Acer Aspire 5 review

Did Acer cut too many corners while trying to keep the price down?

If you're in the market for affordable portable computing, Acer's products can usually be found near the top of the list. With the Aspire 5, it looks like Acer is attempting to include dedicated graphics with a big screen and full keyboard. Those of you who need something to help with productivity can no doubt take advantage of these features, but there are some things you should know before committing. Let's take a close look at the Acer Aspire 5 to ensure you get what you're looking for.

About this review

Acer supplied Windows Central with a review unit of the Acer Aspire 5 (model A515-51G-52R1). It has a seventh-generation Intel Core i5-7200U processor (CPU), 8GB of DDR4 RAM, a 256GB solid-state drive (SSD), and a dedicated NVIDIA GeForce MX150 graphics card (GPU). This exact configuration costs about $600 at Acer.

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As reviewed

Acer Aspire 5 hardware and specs

Acer Aspire 5 review

Category XX
Processor Dual-core
Intel Core i5-7200U (up to 3.10GHz)
Storage 256GB Hynix SATA SSD
RAM 8GB DDR4-1064MHz
Display 15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080)
IPS, matte, non-touch
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce MX150 (2GB GDDR5 VRAM)
Intel HD Graphics 620
Ports Two USB-A 2.0
USB-A 3.1
USB-C 3.1
HDMI
RJ45 Ethernet
3.5mm jack
SD card reader
Speakers Dual stereo speakers
Acer TrueHarmony Sound
Wireless Intel dual-band wireless AC 3168
802.11ac
Bluetooth 4.0
Camera Front-facing 720p
Touchpad Precision
Battery Four-cell 48WHr
Weight 4.85 pounds (2.2kg)
Dimensions 15.02 inches x 10.35 inches x 0.85 inches
381.5mm x 262.89mm x 21.59mm

Primarily plastic

Acer Aspire 5 design

Acer Aspire 5 review

The Acer Aspire 5 is relatively thin for a budget 15-inch laptop, coming in at just 0.85 inches (21.59mm) thick. It does, however, weigh in at nearly five pounds, but the weight is distributed evenly, and it mostly goes unnoticed. The chassis is primarily made of plastic, but there is an aluminum plate on the inside — which the keyboard and touchpad are set into — that is finished with a brushed look. The edges, including those around the touchpad, have a silver accent that offsets the otherwise black color nicely.

The hinge, which is also silver, takes up most of the middle of the intersection and is sufficiently sturdy. Working with this laptop in a car, bumping around, you shouldn't see the lid move at all. You can almost open the lid with one hand, but not quite. The top of the lid has a cover complete with grooves, creating a serrated look. It looks nice, but it's difficult to clean; if you hate the look of fingerprints on your PC, you might go nuts here. The lid bends back just past 180 degrees, but that's it; this isn't a convertible.

Acer Aspire 5 review

The bezel around the display is quite large and is also made of plastic. This allows for quite a bit of flex in the lid and opening it from one corner, or the other does seem like you're taking a bit of a risk. Above the display is a 720p webcam that works well enough for video conferencing, but don't expect to use it with Windows Hello. Likewise, there is no fingerprint reader here.

The Aspire 5 has a great selection of ports. On the left are Ethernet, Thunderbolt 3, HDMI, USB-A 3.1, and an SD card reader; on the right are two USB-A 2.0, a 3.5mm jack, and the charging port. This is a good selection for new and legacy devices, but the only problem is that the ports are quite cramped, especially on the left side. Depending on the peripherals you have plugged in, using all ports simultaneously could be a problem.

The bottom of the laptop has a speaker on each front corner; testing with music, I was surprised at the sound quality. The speakers aren't exceptionally loud, but even maxed out the sound is clear and full. Also on the bottom of the laptop are two easy-access compartments for RAM and hard-disk drive (HDD) if you'd like to upgrade down the road.

