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Acer Aspire 5 review: A big laptop with a small price

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 (opens in new tab) at Acer.

See at Acer (opens in new tab)

As reviewed

Acer Aspire 5 hardware and specs

CategoryXX
ProcessorDual-core
Intel Core i5-7200U (up to 3.10GHz)
Storage256GB Hynix SATA SSD
RAM8GB DDR4-1064MHz
Display15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080)
IPS, matte, non-touch
GraphicsNVIDIA GeForce MX150 (2GB GDDR5 VRAM)
Intel HD Graphics 620
PortsTwo USB-A 2.0
USB-A 3.1
USB-C 3.1
HDMI
RJ45 Ethernet
3.5mm jack
SD card reader
SpeakersDual stereo speakers
Acer TrueHarmony Sound
WirelessIntel dual-band wireless AC 3168
802.11ac
Bluetooth 4.0
CameraFront-facing 720p
TouchpadPrecision
BatteryFour-cell 48WHr
Weight4.85 pounds (2.2kg)
Dimensions15.02 inches x 10.35 inches x 0.85 inches
381.5mm x 262.89mm x 21.59mm

Primarily plastic

Acer Aspire 5 design

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.

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

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

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.

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.

CPU

Geekbench 4.0 Benchmarks (Higher is better)

DeviceCPUSingle coreMulti core
Acer Aspire 5i5-7200U3,3976,241
Lenovo ThinkPad 25i7-7500U4,2117,919
Lenovo Flex 5 15i7-7500U3,9767,730
Lenovo Yoga 720 15i7-7700HQ3,78410,255
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (2nd Gen)i5-7200U3,9117,549
Surface Laptopi5-7200U3,7257,523
Lenovo ThinkPad T470i5-7300U vPro4,3948,580
Dell Latitude 5285i7-7600U4,6359,289
Lenovo ThinkPad X270i7-7600U4,5128,566
Lenovo ThinkPad T470si5-7300U vPro3,9196,077
Lenovo Yoga 720 13i5-7200U3,8817,509
Lenovo X1 Carboni5-7300U4,1398,311
HP EliteBook x360 G2i7-7600U4,4968,435
Samsung Notebook 9 15 Exti7-7500U4,3168,320
Dell Latitude 7280i7-7600U4,3817,935
Dell XPS 13 (9360)i7-6560U4,1207,829
HP Spectre 13i7-7500U4,1007,469
Surface Booki7-6600U3,9487,415

The dual-core CPU here is a bit of an underperformer when compared to other Core i5 laptops. Everyday usage is still not bad, and I didn't notice any standout issues when going about regular activities.

GPU

Geekbench 4.0 Graphics OpenCL (Higher is better)

DeviceScore
Acer Aspire 517,693
Lenovo ThinkPad 2517,789
Lenovo Flex 5 1516,912
Lenovo Yoga 720 1513,727
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (2nd Gen)19,738
Surface Pro 201730,678
Surface Laptop19,256
Lenovo ThinkPad T47021,276
Dell Latitude 528521,921
Lenovo ThinkPad X27017,376
Lenovo ThinkPad T470s16,635
Lenovo Yoga 720 1318,185
Lenovo X1 Carbon20,932
Dell Latitude 548021,616
Dell XPS 13 (9360)19,410
Surface Book18,197
Dell Latitude 728017,827

Integrated Intel HD Graphics 620 will handle most light-duty jobs, and scored right where it should on the Geekbench test. For everything else, like gaming, the GeForce MX150 kicks in and delivers a solid amount of power. The MX150 scored 45,812 on the same test.

