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One of the mainstays of Acer’s budget laptop lineup, the Aspire 5 Series receives regular updates and tweaks than any other line out there. The 2019 iteration reviewed here – the Acer Aspire 5 A515-54-30BQ is a sleek, thin 15-inch laptop that’s a refreshed update over the Acer Aspire E 15 (E5-576-392H) we reviewed last fall.
As priced, the new Aspire 5 skirts the lower limit of budget notebooks in the market. It’s AMD version is actually around the same price, so it’s a matter of what you prefer.
In this case, you have two identical budget laptops powered by different processor – AMD Ryzen and Intel Core i3. Our review unit touts an 8th Generation Intel Core i3-8145U processor, 4GB DDR4 RAM, and a 128GB solid state drive storage. On the other hand, the AMD version of the same base model is the Acer Aspire 5 A515-43-R19L, that is powered by an AMD Ryzen 3 processor, Vega 3 graphics, and the other specs remain unchanged.
Mind you, on both models, expect a few drawbacks like some bloatware and a so-so build quality, though it looks better in silver as compared to the black, plastic design in last year’s Aspire 5.
At only 3.9 pounds, the Acer A515-54-30BQ is considered very light for a 15-inch laptop that’s not billed as an ultraportable. Usually, when shopping on a tight budget, you had to do with an absurd design, lots of weight and mediocre performance. Acer trims everything on its new offering, with a silver aluminum exterior, meaning, the laptop is not only light, but also beautiful and modern. However, it isn’t as portable as the Acer Swift 5 (2.2 pounds), but we still appreciate the fact that the company manages to deliver such a sleek machine for less money.
You’ll note some plastic around the screen edges, but the rest of the laptop’s interior surfaces match the exterior’s silver aluminum theme. In addition to being light, the laptop is thin, measuring 0.71 x 14.3 x 9.9 inches (HWD), much slimmer than its predecessor, that’s 1.2 inches thick and clad in black plastic.
About the only concern you might have with this Aspire 5 is a slightly wobbly base, and lack of indentation for your fingers to help when opening the display. The lid is secured in place by magnets, so you’ll need both hands to open the lid.
The Acer Aspire 5 comes with a 15.6-inch Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) IPS display. This type of panel is becoming standard among budget-oriented laptops today, where you might sometimes find lower resolutions or TN panels that don’t offer the same wide viewing angles. Screen quality is excellent, delivering crisp text and vibrant colors, especially when backlighting is set to maximum. The screen’s matte quality makes it even better by reducing glare from ambient lights.
While the display doesn’t offer a touchscreen option, it’s still a step over last year’s Aspire 5, which was marred by grainy colors and struggling contrast, and was using a TN panel, hence, suffered from narrow viewing angles. Above the display is a 720p webcam with decent quality, although its video quality is grainy and lacks IR sensors.
Keyboard & Inputs
The Acer Aspire 5 A515-43-R19L gets a backlit keyboard, that’s fairly comfortable to use. If you compare it with the flexibility of the rest of the laptop, you can say it feels sturdy, with little give when you strike the keys forcefully. There’s a dedicated number pad on the right side, although its keys are not full size. Below the keyboard, there’s an entirely clickable surface, meaning it lacks a built-in fingerprint reader, and you also don’t get dedicated left- and right-click buttons. The pad lacks tracking precision, you’ll have some trouble dragging onscreen elements. However, increasing sensitivity level in the Windows Precision Touchpad settings helps a bit.
The I/O port options available here include a power connector, full-size Gigabit Ethernet and HDMI port, two USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports (one with power off charging) and two USB 2.0 ports. Wireless connectivity comes via Bluetooth 4.2 and 802.11ac Wi-Fi with MU-MIMO support. Downward-firing speakers on the front left offer robust bass, but the overall sound quality isn’t so great.
Laptops never afford you the thrill of DIY, something you’d do with a gaming desktop, whereby you gather your own components and create something for yourself. For laptops, it’s a never, so the best you can hope for is the OEM offering different variants to choose from. Acer has perfected the art in the Aspire 5 Series. The company offers many variants, starting from the low-end budget model to the top-line Intel Core i7-U-series model, while the Acer Aspire 5 (A515-54-51DJ) sits at the middle with an Intel Core i5 processor.
Our review unit sits near the bottom in pricing, but it offers performance and stylish design that you’d find on expensive laptops. It’s a kill to have a premium-looking machine at a very reasonable price, and then you realize it works as it should. As mentioned, our review unit features an 8th Generation Intel Core i3-8145U (2.1GHz up to 3.9GHz) dual-core processor, 4GB RAM, 128GB flash storage, intel’s integrated UHD Graphics 620 core and Windows 10 in S mode.
This version of Windows limits you to apps found in the Microsoft Store, like you would do with a Chrome OS on Google Apps, but it’s a good platform to have a lightweight full Windows 10 experience. Having Windows S on this laptop makes a lot of sense, instead of grappling with the limitations of Chrome OS found on similarly priced Chromebooks.
As configured, this Aspire 5 A515-54-30BQ is a capable system for web browsing, video streaming, and other similar basic tasks that laptop buyers need to perform on a daily basis. If you’re buying one for college or simple home-office use, it offers real value that cheap Chromebooks.
However, the 4GB is a bit tight, but you have an option to upgrade it later. This configuration and CPU choice is battery efficient, so you’re getting around 9 hours 20 minutes on a single charge, which is almost two hours longer as compared to the AMD variant. This is enough juice for all-day use at college and more than enough on a cross-country flight or a day at the office.
The Core-i3 powered iteration of the extensive Acer Aspire 5 offers fairly good speed, and it manages to impressively balance size, design, power and price. We only wish it had more storage. For the price, however, Acer is offering a slim and lightweight notebook, that promise smooth performance on daily tasks, has a roomy 1080p screen, and all day battery life. Simply put? You’re getting more computer than you’re paying for. And, that’s the real magic here.
It’s our newest Editors’ Choice for budget laptops.
Is there a better alternative?
At this price point, alternatives are many, some with slightly better CPUs but you might spend slightly more. Nevertheless, this Aspire 5’s display is much better than most competing Chromebooks around. The only better alternative around, is the Acer Aspire 5 (A515-54-51DJ) that tops with an Intel Core i5-8265U processor, 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD. If your budget can stretch a little, it offers better value.
If you fancy a 2-in-1 convertible, the Lenovo Flex 14 is another alternative to consider, boasting a better build quality, a gorgeous screen and strong overall performance.
Should you buy it?
Yes. If you’re looking for a big-screen machine for basic tasks and have around $400 on the table, the Acer Aspire 5 A515-54-30BQ is a proper contender for your cash.