With high-end laptops getting ever slimmer, lighter and more expensive, while budget laptops continue to show that they can still be perfectly capable options despite their rock-bottom prices, it can be easy to overlook mid-range machines such as the Acer Aspire 5.
Rather than packing cutting-edge technology and extravagant designs, many of these mid-rangers quietly and competently get on with the tasks you set them, while striking a balance between packing up-to-date and powerful components, and keeping prices as low as possible.
Midrange laptops are the laptops many of us are most likely to buy, and they’re ideal if you want something that’s future-proof, as they have more powerful and recent components than budget machines, but don't want to pay over the odds.
Acer has recently updated the Acer Aspire 5 range to include 8th-generation Intel Core processors, so now’s the perfect time to take a look at what this affordable laptop can do.
Here is the Acer Aspire 5 A515-51-50Y5 configuration sent to TechRadar for review:
CPU: 1.60Hz Intel Core i5 8250U (quad-core; 6MB cache; up to 3.40GHz)
Display: 15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) LED
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620
Memory: 8GB DDR4 RAM
Storage: 256GB SSD
Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 4.1
Camera: HD Camera
Ports: 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 3.1 (USB-C), HDMI, SD card reader, 3.5mm audio jack, Ethernet Dimensions: 15.02 x 10.35 x 0.85 inches (38.16 x 26.3 x 2.16 cm) Weight: 4.85 pounds (2.2kg)
Price and availability
The Acer Aspire 5 comes in a range of configurations and price points, starting at $399 (around £300, AU$500) for the Acer Aspire 5 A515-51-3509, which comes with an Intel Core i3 7100U processor, 15.9-inch 1080p display, integrated graphics and 8GB of DDR4 RAM.
In the UK, the lowest-specced Aspire 5 comes with an older Intel i3-6006U processor, 15.6-inch Full HD display and 8GB of RAM, for £469.99. In Australia, the Aspire 5 A515-51G is the cheapest model, and comes with a new Intel Core i5 8250U processor, 15.6-inch 1366 x 768 display, 8GB RAM and a dedicated GeForce 940MX graphics card.
Beyond these budget options there's a huge range of Acer Aspire 5 configurations to choose from, which again vary depending on where you live, with top-of-the-line models like the Acer Aspire 5 A517-51G-8433 boasting an Intel Core i7 8550U processor, 17.3-inch 1080p screen, 12GB RAM, a HDD and SSD and dedicated graphics courtesy of an Nvidia GeForce MX150 GPU, for $999.99 (around £700, AU$1,200).
The version reviewed here is the Acer Aspire 5 A515-51-50Y5, which comes with an Intel Core i5 8250U, integrated graphics, 8GB DDR4 RAM and 256GB SSD.
The design of the Acer Aspire 5 is what you’d probably expect from a mid-range laptop: nothing too flashy, and not as svelte as ultrabooks such as the Dell XPS 13 or the Asus ZenBook 3. However, that doesn’t mean this is a chunky, ugly laptop. With dimensions of 2.16 x 38.16 x 26.3cm and a weight of 2.20kg (4.85 pounds), the Acer Aspire 5 is quite a large laptop, but it’s not too heavy or unwieldly to carry around. You may find it a bit of a struggle to whip out and work on a busy train, however.
It’s actually quite a nice-looking, understated machine with a few design flourishes. The chassis is mainly made out of plastic, with a textured surface on the lid, along with a reflective Acer logo.
Opening the laptop reveals a decent-sized screen surrounded by fairly thick bezels, which some may feel is wasted space. It does, at least, allow for a large keyboard on the bottom half of the laptop, which we’ll get to in a moment.
The large bezels also mean the webcam can be positioned in the center of the top bezel, which in our opinion is the best place for a webcam to reside.
The bottom bezel holds another Acer logo, and below that is the nicely-designed laptop hinge that has ‘Aspire’ engraved on it – a nice touch, we think. The hinge allows for a decent degree of adjustment of the screen at a range of angles, although this isn’t a laptop on which you can flip the screen 360 degrees backwards, into a tablet-like position – for that you’ll want a convertible laptop, such as Acer’s own Spin 7 series.
The Acer Aspire 5 comes with two USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0, a USB-C, Ethernet and SD memory card port, giving you plenty of options for connecting peripherals.
We’d have liked maybe one of the USB 2.0 ports to be another USB 3.0, but the USB-C port is definitely a welcome addition that gives you some future-proofing.
Keyboard and touchpad
The bottom half of the laptop, where the large keyboard and touchpad sit, again has a plastic surface, but it has a brushed finish that, while not as premium as aluminum, is still quite pleasant. It didn’t take it too long to pick up fingerprints, however.
The keyboard itself is a nice size, which makes typing on it for long periods comfortable, although the flat keys and short travel distance mean it’s not the most responsive, or satisfying-feeling, keyboard we’ve tried.
The large form factor of the Acer Aspire 5 means it can hold a rather large touchpad, which is offset slightly to the left of the center of the chassis.
The large size ensures that using multi-finger gestures, such as pinching two fingers together to zoom out, is easy, although some people may find the larger size means they're more likely to accidentally rest their palm on it when typing, sending the curser flying around the screen. The touchpad also has a rather plastic and cheap feel to it when pushed, which is a shame, as the rest of the Aspire 5 manages to avoid that.