Acer Aspire 5

Verdict

This Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop packs in more than enough power for everyday computing tasks, and its quad-core performance is respectable, but you’ll have to settle for a dim display.

ProsCons
Inexpensive Dim display
Plenty of mainstream productivity power No memory card reader
Impressive battery life So-so quad-core performance
Fingerprint reader ————————-

If you’re looking for a reasonably priced quad-core laptop that’s less than three-quarters of an inch chunky, the Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop might fit the bill. This Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop packs in more than sufficient power for daily computing tasks and its quad-core performance is decent, if shy of remarkable. A fingerprint reader and nearly all-day battery life will appeal to productivity-minded road warriors, though they’ll have to settle for a display that’s on the dim side.

This review is part of our ongoing roundup of the best laptops. Go there for information on opposing products and how we tested.

Price and specifications

Acer packs a confusing number of configurations into its budget Aspire 5 line—at least 22 by my count, ranging from $350 (at press time) for a dual-core AMD Ryzen 3 3200U-powered model with a bare-bones 4GB of RAM and a 128GB solid-state drive, all the way to a significantly beefier quad-core Core i7-8565 model with a hefty 12GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and dedicated Nvidia GeForce MX250 graphics that cost about $850 at the time of this writing. Most Aspire 5 versions boast a 15.6-inch display (although I spotted at least one 14-inch model), with a mix of 1080p and 720p resolutions.

The configuration we’re reviewing here is a middle-of-the-road model, complete with a quad-core Core i5-8265U CPU, a Whiskey Lake processor that debuted in late 2018 as a modest upgrade (mainly a somewhat faster boost clock speed) to 2017’s Core i5-8250U Kaby Lake Refresh chip. Similar to a Core i7 processor from a pair of generations prior, the i5-8265U is a solid workhorse that can hold its own when it comes to CPU-intensive tasks like video editing.

Also on board: a reasonable 8GB of RAM, which helps to smooth out performance when organization multiple programs at once; a 256GB SSD, a decent amount of storage for a quick solid-state drive; an integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620 chip, and a full-HD (1920×1080) 15.6-inch display.

Acer Aspire 5

On paper, that all adds up to a comparatively sturdy workhorse for daily computing chores like web browsing and composing Office documents, Intel’s integrated UHD 620 will let you do a little light gaming, but believe Minesweeper more than Fortnite.

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If you’d favor spending a little less money, check out our review of this $399 Aspire 5 with a dual-core Core i3 processor, which lacks the Core i5’s quad-core power but still packs a punch when it comes to day-to-day desktop tasks.

Design – Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop

The laptops in Acer’s Aspire 5 line do a nice job of feeling thinner and lighter than they really are. This exacting model of the Aspire 5 is no different: Yes, it tips the scales at almost 4.25 pounds, but at just 0.7 inches thin the Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop manages to feel sensibly light, chiefly given its sizable 14.3-by-9.9-inch footprint.

Acer Aspire 5

The laptop’s slim aluminum lid and tapered shell make it look quite stylish for a budget laptop. Opening the lid reveals the 15.6-inch display with svelte left and right bezels, a dapper “Aspire” logo along the laptop hinge, and a silver-colored chassis offset by the black keyboard. Incidentally, the lid bends way back somewhat beyond 180 degrees, which means you can lay the Aspire entirely flat with the lid open.

Acer Aspire 5

Turning the Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop upside-down, we find a pair of small speaker grilles near the front and a large cooling vent near the back. There are also 11 Phillips-head screws that look as though they’re inviting you to remove the bottom panel, and what’s this: an extra hard drive bracket? Alas, while you almost certainly could go ahead and pop off the bottom panel, a note in the box warns that cracking open the chassis yourself could void the warranty, so you might want to leave the upgrades to an authorized service dealer.

Display – Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop

When it comes to the Aspire’s display, let’s start with the positives. Its 1920×1080 resolution is the minimum we like to see when dealing with a 15.6-inch screen. The Aspire’s IPS (in-plane switching) panel makes for solid viewing angles, with the display looking comparatively bright and readable even when looking from the side, above, or below. The display’s matted “ComfyView” design minimizes glare, although direct outdoor sunlight will fight back hard.

