You can easily get a 2-in-1 for under $1,000, but how low can you go? At $699.99, the 13-inch Acer Spin 5 easily undercuts competitors on price while still offering a bright display and a comfortable keyboard, as well an 8th Gen Intel Core i5 CPU. But there are also some trade-offs, including poor battery life and plenty of bloatware. However, if you can live with those drawbacks, you'll find lots of value.
The Spin 5 isn't visually exciting; it just looks like a slab of metal. To Acer's credit, it is real metal, and not plastic with a coat of paint on it. The dark-gray lid has a crosshatch pattern that I'm not in love with, but it's not offensive. Acer's logo is in silver, which matches the hinges.
Inside, the display is surrounded by thick, ugly bezels. The deck is the same gunmetal gray as the lid, but with a rougher texture and without the pattern. The Spin logo is in white above the island-style keyboard, making it more prominent than usual. In the past, that moniker was merely imprinted on the deck.
Also, in a strange decision, Acer not only put the fingerprint reader on the touchpad but also made it a different color (black) and a different material. It stands out like a sore thumb -- a detail that feels more like an afterthought than a deliberate decision.
At 12.8 x 8.9 x 0.6 inches and 3.4 pounds, the Spin is hefty. While Dell's Inspiron 13 5000 2-in-1 is a similar 12.8 x 9.9 x 0.8 inches and 3.5 pounds, the 13-inch Lenovo Yoga 720 is just 2.8 pounds and 12.2 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches, and the Asus ZenBook UX330UA, a clamshell, is 12.7 x 8.7 x 0.5 inches.
On the right are a headphone jack, an SD card slot, a USB 2.0 port and a Kensington lock slot.
The 13.3-inch, 1080p touch screen on the Spin 5 is pretty good for a mainstream-laptop panel. It's bright and colorful, especially compared with most of the competition. When I watched the trailer for Avengers: Infinity War, the Vision was the perfect shade of pink, and I could make out the Guardians of the Galaxy stepping out of their ship even in a dark hangar.
Acer's screen measured an average of 274 nits on our light meter, surpassing the mainstream-laptop average (228 nits) as well as the Dell Inspiron 13 5000 2-in-1 (188 nits) and the Lenovo Yoga 720 (255 nits). The Asus ZenBook UX330UA was brighter, measuring 302 nits.
The Spin 5 covers 126 percent of the sRGB color gamut, which is more vivid than the average (94 percent), the Inspiron 13 5000 (71 percent) and the ZenBook UX330UA (105 percent). But the Yoga 720's colors popped even more, at 141 percent.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The Spin 5's keyboard is surprisingly good, with a deep 1.7 millimeters of travel. Add in 79 grams of force to actuate the keys, and you get clicky, comfortable keys that are a pleasure to type on. On the 10fastfingers.com typing test, I met my usual top speed of 116 words per minute with my standard 2 percent error rate.
The 4.1 x 2.5-inch touchpad is smooth and responsive, and thanks to Windows Precision drivers, works with complex gestures, like swiping three fingers up to show all open programs and scrolling with two fingers. Acer's decision to put the fingerprint reader in the upper-left corner means that a small portion of the touchpad is unusable.
The speakers on the Spin 5 are located on top of the deck, rather than underneath it, which allows for loud, clear sound. When I listened to Daft Punk's "Get Lucky," the vocals, cymbals, guitars and synths instantly filled our midsize conference room. The one downfall was that the song's iconic bass line fell flat. The preinstalled Dolby Audio software has some presets to choose from, but none could revitalize the bass.
Armed with an Intel Core i5-8250U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, the Spin 5 is primed for simple multitasking. With 25 tabs open in Google Chrome, including one streaming a 1080p skit from Saturday Night Live on YouTube, there were no interruptions at all.
On the Geekbench 4 overall performance test, the Spin 5 notched a score of 11,588, beating the mainstream-laptop average (8,681) and the Lenovo Yoga 720 (9,620), but the Dell Inspiron 13 5000 2-in-1 (13,364) and the Asus ZenBook UX330UA (14,078) outperformed the Acer laptop. All four laptops have the same processor.
It took the Spin 5 28 seconds to transfer 4.97GB of files, for a rate of 181.7 MBps. That's speedier than the average (161.4 MBps) and ties the ZenBook's rate. The Inspiron was slower, at 121 MBps, while the Yoga was the fastest, at 282 MBps.
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On our Excel test, the Spin 5 took 1 minute and 26 seconds to pair 65,000 names and addresses. The mainstream average is a slower 1:42, the Inspiron took 1:32 and the Yoga fell behind at 2:09.
When it came to our HandBrake video editing test, in which computers transcode a 4K video to 1080p, the Spin 5 took 22 minutes and 12 seconds. The average is a quicker 20:50, and the ZenBook did it in 20:55. The Yoga took the longest, at 28:20.
The integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620 GPU won't play Far Cry 5, but it did OK on a really basic game benchmark. On Dirt 3, it ran the game at 52 frames per second, surpassing the average (50 fps), as well as the frame rates from the Inspiron (47 fps) and the ZenBook (27 fps), but falling a few frames behind the Yoga (56 fps).
Unfortunately, the Spin 5 doesn't last as long as the competition. It endured for 7 hours and 15 minutes on Laptop Mag Battery Test 2.0, which browses the web, displays videos and runs graphics benchmarks at 150 nits of brightness. The mainstream-laptop average is 8:07, and both the Asus ZenBook UX330UA (8:20) and the Lenovo Yoga 720 (8:28) lasted longer. The Dell Inspiron 13 5000 2-in-1's battery life was the most ephemeral, at 7:01.
The 720p webcam on the Spin 5 has a noticeable blue tint. A photo I took at my desk was very cool, with my gray sweater appearing a very dark navy. Only a spot on the ceiling lit by direct sunlight appeared the correct color. The photo was, however, sharp, down to the hairs on my head.
After streaming 15 minutes of HD video from YouTube, the Spin got a bit steamy. While it measured a cool 85 degrees Fahrenheit on the touchpad, it reached 98 degrees between the G and H keys and 100 degrees on the underside. Those latter two measurements surpass our 95-degree comfort threshold.
Software and Warranty
Acer has a history of including a whole bunch of junk you don't need on its laptops, and it ain't stopping now. Acer's tossed on eBay, Priceline, Norton Security Scan, Dashlane Password Manager, Amazon, Netflix, WildTangent Games, Music Maker Jam and Evernote. There are some potentially useful items, like Acer's "ab" suite of cloud software, including abPhotos and abFiles, though you're probably better off using Google Drive or Dropbox.
How Much Does the Acer Spin 5 Cost?
Our review unit -- which has an Intel Core i5-8250U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD -- costs $699.99.
Upgrading the laptop to a Core i7-8550U will run you $849.99. If you're looking to save some money, you can get last year's model with a Core i5-7200U and otherwise identical specs for $599.99.
The Acer Spin 5 is a decent midrange laptop with an Intel 8th Gen Intel Core processor, a bright display and a comfortable keyboard. But it runs hot and has lots of bloatware, and the battery doesn't last as long as we'd like.
To get something better, you'll also have to spend more money. The 13-inch Lenovo Yoga 720 with the same specs is $879; that machine has a sleeker design and longer battery life, but the keyboard isn't as good as Acer's. If you're willing to give up 2-in-1 functionality, another option is the $749 Asus ZenBook UX330UA, which also lasts longer and offers a nicer design.
But if you're willing to sacrifice some battery life to save a bit of money, the Spin 5 is a solid option that offers a great keyboard and a pretty display at an affordable price.
Credit: Shaun Lucas/Laptop Mag