The Acer Aspire E1, despite being on the high end of "budget", comes with plenty of caveats. But maybe that's a given, and it's better to focus on what it does right. Unfortunately, when all is taken into account, the Aspire E1 gets splits almost entirely down the middle in terms of pros and cons.

We liked

The high end of budget or not, $599 (about £350, AU$640) is still not much to pay for a decent laptop. That's especially since this laptop comes with all the essentials: three USB ports, Ethernet and an SD card reader, not to mention some non-essentials – hello, HDMI out.

The E1 is also not a bad-looking little machine. It's not flashy, but it isn't ugly, either. "Nondescript" may be the worst thing you can say about it; at least it probably won't get stolen in a sea of 13-inch MacBook Air lookalikes. Finally, the keyboard. Oh, the keyboard. How I wish I could type on you forever (if only you were backlit).

We disliked

And then there's the Aspire E1's touchpad, the bane of my time with this laptop. Pointing is fine, but clicking is certainly not, since the button has about an inch's length in the middle that simply doesn't click.

And forget about scrolling – put two fingers on the pad and it doesn't respond or jumps around so much that you'll just use the arrow keys instead.

The display is weak, the speakers are poorly located, and the battery life is mediocre. And the E1 is filled with bloatware ("Sign up for an Acer account!" "Create an Acer back-up!") that, although easy to dismiss and sweep under the digital rug, is annoying for a time.

Final verdict

If you were considering the E1 for a budget buy, ask yourself: are these compromises that you can live with?

Maybe you'll get used to the touchpad's quirks after a few weeks, and you don't care what Frankie Muniz's ugly face looks like on Netflix, as long as you can get online, write that report, and play some Hotline Miami. Then the Acer Aspire E1 might be for you.

But with better-priced rivals out there, the competition is steep. Frankly, you might be better off finding a budget laptop on which it's easier to scroll up and down.