Acer Aspire 5

Unluckily, the display on this particular model of the Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop is disappointingly dim—just 201 nits (or candelas) according to our measurements, which is well below the 250 nits we usually prefer. While the Aspire 5’s screen looked bright enough indoors, it began to fade obviously when I was using it outside in the shade, and it looked even worse in direct sunlight.

Keyboard, Trackpad, Speakers, and Extras

The Aspire 5 offers a roomy backlit keyboard complete with a 10-key numeric keypad. The latter is a tad too squished for our liking, but it’s there. The keys themselves felt first-class to type on, delivering a satisfying bump and springy rebound on each keystroke. That said, travel (basically a measure of how far the key travels on each stroke) felt a bit skimpy compared to other productivity-minded laptops I’ve tested.

Acer Aspire 5

The Acer Aspire 5’s roomy trackpad felt smooth and responsive during my testing. I did infrequently notice the cursor jittering across the screen as my palms dragged over the trackpad surface while typing. It was only somewhat irritating, but trackpads on other laptops I’ve tested have done a better job at rejecting such false inputs.

Back on the plus side, the trackpad comes with a fingerprint reader, handy for signing into your Windows profile or any Windows Hello-compatible apps by pressing your fingertip on the sensor. I used the fingerprint reader, which sits in the top-left corner of the trackpad, frequently all through my testing and didn’t have any problems.

Acer Aspire 5

The stereo speakers on the Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop are about as mediocre as those on the majority of other laptops we’ve tested. You can crank them nice and loud, which is a plus, and they even deliver a hint of bass, though the sounds get muddy at higher volumes. We’ve absolutely heard worse.

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Ports – Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop

Acer Aspire 5

Aspire 5’s collection of ports offers a respectable selection of new and legacy options. On the left side, you’ve got a full-on Gigabit ethernet port for an old-school wired connection to your router. You don’t frequently see ethernet ports in laptops this thin, but this one has a “drop jaw” spring mechanism so the port can expand to accommodate a cable connector. You also get a couple of speedy USB 3.0 Type-A ports, HDMI, and a USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C port for connecting newer USB-C-equipped storage devices and peripherals.

Acer Aspire 5

On the right, you get a USB 2.0 Type-A port, plus a combo audio jack.

Insufficiently, there’s no memory card reader, which means you won’t be competent to pop in memory cards from your Android phone or your digital camera.

Performance – Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop

With its middle-of-the-road specs, we were an expectant middle-of-the-road performance from this Core i5-equipped version of the Acer Aspire 5, and that’s pretty much what we experienced.

The fine news is that the Aspire’s got it where it counts, putting up outstanding scores when it comes to everyday productivity—think web browsing, Office productivity, playing tunes, and even some light photo editing. That said, the Aspire’s quad-core processor chugs a bit when it comes to CPU-intensive activities, principally video encoding.

PCMark 8 Work 2.0 Conventional

The PCMark 8 Work 2.0 benchmark simulates such routine desktop activities as composing text documents, fiddling with spreadsheets, shopping on the web, video conferencing, and other day-to-day activities—in other words, and the routine desktop chores that are directly in the Aspire 5’s wheelhouse. Generally speaking, a score of 2,000 or better on the PCMark 8 benchmark means you can anticipate smooth Office performance.

Acer Aspire 5

The results were inspiring, with this particular configuration of the Aspire 5 topping our chart of alike Core i5-powered laptops in roughly the same price range. The Aspire’s PCMark 8 score of a little over 3,500 without difficulty cleared our low-water mark of 2,000 for this benchmark, and it even bests the numbers of competing laptops that cost hundreds of dollars more, though some of those pricier laptops are also much smaller and lighter (and thus tougher to keep cool) than the Aspire.

HandBrake

A significantly tougher test than PCMark 8, our HandBrake benchmark measures how long it takes for a given laptop to convert a 40GB video file into an Android tablet-compatible format. Whereas PCMark 8 is a single-core workout for a CPU, Handbrake demands peak performance from all of a processor’s cores, meaning that the chip with the most cores will commonly win out.

