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Acer Aspire 5 (2020) review

An affordable laptop with too many faults

Acer Aspire 5 review
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

The Acer's Aspire 5 is a solid workhorse laptop that won’t strain the purse strings but it has a few too many shortcomings.

For

  • Affordable
  • Good sound quality
  • Full selection of ports
  • Upgradeable
  • Runs cool

Against

  • Middling performance
  • Below-average battery life
  • Mushy keyboard
Acer Aspire 5 (2020): Specs

Price: $549
CPU: Intel Core i5-1035G1
GPU: Intel UHD  
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD
Display: 15-inch, 1080p
Battery: 6:55
Size: 14.3 x 9.9 x 0.7 inches
Weight: 3.7 pounds 

The Acer Aspire 5 isn’t a  laptop that will win all the accolades, but it's the notebook that will get the job done (within reason). The Acer Aspire 5 ticks off a lot of the boxes for students participating in remote or in-person learning this year. The $549 ($399 starting) laptop offers inoffensive looks with lots of ports and surprisingly good audio. 

However, middling performance and subpar battery life keep this laptop from making any of our best lists. But if you’re looking for an inexpensive option that can transition from work to play with relative ease, the Aspire 5 will do the trick.

Acer Aspire 5  pricing and configurations

The Acer Aspire 5’s base configuration starts at $399 and has an Intel Core i3-1005G1 processor, 4GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD, Intel UHD graphics  and a 15.6-inch, 1080p display 

Our test unit costs $549 and features an Intel Core i5-1035G1 CPU with 8GB of RAM, a 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD and Intel UHD graphics. Maxed out, the Acer Aspire 5 comes to $779 with an Intel Core i7-8565U CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, an NVIDIA GeForce MX250 GPU with 2GB of vRAM,  and a 15.6-inch, 1080p display. 

A very cool thing about the Aspire 5 is it can be easily upgraded thanks to its design, which allows for access to the motherboard by removing the bottom of the chassis. The notebook also comes with a hard drive installation kit so customers can easily install a hard disk drive to complement the 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD.

Acer Aspire 5 design 

The Acer Aspire 5 looks like a long-lost MacBook cousin –– it’s not your first choice, per se, but you wouldn’t kick it out of bed. It's thin and sleek with subtle understated styling, making it pleasing to the eye without being overly flashy.

Acer Aspire 5 review

(Image credit: Future)

When closed, the unit's lid is firmly down against the chassis, and with its super-smooth surfaces, it’s a little difficult to open. Once you do get it open, your eyes are introduced to a pleasing design. The first thing you notice is the minimal black bezel surrounding the display. Next, you’ll drink in the full backlit Chiclet-style keyboard which sits above the touchpad all snuggled into the silver casing with its curved rounded corners adding to the sleek feeling of the Aspire 5. The ample palm rest gives the feeling you’re using a much larger laptop.

There’s the fingerprint scanner compatible with Windows Hello that allows you to lock and unlock the laptop with your fingertip. I was disappointed that Acer didn’t add a camera shutter to provide the user some privacy.

Measuring 14.3 x 9.9 x 0.7 inches and weighing 3.7 pounds, the Aspire 5 is slightly heavier and larger than the Lenovo Yoga C740 (3 pounds and 12.7.1 x 8.5 x 0.6 inches). However, it is lighter than the Asus VivoBook S15 (S533F) which comes in at 4 pounds, 14.1 x 9.2 x 0.6 inches.

Acer Aspire 5 ports

The Aspire 5 comes with a healthy amount of ports

Acer Aspire 5 review

(Image credit: Future)

The system has a USB 3.1 Type-C Gen 1 port with two USB 3.1 Type-A Gen 1 ports, a USB 2.0 port, an HDMI 2.0 port, a microSD card reader, an Ethernet port, a Kensington lock and jacks for a headset and power.

Acer Aspire 5 review

(Image credit: Future)

Acer Aspire 5 display

The Aspire 5’s 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080-pixel display is bright with good color saturation. Watching the trailer for Magic Camp, the colors and tones were rendered nicely, especially when one group of kids came strolling out in dramatic slow-mo wearing red sweatsuits. The colors were well saturated, warm, and rich, and the contrast was excellent throughout. Overall, it was a solid visual experience. You can totally veg and binge-watch movies with this display. 

Acer Aspire 5 review

(Image credit: Future)

When our team of skilled mad scientists measured the panel’s color reproduction, the Aspire 5 scored 63% of the sRGB color gamut, which tied with the Asus VivoBook. The Lenovo Yoga C740 blew them both away, scoring 111%, which is way above the 89% mainstream laptop average. 

The Aspire 5’s display averages 258 nits of brightness, which is brighter than the 248-nit the VivoBook (248 nits) and the Yoga C740 (250 nits).

Acer Aspire 5 audio

The Aspire 5 wins some points here with its good sound quality. The audio is clear and even offers a little "Rump Shaker" bass and depth. The speakers are loud enough to hear clearly in a medium-sized room. The two front-mounted speakers pushed enough sound to get grooving to the new Cardi B and Megan thee Stallion song that I shan't name here as we’re just an innocent group of techies. While playing Bach’s "Prelude in B minor," the mids and highs were excellent and clear. 

