Intel recently announced its 8th gen Core CPUs for laptopsand desktops, which were highlighted in fresh launches at IFA 2017. Laptops according to these new CPUs have already begun trickling into the market, also Acer is one of the first companies to begin selling them in India.
The Aspire 5 series has gotten the refresh rate, and Acer has established multiple SKUs with slight variations in terms of specifications, all priced aggressively in around Rs. 50,000. The model on test today is the Aspire 5 A515-515G-571Z, which has the best configuration of the lot. Together with Intel’s new CPU, the laptop also boasts of Nvidia’s new budget-minded MX150 GPU, which makes this a very interesting multimedia solution at this price. Let’s see what you get to get money.
Acer Aspire 5 A515-51G design and build
The Aspire 5 is designed keeping a mid-range budget in mind, therefore most of the body is made of plastic. The lower half, in which all the components go, is well constructed and feels sturdy. The Aspire 5 is also quite slim for a 15.6-inch laptop, measuring around 20.95mm thick. On the flip side, it’s still heavy at 2.2kg, so you will feel the heft in your backpack. The lid includes a striped design, which looks nice and doesn’t bring in fingerprints. But it flexes quite easily and it doesn’t offer much protection for the display, which can easily warp if you press the lid. There is also noticeable warping across the left side of the display each time you close or open the lid.
Acer has fitted a full-HD display with this particular variant (although not on all), so text, menus and everything in general looks clear and sharp. The lid may also tilt all the way back, to 180 degrees. The torsion of this hinge is great too so it is possible to use it at multiple angles without worrying. Colour reproduction is decent, however, the worst part is the viewing angles, which can be quite weak. Horizontal viewing angles are not that bad but there is a really narrow sweet spot for the vertical angles.
The Aspire 5 has a fantastic selection of ports. You get a total of three full-sized USB ports (2 2.0 ports, one 3.0 port), a Type-C port (USB 3.1, Gen1), Ethernet, HDMI, an SD card slot, and a headphone and microphone combo socket. The laptop has a metal plate for the palm rest area, which gives it slight premium feeling. This also means that there isn’t any bend round the keys, which is usually the case with plastic. You get a backlit, full-sized keyboard together with a number pad. The keys are well spaced out and are comfortable for typing. We also found the trackpad to be generously proportioned.
On the bottom of the laptop, we’ve got a a lot of vents to maintain decent air circulation. Additionally, there are two hatches for accessing the hard drive and RAM. This is extremely useful as it allows owners easily get these components without needing to go to a service center. The laptop ships with a 60W power adapter and user manuals.
Design is probably not the strongest suit of this Aspire 5 but its specifications are what is really interesting here. It matches Intel’s new Core i5-8250U CPU, depending on the Kaby Lake Refresh architecture. It still employs the same 14nm fabrication process but the number of cores has doubled from two to four, which means you now get eight processing threads. This by itself should provide a sizeable boost in performance. There is also 4GB of DDR4 RAM and a 1TB hard drive. You can add more RAM thanks to the empty accessible slot.
The latter component was recently declared by Nvidia, and replenishes the ageing GeForce 940MX. It’s based upon the newer 14nm Pascal graphics architecture and should significantly improve performance even though the CUDA core count remains the same. It supports DirectX 12 and has 2GB of GDDR5 memory to itself.
Other specifications includes Bluetooth 4, dual-band Wi-Fi ac, and an HD webcam. The laptop ships with Windows 10 Home and you also get the complete version of Microsoft’s Home and Student 2016 edition with this particular variant.
There is also a 30-day subscription to Norton Security. Other than this, you get Acer’s standard suite of bundled software like Acer Collection, which curates programs from the Windows Store; Care Centre which helps you keep your drivers up to date; Quick Access which lets you toggle the blue light filter; and Portal to help you set up your own private cloud. There are loads of other programs from the Windows Store that ship with all the laptop too, but you can uninstall nearly all of them if not required.
Acer Aspire 5 A515-51G performance and battery life
The Aspire 5 has a fantastic pair of specifications but it’s hard to tell with regular usage. Even opening various menus in Windows requires a bit of a wait. With programs like the Chrome browser running, you are left with barely 1GB of free RAM, which causes a lot of lag. 8GB of RAM would have been a much better idea. Regrettably, all of the variants that Acer offers with 8GB have something else missing, such as Windows or the full-HD screen. At least you can include more RAM yourself.
The Aspire 5 plays well in benchmarks, and in certain multi-threaded tests, it manages to outperform Intel’s higher-end 7th gen CPUs. POVRay completed in 4 minutes and two minutes, while we got 3044 and 3578 points in PCMark 8, which are good scores to get an i5 U-series CPU. The hard drive also achieved well in SiSoft Sandra’s physical disk evaluations, where we have a drive score of 200MB/s. The Aspire 5 does a good job when gaming in the native resolution if you drop graphics settings down to either Low or Medium for playable framerates, depending upon the game. In Rise of the Tomb Raider, we averaged only 15fps with Medium settings, at 1080p using the built-in benchmark. Actual gameplay was better as the match hovered round the 20fps mark. In 3DMark Firestrike, we have a score of 3238 points.
When gaming, the exhaust fan is audible and keys around the WSAD area have a tendency to get a bit warm. The noise from the fan isn’t too distracting if you are all on your own. The Aspire 5 easily manages 4K video without any trouble. Acer also has a dynamic contrast modification system called Colour Intelligence, which is helpful for animated movies but otherwise is best left switched off. The keyboard has great travel for typing as well as the keys are not too noisy. We like the way the trackpad is generously proportioned, and button presses do not require too much effort.
The stereo speakers are placed on either side, at the bottom. They get fairly loud at full volume and sound best when the laptop is placed on a solid surface so that noise can reflect off it. Acer promises up to seven hours of battery life from the 4-cell battery however we were able to have about five-and-a-half to six hours, which is about typical.
Acer delivers a solid foundation to get a mid-range multimedia laptop in the Aspire 5. The capable CPU and GPU, comfortable keyboard, and user-upgradable RAM and storage all make it great price. However, you ought to be careful when shopping as there are lots of variants of this Aspire 5, all priced in the range of Rs. 45,000 to Rs. 52,000, with very slight variations in their configurations. For instance, the A515-515G-571Z model that we analyzed isn’t available with 8GB of RAM so if you that pre-installed then you’ll have to forego either the full-HD display or Windows.
We wish the display had improved viewing angles, and we would have liked a sturdier lid. The default 4GB of RAM and mechanical hard drive actually cripple Windows performance, so if you’re planning on getting this one, then it’s advisable to invest in another stick of RAM.
Great multimedia performance
Great value for money
User accessible RAM and storage
4GB of RAM simplifies use
Display has weak viewing angles