Affordable computing hit the headlines in 2014 thanks to laptops and tablets like the HP Stream and Linx 7. At the opposite end of the market, Intel's new Broadwell chip began to pave the way for lighter, thinner and more desirable, wallet-intimidating Ultrabooks.
These developments have made it difficult for mid-range laptops like the Acer E5-551 to stand out from the crowd, but its Taiwan-based maker is giving it a good go. The Windows 8.1-powered E5-551 is one of the first notebooks with an APU based on AMD's Kaveri architecture, which combines CPU and GPU power into a single package.
Launching at £399 (around $US626/AUS$766), the E5-551 has a large 15.6-inch display and is being billed as a machine fit for everyday tasks - from general productivity work to browsing the web, streaming music and light gaming thanks to its Radeon-branded graphics (Acer was keen to stress that high-end gaming is off the menu).
There's no shortage of alternatives to the E5-551 in its price bracket, including the Toshiba Satellite C50, which also uses an AMD APU. Other similarly-priced laptops include the Lenovo G505, Lenovo IdeaPad S405 and the 14-inch Lenovo Flex 2 convertible.
In terms of appearances, the E5-551 is pretty much what you would expect from a mid-range laptop. It's one big black slab of plastic with a subtle brushed metal finish on the lid and base. But while it won't win any design awards, Acer has at least kept appearances tidy by positioning a sole AMD sticker and power button around the keyboard.
The E5-551's display is nothing to shout about. Its 1,366 x 768 pixel-resolution is low by modern laptop standards and looks particularly stretched here. You can fit two windows side-by-side in Windows 8.1, but only just. Zooming out while viewing web pages and documents becomes necessary just to fit more content on the screen.
The display uses is a TFT panel that provides poor horizontal viewing angles and narrow vertical viewing angles. The large screen is fine for watching movies and other content when viewed head-on, but it's less than ideal for sharing content with a friend.
It also suffers from low brightness and dull colour reproduction. It's not a problem if you only plan to browse the web, shop online or type documents, but professional image editors will want to look for something a little brighter and more vibrant. The E5-551's display is not touch compatible, meaning you'll have to stick to keyboard and mouse when using Windows 8.1 apps. Boo.