The Acer Aspire E15 might not look like much at first glance, especially when comparing its all-plastic body to the sleek aluminum exterior of systems like the Dell Inspiron 15 5000. It tries to compensate with a fabric-like pattern that adds grippy texture, but there is no doubting the plastic feel of the notebook when you pick it up.
Add in how the empty the optical drive slot feels (if you opt out of getting one), and the Aspire E15 ends up with an almost toy-like quality to it.
The notebook's charcoal color exterior and white interior has an attractive, minimalist, aesthetic. But part of me wishes that the computer came in all black, or even the solid metallic color like the Lenovo Z51. Anything but white, since it contrasts so heavily with minor blemishes, along with any dust or crumbs that get stuck in the tiny cross stitch pattern.
However, there is a lot more to the system once you sit down with it.
Fortunately, there's a lot more going on under the hood that compensates for the notebook's toy-like feel. There is a fast 2.4GHz Intel Core i7 CPU, a whopping 16GB of memory, a 1TB hard drive, and a 15.6-inch screen that supports 1,920 x 1,080 resolution. Furthermore, the system has a discrete Nvidia GeForce 940M video processor to play some games.
It isn’t always powerful enough to crank gaming settings up all the way, but it's adequate enough to play games like Civilization Beyond Earth and even Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare at medium to low settings. Colorful games, like Ori and the Blind Forest, render spectacularly on the glare-proof screen.
Unfortunately, the screen has terrible viewing angles. Unless you're looking straight on, the picture ends up looking distorted and washed out. Even looking at the screen a few degrees off center brings out the worst in this display. It's just good enough for watching movies while only shifting slightly in your seat, so this isn't a notebook to use on flights.
Additionally, the downward firing speakers need a solid surface to bounce sound off of, which limits where you can place the laptop and how you use it. I could hardly hear anything with the notebook resting on my lap.
A granite countertop works a lot better, but even then, I have to turn the volume up all the way to watch Netflix. There isn't much bass to speak of either, so you’ll definitely need headphones or an external speaker to go with this system.
Fortunately, the chiclet keyboard is relatively comfortable to type on, even though the keys are a tad small for my taste – especially the top row of function buttons. There's a numeric keypad, which is a welcome feature, but it pushes the Home keys into the tiny top row, where it's easy to accidently hit the other keys. Also, the keys aren’t backlit, so the laptop’s usability takes a major dip in dark environments.