Acer Aspire 5: Not exactly a looker, but this laptop packs a punch for the price

Acer Aspire 5: Not exactly a looker, but this laptop packs a punch for the price


Ultra slim bezels and sleek styling – who wouldn’t want that in a laptop? But if more tangible qualities like performance, functionality, and value count for anything in a laptop, the modest Acer Aspire 5 is surely worth it. In fact, it’s one of the best laptops under £ 500 right now.

The Aspire 5’s sturdy bezels and dated chassis may not make a good initial impression. But under the hood, this Acer packs a true Intel 10th Gen quad-core processor and a fast M.2 SSD, plus a 1080p IPS panel, all for a knockout price of around £ 500. Add 8 GB of RAM and a 48 Wh battery and you have all the assets of a laptop without major weak points.

Also, as tested, this is the 14 inch Acer Aspire 5 A514-52-582Y model (15 inch models and variants running AMD processors are also available), so despite the poor screen-to-body ratio, it remains quite a portable device.

Connectivity isn’t bad either, with USB Type-C and Ethernet in the mix. There are certainly some superficially better looking laptops for the money, laptops with more immediate appeal, and a coffee table (head over to our overall ranking of the best laptops for more of them). But the Acer Aspire 5 presents a pretty solid overall package, on paper. It’s time to find out if it works in practice.

Acer Aspire 5 review: design and construction

Upon first acquaintance, the Acer Aspire 5 has felt like a haven since around 2015. The slightly dated design mainly stands out with the big and chunky bezels at the top and bottom of the 14-inch screen. That said, the thin side borders at least ensure fairly compact overall proportions. At 1.7kg and 17mm thick, portability is decent and is made easier by the compact 45W power supply. If you want something more stylish, head over to our Asus Vivobook 15 vs Acer comparison. Aspire 5 – The Asus is a sleeker laptop for a similar price, but there are tradeoffs elsewhere.

It should be noted that the power supply uses an old school cylindrical connector. The Aspire 5 has USB Type-C connectivity, but only for data. You can’t charge it via USB-C, that’s a shame.

(Image credit: Jeremy Laird)

Still, one of the fringe benefits of the relative bezel bulge is plenty of space at the top for a suitable webcam location. Your Zoom accomplices won’t have to suffer from the upward angle that spoils at least some thin bezel laptops.

Another aspect of the design is the somewhat stingy plastic trackpad. If you’ve tried one of the larger glass-topped modern-style trackpads, it’s extremely difficult to turn back the clock. The Acer’s trackpad feels constrained, limiting, and a bit cheap in comparison.

Still, it’s reasonably solid, which is a feeling that applies more broadly to the Acer Aspire 5. With its metal keyboard surround and display case, it feels ready to take a beating. The only exception is the keyboard. The bed is subject to a bit of bounce.

(Image credit: Jeremy Laird)

The screen hinge is also sturdy, if a little too stiff. Try lifting the Aspire 5’s display cover with one hand and the whole chassis comes for the ride. Pity.

As for ports and connectivity, on the right side of the chassis you’ll find an old USB Type-A 2.0 jack and a headphone jack. On the left is HDMI, a pair of 5 Gbps USB 3.1 ports, plus a USB Type-C connector, again operating at 5 Gbps. The only glaring omission is an SD card reader.

Audio-wise, the Acer Aspire 5 is configured with a pair of bottom-firing stereo speakers on the front of the chassis. In terms of soundstage clarity and imagery, they’re not that bad. But the complete absence of anything bass-like and also very little midrange results in a very slim overall audio experience.

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