Acer V5-171 review:

Acer V5-171

Considering the size and price, this Acer offers an astonishing number of ports and connections: VGA, HDMI, Ethernet, one USB 3.0 port, two USB 2.0 ports, an SD card slot, and Bluetooth. It makes a mockery of any larger laptops that lack one or more of these features. There's no optical drive, of course.

The V5 product line comprises a variety of other 14- and 15-inch laptops, but the V5-171 is the only 11-inch ultraportable. The $550 price (lowered to $500 via a current promotion) is an excellent value for the components. Two years ago, the 11-inch Acer Timeline X cost $899 with a Core i7 processor; this Aspire V5 has a third-gen Intel Core i5-3317U CPU, 6GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive. The value of this new Acer can't be overestimated. Your only question, really, is whether you'd rather spend a few hundred more for a budget 13-inch ultrabook, just for comfort and screen-size considerations. Or, you could get a full-fledged laptop that, though larger and heavier, might not cost much more.

That 1.7GHz Intel Core i5 processor is the very same one seen in larger 13- and 14-inch ultrabooks. Performance, by our benchmarks, was equivalent. Recent larger laptops that had this CPU include the Toshiba Satellite U845, the Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A, and the 13-inch Samsung Series 9. The Acer Aspire V5-171-6867 ran a tiny bit slower on average, which may be in part because of the hard drive, which lacks an SSD cache. Still, this Acer Aspire smokes 11-inch ultraportables like the Sony Vaio SVE11113FXW, which has a far inferior AMD E2-1800 processor. The Aspire can handle multitasking and single-tasking with ease, and you could always plug in a monitor and keyboard and make this a full-fledged all-day computer.

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Integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics perform as expected, with Street Fighter IV running at 25.1 frames per second at 1,366x768 pixels. This Acer could play your average game with graphics settings adjusted downward, which is what Intel's newer integrated graphics are meant for.

Some performance qualities aren't so ideal: bootup time and waking up from sleep were more sluggish than on the average ultrabook. A cold boot took a laborious 50 seconds. This Acer also didn't automatically wake up from sleep when I opened the lid -- I had to hit a button first -- but it returned to action quickly after that. The side vent pumps out very warm air after Netflix streaming for a while, and areas of the keyboard got warm, too.

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)

Average watts (load test)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Now, let's talk battery life. This Acer only eked out 3 hours and 49 minutes of video playback, and that just isn't good. Most modern ultrabooks last at least 5 hours, and the 11-inch MacBook Air lasted 5 hours and 17 minutes. Even the older Acer Timeline X 1830T lasted over an hour longer. In an age of long-battery-life iPads, tablets, and Netbooks, settling for shorter battery life on the go just isn't necessary.

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Acer offers a standard one-year warranty with the Acer Aspire V5 171-6867. Acer's Web site has software and help documentation and is easy to use once you know your product's specific product configuration and serial number.

It's hard not to appreciate a tiny laptop with the guts of a full-fledged ultrabook for only $500. The Acer Aspire V5-171-6867 is a true value pick for an ultraportable, but cramped dimensions and a weak battery life prevent this otherwise fully loaded laptop from being a true killer product. If you want the most computer in the smallest chassis for the least amount of money, however, this is an excellent consideration. I just can't help but wonder about the future of ultraportable products like these in the face of a wave of Windows 8 tablets and hybrid devices to come, many of which might be preferable.

Find out more about how we test Windows laptops.

System configurations:

Acer Aspire V5-171-6867
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 128MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 500GB Hitachi 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

Sony Vaio E11113FXW
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz AMD E2-1800 APU; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 384MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 7340; 500GB Hitachi 5,400rpm

Apple MacBook Air 11.6-inch (Summer 2012)
OS X 10.7.4 Lion; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 384MB (Shared) Intel HD 4000; 64GB Apple SSD

Origin EON11-S
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 2.1GHz Intel Core i7-3612XM; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 650M + 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; HDD #1: 750GB Seagate 7,200rpm

What you'll pay

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