If you want a sub-$350 Windows laptop, you usually have to settle for a dull, low-res screen; lackluster design; and mediocre performance. For $349 ($429 with Windows Office), Acer's Aspire E 15 E5-575-33BM defies those expectations, providing a colorful 1080p display, solid build quality and a reasonable Core i3 processor. Throw in over 8 hours of battery life, a DVD drive and just about every port you can imagine, and this 15.6-inch laptop is a real winner for consumers on a budget.
Acer's Aspire E 15 is made of sturdy black plastic with a dark gray, matte lid that has a subtle crosshatch pattern and texture, along with a deck that looks like faux brushed aluminum. The notebook seems to have solid build quality, because it didn't creak or buckle during my use; the keyboard didn't show any signs of flex while typing either.
At 10.2 x 1.5 x 1.2 inches and 5.06 pounds, the E 15 E5-575-33BM is bulky, but it's not much bigger than other budget 15-inch laptops. The Dell Inspiron 15 5000 is heavier (5.2 pounds) but thinner (0.92 inches), while the HP Notebook 15-ba009dx (4.6 pounds, 0.96 inches thick) is both thinner and lighter. The 14-inch Asus VivoBook E403SA is a much smaller alternative, at 3.18 pounds and 0.7 inches thick.
Ports: Everything you need plus DVD
The Aspire's thick frame leaves plenty of room for both a DVD writer and almost every conceivable port. The left side houses a full-size Ethernet port, two USB 3.0 connectors, HDMI-out, VGA-out and a USB Type-C 3.1 port that's good for data but that can't be used to charge the laptop. The right side contains the DVD drive, a third USB port and a 3.5mm audio jack. The front lip offers an SD card reader.
Keyboard and Touchpad: Comfy and accurate
The Acer E 15's keyboard offers a good typing experience that's free from any of the shallowness or flex we find on many budget laptops. The keys provide a full 1.5mm of vertical travel and require 64 grams of force to actuate, a combination which prevented me from bottoming out as I typed. I reached a strong 100 words. Many users will appreciate the dedicated numeric keypad, which makes using the calculator or editing spreadsheets easier.
The 4.2 x 3-inch buttonless touchpad provides reasonably-accurate navigation around the desktop, but its surface felt a little slippery to me. The pad seemed to have a little trouble with pinch-to-zoom, as it didn't always respond right away when I performed the gesture in Chrome browser or Windows 10's photo app. Three-finger swiping to switch between apps worked every time.
Display: Surprisingly good
It's rare that you find a 1920 x 1080 display on a sub-$400 laptop, let alone a display that covers this much of the color gamut. The Aspire E 15's 15.6-inch screen outputs at a sharp 1080p resolution with tones that are vibrant, though not always accurate, and very limited viewing angles. When I watched a trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming, the reds and blues in Spidey's costume popped, but appeared a bit oversaturated.
According to our colorimeter, the Acer E 15 can reproduce an impressive 159 percent of the sRGB color gamut, which is well above the 94 percent mainstream laptop average. That showing also trounces competitors in the E 15's price range, such as the HP Notebook 15 (70 percent), Asus VivoBook E403SA (68 percent) and Dell Inspiron 15 5000 (72 percent).
Unfortunately, the numbers here don't tell the full story, as the viewing angles were quite narrow. Dark images began inverting at just 45 degrees to the left or right.
Don't try using this laptop in direct sunlight. The Aspire E 15 E5-575-33BM registered just 215 nits on our light meter, well below the 276-nit category average but actually better than showings by the Notebook 15 (174 nits) and VivoBook E403SA (201 nits). The Inspiron 15 5000 (213 nits) had a nearly identical score.
The Aspire E 15's speakers offer output that's quite accurate and loud enough to fill a medium-sized room. When I played Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water," I could hear a clear separation of sound amid the drums, vocals and guitar. There was only a hint of tinniness in the high tones.
Performance: Ready for (light) multitasking
With its Core i3-7100U CPU, 4GB of RAM and 1TB 5,400-rpm hard drive, the Aspire E 15 E5-575-33BM offers just enough performance for light multitasking. With 12 tabs open in Chrome and a local 1080p video playing in another window, I experienced minimal lag when switching between the tabs. However, when one of the tabs was streaming a video (in addition to the local video) or downloading a large web page, things slowed down to the point that letters I typed in a Google doc didn't appear until seconds after I hit the keys.
The Aspire E 15 scored a modest 5,408 on Geekbench 4, a synthetic benchmark that measures overall performance. That's much less than the Core i5-7200U-powered Inspiron 15 5000's score (6,742), but better than the showing by the HP Notebook 15-ba009dx (3,291) and its AMD A6-7310 CPU.
