Hands-On, Laptop

Acer Aspire 5 Hands-On: An Attractive Laptop for the Money

Affordable laptops may not be the most exciting products, but they certainly have an appeal of their own. It’s interesting to see how PC makers can keep the prices low without sacrificing too much of what makes a laptop…well, actually good.

And that is why I was quite interested with the Acer Aspire 5, which has just been launched in Malaysia today. Retailing from RM2,499, is this productivity-focused, budget-centric laptop any good? Let’s find out.

Usually, affordable laptops are not built particularly well; not the case with the Aspire 5. Most of the laptop is made out of metal, lending to a premium look and feel. It’s really quite amazing how much better the build quality of budget-friendly laptops have gotten.

But if I were to nitpick, I’m not crazy about the Aspire 5’s screen bezel. No, I’m not talking about the bezel size, but the plastic material of the frame. Granted, this is not a premium product; it’s meant to be an affordable laptop. With that in mind, the use of plastic to lower the production cost of the laptop makes sense.

Speaking of which, the display of the Aspire 5 is surprisingly good. It’s a 14-inch 1920 x 1080 IPS screen, so it is a bright panel with vibrant colours. Of course, even the viewing angles are good, though it does look dimmer when viewed at an angle. All in all, it is still a very usable screen that is pleasant to look at.

When it comes to connectivity, the Aspire 5 has a bunch of them. There are three full-size USB ports – two of which are USB 3.1 – a single USB-C connection, an HDMI 2.0 output, and even an ethernet port.

Productivity laptops have to be portable enough to be brought along easily, and in this regard, the Aspire 5 is reasonably good. Measuring 17.95mm thin and weighing 1.5kg, it’s thin and light enough to lug it around in your backpack without much trouble.

When it comes to performance, the Aspire 5 is powerful enough to be an effective productivity laptop. It comes with either an Intel Core i5-8265U or i7-8565U processor paired with 4GB of on-board DDR4 RAM, which should be sufficient for most productivity-related tasks. Thanks to the 256GB PCIe SSD storage, you will also enjoy fast boot time and shorter loading times, among other things.

Oh, it’s also worth noting that Acer promises up to 12.5 hours of battery life with the Aspire 5. However, this is only for the Core i5 model; the Core i7 variant has a much shorter quoted battery life of up to seven hours.

If you want to do some gaming on the Aspire 5, good news: it comes with a dedicated GPU in the form of the Nvidia GeForce MX250. It’s not an awfully powerful graphics card, but it will be capable enough to run less demanding games like Dota 2 and Diablo III well.

Let’s say you want to run more demanding games on the Aspire 5; how well would it fare? Now, while I have yet to get my hands on a laptop with an MX250 GPU to really put this to the test, I reckon it can deliver playable frame rate in Fortnite, Overwatch, and even Apex Legends.

Of course, you’ll definitely have to lower down the graphics settings to get good frame rate on these graphically demanding games.

Another important hardware of any productivity laptop is the keyboard, which…has room for improvement on the Aspire 5. For starters, the key travel is quite short, lending to a shallow typing experience. On top of that, having the power button at the top right of the keyboard is just begging for it to be pressed accidentally. Thankfully, it doesn’t put the laptop to sleep with a single tap.

Despite the short key travel, I do think the keyboard is still very serviceable. I can still type as quickly as I do on a full-size keyboard, and the tactility of the keys do improve the typing experience. It’s not the most enjoyable keyboard to type on, but it’s certainly not the worst either.

As for the trackpad, I’m pleasantly surprised with its accuracy. It can track my fingers well, it can recognise gestures well, and the trackpad itself has a very smooth surface. I’m confident I won’t need to use a physical mouse with this laptop to work efficiently.

At a glance, the Acer Aspire 5 is a compelling productivity-focused laptop. It has solid build quality, a good level of performance, and a relatively portable form factor. More importantly, it offers quite good value for money too.

The Malaysian market will receive two variants of the Aspire 5: the Core i5 model retails at RM2,499 (though it will only be available by the end of August 2019), while the Core i7 variant goes for RM3,099. While these price tags are not super affordable, the laptop’s feature set does seem to justify the asking price here.

Based on my brief time with the Aspire 5, I honestly don’t think you can go wrong with it, especially if you need a good productivity laptop for work or studies. The only thing that may make it less compelling is the actual battery life, which can only be put to the test in a full review of the Aspire 5.