Acer Aspire V5 review: beauty and no brains
The Acer Aspire V5 isn’t a bad-looking machine, considering its price point. It’s heavier than it looks, but that heaviness translates into denseness, which translates into the machine feeling sturdy and stable. It almost looks like an Ultrabook – it’s relatively slim, it has a simple, sleek overall design, and an edge-to-edge glass display. But does this laptop’s performance live up to its prettiness? Read on to find out.
Our review model, which costs $729.99 as configured, sports a third-generation Intel Core i5-3317U mobile processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive. This V5 also has a 15-inch touchscreen, built-in Wi-Fi 802.11a/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, and a DVD-RW optical drive. The V5 runs Windows 8.
In PCWorld’s WorldBench 8 benchmark tests, the Aspire V5 scores just 42 out of 100. This means that the V5 is 58 percent slower than our testing model, which sports a third-generation i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 1TB hard drive. This is quite a low score, and even similarly-equipped laptops, such as the HP Envy TouchSmart 4-1102xx (which has the same processor as the V5), perform better. The Envy TouchSmart scored 57 on our WB8 tests.
The V5 doesn’t do much better in individual performance tests. It’s not an Ultrabook, and it has no SSD boot drive, so it takes a good 21.3 seconds to start up. In the PCMark 7 office productivity test, the V5 scores 751 – only the half laptop, half tablet Samsung Xe500T1C-A01 performed worse on that test, with a score of 608.
The V5’s graphics performance is slightly better, although it’s still not great, since the laptop has no discrete graphics card. In our Dirt Showdown graphics test (maximum quality settings, 1366 by 768 pixel resolution), the V5 manages a respectable 28.9 frames per second. This is better than the aforementioned HP Envy TouchSmart, which managed just 17.4 frames per second on the same test.
The Aspire V5’s battery life is pretty terrible. In our tests, we managed to eke out a measly three hours and 24 minutes before we had to plug the system back in. This is below average for the category, and generally kind of bad – it’s not a powerful or particularly light system, so there’s really no reason for its battery life to be so poor.
Design and Usability
The Aspire V5 is pretty sleek, considering its relatively low price point. The system measures 15 inches wide by 10 inches long, and is 1 inch thick at its thickest point. It weighs 5.3 pounds, and, thanks to the laptop’s relatively slim profile, looks a lot lighter than it is. Because of this, the system feels quite dense and sturdy when you pick it up.
The V5 we tested – officially the V5-571P-6499 – sports a soft, satiny-feeling silver cover with a metallic Acer logo in the middle. The laptop has a large black plastic hinge, which shows when the laptop is closed and looks a little out of place next to the very light silver lid. Inside, the V5 sports a full-size keyboard, a slightly off-set button-less touchpad, and an edge-to-edge glass display.
The V5’s full-size keyboard is backlit, with matte black island-style keys. The keys have a very soft feel – the tops are smooth and soft to the touch, and the keys are very quiet when you press them. The keyboard is fairly comfortable to type on, with decent tactile feedback. The keys are a little slippery, thanks to their soft-touch construction, and narrow, which makes typing quickly a little difficult. Next to the keyboard there’s a 10-key numberpad, which is always a nice feature on a 15-inch laptop.
Below the keyboard there’s a large, button-less touchpad. The touchpad is comfortable to use – it has a slightly rough texture (especially compared to the silky-smooth texture of the wrist rest area), supports somewhat shaky multi-touch gestures, and is easily click-able.
Port-wise, the V5 is a little lacking. The right side of the system has no ports at all – just the tray-loading DVD-RW drive and a Kensington lock slot. The left side of the system has two USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0 port, an HDMI out port, a combination microphone/headphone jack, and a slim port that connects to either VGA out or Gigabit Ethernet. There’s an SD card reader along the front of the laptop. The biggest issue I have with the V5’s port situation is its USB placement – all three USB ports are located right next to each other, which can be a problem if you want to plug in more than one large-ish USB peripheral.
Screen and Speakers
The Aspire V5 sports a glossy 15.6-inch touchscreen with a disappointingly low native resolution of 1366 by 768 pixels. While this resolution is typical for 11-, 13-, and even some 14-inch laptops, it’s noticeably pixelated on a 15.6-inch screen. Images and text look a little fuzzy around the edges, thanks to the low resolution.
Resolution aside, the V5’s screen looks quite nice. Colors are bright and crisp, though they can look a little washed out at brighter settings. Off-axis viewing angles are okay – horizontal angles are fine, but vertical angles present a noticeable drop in contrast.
As a touchscreen, the V5’s display works well. The screen is accurate and responsive, and multi-touch gestures, such as pinch to zoom, are extremely smooth.
Video on the V5 looks and sounds quite good, considering the system has no discrete graphics card. Basic streaming HD video plays very smoothly, and in my tests I saw only a few instances of artifacting – and only in dark, high-motion scenes. The system’s speakers are located on the bottom of the laptop, near the front, and are quite loud. The speakers produce acceptable sound – it’s not tinny, even at the highest volume settings, but it’s also not deep. I wouldn’t want to listen to these speakers for several hours in a row, but for a quick Netflix fix they’re okay. The headphone jack is clean, and plays much better, fuller sound.
The Acer Aspire V5 is a pretty sleek laptop at first glance. But don’t be fooled by its silky-smooth silver exterior – there’s not a whole lot going on inside this laptop. Sure, it’s got its strengths: the touchscreen is responsive and smooth, and video looks and sounds pretty good. But it’s got a heck of a lot more weaknesses, such as poor overall performance, lower-than-average battery life, a strangely loud fan, and a noticeably low screen resolution.