Acer: Best and Worst Laptop Brands
Acer offers a wide range of laptops that stand out more for their value than for their ingenuity. Most of the products we reviewed were good, but not great. This year, the company rose from last place to eighth, mostly because of its competitors' weaknesses rather than Acer's strengths. The brand continues to be held back by a combination of ho-hum systems, poor support and bland design.
Acer opts for textured plastics in most of its designs, including the Aspire One Cloudbook, the Chromebook 15 and the Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition. And when we finally got an aluminum chassis (Aspire R14 and Chromebook R11), it was handsome, but didn't really turn heads. The worst aesthetic offender was the Aspire Switch 10 E, whose chassis we described as "cat-vomit puce."
Our favorite Acer design is the Aspire R13, which has a novel floating frame that redefines the 2-in-1 flip design. We also like the Predator 17 gaming notebook, which has sharp angles, a soft-touch finish and dual LED strips on the lid. The premium S7 Ultrabook stands out with its glass lid, but as of this writing, it hasn't been updated to the latest Intel 6th-Generation Skylake processor.
Most of Acer's laptops this past year rated as good, but not great. Its lone 4-star-rated system, the Predator 17, was balanced out by the 2.5-star Aspire E15. Every other review earned 3 or 3.5 stars, so it's in the middle of the pack, and it's not doing enough to earn high praise.
Tech Support (16/20)
Acer may have friendly support agents answering its phone lines, but those reps did not give many correct answers during the Tech Support Showdown. The company's online chat agents were competent at problem-solving, but we only reached those solutions after long waits in a digital queue. We wouldn't even suggest users look for help from Acer's Twitter or Facebook pages, as it appears the company is just using those as channels to direct users to its tech support pages.
MORE: Acer Tech Support Rating
Acer backs its consumer laptops with a standard one-year limited warranty, but doubles the length to a strong two years on its business-minded TravelMate line. However, if your laptop requires service, you'll have to pay the shipping costs to send it back to the company. Upgrading your laptop does not void the warranty.
Acer's consumer software suite is focused on the cloud. The company's "ab" line, including abDocs, abFiles, abMedia and abPhoto, lets you access your files no matter where you are as long as you have an Internet connection. On its gaming line, Predator Sense lets you adjust keyboard lighting and assign macros, while Killer DoubleShot Pro's network protocols surprised us by increasing download speeds.
Unfortunately, like most laptop vendors, Acer weighs down some of its laptops with bloatware. The Acer Aspire R 14 and the Switch 10 E stood out as the computers with the worst lineup of unwanted software, including the WildTanget digital games store, Music Maker Jam, Kindle, Netflix, Candy Crush Saga, Twitter and Dashlane.
Acer has a well-deserved reputation as a value brand, so it only makes sense that the company's main innovations have come in its lowest-priced laptops. In 2015, the company pushed the low-cost Chromebook category to its limits, unveiling the first 15-inch model and one of the first 2-in-1s based on Google's OS. Its 14-inch Cloudbook brought some innovation to the low-cost notebook space by providing all-day battery life for under $250.
Value and Selection (13/15)
With a massive portfolio, Acer has a laptop for every budget and need. The company covers the low-end market with its inexpensive Chromebooks and stripped-down Windows systems such as the Cloudbook 14, offers plenty of mainstream laptops in its Aspire E and F series, and hits the premium Ultrabook market with its super-svelte Aspire S7. No stranger to the growing 2-in-1 market, Acer also offers both the Aspire R series of bend-back hybrids and the Aspire Switch line of 10- to 12-inch detachables. The Taiwanese tech giant also addresses the premium gaming segment with its Aspire V Nitro and Predator lines and businesses with its TravelMate line of productivity-minded portables.
MORE: Best Acer Laptops
Acer's products are usually among the least expensive in any given category. The 14-inch Aspire One Cloudbook costs just $229, which is a steal for a Windows laptop with 64GB of storage and more than 14 hours of battery life. The Switch 10 E is ridiculously inexpensive for a Windows 2-in-1, starting at just $279.
How Acer Can Improve
While everyone loves value, few people want a product that looks cheap. Acer should put more effort into making premium and innovative products. The company would also benefit from a stronger support presence on social media and a warranty policy that pays for return shipping.