Acer: 2018 Brand Report Card
Sitting in the middle of the pack at number four, Acer continued to win us over with great value systems. The company also managed to produce the 21-inch Predator 21 X, the biggest laptop ever, which packs a curved display and a mechanical keyboard, as well as Tobii eye tracking and a pair of Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 GPUs.
This year, though, Acer's tech support failed to live up to its previous standards, with incorrect answers and too many requests to upgrade to its paid tier.
Acer's Main Strengths
- Great value: Acer allows you to find the features you need — 1080p screens or aluminum designs, for example — for under $350.
- Pleasing aesthetics: Acer's laptops often succeed with subtlety and solid construction, and its gaming rigs wowed us with some of their daring choices.
Acer's Main Weaknesses
- Slipping support: After a year at the top of the charts in our Tech Support Showdown, Acer fell behind this year by whiffing on questions such as how to protect your PC against Meltdown and Spectre.
- Shipping costs: Need an Acer computer serviced under warranty? Acer won't cover the cost of shipping to its facilities.
Top-Rated Acer Laptops
Acer is one of the best computer makers at providing excellent laptops at affordable prices. This year, the company also showed that its gaming lineup is ready to take on the leaders in that space. As a result of its strong budget and gaming offerings, Acer earned 7 Editors' Choice awards and an average rating of 3.5 out of 5 during the past year or so.
We remain particularly impressed with Acer's E series of laptops, which offer premium features such as 1080p screens, discrete graphics or SSDs, with prices starting as low as $349. They even get great battery life. The company's Spin 1 convertible is so good that it's hard to believe you can get a gorgeous IPS display, an aluminum chassis and pen support for less than $330 (under $300 on sale). Acer's Predator 21 X earned high marks for being the first 20-inch laptop and being packed with high-end components.
Acer's biggest design wins lie in its gaming laptops, like the black, blue and gray Predator Triton 700, which incorporates a glass touchpad at the top of the keyboard deck. And, with its 21-inch curved display and 18.6-pound bulk, the massive Predator 21 X defies all preconceived notions of how big a laptop can be. Another gaming laptop, the Aspire V17 Nitro Black Edition, serves up a more reserved but still attractive black-and-silver color scheme.
However, Acer needs to do more with its mainstream consumer systems. With little or no adornment, laptops like the Aspire 5, Aspire E 15, Swift 3 and Swift 1 won't necessarily turn any hands, but they're fairly attractive and generally offer solid construction.
Support and Warranty (14/20)
Acer's support system throws you through the ringer, as we found during our undercover testing. Calls require you to work through a dense automated system and type in a 12-digit ID number, social media support provided incomplete answers and phone support failed to handle our query about the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities. Annoyingly, Acer's reps constantly asked us if we wanted to sign up for the company's paid support tier.
Acer ships repaired laptops back to users, but it asks users to foot the bill when they send in a notebook. If you pay more, you can upgrade to an accidental-damage protection plan that includes free return shipping.
This year, Acer made a tank. That tank's name is the Predator 21 X, the biggest laptop ever; it's a monster with a curved display, mechanical keyboard, Tobii eye tracking and a pair of Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 GPUs. Besides building that beast, Acer introduced the Predator Triton 700, a powerful gaming machine in a thin body. Acer also continues to chase the title of thinnest laptop with the Acer Swift 7, though the touchpad doesn't click down.
Value and Selection (15/15)
Acer offers some of the best values of any computer vendor. For example, the Acer E 15 (E5-575-33BM) comes with a colorful 1080p display and a Core i3 CPU but costs only $349, while a configuration (E5-576G-5762) with a Core i5 CPU, a 256GB SSD and discrete graphics goes for the unheard-of price of $599. The Spin 1 gives you a brilliant IPS display and an all-metal chassis for only $329.
MORE: The Best Acer Laptops
But there are some upscale models, too. The Aspire V17 Nitro Black Edition mixes a sleek, professional look with strong gaming performance, and the Predator Triton 700 went thin with Max-Q graphics (and questionable touchpad placement above the keyboard). We didn't see a lot out of the TravelMate line of business notebooks this year, but they're generally not as highly regarded as any other major notebook brand's professional line.
And we'd be remiss not to mention the splurge-worthy Predator 21 X, with its curved screen, mechanical keyboard and $9,000 price tag.
Correction (April 24th): A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Acer finished in fifth place rather than in a tie for fourth.