Acer Spin 3 (Core i5 - 2018) Review

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Editors' rating:
The Pros

Long battery life; Good performance; Decent speakers; Stays cool

The Cons

Dull display; Plastic build; Tons of bloatware

Verdict

Finally, an affordable 14-inch 2-in-1 that's worth buying.

If you fancy a 14-inch display, but need a laptop that can fold into a tablet, look no further than the Acer Spin 3 ($499 starting, $699 as tested). This rare breed of a 2-in-1 offers strong performance and long battery life. The machine also remains cool under pressure, and its top-firing speakers are well above average.

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However, there are a few turnoffs that could be deal breakers for some people. Namely, the laptop's display isn't very colorful and the plastic design is uninspired. But, if you can look past these shortcomings, the Acer Spin 3 is a good choice for those who want an affordable 2-in-1.

Design

The Acer Spin 3 has a sleek design, but the laptop's budget materials leave much to be desired. The 2-in-1 is coated in smooth, silver plastic that feels cheap compared with other aluminum laptops in this price range.

Oddly, the nicest surface on the Spin 3 is the black soft-touch bottom, which reminds me of the material Dell uses on the deck of the XPS 13 and XPS 15.

The Spin 3 won't win any beauty contests, but it's not an unattractive laptop, either. The lid has a cross-hatched aesthetic surrounding a silver Acer logo, while the deck sports a faux-metal brushed finish. A hidden "Spin" logo is raised off the deck under a top-firing speaker grille. While it's not an eyesore, the Spin 3's relatively thick display bezel is another reminder that this isn't a premium laptop.

The Acer Spin 3 has a sleek design, but the laptop's budget materials leave much to be desired.

The Spin 3's flexible hinges allow you to convert the system into a tablet or set it in tent mode for presentations or photo sharing. The hinges are sturdy when in traditional laptop mode, and I had no issues flipping the Spin 3 into its different orientations.

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Despite being larger than its 13-inch competitors, the Spin 3 is still fairly portable. At 12.3 x 9.1 x 0.8 inches, the chassis is considerably larger than the 13-inch Lenovo Yoga 730 (11.5 x 8 x 0.6 inches) and Dell Inspiron 13 5000 2-in-1 (12.8 x 8.9 x 0.8 inches). As expected, the 3.6-pound Spin 3 is also heavier than the Yoga 730 (2.7 pounds) and Inspiron 13 5000 (3.5 pounds), but not by much.

Ports

The Spin 3 has all the ports an everyday user could need.

On the left side, you'll find a power connector, an HDMI and two USB 3.0 ports.

On the right side of the laptop, next to the power button, is a Kensington lock slot, a USB 2.0 port, an SD card reader and a headphone/mic combo jack. There are also LED indicators for charging status and battery life.

Display

The Acer Spin 3's 14-inch, 1920 x 1080 display is sharp but not very colorful. When I watched a trailer for the upcoming thriller, A Simple Favor, I could clearly see the small pearl earrings worn by Blake Lively's mysterious character. And in a wide-angle scene of Anna Kendrick's kitchen, I could make out the utensils stored next to the oven behind her, along with a french press hiding in the back corner of the shot.

I just wish the display were more colorful. The panel doesn't look bad at first glance, but the images it produces don't pop like they do on other glossy displays. When I watched a trailer for Creed II, Michael B. Jordan's American-flag boxing trunks lacked saturation, and the boisterous arena behind him didn't come to life. White balance could also be improved; when I opened YouTube, I noticed the background leaned a bit toward purple.

When I watched a trailer for A Simple Favor, I could clearly see the small pearl earrings worn by Blake Lively's mysterious character.

The Acer Spin 3's display did worse than expected in our color test. According to a colorimeter, it can reproduce only 68 percent of the sRGB color gamut. The Yoga 730's display is significantly more colorful (118 percent), and the Inspiron 13 5000 (71 percent) and mainstream laptop average (90 percent) also edge out the Spin 3.

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The display achieved a respectable result of 237 nits in our brightness test, but it falls behind the mainstream laptop average of 241 nits. Again, the Yoga 730 blows it away, at 282 nits. Only the Inspiron 13 5000's display is dimmer, at 188 nits.

I had no problem using the touch-sensitive display to navigate the web or draw a picture in Paint 3D.