Acer Aspire 5

Like most of the laptops in our contrast chart, the Core i5-powered Aspire 5 has a quad-core processor, and indeed, the Aspire’s 4,973-minute score lands in the ballpark, albeit near the rear of the pack. Ahead of the Aspire are laptops that are either much pricier (like the Lenovo ThinkPad L480) or bigger and therefore easier to cool (like the hefty Acer E 15). Lagging behind the Aspire is the 2.7-pound Asus ZenBook 13. As predictable, a couple of dual-core Acer laptops, including a Core- i3-packing version of the Aspire 5 line (full review coming soon), bring up the rear.

Looking beneath the hood using Intel’s Extreme Tuning Utility, we are able to see that the Aspire is repeatedly engaging thermal throttling during the HandBrake test. In other words, it’s frequently pumping the brakes on the CPU’s performance to keep it from overheating, most probable a concession to the Aspire’s slim chassis.

The Aspire’s so-so HandBrake score matters only if you have determined plans for this laptop. Activities like web browsing and editing Office documents don’t demand multi-core performance; commonly speaking, the CPU only needs a single core to handle the most mainstream desktop chore. The PCMark 8 benchmark by now told us that the Aspire sails right throughout those types of tasks.

If you’re preparation for editing 4K videos, however, then yes, the Aspire 5 may get lethargic as it tries to cool itself off. It’ll still get the job done much earlier than a dual-core laptop could.

Cinebench

One more benchmark that pushes a CPU to its limits, Cinebench measures how long it takes for a given system to render a 3D image in actual time. It’s an additional multi-core torture test, and again, we should look for laptops with the most processor cores to be topping the chart.

Acer Aspire 5

Reflecting on the results of the HandBrake test, the Core i5-powered Acer Aspire 5 again brings up the rear of the Core i5 pack in the multithread Cinebench test, even though it’s by no means a blowout. Indeed, while we (again) saw the Aspire 5 dialing down its CPU via thermal throttling during the test, its 493 all-threads Cinebench score is still quite respectable.

Also interesting are the single-thread Cinebench test results, which shows the Core i5-powered Aspire 5 fundamentally even with its opposition, save for the much heavier Aspire E15 and costly Lenovo IdeaPad. The Aspire 5’s reasonably strong single-threaded performance bodes well when it comes to everyday computing duties.

3DMark Sky Diver

With its integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620 core, it’s unfair to anticipate much from the Aspire 5 in terms of gaming, but we put it through its paces anyway with the 3DMark Sky Diver graphics benchmark.

Acer Aspire 5

No surprises here, with the i5-packing Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop in the top third of its class in our chart. What’s that one laptop at the top that’s blowing all the others away? It’s the Core i5-enabled Acer E 15, a bargain-priced laptop with an ace up its sleeve: a discrete GeForce MX150 graphics card. The MX150 is no source of power, mind you, but it illustrates the dissimilarity that even an entry-level discrete graphics card can make.

Battery life – Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop

We test battery life on laptops by looping a 4K video over and over using the stock Movies & TV playback app for Windows, with the screen brilliance tuned as closely as probable to 250 nits (which meant cranking the Aspire’s brightness all the way up) and with the volume set to 50 percent, with headphones plugged in.

On average, it took a little over 9 hours for the 49 watt-hour battery in the Core i5-equipped Aspire 5 to die, which is right in line with our expectations. Topping the list is the Asus ZenBook 13, which wrings an outstanding amount of juice out of its similar-sized battery. The Acer E 15 benefits from a larger 62 watt-hour battery. In any event, the Aspire 5’s nine-hour result in our battery rundown trial means close to all-day battery life.

Bottom line

Competent of smooth-as-butter performance for mainstream computing activities, this Core i5-powered version of the Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop manages to pack quad-core power into a thin, budget-priced chassis. But while it can run Office like a charm, the Aspire’s quad-core performance isn’t reasonably as remarkable, and we’re also disappointed by its dim display.

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