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There are two types of laptops I've come to expect from Acer: Standout premium models like the crazy Swift 7 ultraportable and Predator Triton 900, and mainstream laptops that are impossibly good deals -- like last year's Predator Helios 300 and this year's Acer Aspire 5. For more than a year, Acer's Aspire E 15 was my go-to pick for anyone who just needed a quick, reliable laptop for general use around the home. Sadly, that model is getting harder to find, but the Aspire 5 is an excellent alternative that's thinner, lighter and still an impossibly good deal.
Starting at $400 with an Intel processor or $350 with an AMD chip, the 15.6-inch Aspire 5 is only 3.8 pounds (1.7 kg) and 0.7 inch thick (18 mm). That combination of size, weight and price, isn't easy to find with a 15.6-inch display. By comparison, the Acer E 15 had the same screen size, but was more than 5 pounds (2.4 kg) and just over an inch thick (30 mm). It also started at roughly the same price and was similarly configured. You do lose things like an SD card reader, a VGA display output and a DVD drive, but chances are it's only the card reader that matters to more people at this point, if anything.
The $530 configuration I tested, the A515-54-51DJ, bumps that base model's processor from a dual-core Intel Core i3 to a quad-core i5, and doubles the memory to 8GB and storage to 256GB -- well worth the extra money. And, if you're able to spend about $100 more, you can get it with a new 10th-gen Core i5, entry-level Nvidia MX250 discrete graphics and a 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD. That's a lot of performance for everything from day-to-day basics to simple photo and video editing to gaming on low to medium settings.
|Price as reviewed||$530|
|Display size/resolution||15.6-inch 1,920 x 1,080 display|
|CPU||1.6GHz Intel Core i5-8265U|
|PC Memory||8GB DDR4 2667MHz|
|Graphics||128MB Intel UHD Graphics 620|
|Networking||802.11ac Wi-Fi wireless; Bluetooth 5.0|
|Operating system||Windows 10 Home (64-bit)|
Like any budget-friendly laptop worth its salt, Acer puts most of your money toward good internal components and not into things like an all-metal chassis or an ultrabright high-res touchscreen. For example, my Aspire 5 had a similar configuration to Lenovo's premium Yoga C930 two-in-one. Performance is about the same between the two but the Yoga is twice the price. What's more, you can pop the Aspire's bottom off and add more memory or increase storage on your own, something fewer and fewer premium models will let you do.
The Acer is mostly plastic, though it's capped with a thin sheet of aluminum to class it up a bit. Unfortunately mine ended up with a slight dent at the top of the display, which also made it a little too easy to peel the bezel off from around the screen (it snaps right back into place). That's not likely to happen on a pricier model, but hey, it does make the Aspire more serviceable at least. My point is, the build quality is fine for what you're paying, but don't expect the durability of a premium laptop.
Around the sides you'll find several ports that are disappearing and being replaced with USB-C ports on other models. While there is one USB-C, it isn't Thunderbolt 3, but a USB 3.1 Gen 1 port. You'll also find:
With this setup, you could easily load it up with a full-size keyboard and mouse, an external display and other essentials to use this as a desktop replacement. That's not to say the keyboard, touchpad and display need to be replaced -- they're fine, all things considered -- just that it can handle life on a desk as well as unplugged around the house. It has battery life to back it up, too, hitting 8 hours, 38 minutes on our streaming video test.
The full-HD IPS display has pleasing color and brightness, it looks fine off-angle and the matte finish helps tame distracting reflections. The backlit keyboard feels a little soft, but the keys have a decent pop to them and enough travel so you don't feel like you're typing on a tabletop (or a MacBook). The Windows Precision touchpad works well, too, and you even get a fingerprint reader built into it. Still, you might want to adjust the touchpad sensitivity to prevent your palm from accidentally moving the cursor.
The Acer Aspire 5 is a 15.6-inch thin-and-light that definitely delivers more performance for your money than you might expect. Though it starts low, the $530 configuration I tested is a comfortable middle ground that's full-featured enough for typical work, home and school tasks. But even if you decide to go all out on upgrades, this model doesn't break the $900 mark and you'll get a workhorse laptop that won't win any beauty contests, but should last you well into the future.
|Acer Aspire 5||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-8265U; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,667MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel UHD Graphics 620; 256GB SSD|
|LG gram 14||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8565U; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 620; 512GB SSD|
|Samsung Notebook 9 Pro||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8565U; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 620; 256GB SSD|
|Lenovo Yoga C930||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8550U; 12GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 620; 256GB SSD|
|Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2018)||Apple MacOS Mojave 10.14; 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-8210Y; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 1,536MB Intel UHD Graphics 617; 256GB SSD|