Keyboard and Touchpad

I wouldn't want to write a novel with the Spin 3's island-style keyboard. At 1.2 millimeters, the keys are too shallow for comfort (1.5 mm to 2 mm is ideal), and they're not tactile enough, either. The keyboard also lacks backlighting, making typing in dim settings a pain.

The good news is that 68 grams of key actuation force is ideal, and the Spin 3's generous key sizing and spacing offer a natural typing experience.

Still, I fell short of my 119 words-per-minute speed average, with a score of 113 wpm on the 10fastfingers.com typing test. And with an accuracy of 93 percent, my error rate was slightly higher than my typical 5 percent average.

The Spin 3 has one of the better touchpads I've tested. The smooth, 4 x 1.5-inch surface reacted quickly when I ran through a series of Windows 10 gestures, including pinch-to-zoom, three-finger swipes to change apps and three-finger taps to launch Cortana.

Audio

The Spin 3's top-firing speakers sound good. When I listened to Hozier's new single "Nina Cried Power," the Irishman's booming voice was crystal clear. Even at high volumes, with the Spin 3 easily filling my apartment with sound, the ballad never sounded distorted. In his song "Feels Like Summer," Childish Gambino sounded a bit hollow at 100 percent volume, but the audio on this smooth track was good enough to get me nodding my head.

Equipped with an Intel Core i5-8250U processor and 8GB of RAM, this version of the Acer Spin 3 gave an inspired effort when I tried pushing it to its limits. The laptop remained speedy and stable, even after I loaded 25 Google Chrome tabs. I noticed only minor hiccups while I simultaneously played three 1080p YouTube videos and a Twitch stream.

The Spin 3 did a solid job on each of our performance benchmarks. The laptop scored 12,172 on Geekbench 4, which determines overall performance. That's a huge step up from the mainstream laptop average (8,800). The Yoga 730 (Core i5-8250U, 12,983) also performed well, with a slightly higher score, while the Inspiron 13 (Core i5-8250U, 13,364) fell just short of the Acer.

Equipped with an Intel Core i5-8250U processor and 8GB of RAM, the Acer Spin 3 gave an inspired effort when I tried pushing it to its limits.

The Spin 3's 256GB SSD duplicated 4.97GB of mixed-media files in 35 seconds on the Laptop Mag File Transfer Test. That equates to a rate of 145.5 megabytes per second, which is slightly above the Inspiron 13 5000 2-in-1 (256GB M.2 SATA SSD, 121 MBps) and the mainstream laptop average (136.8 MBps). It can't compete with the Yoga 730 (256GB M.2 PCIe SSD), however, which performed the same task at a superfast rate of 299 MBps.

The Spin 3 also did well in the spreadsheet test, matching 65,000 names with their corresponding addresses in 1 minute and 29 seconds. That beats the Inspiron 13 5000 (1:32) and the mainstream category average (2:08), but it couldn't compete with the Yoga 730 (1:10).

We saw similar results on the Handbrake test, which involves converting a 4K video into 1080p. The Spin 3 completed the tough task in 21 minutes and 9 seconds, which is much faster than the mainstream average. But once again the Yoga 730 won this round with a speedy time of 11:59.

The Spin 3's Intel UHD Graphics 620 GPU is powerful enough for casual gamers -- just don't expect to play your favorite titles on Ultra settings. The Spin 3 scored a 61,440 on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited graphics test, falling short of the Yoga 730 (UHD Graphics 620 GPU, 81,015) and the mainstream category average (68,735). However, it outperformed the Inspiron 13 5000 2-in-1 (UHD Graphics 620 GPU, 58,043).

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The Acer received average results in our real-world gaming test. It played the racing game Dirt 3 at 47 frames per second, matching the Inspiron 13 5000 (47 fps) and just topping the mainstream average (41 fps). Continuing the trend, the Yoga 730 (66 fps) topped the charts.

Battery Life

Unlike the Core i3 version, the i5-equipped Acer Spin 3 can be used away from an outlet for an entire workday. The laptop lasted an impressive 9 hours and 12 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which involves continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness. The Yoga 730 (7:00) powered down more than 2 hours earlier, while the almost identical run times of the Inspiron 13 5000 (7:25) and mainstream category average (7:26) are also far behind.

