The Acer Aspire 5 is a stellar sub-$500 laptop for college students and home-office users on a budget. Sure, it’s fairly bulky, and doesn’t have the most exciting screen and battery life, but it’s a solid performer, with a good keyboard and a premium design.
- Very affordable
- Sleek silver exterior
- Decent power for everyday computing tasks
- Imprecise touchpad
- Slightly bulky
The budget laptop world is never short of exciting gadgets. Gone are the days when buying a laptop on a budget meant having to do with a super-slow machine that wouldn’t even last a week. These days, you can get a solid laptop – like the Acer Aspire 5 A515-54-37U3 we’re reviewing – with a relatively good performance and a nice keyboard, for under $400.
This Acer Aspire 5 refreshes last year’s model the Acer Aspire 5 (A515-54-30BQ) that we loved for its design, price and sleek design. Sure, it may not be the sleekest notebook out there, but with a newer 10th-Gen Intel Core i3 chip and a decent battery life, the Aspire A515-54-37U3 is one of the best budget laptops you can buy.
- Related: Best Laptops under $500
Acer Aspire 5 design
Going by 15-inch laptop standards, the Aspire 5 sports a premium look but it isn’t very light, weighing just under 6 pounds. Most budget machines are defined by cheap, heavy materials like molded plastic. In contrast, the Aspire 5’s exterior is made of silver aluminum, meaning this notebook is not very light, but sports a sleek, modern look. However, it’s not anywhere close to the Acer Swift 5 that weighs a paltry 2.2 pounds, but it will still not weigh you down in your backpack.
Around the display edges there’s some plastic but the keyboard deck and rest of the interior surface are made of the same material used on the exterior. Even with the improved dimension and better materials, you’ll notice that the base of the unit is slightly wobbly, even when resting on a flat tabletop. There’s some flex on the base, too, which doesn’t inspire lots of confidence in the Aspire’s durability if the body is banged around much.
Acer Aspire 5 display
When you open the lid, you’re greeted by a 15.6-inch full HD (1,920-by-1,080) display, alongside the new standard LED backlight and in-plane (IPS) technology. The screen is of excellent quality, with clear and vivid colors, when the backlight is set to its optimal level. Better still, the screen achieves this quality using a matte finish that reduces glare from ambient lights.
On the downside, Acer doesn’t offer a touchscreen option, but is a remarkable improvement over last year’s model. Above the display, there is a 720p webcam with decent – but slightly grainy video quality, that lacks IR sensors that would allow you to log into your Windows 10 account using face recognition. After all, we didn’t expect such a feature on a budget laptop.
Acer Aspire 5 inputs
Another interesting feature on the Acer A515-54-37U3 must be the backlit keyboard, just above the touchpad. It’s comfortable, sturdy and offers the flexibility you’d need during intense typing sessions. Again, it gets little give when you strike the keys forcefully. The keyboard has a dedicated number pad on the right side, but unlike the main part of the board, its keys are not full-size.
The touchpad used here doesn’t boost a built-in fingerprint reader, and it lacks dedicated left- and right-click buttons. Instead, the entire surface on the pad is clickable, although it results in a fairly mushy feel whenever you click.
Connectivity options are excellent, especially if you hate dongles but have lots of peripherals and cables to plug into your laptop. The left edge has a power connector, full-size Gigabit Ethernet and HDMI ports, and two USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports (one with power-off charging). The other edge holds a Kensington-style cable, a two USB 2.0 ports, and a 3.5mm audio output. Wireless connectivity comes via Intel Wireless Wi-Fi 6 AX201 802 11ax Dual-Band 2 4GHz and 5GHz featuring 2×2 MU-MIMO technology.
Acer Aspire 5 performance
While you can’t build a custom-configured Aspire, there are many variants to choose from, ranging from the low-end model to the top-of-the-line Core i7 model and a core i5 model in between. Our review unit, the Acer Aspire 5 A515-54-37U3 is a new model, featuring a 10th Generation Intel Core i3-10110U processor, 4GB DDR4 RAM, 128GB NVMe SSD, integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620 graphics card and Windows 10 in S mode, while most mainstream laptops come with Windows 10 Home OS.
With Windows 10 S mode, you’re limited to apps found in the Microsoft Store, the same way you would do with Chrome OS running Google Apps, but this version offers a lightweight full Windows 10 experience. It makes lots of sense to have Windows 10 on this laptop, as it gives you flexibility to do most tasks over the limitations of Chrome OS found on similarly priced Chromebooks.
As configured, the 2.1 Intel Core i3-10110U processor used here is sufficient for web browsing, video streaming, word processing and other productivity tasks that you’d usually perform on a daily basis. That makes the Aspire 5 a perfect candidate for college use or small home-office use, especially when a Chromebook isn’t a viable option.
That said, the 4GB RAM and 128GB SSD are a bit tight, but you can always swap them later with big capacity storage and maybe 8GB RAM if necessary. Battery life is good (not excellent), with the notebook lasting just over 5 hours 21 minutes on a single charge.
The Acer Aspire 5 slim laptop is a stellar sub-$500 notebook for college students and home-office users on a budget. Sure, it’s fairly bulky, and doesn’t have the most exciting screen and battery life, but it’s a solid performer, with a good keyboard and a premium design.
But is the Acer Aspire 5 best option in its price range? Well, it’s at least one of them. If you’re looking for the best laptop you can get under $500, then it’s worth considering the Asus VivoBook 15 (F512DA-EB51) which offers an AMD R5 CPU, 8GB DDR4 RAM and a 256GB SSD and a strong overall performance. However, the VivoBook 15 doesn’t quite match the sleek design on the Acer Aspire 5, and both have done away with DVD drive, if that’s important to you.
That said, if your budget is under $500, you can’t go wrong with the Acer Aspire 5 A515-54-37U3, especially with the backlit keyboard and 10th Gen Core i3 processor and gorgeous exterior design.
Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop, 15.6" Full HD IPS Display, 10th Gen Intel Core i3-10110U, 4GB DDR4, 128GB PCIe NVMe SSD, Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201 802.11ax, Backlit KB, Windows 10 in S Mode, A515-54-37U3
3 used from $469.00