Acer Aspire E 15 (2016) Laptop Review
If you're hunting for value, look no further than the Acer Aspire E 15
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Premium notebooks have it easy—sleek, attractive-looking design, top-of-the-line hardware, and in most cases, extreme portability to boot. But, even though models like Apple's MacBooks are popular, the top shelf isn't within most folks' reach.
The 2016 version of the Acer Aspire E 15 (also known as the Acer Aspire E5-575G-53VG, MSRP $549.99) doesn't have the sleek design, top-of-the-line construction, or portability of a luxury notebook, that's for sure. What it lacks in flashy engineering and classy materials, it makes up for in bang-for-your-buck performance.
For around $550 (or $700 for a Core i7-powered model), you'll be treated to substantially better-than-average performance, a boatload of onboard memory, a flash-based solid state drive standard, stellar battery life, and a host of upgrade opportunities ensure a positive return on investment.
Unfortunately, a couple of its flaws are hard to ignore; a washed-out display stares you in the face and a plasticky, think build nags you every time you transport it. But if you're strong-willed—and just strong enough to carry a nearly-5.3-pound laptop—the Aspire E 15 will serve you well.
About the Acer Aspire E5-575G-53VG
Acer may have cut some corners with the Aspire E 15, but it was sure to bolster areas that typical mid-range computers neglect. I'll touch on the E 15's sheer amount of value shortly, but for now, let's take a look at what we're working with.
• Intel Core i5-6200U dual-core processor
• 8GB DDR4 SDRAM
• 15.6-inch 1920x1080 LED display
• Nvidia GeForce 940MX graphics processor with 2 GB GDDR5 RAM
• 256GB M.2 SATA SSD
• WiFi AC/Bluetooth
• CD/DVD Multidrive (Reads/Burns DVDs and CDs)
• 2,500mAh lithium-ion battery with up to 64W of power
Our review unit is the $550 model with the above specsheet, but Acer also offers a version of the E 15 with a Core i7 processor. Given that every single version is equipped with an SSD, 8 GB RAM, discrete graphics, and even an optical drive, it's no wonder that this model frequently tops the Amazon charts.
What We Like
For its price, its performance is stellar.
You won't be peeling out and burning rubber (so to speak) with the Acer Aspire E 15, but given its asking price, the performance it's capable of is nothing short of impressive.
The E 15 is powered by Intel's Core i5 processor, this Acer will offer you plenty of performance. This particular i5 processor is the standard across the industry for mid-range laptops, found in everything from Dell's Inspiron 7000 2-in-1 lineup to Samsung's Notebook 13 series. You could conceivably spring for the Core i7-powered model of the E 15, but for $150 more, I personally deem the money to be better spent elsewhere. Your mileage, as the saying goes, may vary.
For day-to-day multitasking, video streaming, and even memory-hogging app-usage (your Adobe Premieres and Photoshops, for instance), the Acer E 15 is a surprisingly capable contender. And if gaming is a priority for you, I've got good news and bad news. The good news is the E 15 is well-equipped to handle middle-of-the-road gaming, or even very demanding games (though you'll have to tick down the graphics a few notches).
The laptop's GeForce 940MX card—which is backed up by 2GB of dedicated GDDR5 memory—can handle a fair amount of stress, meaning even newer games like Overwatch. It's not unheard of to find a laptop of this class with a decent graphics card, but it's not particularly common, either, especially when you're in as low of a price range as the E 15.
You needn't worry about paltry battery life.
What good would a huge laptop be if it didn't at least have huge battery life to back up its heft? The E 15's 2,500mAh-sized battery may seem small, but thanks to a good amount of wattage, the it put up huge numbers in our intensive PCMark8 Home battery test, averaging just under five hours of test time.
Since PC Mark 8's battery test drains the battery faster than usual, everyday tasks, this doesn't mean you can expect only five hours of actual use per charge, but if you compare it to the three-hour result put forth by the 13-inch Samsung Notebook 9 (a laptop with a much higher price tag with the same basic Intel chip inside), you'll start to see how ahead-of-the-curve the E 15 actually resides.
A spacious keyboard with feel-good keys
I'm a sucker for a good keyboard, so my time clacking away on the E 15 has been a pleasant one. The keys themselves are adequately spaced (not a surprise for such a wide laptop) and there's a number pad on the right-hand side, which is always a welcome addition. The E 15's keyboard also passes my day-long test; its keys respond with the right amount of pressure for hours of comfortable typing.
