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.
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.
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.
|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|
|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.
|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.