. It's a regular laptop, and a thin one at that, with the option of touch navigation. Other competitors are out there in force with similar products, but this is a solid representative of the type and a worthy one to consider, especially if you care about having DVD access.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Load test (average watts)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Sony Vaio T13
25.4 
Acer Aspire M5-481PT
26.56 

Find out more about how we test Windows laptops.

System configurations:

Acer Aspire M5-481PT
Windows 8 (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 128MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 500GB Hitachi 5400rpm + 20GB SSD Hybrid

HP Envy 4-1102
Windows 8 Pro (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Shared) Intel HD 4000; 500GB Hitachi 5,400rpm

Dell Inspiron 13z - 5323
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 500GB Western Digital 5,400rpm

Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 128GB Adata XM11 SSD

Toshiba Portege Z935-P300
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 128GB Toshiba SSD

Sony Vaio T13
Windows 8 (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 32MB (Shared) Intel HD 4000; 500GB Hitachi 5,400rpm

What you'll pay

Pricing is currently unavailable.

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Where to Buy

Acer Aspire M5-481PT-6488

Part Number: M5-481PT-6488

MSRP: $799.99

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Weight 4.63 lbs
  • Installed Size 6 GB
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