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Acer Aspire E5-551 review

Can AMD's Kaveri APU make up for this mid-range laptop's misgivings?

Acer E5-551
Acer E5-551

The Acer Aspire E5-551 is a fair attempt at a mid-range laptop that has its fair share of features wrapped in a sturdy chassis with a no-frill (some may call it minimal) design. While it offers sufficient computing power to chew through everyday tasks and doesn't put a huge foot wrong anywhere, it doesn't excel in any particular department.

We liked

When it comes to the very basics, the E5-551 delivers. It has a serviceable keyboard and a roomy trackpad that's responsive and satisfying to use. If you absolutely must have a DVD writer in the machine, an increasing rarity in itself, the E5-551 offers one.

There's a healthy selection of connectivity options, whether you need onboard LAN, HDMI-out for hooking up to a monitor or VGA for connecting a projector. It's a shame that only one USB 3.0 port has been included in the mix.

The E5-551 is solidly build and capable of taking a bit of tough and tumble around the house. You probably wouldn't want to lug it about too often because of its size and weight, but if it's going to be sat on a desk then you can be confident it could take a knock or two.

We disliked

The E5-551's biggest weakness is its display's miserly 1,366 x 768 resolution, which makes it difficult to be productive. Snapping apps and documents is awkward, and while its 15.6-inch display is big, you'll be limited to watching videos in HD (720p) rather than full-HD (1080p). That display also suffers from narrow viewing angles, washed out colours and dull brightness. There's plenty of screen to view your videos and images, but they're not going to look great.

While it's not workstation chunky, the E5-551 is a bit of a beast. It's too thick to be comfortably portable and if you're seeking a 15-inch laptop that's a bit lighter, getting one that doesn't have a DVD drive and buying a USB-powered one separately would be the way to go.

The disappointment doesn't stop there: the E5-551's speakers are poor, it only offers last-gen 802.11n Wi-Fi, and at the three-hour mark, its battery life isn't going to allow you to get much done away from a plug socket for any serious amount of time. All of this would be forgivable if the E5-551 was a strong performer, but it's not. Our benchmark results indicate little or no no discernable performance gains over laptops the same cost (or less) in its ccategory.

Final verdict

The Acer Aspire E5-551 isn't a disaster, but for a machine that costs what it does, that's the biggest compliment it can be paid. It really boils down to what you need from a laptop. Its 1TB hard disk drive is capacious, but slow. The display is big, but suffers from a low pixel-resolution. Windows 8.1 apps run smoothly, but the display has no touch operation. While performance on the desktop isn't too shabby, Acer's claims that AMD's new Kaveri processor makes it a value-based powerhouse are very off the mark.

As such, the E5-551 is pipped to the post by the Lenovo G505, which scored similarly in CPU and CPU benchmark tests but comes with two USB 3.0 ports and slightly better battery life. If you're prepared to sacrifice the DVD drive, a smaller option such as the Lenovo Flex 2 14-inch convertible would offer more for your money. While it comes with half the E5-551's storage capacity, that laptop uses a 500GB SSHD drive that combines fast solid-state speeds with the capacity of hard disk.