Backlighting—another feature that, across the marketplace, is missing in action more than it ought to be—is accounted for, too, so there's no need to worry about fumbling around in the dark for the right key.
Flexibility in ports, flexibility in upgrades
There's plenty of real estate on the outside of the E 15 for connectivity options, and Acer didn't waste any of it. Between three standard USB ports, a USB Type-C port, an HDMI port, you're good to go for pretty much everything. There's even an Ethernet port for wired 'net access, should you feel so inclined. Along front there's even a SD slot, which is great if you want to easily get photos from your DSLR. The real standout, obviously, is the inclusion of USB Type-C, which'll make for a nice cushion as the standard slowly becomes ubiquitous in the next few years.
Speaking of future-proofing... Let's talk about RAM. The E 15 has two DDR4 memory slots, meaning its already-competitive 8GB of RAM can be upgraded all the way up to 32GB. Loosen three simple Philips-head screws, and you get access to those RAM slots, the standard M.2 SSD, and you'll even find a spot for a second SATA hard drive to live. It's this kind of upgradeability that has fallen out of favor in the era of seamless, uniform design and razer-thin build, and it's exactly what gives the E 15 a leg-up on some of the more expensive, higher-end laptops out there.
What We Don't Like
Graceful, it is not.
While I dig the look and feel of the E 15 (the plastic along the outside of the laptop features a crosshatched, woven-linen-type finish), the E 15 is an absolute beast of a computer.
I know, I know—when it comes to 15-inch displays, anything is a beast. But at 1.2 inches tall, the E 15 is particularly chunky, and at 5.3 pounds, your shoulder will definitely be getting to know the strap on your messenger bag a little better in the coming years.
If you see yourself traveling to-and-from work with your computer and you're even a little worried about the toll it might take on your back, you might want to get your hands on the E 15 in person before committing to it. The truth is, the E 15 is better suited to live on your desk most of the time—if you were hoping to tote this with you to and from Starbucks to work on your next great screenplay, there are other, better options.
A lackluster display
Perhaps it's because I spend my days staring at glowing rectangles, but one of the first observations I made about the Aspire E 15 is its dim, washed-out display, which has a habit of sucking the life out of photos, streaming video, and games. I might be better-equipped at picking up on these issues with my naked eye than everyday consumers, but the numbers don't lie—in our lab, the E 15's full-HD LED display maxed out at around 210 nits, which is below-average, even for its class.
The colors, too, lack the saturation needed for a sharp, vivid viewing experience. As a result, streaming Netflix, for example, is best left for dimly-lit rooms; another reason to leave the E 15 on a desk at home.
Should You Buy It?
Ask yourself two questions: Can you find it in your heart to tolerate a relatively dim, washed-out display and a laptop whose size and weight are downright cumbersome at times? If you think you can put up with these two admittedly irksome drawbacks, the Aspire E 15 is ready to surpass your expectations without lightening your wallet too much.
It'd be one thing if the E 15 was just a solid performer. More importantly, it's a solid performer for a phenomenal price, and one that'll even prove reliable for some gamers (or at least the ones who aren't looking to run current-generation titles at silky-smooth framerates).
And we haven't even begun to factor in its impressive upgradeability, plentiful ports, and stellar battery life, which tip the scales even further. Honestly, I know I've already advised against splurging on the $150 Core i7 model, but the truth is you could go for it and still wind up on the winning end of the deal.
For a little dose of perspective, consider the bestselling 13-inch MacBook Air, which also uses Intel's dual-core mobile Core-i chips. If you opt for the Core i7 MacBook Air (which also comes with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage), you can expect to pay around $1,349. That's a little less than double the cost of the Core i7 Aspire E 15, which can also be upgraded to 32GB of RAM, unlike the Mac. So, by my math, you're looking nearly $700 in Apple Design Tax left on the table. On top of that, the Acer gets a boost from the juiced-up performance of the Nvidia 940MX graphics chip. Still worried about the Acer E 15's size?
It's big, bulky, and a real pain-in-the-neck to lug around, but lets face it—bargains like this are few and far between. If you're looking for some peace of mind to go with a $550 credit card transaction, look no further than the Acer Aspire E 15.