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Acer Aspire E 15 laptop review: A glorious throwback with a DVD drive and vintage ports

This is a large, purpose-driven laptop that's a bit of a throwback to a time long ago when we used low-density displays, optical media and VGA ports.

The Acer Aspire E 15 is a big laptop. There's no getting around that. It's big, and it's thick, and it's got a friggin' DVD writer inside. This, in a newish-laptop that you can purchase in 2018. Doesn't make sense, does it?

Well, it does if you've ever needed something that can easily connect to some sort of legacy projector. Or if you need to burn a DVD (kids, ask your parents). And if you need a big-ass battery. And if you need it in a single package for a price that doesn't exactly break the bank.

That's the Aspire E 15 — and its slightly lesser cousin, the E5, which is what I tested. (Specifically, I've got model E5-576G-5762, which comes with the Intel Core i5 8250U processor.)

What you'll love about the Acer Aspire E 15

Look, this isn't the sort of laptop that you'd go up to in a store and want to run your hands over. And if you do, you'll quickly frown at the faux metal finish on the plastic lid. Or notice the bounce in the not-quite-16-inch (diagonal) display.

Form factorClamshell laptop.
Display15.6-inch FHD non-touch (1080x1920) IPS LED.
ProcessorIntel Core i5-8250U.
GraphicsNVIDIA GeForce MX150.
Storage256GB SSD, DVD-writer.
Battery6-cell 2800 mAh Li-ion
Ports2x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0, VGA, Ethernet, HDMI, USB-C.
Size15.02 x 10.20 x 1.19 inches (381 x 259 x 30.2 mm).
Weight5.27 pounds (2.39 kilograms).

No. What you're looking for is around on the side. Both sides, actually. This is where you'll find a couple of USB 3.0 ports, and one USB 2.0 port. You'll find Ethernet. You'll find HDMI. You'll find USB-C.

And you'll find a throwback VGA port. (That's for those crazy cables with pins that we had to use for videos years ago. No, not DVI. Before that.) And you'll find a damned DVD writer on the other flank.

Those last two features are what gives this thing away. This is a laptop for folks who need to burn DVDs. Or who need to connect a laptop to an old-school VGA port. Or at least think they'll need those two things. Because, yes, out in the real world, where peripherals aren't necessarily replaced until they die some sort of tragic death, there still are components that need VGA cables. And there are still folks who need DVD writers.

And, yes, there are folks who don't mind huge laptops. Because, like this one, they can have larger screens. And larger batteries. And because the batter is larger, it lasts a good long while. Acer says 12 hours of use, and that's not out of the realm of possibility, depending on what you're doing with it.

One last positive here — three screws is all it takes to get inside this beast, and once you're there you can upgrade the RAM or pop in some more storage. That's a throwback I can get behind. (And even if it's something you've never done before, it's super-easy and takes about 5 minutes to do — and definitely is a way to save some money.)

What you'll loathe about the Acer Aspire E 15

This is a large laptop. I might have failed to mention that previously. This isn't something you'll want to lug around. It's something you'll only lug around if you have to. Again, it's a purpose-built machine.

But beyond the size, it's the off-center keyboard (which isn't awful) and trackpad (also not the worst) that have driven me nuts. Sure, sliding things to the side have allowed for a full number pad on the right. (Again, that's one of those things some folks just need to have.) But my brain works best when centered. You'll get used to it, I guess. But it'll ruin you for every other laptop out there.

It also doesn't help that this is a 1080p display at nearly 16 inches, which leads to a density of about 141 pixels per inch. That's not great by any modern standard, and it means you're going to be seeing a lot of individual dots in text and pictures and pretty much everything.

But, hey. Number pad, right?

By the way — that USB-C port isn't there to charge your laptop. For that, you'll be using one of those old-school barrel plugs. It's next to the DVD writer.

Acer Aspire E 15

Bottom line on the Acer Aspire E 15

One last time — this is a big laptop, for people who like big laptops. And it's one for folks who need a VGA port and a DVD writer and who maybe don't mind the minimum resolution you should have in 2018, never mind in a display this large.

And while the $599 starting price probably is a tad high for what I'd be willing to pay for this sort of thing, it's also in the neighborhood of what business-type folks who don't have a lot of options could get away with.

