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Acer Aspire 5 (2018) review: An affordable mid-range laptop with some key flaws

The Acer Aspire 5 sits in Acer’s ‘everyday computing’ range and it’s the epitome of the no-nonsense laptop. It’s a little on the chunky side, not especially attractive to look at and, yet, it delivers the goods when it comes to performance and usability. For anyone looking for a no-thrills Windows 10 machine, could the Acer Aspire 5 be the perfect mid-priced laptop?

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Acer Aspire 5 review: Price and competition

The range starts at around £450, which gets you a HD (1366 x 768) screen, an Intel Core i3-6006U processor, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB HDD. This latest model houses an Intel Core i5-8250U processor, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD and costs £550. Throw more cash at it and, for £700 you can have an Aspire have an Intel Core i7-8550U.

There are even more configurations, including a 17.3in model and one with a dedicated Nvidia GeForce MX150 GPU. These models can be found on Acer’s website.

As for competitors, you should consider the £600 Asus Vivobook S510UA-BR686T, which has a 15.6in screen, an Intel Core i5-8250U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD and the £630 Dell Vostro 14, although you can’t get that with the latest generation Intel processors yet. Unlike the Acer Aspire 5, neither of these offer the option of specifying a Full HD display.

Acer Aspire 5 review: Design

The Acer Aspire is certainly a good value machine but the payback for the low price is that the design isn’t particularly luxurious. The laptop has an all-plastic, all-black chassis, textured on the lid and with brushed aluminium surrounding the keyboard.

At 2.1kg and 22mm thick it’s rather bulky and the overall build quality is underwhelming, too: the plastic panel around the keyboard has a little bounce when you type on it and the screen suffers from an alarming degree of flex.

As for ports, there are two USB 2.0 Type-A ports on the right-hand side and these sit alongside a 3.5mm headphone jack and a proprietary charging port. On the left-hand side you’ll find USB 3.0 Type-A and USB 3.1 Type-C ports, a nice inclusion at this price. Impressively, there’s also an SD card reader, an HDMI output and an Ethernet port.

Flip the laptop over and you’ll see a removable panel, which gives you access to a slot for RAM and storage upgrades via a 2.5in drive bay. There’s no fingerprint reader but, at this price, that’s to be expected.

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Acer Aspire 5 review: Keyboard & Trackpad

The Aspire 5 is a pretty large laptop, which means there’s plenty of space on the chassis. Acer has taken advantage by squeezing in a sizeable touchpad and a number pad to the right of the keyboard.

As with all such designs, this results in a slightly off-centre typing position but Acer has at compensated for this by positioning the touchpad off-centre, too, so you’re not always brushing it with your palm accidentally.

That keyboard is pretty nice to type on as well. Its short-travel keys are well spaced and comfortable to type on and I didn’t have any problems with the touchpad either. Palm rejection worked flawlessly and the buttons didn’t feel mushy, either.

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Acer Aspire 5 review: Display

The Aspire 5’s 15.6in Full HD display is both sizeable and practical and, as highlighted above, it gives the Acer an advantage over its competitors when it comes to resolution and, therefore, sharpness. It has a matte finish, too, which keeps distracting reflections at bay.

Technically, though, it isn’t particularly impressive. Using our X-Rite i1Display Pro calibrator to test performance it reached a maximum brightness of 231cd/m2, which is poor and means you’ll struggle to read the screen outside or anywhere where sunlight might fall on the screen.

The screen’s contrast ratio of 321:1 is disappointing, and, because Asus is using a TN panel here, you’ll see colour shift whenever the screen isn’t facing you directly. This panel doesn’t display colours particularly well, either; its sRGB coverage of 52.6% is terrible and this results in flat, lifeless colours with very little zing. At least the colours it does display are reasonably accurate but that’s no compensation for such an uninspiring showing in general.

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Acer Aspire 5 review: Performance

With a 1.6GHz quad-core Intel Core i5-8250U processor inside and 8GB of RAM, our review Aspire 5 performed admirably. It’s one of Intel’s latest, eighth-generation Coffee lake chips, which has double the cores and has slightly different clock speeds compared with last year’s Kaby Lake generation of processors. This year’s Core i5 processor also has twice the amount of “SmartCache” and faster-integrated graphics.

In our tests, the laptop performed well, achieving a score of 85 in the Expert Reviews 4K media benchmarks, which is heaps ahead of the Kaby Lake equivalent (Intel Core i5-7200U), which was typically only able to achieve scores of between 48 and 55. So, it’s well worth considering if you’ve otherwise been looking to buy a device with an older-generation chip inside, such as the Dell Vostro 14.

The Acer Aspire 5 also achieved a decent score in Geekbench 4. Its 4,106 single-core and 12,935 multi-core results are – impressively – only slightly behind those of the Asus Vivobook S510UA, which housed the seventh generation Core i7 chip.

The laptop’s Intel UHD Graphics 620 integrated GPU is no match for a discrete graphics card such as the Nvidia GeForce MX150. However, scores of 29.5fps and 60fps in the GFXBench 4 Car Chase and Manhattan benchmarks (onscreen) show it can be used for very light gaming.

The built-in 256GB SSD is fast, though. Testing with CrystalDiskMark (instead of AS SSD), I recorded sustained data transfer rates of 533MB/sec for reads and 496MB/sec for writes. The result is fast boot up times and quick file transfers to and from the internal drive.

Finally, the laptop’s battery life is also rather good. At 9hrs 46mins in the Expert Reviews battery rundown test, the Aspire 5 punches well above its weight and should last you around a day and a half under medium load. By comparison, the Asus Vivobook S510UA, which houses the Kaby Lake Core i7-7500U, manages only 5hrs 26mins. The Dell Vostro 14 5468 with an Intel Core i5-7200U on board achieves only 5hrs 51mins. It’s all very impressive stuff.

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Acer Aspire 5 review: Verdict

The Acer Aspire 5 is a mixed bag of positives and negatives. On the one hand, it’s plain and its display sub-par; on the other, this £550 laptop delivers fast performance and excellent battery life.

With a good selection of ports, a full-sized keyboard and impressive battery life, in fact, there’s plenty to like about this mid-range laptop. It’s a shame about the poor display, but if you can put up with that or you’re planning to use it hooked up to an external monitor most of the time, the Aspire 5 is worth considering.





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