PCMark

PCMark Home Conventional 3.0

DeviceScoreComparison
Acer Aspire 52,789Better than 51 percent of all results
Lenovo ThinkPad 252,884Better than 51 percent of all results
Lenovo Flex 5 152,634Better than 46 percent of all results
Lenovo Yoga 720 152,993Better than 57 percent of all results
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (2nd Gen)2,773Better than 46 percent of all results
Surface Pro 20173,055Better than 57 percent of all results
Surface Laptop2,494Better than 40 percent of all results
Lenovo ThinkPad T4703,103Better than 62 percent of all results
Dell Latitude 52853,079Better than 57 percent of all results
Lenovo ThinkPad X2703,009Better than 57 percent of all results
Lenovo ThinkPad T470s2,576Better than 40 percent of all results
Lenovo Yoga 720 132,717Better than 46 percent of all results
Lenovo X1 Carbon Core i52,965Better than 57 percent of all results
Samsung Notebook 9 15 Ext2,998Better than 57 percent of all results
Dell XPS 15 (9560)3,534Better than 71 percent of all results
Dell Latitude 72802,829Better than 52 percent of all results
HP Spectre x360 152,472Better than 41 percent of all results

The PCMark Home Conventional test takes a bunch of your hardware and determines how well it works together while performing a number of everyday tasks. Overall, the Aspire 5 performed very well, hitting or exceeding the scores set by laptops that cost far more.

SSD

CrystalDiskMark (Higher is better)

DeviceReadWrite
Acer Aspire 5507.8 MB/s256.7 MB/s
Lenovo ThinkPad 251,368 MB/s858.4 MB/s
Lenovo Flex 5 152,146 MB/s1,186 MB/s
Lenovo Yoga 720 151,839 MB/s1,238 MB/s
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (2nd Gen)1,253 MB/s763.6 MB/s
Surface Laptop423 MB/s237 MB/s
Lenovo ThinkPad T4701,079 MB/s716.1 MB/s
Dell Latitude 52851,300 MB/s1,113 MB/s
Lenovo ThinkPad X270 PCIe1,049 MB/s636.9 MB/s
Lenovo ThinkPad T470s1,557 MB/s1,333 MB/s
Lenovo Yoga 7201,904 MB/s1,169 MB/s
Lenovo X1 Carbon1,518 MB/s1,188 MB/s
Samsung Notebook 9 15 Ext1,365 MB/s1,213 MB/s
Razer Blade Pro2,571 MB/s2,467 MB/s
Dell XPS 15 (9560)2,207 MB/s1,628 MB/s
Dell XPS 13 (9360)1,287 MB/s794 MB/s
HP Spectre x360 151,128 MB/s862 MB/s

Here we have a 256GB Hynix SATA SSD, which doesn't hit the same speeds associated with SSDs that use the PCIe bus. If you'd like to add storage in the future, the easy-access panel on the back of the laptop makes it mostly painless.

TL;DR

Acer Aspire 5 review: Conclusion

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.

See at Acer (opens in new tab)

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.
Cale Hunt
Cale Hunt

Cale Hunt is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on laptop reviews, news, and accessory coverage. He's been reviewing laptops and accessories full time since 2016, with hundreds of reviews published for Windows Central. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user, and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.

2 Comments
  • I would like to point out a better deal. I saw at Walmart today a Dell Inspiron 15 laptop with a 15" 1080p touch display and an AMD Radeon GPU with 4GB of VRAM for $659. I'm foggy on what kind of CPU it was other than AMD. It had a 1TB HDD. I know I was lectured that better specs don't make a better laptop by Dan himself, but I just wanted to point out if you search hard enough, you can find a great device for a relatively cheap price.
  • The Acer is the better of the two. The system you stated is using a standard HDD (slow), Acer uses 256gb SSD (so much faster than a standard HDD). A simple usb 1tb HDD can be picked up for $40 if you need more storage. 8 gig of DDR4 compared to your Dell 4 gig and the icing on the cake is the Nvidia MX150 integrated with a nice 2gb of stand alone DDR5 ram. Fairly certain the Dell will be using the standard Amd GPU for gfx. Trust me on this the MX150 blows away any AMD integrated Gfx system. Also did I mention the Acer comes with AC 3168 wifi standard and not your basic G/N system ;o). While you wont be able to play the latest AAA games on ultra settings you will certainly be able to play them on medium settings on the Acer . Can the Dell do that? ;o)