It ain't sexy. But it'll get the job done.

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Phil is the father of two beautiful girls and is the Dad behind Modern Dad. Before that he spent seven years at the helm of Android Central. Before that he spent a decade in a newsroom of a two-time Pulitzer Prize-finalist newspaper. Before that — well, we don't talk much about those days. Subscribe to the Modern Dad newsletter!

  • I hope there are more offerings with a DVD/optical drive.  I've been researching over the past month looking for a good computer with an optical drive.  I've found a few, but not with all the specs I'm looking for. 
  • If you're looking for laptops with all kind of configurations, look for Eurocom laptops. I don't know about worldwide availability because they're a Canadian company (despite having "Euro" in the name), but you'll find every possible configuration, even portable servers with Xeon CPU...
  • They missed the COM RS232, LPT parallel port and PCMCIA slot
  • Who is the child that wrote this??? Seriously, maybe he's being a joker, but its just not funny when a standard very capable laptop, that is decent, and has a good price, as Acer can usually create, why it would just be mocked as if its the odd kid on the block?? Looks like a great laptop to me with an i5 256GB SSD, and 8 GB of RAM for $599. I honestly don't know what more he could get for that money. Sure there are other options, but this is quite a good setup of specs.
  • Agreed. "Kids, ask your parents"? Better be a joke because my 8 year old knows wtf a DVD is. They're not all gone. This isn't cassette or vinyl (which is making a comeback). VGA is still super common too!! Not just legacy protectors, most monitors have them too, plus a lot of TVs have "PC" ports which are VGA to support older computers. Like the standard USB shape, it's not going anywhere for a long time
  • I don't think that the off centered keyboard should be a negative. How are you going to get a centered keyboard/trackpad if you are going to get a num pad? You should get a laptop without a num. keypad if, what you want is a centered keyboard. At this price point, the 1080p screen shouldn't be a negative. Show me 1 laptop, at this price, equipped with a qhd display. I'm starting to think that I should stop reading computer reviews on windowscentral.
  • Nice a really Sold value device
  • I really love this machine. The VGA port and the DVD reader is really a blessing. Especially for those who lives in a "third world" country including me where DVD are still widespread and VGA port is needed to connect to most projector or monitor. I've been recommending this laptop to all of my friends in need of a laptop. And all my friends who purchased this laptop are happy with it. It can do light-medium gaming easily, and online games such as rainbow six siege, CS GO, Dota 2 runs very smooth with the MX150 or 940MX on the older model. Also, in my country this laptop is very cheap compared to any other same spec laptop.
  • I have the E15 with an I7 CPU. I added 8 GB of RAM and a 1 TB SSD - both easy operations. The SSD required an accessory to fit snugly that I got from Acer for $8.00. This is a great machine - feature rich and top performing. Highly recommmended.
  • I absolutely adore my e15. It's a solid preformer. Has been a reliable companion for the past 3 years. Granted I did upgrade RAM to max, 16gb, and swapped the hdd to a 500gb sdd. That took it from a decent laptop to one that I love. I game, code, design, and even do some video editing on it. I'd gladly buy another one!
  • CON: "A 1080p screen at 16 inches isn't great." 1080 on a 15.6" screen is FAR from a CON.  It is actually pretty nice.  I understand that you reviewers get to see a lot of QHD & 4k screens on the latest & greatest, but that doesn't put this resolution on the bad side of things.  We just recently bought an all-in-one for Grandma, which was 1600x900 on a freakin' 22" display!  THAT would be on the CON side.  No, Grandma doesn't care, because even if she takes a close look with her bifocals she could care less if it isn't a high resolution display.  Bejeweled, Youtube, and conspiracy websites looks just fine, thank you very much. ;-) And no, a 15" laptop isn't huge.  My home laptops have mostly been 17" models for ~10 years now.  I just recently picked up a 13" Surface Book, and that thing is TINY!  I gotta get used to that small screen. :-D  
  • I'm late to the party, but I just had to comment. I can't believe the editor didn't mention the Acer's strongest selling point: the Nvidia MX150. There is not a single other laptop on the market with an MX150 that is $600 or less. This is hands down the best budget gaming laptop ever made.