Acer Aspire 5 (A515-54G-73WC) Laptop Review
The Acer Aspire 5 A515-54G-73WC is a big-screen desktop-replacement laptop that delivers a roomy 15.6-inch display, a comfortable keyboard, and horsepower for productivity work – and some more. Our review unit of the popular Aspire 5 features an 8th-generation Intel Core i7 CPU with a discrete graphics card and a 512GB SSD. This feature-set that keeps pace with other midrange machines, including a few priced as high as one grand.
As you get excited, this machine adds almost all-day battery life and a backlit keyboard, which is becoming standard among midrange systems. The Aspire 5’s raw compute power and graphics power for the money are admirable, but an upsell to a model like the Asus VivoBook S 15 (S512FA-DB71) will satisfy more folks, ranging from students, office-users and professional creatives.
At 3.97 pounds, the Aspire is downright light for a 15.6-inch system – compare the Acer Aspire 5 A515-51G-53V6 at 4.41 pounds, the Lenovo Flex 14 at 3.52 pounds and the Asus VivoBook S410UN-NS74 at 3.2 pounds. The laptop measures 1.11 by 16.7 by 11.4 inches, landing in between the Aspire 3 and the older Aspire 5, making the size very reasonable rather than a “whopper” size class. If the 15.6-inch is too large for you, the Lenovo Flex 14 comes in a smaller 14-inch display.
The lid is plain black plastic with a centered chrome Acer logo, with another logo appearing below the wide-bezeled display with an Aspire name etched into the screen hinge, that opens a full 180 degrees. There is a brushed aluminum keyboard deck and a palm rest with a sizable touchpad. The overall design is attractive but not as luxurious as the competing Asus VivoBook S15.
The laptop’s left side holds an HDMI port, two USB 3.1 Type-A ports with support for device charging, and a USB-C port, alongside an Ethernet port for wired internet connections. The right side is a bit retro with Kensington lock slot, a single USB 2.0 ports as well as an audio jack and power adaptor connector.
The bottom panels are easily removable by a screwdriver to access the system’s RAM and hard drives for upgrades. This Aspire 5 doesn’t include an optical drive, a feature manufacturers sacrifice to deliver thin and portable laptops.
The Aspire’s full HD (1,920-by-1,080) in-plane switching (IPS) panel is vibrant, looks great and delivers vivid colors with wide viewing angles. However, we only wish the same could apply to the shots from the webcam, which delivers typically dim and grainy laptop-class stills and videos. If you’re an avid Windows Hello user, you won’t find neither face recognition nor a fingerprint reader.
As is taking a cue from our display expectations, sound is flat. The duo stereo speakers are quite loud but they distort at high volumes, but still audible at best. They suffice for the casual YouTube watcher, movie fanatic and TV shows enthusiast. If you need more than the speakers produce, it’s time to grab your favorite headphones.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The backlit keyboard garners points for having dedicated (but small) Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys but looses a few points for its HP-style treatment of the cursor arrow keys – having half-sized up and down arrows sandwiched between the other full-sized left and right arrows, lined in a row, instead of an inverted T. Still, typing feels crisp and quiet, it gets adequate travel and very soft feedback.
Below the keyboard is standard touchpad that responds well to gliding motions, gestures, and taps. It isn’t the most responsive touchpad around, though, as it takes a firm press on the lower half to register a click.
While most big-screen laptops in this category opt for Intel’s 45-watt mobile processors, for this model, Acer uses one of the 15-watt U-series chips often found in ultraportables – the Core i7-8565U, a 1.8GHz (4.0GHz turbo) quad-core – and paired it with 12GB of RAM, 512GB solid-state drive and Nvidia’s GeForce MX250 (2GB DDR5), which is a major upgrade over last year’s Aspire 5 that came with a Core i5 chip, half memory and GeForce MX150 graphics card.
Our configuration of the 15-inch Aspire 5 is the most powerful and most expensive. An entry-level model is almost half the price with a Core i3 CPU, an integrated graphics card and no SSD (among other tradeoffs), and several other configurations available in between. For instance, the Acer Aspire 5 (A515-54-51DJ) comes with a Core i5 CPU, 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD storage, but delivers stronger performance than most of its expensive stablemates.
In real-life use, the Core i7-8565U chip provides excellent processor performance and has more than sufficient power to churn through just about any productivity task. It stacks up well against budget stablemates, and goes ahead to challenge more expensive options like the ASUS ZenBook Flip 14 – a 2-in-1 convertible bearing the same CPU but tops up 16GB RAM and a touchscreen.
For a laptop meant for daily productivity, the included Nvidia GeForce MX250 GPU counts for a lot -though, other like the come with a full-fledged Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050Ti graphics card that can play modern AAA games.
For casual gaming, the Acer Aspire 5 manages a decent 36 frames per second (FPS) in Civilization VI at Full HD and medium settings. That’s fairly better than the other MX150-equipped notebooks, and pretty playable. It gets better in Rocket League, managing 80 FPS in Full HD and performance mode, something competitors fail to achieve.
You can even get away with around 34 FPS in Battlefield 1, played in Full HD and medium settings. In as much as you can’t mistake the Aspire as a gaming machine, it still works well in many games. That’s an honor for an office laptop, delivering some gaming muscle over entry-level notebooks with integrated graphics cards.
The new Acer Aspire 5 series promises much better battery life than most competing laptops from the likes of Asus, HP and Dell. Our review unit lasts up to 8 hours 44 minutes on a single charge, meaning it will easily last a full day at school or work. It beats the category average of 7.5 hours by almost 1.14 minutes, making it an ideal choice if you stay away from a power outlet.
The Acer Aspire 5 lives up to its billing as remarkably practical for daily productivity, easy to carry in a backpack – and strong battery life that makes it possible to leave the charger behind. However, for anyone else, its feature set versus prices makes alternatives better choices. For around the same price, competitors like Asus are offering a dedicated graphics card, more RAM and even a premium construction.
If you’re looking for a media consumption device, there are many other configurations of the Aspire 5 available at lower price points.
Is there a better alternative?
The clearest alternative is the Acer Aspire 5 (A515-54-51DJ). It has a slightly slower Intel Core i5 CPU that nevertheless manages to keep up with the Aspire 5 A515-54G-73WC in real-world use and its battery life and silver design are much better. It’s a few hundred dollars less, but you get a Core i5-8265U, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD. That’s quite ideal for daily productivity, plus the extra RAM, storage and discrete graphics card don’t add much in terms of performance.
On the other hand, if you must have the extra storage, faster CPU and more RAM, Our Editors’ Choice Asus ZenBook 13 (UX333FA-AB77) offers the same Core -7-8565U CPU, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD storage, a TPM Security Chip in an ultra-slim chassis that is only 0.7-inches thin and weighs only 2.6 pounds.
Should you buy it?
No. There are better 15.6-inch laptops available at similar prices, and there is the Acer Aspire 5 (A515-54-51DJ), a less expensive version of the same model that will get you equally better battery life and similar performance. It even comes in a stylish silver chassis, a move from the boring black design that’s become monotonous in Acer’s Aspire series.