I'm not too picky when it comes to budget laptops. Just give me a solid array of components, ergonomic comfort and enough battery life for my money. The Acer Aspire E15 does just that. For $550, you get an Intel Core i3 processor, 6GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive, plus a 15-inch touch screen. While not without its flaws, the Aspire will give shoppers a good return on their investment.
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The Acer Aspire E15's sports an understated aesthetic. The lid features a black brushed metal finish, with the palm rest retaining a similar subtle brushed pattern. The display bezel is a matte black plastic, the same material found on the hinge and underside. The Aspire E15 has a contemporary appearance with rounded edges and sleek lines, but I found the lid and palm rest to be oil magnets, which can mar the E15's dark visage.
The Aspire E15 measures 15.02 x 10.08 x 1.24 inches at its thickest and weighs 5.6 pounds. This is exactly the same dimensions but 0.2 pounds lighter than the Acer Aspire E1-510P, which looks nearly identical to the E15.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The 4.2 x 3 inch touchpad is large and offset to the left of center. The slab was easy to use and provided ample surface area. However, users with larger hands may find the small palm rest to the left of the touchpad limiting, as I occasionally brushed the pad with my palm while typing. The touchpad was quick to respond to two-finger scrolling and overall provided a solid mouse experience.
Display and Touch Screen
When I watched the trailer for the new "Mad Max" movie, the picture was sharp but contrast was weak leading to video looking washed out. Horizontal viewing angles were good but vertical viewing angles were narrow; tilting the screen even just a little up is like applying every Instagram filter at the same time.
According to our tests, the Aspire E15 averaged 193 nits of brightness. That's on a par with the 192 nits of the Acer Aspire E1-510P, but below some other budget laptops like the HP Chromebook 14 (209 nits).
Color reproduction was worse, as the Aspire E15 is capable of displaying just 59.5 percent of the sRGB color gamut. Closer to 100 percent is better.
Color accuracy was also subpar with a Delta-E rating of 7.6 (closer to zero is better). That's ahead of the Acer Aspire E1-510P (10.7), but behind the mainstream average of 6.8.
The Aspire E15 produced below-average volume on the Laptop Mag audio test, measuring only 79 decibels from 23 inches away. This was lower than the mainstream average of 86 dB but ahead of the Acer Aspire E1-510P (82 dB).
When I listened to The Chemical Brothers' Star Guitar (the video is a masterpiece), midtones were generally good, but they couldn't hide the hollow bass and weak highs. Combined with the below average volume, the E15 may have a hard time putting out enough sound to fill even a small to mid-size room.
On the Laptop Mag heat test (15 minutes of streaming video from Hulu), the touchpad measured just 86 degrees Fahrenheit, and the hottest spot (the area between the G and H keys) reached only 89 degrees. Laptop Mag considers anything above 95 degrees to be uncomfortable.
Ports and Webcam
For connectivity, the left side of the E15 holds the VGA, Ethernet, HDMI, lone USB 3.0 port and headset jack. The right side houses an 8x DVD-RW optical drive and the remaining two USB 2.0 ports, with the SD Card reader located on the front.
On Geekbench 3, which measures overall system performance, the Aspire E15 scored 4,227. While this showing is lower than the mainstream average of 7,211, it's better than the Acer Aspire E1-510P's 2,490 (1.86 GHz Intel Celeron N2920 CPU, 8GB of RAM) and fine for a $550 budget system.
The Aspire E15's 1TB hard drive duplicated 4.97 GB of mixed media files in 2:55 for a transfer rate of 29 MBps. This was a little slower than the mainstream average of 2:11, but ahead of the Acer Aspire E1-510P (2:52).
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On the Laptop Mag spreadsheet test, which matches 20,000 names and addresses in Open Office, the Aspire E15 completed the test in 7 minutes and 15 seconds. This is slower than the mainstream average of 5:34, but ahead of the glacial 20:04 of the Acer Aspire E1-510P.
The Acer Aspire E15's integrated Intel HD 4400 graphics did a fine job of handling HD video and less graphically intense games. I played Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft windowed at 1366 x 768 on medium settings, and I was still able to stream 720p video in a separate window without a hitch.
In World of Warcraft at its native resolution and auto-settings, the Aspire 15 managed 45 fps. Anything above 30 fps is playable.
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In 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited, the E15 scored 38,339, more than double that of the Acer Aspire E1-510P (15,907) but lower than the mainstream average of 59,644. However, many systems in this category feature discrete graphics.
On the Laptop Mag battery test (continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi at 100 nits), the Aspire E15 performed admirably, lasting 7 hours and 19 minutes. This was nearly an hour longer than the mainstream average of 6:21 and two hours longer than the Acer Aspire E1-510P (5:24).
On its website, Acer lists more than 50 different models and configurations of its Aspire E series, ranging from $250 systems with Intel Celeron CPUs to $630 Intel Core i5 models. However, Acer sells very few models directly from its site, so you'll have to hunt for the config you want via an online retailer.
Editor's Note: After publishing this review, we were informed that our configuration (E5-571P-363N) would only be available in Puerto Rico. The two closest configurations available in the US are the E5-571P-31LT ($470), which has the same processor and display, but just 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive; and the E5-571P-57E0 ($630), which has an Intel Core i5-4210U processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 1TB HDD.
Software and Warranty
A one-year International Travelers limited warranty comes standard on the Aspire E15. Acer also preloads the system with a familiar set of media apps like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Kindle. Other software includes trials for Microsoft Office, McAfee Internet Security, Skype and Acer Cloud Communication.
One nice feature is the Pokki Start Menu. Despite its silly name, this utility adds Start menu-like functionality to Windows 8.
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|CPU||1.9 GHz Intel Core i3 CPU|
|Operating System||Windows 8.1|
|RAM Upgradable to||16GB|
|Hard Drive Size||1 TB|
|Hard Drive Speed||5,400rpm|
|Hard Drive Type||Serial ATA|
|Secondary Hard Drive Size|
|Secondary Hard Drive Speed|
|Secondary Hard Drive Type|
|Optical Drive||DVD /-RW DL|
|Optical Drive Speed||8X|
|Graphics Card||Intel HD graphics 4400|
|Touchpad Size||4.3 x 3|
|Card Slots||SD memory reader|
|Warranty/Support||One year international travelers limited warranty|
|Size||15.02 x 10.08 x 1.04-1.24 inches|