Webcam

The 720p webcam on the Acer Spin 3 is better than the majority of those I've tested. The colors it produces look natural and it captures a fair amount of detail.

When I took a selfie in our dimly lit office, my blue shirt looked accurate, and I could make out the stubble of my beard. As expected of a laptop webcam, however, the image was a bit grainy.

Heat

The Spin 3 kept its cool in our heat test, which involves playing a 1080p video in full-screen mode for 15 minutes. The touchpad remained close to room temperature, reaching just 76 degrees Fahrenheit, while the temperature of the deck between the G and H keys rose to only 81 degrees. The underside didn't get much warmer, at 83 degrees. The center of the hinge was the hottest part of the laptop, but at 92 degrees, even it didn't breach our 95-degree comfort threshold.

Software and Warranty

The Acer Spin 3's Windows 10 Home OS is swamped with bloatware, most of which you'll want to uninstall.

Acer brought its own folder filled with apps, including the Care Center, Documents, Quick Access and Recovery Management. Some are more useful than others. The Care Center is a nice addition, because it offers tools for tuning your system and ensuring you have the latest updates. On the flip side, Quick Access houses a single control for reducing the display's blue light.

On top of those apps are a couple of unnecessary programs. Product Registration gives you discounts to Acer products, while Collection highlights apps from the Microsoft Store. Feel free to uninstall these right away.

A joint effort from Microsoft and Acer is to blame for the abundance of non-Acer-branded bloat taking up precious space on the Spin 3. Simple Solitaire, Simple Mahjong, Spades, WildTangent Games and Disney Magic Kingdoms are a few of the unwanted programs, and the list goes on and on.

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The Acer Spin 3 includes a one-year limited warranty on parts and labor. See how Acer fared in our Tech Support Showdown and Best and Worst Brand Ratings reports.

Configurations

The Acer Spin 3's two configurations cost $499 and $699. I tested the more expensive version, which came equipped with an Intel Core i5-8250U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. The lower-end model, which we reviewed back in June, has an Intel Core i3-8130U processor, 4GB of RAM and a 1TB, 5,400-rpm HDD.

Bottom Line

The Core i5 version of the Acer Spin 3 has strong overall performance and long battery life. Those two benefits are enough to recommend the 2-in-1 laptop, while excellent heat management, a solid webcam and a good selection of ports are added bonuses.

Unfortunately, the Spin 3's plastic build pales in comparison to aluminum laptops in this price range, and the 14-inch display isn't very colorful. Also, the laptop's Windows 10 OS is overrun with bloatware.

If you can do without a convertible design, we recommend the Asus Zenbook UX330UA. For $750, the 13-inch ultrabook has an aluminum design, a bright and vibrant display, and good overall performance.

There aren't many comparable 2-in-1s worth recommending. The Inspiron 13 5000 has decent speakers, but the keyboard is stiff and its performance lags behind. The Yoga 730 is speedy, but its battery life is short and the screen is oversaturated. This lack of competition in the sub-$800 convertible laptop space makes the Spin 3 a compelling choice, despite its shortcomings.

Credit: Laptop Mag

CPU Intel Core i5-8250U
Operating System Windows 10 Home
RAM 8GB
RAM Upgradable to
Hard Drive Size 256GB
Hard Drive Speed
Hard Drive Type Serial ATA/600
Secondary Hard Drive Size
Secondary Hard Drive Speed
Secondary Hard Drive Type
Display Size 14
Highest Available Resolution 1920 x 1080
Native Resolution 1920x1080
Optical Drive
Optical Drive Speed
Graphics Card Intel UHD Graphics 620
Video Memory
Wi-Fi 802.11ac
Wi-Fi Model
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.1
Mobile Broadband
Touchpad Size 4 x 1.5 inches
Ports (excluding USB) SD card slot
Ports (excluding USB) Kensington Lock
Ports (excluding USB) HDMI
Ports (excluding USB) Combo Headphone/Mic Jack
Ports (excluding USB) USB 3.0
Ports (excluding USB) USB 2.0
USB Ports 3
Card Slots SD memory reader
Warranty/Support one-year warranty
Size 13.2 x 9.1 x 0.8 inches
Weight 3.58 pounds
Company Website https://www.acer.com/ac/en/US/content/home#_ga=2.61365164.1099041208.1536599657-1140867402.1531834077
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