Weak point

Acer Aspire 5 display

Acer Aspire 5 review

The 15.6-inch non-touch display uses an IPS panel that offers great viewing angles and has a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080. Unfortunately, color is noticeably washed out, and the overall picture seems a bit hazy. Testing color accuracy, we see 60 percent sRGB and 44 percent AdobeRGB, which are both quite low. It is sufficiently bright, and if you work in a well-lit room or often outdoors, you shouldn't have a problem seeing the screen; the matte finish also helps reduce most glare.

The size of the display does offer enough real estate for side-by-side multitasking, which is about the best it has going for it. The display is the weakest part of this laptop, but keep the price in mind. You can't expect a premium screen when the entire package costs only about $600.

Large but lacking

Acer Aspire 5 keyboard and touchpad

Acer Aspire 5 review

The Acer Aspire 5 is meant for productivity, and we have here a full keyboard complete with number pad. The chiclet keys are a bit smaller than I'm used to, no doubt to fit everything in with ample spacing, and it took me about a day to get used to the sizing. Unfortunately, the keyboard isn't exactly comfortable, with what seems like not enough key travel and a rigid feeling when bottoming keys out on the deck.

Keys have a certain loose feeling to them, especially those situated around the edges, but I did appreciate the slight pebbling that helps with grip. If you often work after hours, you'll have to get used to seeing the keyboard by the screen's light, as the keyboard has no backlight. The Fn shortcuts, printed in blue, don't help with visibility.

Acer Aspire 5 review

The Aspire 5 has a decent touchpad that I really didn't mind using. It uses Precision drivers for access to all Windows 10 gestures, and sensitivity required no tweaking out of the box. The touchpad is offset compared to the chassis as a whole, sitting directly beneath the spacebar; it's also a decent size, definitely in proportion to the rest of the laptop.

Those of you who notice the sound a touchpad makes will probably want to plug in an external mouse; there's a rattle just about every time you press, which becomes annoying when working on a project that requires a lot of pointing and clicking.

All-around satisfying

Acer Aspire 5 performance

To add to the performance of the Aspire 5, Acer has included an NVIDIA GeForce MX150 GPU, which is the successor to the GeForce 940MX and can be compared to the NVIDIA GT 1030 desktop GPU. This addition doesn't turn the Aspire 5 into a badass gaming machine, but it can definitely hold its own with many modern games. Playing Civilization VI was no problem, but you'll want something with more power if you're looking to run something like Battlefield 1 on ultra settings. If you're looking for a machine to edit photos and video, the display will definitely be the problem here.

The 48WHr battery has impressive life, getting about eight hours of regular usage on a single charge. That number drops when gaming; cut the regular usage time in half for a safe estimate. As far as heat, the laptop stays quite cool when under load. There's plenty of room on the bottom and back for venting, and a large fan, which runs quietly, does its job well.

TL;DR

Acer Aspire 5 review: Conclusion

Acer Aspire 5 review

One annoyance that we often see in budget laptops is the inclusion of bloatware, which helps manufacturers keep prices down. Here, upon first booting up, you're greeted with shopping and game apps, as well as Norton Antivirus, which promptly informed me that the apps I use on an everyday basis were harmful and couldn't be installed. Bloatware can be removed, but it mars the overall experience from the start.

Despite the initial bloatware annoyance, the Aspire 5 turned out to be a solid performer with a dedicated GPU that sits within the budget range. It is certainly a contender when it comes to productivity, but you might have difficulty getting past the poor display and sub-par keyboard. Still, the chassis is thinner than a lot of other laptops in this class, and there's a good selection of ports for legacy and modern devices.

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Pros

  • Affordable price.
  • GeForce MX150 is a nice addition.
  • Relatively thin.
  • Good at multitasking.

Cons:

  • Display is washed out.
  • Keyboard isn't great.
  • Touchpad rattles.
  • Plastic chassis feels a bit weak in spots.

Good

3.5/5