Acer’s True Harmony Gen 2 feature, which Acer claims offers a wider frequency range, lower distortion and headphone-like sound quality, provides three different surround sound modes: music, movie and game. I tried them all, and they were excellent; you’re able to pick up the minor difference with the bass being stronger in music mode and the volume being the loudest in movie mode while maintaining superb clarity. I found the game mode was a combination of the first two modes and also a wonderful experience. 

When it’s time to chat, the Aspire 5 uses a dual microphone array and Acer’s proprietary Purified Voice technology. It couples far-field pickup, voice tracking, keystroke suppression, adaptive beamforming, and pre-defined personal and conference call modes. During a recent Zoom call with my daughter, she remarked, “you sound really good daddy, can I borrow $50?” I can attest to the quality because when I said “no” she heard that loud and clear.

Acer Aspire 5 keyboard and touchpad

Although highly responsive and sporting a large palm rest that gives excellent support, I found the Aspire 5’s full-sized, Chiclet keyboard to be a little mushy and not as clicky as I would have liked. During the 10fastfingers test, I scored 55 words per minute with 80% accuracy, which is very solid when you take into consideration that I have thick chorizo fingers that sometimes lack agility.

Acer Aspire 5 review

(Image credit: Acer)

The 4.1 x 3.1-inch touchpad is responsive when navigating websites or documents. The smooth surface is adept at performing Windows 10 gestures, such as two-finger swipes and three-finger taps. The bottom corners give firm feedback and are very clicky when using the right or left clicks.

Acer Aspire 5 performance

With a 1-GHz Intel Core i5-1035G1 processor, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD and an Intel UHD Graphics GPU, the Aspire 5 is a workhorse, capable of easily handling all your daily emails, YouTube breaks, documents and school work. 

Unfortunately, the  Aspire 5 didn’t fare as well during our lab tests starting with Geekbench 5.0, an overall performance benchmark. The laptop scored 2,744, which is short of the 3,452 mainstream laptop average. The Asus VivoBook, with its Core i5-10210U CPU, hit 3,560 while the Lenovo Yoga C740 and its Core i5-10210U CPU reached 3,878.

Our review unit managed to outpace the mainstream laptop average (22:21) during the Handbrake video-editing test, taking 21 minutes and 55 seconds to transcode a 4K video to 1080p. However,  the VivoBook (17:22) and Yoga C740 (20:42) scored better. During the File Transfer test, the Aspire 5 took 14 seconds to duplicate 5GB of mixed-media files for a transfer rate of 369.4 megabytes per second. The VivoBook  (512GB SSD) hit 408 MBps, the Lenovo Yoga C740 (512GB SSD) was the speed demon of the group with its 848.2 MBps transfer rate. 

The Aspire 5 uses an Intel integrated GPU, which I wouldn’t recommend for intense gaming. Our test unit scored 8 frames per second during our Sid Meier’s Civilization VI: Gathering Storm test (1080p), matching the Yoga C740.  The Vivobook led the group, reaching 11 fps but still fell short of the mainstream laptop average of 14-fps.

Acer Aspire 5 battery life

The Aspire 5 comes with a 48Wh 3-cell Li-ion battery, which Acer rates at eight hours of battery life. When we ran the Laptop Mag Battery test, which consists of continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness, the laptop lasted for 6 hours and 55 minutes, which is below the 9:22 mainstream average. Both the VivoBook and Yoga C740 lasted longer at 8:23 and 10:18, respectively.

Acer Aspire 5 heat

The Aspire does an excellent job of dissipating heat. I popped open 30 tabs in Google Chrome, all playing various Full HD YouTube videos while working on a document and there was no real rise in temperature.

Our team ran a fullscreen HD video for 15 minutes and measured specific spots on the laptop once the time elapsed. The touchpad measured 71 degrees Fahrenheit, which is well below our 95-degree comfort threshold. Between the G & H keys and on the underside, we got a comfy temperature of 86 degrees.

Acer Aspire 5 webcam

The Aspire 5 720p webcam is pretty standard and performs well. Like most webcams, the color can be a little off in tone and the details will be grainy if the lighting isn’t right. If you need better quality, I suggest purchasing an external webcam. However, the Aspire 5's camera will more than suffice during your Zoom calls and Google Meets.

Acer Aspire 5 software and warranty

The Acer Aspire 5 comes with Windows 10 Home, which means there's a fair amount of bloatware, including Skype, Netflix, Microsoft Solitaire collection and Spades.

The Acer Aspire 5 comes with a one-year limited warranty.  See how Acer fared in our annual Tech Support Showdown and Best and Worst Brands special reports.

Bottom line

The Acer Aspire 5 isn’t a game-changer. Its design is so subdued that it's barely noticeable and its Core i5 processor and integrated graphics won’t blow you away with their performance. But for a seriously affordable $549, the Aspire 5 serves up a solid audio system and has enough power to get the job done, whether the task is writing up a report, video chatting with family or watching a movie. 

However, if you’re looking for more power, longer battery life and a better screen, we’d recommend the $686 Lenovo Yoga. It’s a bit more expensive than the Acer, but you also get the added benefit of the transforming versatility by way of the system’s 360-degree hinges. That said,  if you’re looking for a laptop that can handle remote or in-person learning on a budget, the Acer Aspire 5 is a solid choice.