Acer's laptop took 5 minutes and 14 seconds to complete the Laptop Spreadsheet Macro Test, in which we match 20,000 names with their addresses. That time is slower than the 4:01 category average and the Inspiron 15 5000's time of 4:03, but more than twice as quick as the times from the Pentium N3700-powered Asus VivoBook E403SA (13:31) and the HP Notebook 15 (11:40).
The E 15's 1TB hard drive copied 4.97GB of mixed-media files at a rate of 36.6 megabytes per second, which is significantly slower than the result for the Inspiron 15 5000 (83.4 MBps) and a bit lower than the HP Notebook 15-ba009dx's showing (40 MBps), both of which have 5,400-rpm hard drives. The VivoBook E403SA and its eMMC memory did even worse (30.1 MBps).
You can watch full-HD movies on Acer's laptop, but don't think about playing anything more than casual games on it. The E 15's Intel HD 620 GPU managed a mediocre 49,211 on 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited, a synthetic graphics test. That mark is well below the Inspiron 15 5000's score of 60,475 and the category average (86,474). However, the Notebook 15-ba009dx (33,649) and VivoBook E403SA (26,224) scored even lower.
Unlike many manufacturers, who don't want you to touch your laptop's innards, Acer actually cites the easy-to-remove upgrade panel on the bottom as a reason to buy this laptop. If you want to improve the performance of the E 15 E-575-33BM, you can upgrade its RAM and storage drive easily and inexpensively.
Once you take the panel off, you can put up to 32GB of DDR4 RAM inside or swap out the hard drive for any 2.5-inch SATA SSD. The machine comes with only one of its two memory slots filled, so you can pop in an extra 4GB, which costs around $33, for a total of 8GB. A 240GB or 250GB SSD goes for between $90 and $100. When there's a sale, you can get both components for far less. So, for $480 or less, you can have this laptop with an SSD, 8GB of RAM and a 1080p display.
Battery Life: Great for the Size
If you don't mind carrying the Aspire E 15 around, you'll really appreciate its long battery life. The laptop lasted 8 hours and 16 minutes on the Laptop Battery Test, which involves continuous surfing over Wi-Fi. That time is an hour and 20 minutes longer than the category average (6:52) and around double the time of the Dell Inspiron 15 5000 (4:25) and HP Notebook 15 (3:36). The 14-inch VivoBook E403SA (9:02) lasted a bit longer.
Webcam: Too much noise
Even in a market in which most built-in laptop webcams take poor pictures, the Aspire's 720p sensor stands out for all the wrong reasons. When I shot a selfie under the flourescent lights of my office, both my facial features and the background behind me were filled to the brim with extra visual noise. Fine details like the hairs in my beard and the lines on my skin were hard to make out.
The E 15 is certified for Skype for business, which means that its microphone, speakers and webcam are guaranteed to work with Microsoft's enterprise-friendly conferencing software. However, given the image quality of the built-in lens, we recommend purchasing an external webcam if you plan to make video calls for work.
Heat: Pretty cool
The Aspire E 15 stayed cool and comfortable to the touch throughout our use. After I streamed 15 minutes of video, the touchpad measured 78 degrees Fahrenheit, the keyboard clocked in at 84 degrees and the bottom hit only 85.5 degrees. All of those temperatures are well below our 95-degree comfort threshold.
Acer's Aspire E 15 family comes in a wide variety of configurations.If you're willing to spend a couple hundred dollars more, the $579 Aspire E5-575G-57D4 has the same screen and chassis as our review model, but features a Core i5-7200U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. The $629 E5-575G-53VG adds Nvidia 940MX graphics.
Software and Warranty
Acer preloads the Aspire E 15 with just a handful of utilities that aren't harmful but that mostly duplicate built-in Windows 10 features. Acer Care Center checks the system health and looks for software updates. Acer Power Button sets what the power button does: turn off the computer, sleep, hibernate or disable the display, but all those options are also available in the Windows 10 control panel. Acer Quick Access allows you to turn on the Blue light-reduction mode or set up your computer as a hotspot, features that you can get as part of the OS. CyberLink's PowerDVD lets you play movies on disc.
Like every other Windows 10 laptop we've tested, the machine comes bundled with Microsoft's standard load of casual games and trialware, including, Sling TV, Candy Crush Soda, Royal Revolt II, March of Empires: War of Lords, a link to download Fallout Shelter and a link to download Asphalt 8.
The Bottom Line
The Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575-33BM offers a great combination of solid performance, good battery life and strong usability for the money. You'd be hard-pressed to find another 15-inch laptop with features and build quality this good selling for anywhere near $350.
If you're looking for a lighter laptop with longer battery life in this price range, consider Asus' 14-inch VivoBook E403SA, which costs $50 more and has much weaker performance, but weighs just 3.18 pounds and lasts over 9 hours on a charge. However, if you want the best budget 15-inch laptop available right now, look no further than the E 15 E5-575-33BM.
Credit: Laptop Mag