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Acer Spin 3 (2018) review: Acer’s 2-in-1 has a great screen but not much else

With so many solid $500 convertibles available, the Acer Spin 3 comes up short in battery life and performance.

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Justin Jaffe
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Justin Jaffe

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Justin Jaffe leads the CNET Money team. He is the coauthor of Uninvested (Random House, 2015), which explores how financial services companies take advantage of customers -- and how you can protect yourself. Justin has more than 20 years of experience publishing books, articles and research on technology and financial subjects for Wired, IDC and others.

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In 2018, a thousand bucks will get you an excellent laptop. Cut that budget in half and you'll need to make some compromises. And yet there are plenty of solid options in the $500 range -- including several from Acer -- that deliver a better overall value than the unexceptional Spin 3. Similar models are available in the UK and Australia for £750 or AU$1,000, although exact specs vary. 

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6.5

Acer Spin 3 (2018)

The Good

A solid set of components, including a 1TB hard drive. The decent complement of ports and connections. The crisp 14-inch display is a pleasure to use in laptop and tablet mode.

The Bad

Flimsy design. Subpar performance and battery life. Keyboard and touchpad aren’t great.

The Bottom Line

In the ultracompetitive market of midrange convertibles, the Acer Spin 3 fails to stand out.
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Sarah Tew/CNET

Like every model in Acer's series of Spin laptops, our $500 test unit has a 360-degree hinge that lets you tuck the keyboard behind the display, making the transformation from laptop to tablet. The Spin family comes in a wide (and confusing) array of size options and configurations that includes Chromebooks, Windows machines and even entry-level gaming models. Earlier this year, we reviewed the higher-end, all-metal 13.3-inch Acer Spin 5, which starts at $700 and found it to be a good value.

The less expensive Acer Spin 3 also looks good -- but feels cheap. From a distance, it appears to be made of the same textured, brushed aluminum as the Spin 5, but a closer inspection reveals a plastic design. It's just under 1 inch (21 mm) thick and weighs 3.75 pounds (1.7 kg) -- about average for a 14-inch laptop in this price range. The keyboard isn't great -- I found myself making more typos than usual -- and the touchpad felt particularly flimsy, responding consistently only when I clicked the lower-right corner.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The Acer Spin 3's 14-inch HD display is a highlight. It's not the brightest screen, but the 1,900x1,080-pixel resolution is crisp and the 16:9 aspect ratio is well-suited to watching videos and reading in portrait mode. And after working primarily on Macs for so many years, I am always impressed by the versatility of convertibles -- it's a joy to poke at the touchscreen in laptop and tablet mode. 

Still, this machine's performance leaves a lot to be desired. On paper, things looks promising for this $500 configuration: You get a dual-core Intel Core i3-8130U CPU, 4GB of RAM and a massive 1TB hard drive. In our benchmarks, the Spin 3 delivered a decent performance, but in my own everyday experience, it lagged something awful -- even just when navigating around Windows. Menus opened begrudgingly, and I often had to click the touchpad multiple times to make a selection. And applications, documents and web pages... loaded… painfully… slowly. 

Acer Spin 3 (SP314-51-38XK)

Price as reviewed $500
Display size/resolution 14-inch 1,920x1,080-pixel touchscreen
CPU Dual core 2.2GHz Intel Core i3-8130U
Memory 4GB DDR4 SDRAM 
Graphics Intel UHD Graphics 620
Storage 1TB HDD
Webcam Built-in 720p HD camera and mic
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.1
Operating system Windows 10

The Spin 3's hardware woes are exacerbated by a glut of gratuitous preloaded adware and bloatware from eBates, Booking.com, Bubble Witch 3 Saga and more. Though sponsored adware may help keep hardware prices down, most PC makers moved on from it years ago, and it's disappointing to see it pop up again. 

Battery life is not the Spin 3's strong suit, either. Acer says it's rated for up to 12 hours, but our test unit didn't even make it to 8 hours in our drain test -- not terrible, but not great. One silver lining: the Spin 3 comes with a truly compact power adapter that weighs only 5.5 ounces.

Acer offers a slightly higher-end configuration for $700, which includes an Intel Core i5 processor, twice the RAM and a smaller but faster SSD drive. But at that price, there are far better options including the Dell XPS 13, Lenovo Yoga 720 and Microsoft Surface Pro. If you're set on an Acer, note that the company also makes a $500 nonconvertible version of this machine, the Swift 3, which is more solidly built and includes a fingerprint scanner and USB-C port.

Geekbench 4 (multicore)

Acer Spin 3 8,163Lenovo Flex 11 3,296Asus NovaGo TP370QL 2,762
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Cinebench R15 CPU (multicore)

Acer Spin 3 306Lenovo Flex 11 124
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Video playback battery-drain test (streaming)

Asus NovaGo TP370QL 792Lenovo Flex 11 525Acer Spin 3 473
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)

System configurations

Lenovo Flex 11 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.1GHz Intel Celeron N4000; 2GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel UHD Graphics 600; 64GB eMMC
Asus NovaGo TP370QL Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.6GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Mobile processor; 8GB 1,866MHz LPDDR4x onboard; Adreno 540 Graphics; 128GB SSD
Acer Spin 3 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i3-8130U; 4GB DDR SDRAM 2,400MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel UHD Graphics; 1TB HDD

This review was originally published on Nov. 14.
Correction, Nov. 16: Updated to reflect that the Acer Spin 3 is rated for up to 12 hours of battery life, not 16 as originally stated.

25-acer-spin-3
6.5

Acer Spin 3 (2018)

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 7Performance 6Battery 6