Acer Aspire 5: Intel's Ice Lake CPUs come to the budget Aspire line
PCWorld|November 2020
The latest of Acer’s budget-minded Aspire 5 laptops is here, now with Ice Lake on board.
BEN PATTERSON

Another winner in a long line of budget-priced workhorses, the latest version of the Acer Aspire 5 graduates to Intel’s Ice Lake CPU and packs in enough power to tackle daily computing tasks with ease. This new Aspire 5 model does come saddled with a few compromises, including a cramped storage drive and so-so battery life, but its solid multi-core performance and impressive array of ports make up for those shortcomings, particularly once you consider its affordable price (currently $550 on Amazon [go.pcworld.com/asp5]).

CONFIGURATION

Last year, we saw versions of the Aspire 5 in various dual- and quad-core configurations of Intel’s Core Whiskey Lake CPUs and AMD Ryzen 3000 series chips. Now, in the second half of 2020, the Aspire 5 is moving to 10th-generation Intel processors and AMD Ryzen Series 4000 CPUs, with configurations ranging from quad-core (Intel) all the way to octo-core (AMD). Sticker prices for the Aspire 5 line remain decidedly wallet-friendly, ranging from $400 from a dual-core Intel Core i3-1005G1 model to $850 for a quadcore i7-10510U system with discrete Nvidia GeForce MX250 graphics.

Here are the details for our $550 configuration (A515-55-56VK) of the Acer Aspire 5:

CPU: Intel Core i5-1035G1 (Ice Lake) quad-core CPU

Memory: 8GB DDR4

Graphics: Integrated Intel UHD

Storage: 256GB SSD

Display: 15.6-inch FHD (1920x1080) IPS non-touch

Webcam: 720p

Connectivity: One SuperSpeed 5Gbps USB Type-C port, two SuperSpeed 5Gbps USB Type-A ports, one USB 2.0 port, HDMI, ethernet, combo audio jack

Networking: Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), gigabit ethernet, Bluetooth 5.0

Biometrics: Fingerprint reader

Battery capacity: 48Wh

Dimensions: 14.3 x 9.9 x 0.71 inches

Weight: 3.75 pounds (measured), 4.25 lbs (with power brick)

There’s a lot to like here given the price tag, but let’s start with the weak points. For starters (and just like all of its siblings), the thin and sleek-looking Aspire 5 is relatively bulky— it does have a 15.6-inch screen, after all. It’ll feel heavy in a knapsack. The 48Wh battery is a tad smallish for a laptop this size, and while the 8GB of RAM is adequate in terms of multitasking performance, 16GB would have been better.

On the plus side, the Aspire’s midrange Ice Lake CPU should cruise through everyday computing tasks and even pack in some solid horsepower for multi-core duties like video processing (we’ll detail the system’s real-world performance in a bit). This particular CPU sits in the middle of Intel’s Ice Lake line, so don’t expect the blistering performance we’ve seen from pricier laptops with more powerful Ice Lake CPUs. Also, keep in mind that the Aspire’s Ice Lake processor has Intel’s mainstream UHD graphics core, not the turbo-charged Iris Plus GPU in higher-end Ice Lake chips.

Besides the Aspire’s 10th-gen processor, you also get a generous helping of connectivity options, including a USB-C port for speedy external storage, three legacy USB Type-A ports (two of which boast SuperSpeed 5Gbps throughput), and an ethernet port for wired internet. The only thing we missed was a media card reader. What really caught my eye, though, was the Aspire’s support for cutting-edge Wi-Fi 6 routers, a pleasant surprise for this price range.

DESIGN

The Acer Aspire 5’s overall design hasn’t changed since last year, and that’s a good thing. With its 15.6-inch display, the Aspire 5 demands a relatively large chassis. Unlike the incredibly light but far pricier LG Gram, the laptop feels just as heavy as it looks. Still, the Aspire 5’s tapered shell and its sleek, sandblasted aluminum lid give the system a premium feel that belies its budget price tag.

The Aspire 5 comes in two colors: charcoal black and pure silver. Our review model had a pure silver shell, which extends all the way to the keyboard, the palm rest, and the handsome display hinge with the etched-in Aspire logo. Besides its aesthetics, the Aspire 5 also comes with a removable bottom panel in case you want to upgrade its 256GB storage drive—and yes, brackets are included.

DISPLAY

The Acer Aspire 5’s full-HD display looks, as expected, sharp and vivid, although as with other laptops in this budget-minded series, the Aspire’s screen is a little dimmer (in the 259– 269 nit range, according to Acer) than those on pricier systems. That’s not to say you’ll be squinting when viewing the Aspire 5’s display indoors; on the contrary, the screen was comfortably bright when I was using it indoors. Indirect sunlight, however, the Aspire’s anti-glare display can be tricky to see, even with the brightness cranked all the way up.

Thanks to its IPS (in-plane switching) panel, the Aspire 5’s screen boasts very good off-angle viewing, with screen brightness dimming just a tad when viewed from the sides, above or below.

It’s worth noting that the Aspire 5’s display is not touch-enabled, which isn’t too surprising given the Aspire’s budget price, as well as the fact that it’s a standard laptop rather than a 2-in-1.

KEYBOARD, TRACKPAD, SPEAKERS, AND WEBCAM

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