Acer Aspire 5 (A515-43-R19L) review: A Budget Friendly AMD Ryzen 3
Do you think this particular Acer Aspire 5 model looks familiar, it’s probably because Amazon’s laptop bestseller list has been sitting atop for months. Why is it easy to understand?
With a sale price of $350 but mainly selling close to $310, this AMD Ryzen 3-powered Aspire 5 packages some attractive cost characteristics, including a 15.6-inch Full-HD screen, a slim-and-trim chassis, and strong efficiency in day-to-day computing functions. That being said, this cheap Windows 10 laptop has its compromises.
In this case, we’re talking about a scant 4 GB of RAM and a cramped 128 GB solid-state drive, while battery life drops actually shorter compared to other major Aspire 5 designs, which cost little more than that. Indeed, you can get an Aspire 5 (such as the Core i3-powered Aspire 5) that will last significantly longer without a power adapter if you stretch your budget just a tad.
Price and setup:
Acer offers practically two dozen settings in its budget Aspire 5 line, varying from $350 (list price, as opposed to Amazon’s selling price) for the somewhat bare-bones AMD model we’re reviewing here all the way to $850 for a substantially beefier quad-core Core i7-8565 model with a healthy 12 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD, and dedicated Nvidia GeForce MX250 graphics.
Most variants of Aspire 5 feature a 15.6-inch display (although I saw at least one 14-inch model), with a combination of 1080p and 720p resolutions. Cracking this specific model’s hood open, we discover:
- CPU: Dual-core AMD Ryzen 3 3200U
- RAM: 4GB DDR4 RAM
- GPU: Integrated Radeon Vega 3
- Display: 15.6-inch 1920 x 1090 IPS “Comfy View”
- Storage: 128GB SSD
We will cover the real-world performance of the Aspire in a time, but on a document we have the making of a relatively simple laptop that should do the work when it comes to general computing functions like office assignments and web browsing.
The Ryzen 3 CPU dual-core is approximately equal to an Intel Core i3 chip of the 8th generation, ranked as a strong dual-core workhorse. The 4 GB of RAM implies that if you run too many programs at once, you will probably see some performance hiccups.
For Minesweeper and some light photo editing, the integrated graphics core will allow, but nothing more taxing than that.
A good-state drive always helps speed up quality compared to a traditional rotating hard drive, the tight-fitting 128 GB capacity (which falls to about 100 GB once you take into account Windows 10 and other pre-installed applications) will rapidly fill up unless you count on cloud storage.
On the plus hand, seeing a full-on 1080p screen on a laptop in this cost range is refreshing, not to mention one that utilizes a comparatively broad viewing angle IPS (in-plane switching) panel.
It’s not unusual to see manufactures saddle budget laptops like this with cheaper (if faster) 720p TN (twisted nematic) displays that make the screen from the sides, top, or bottom faded or even reversed colors.
Budget laptops are known to be gaudy and bulky, but Acer did a good job of making Aspire 5 look slim and sleek. There’s no exception to this specific AMD model. Measuring 14.3 x 9.7 x 0.7 inches, the Aspire feels lighter than the actual weight of 3 pounds, 13 ounces (or 4 pounds, 5 ounces if the AC adapter is included).
The lid of aluminum provides a premium look to the Aspire. In fact, you can rotate the lid back a little over 180 degrees, which means you can lay the laptop flat with the lid open. The 15.6-inch display of the Aspire features impressively slim left and right bezels, while the silver chassis of the laptop offsets the black keyboard.
The hinge on this particular Aspire is less prominent than on some other configurations we’ve seen, with the Aspire logo stamped on the inside chassis ‘ top edge rather than on the hinge itself. When you ask me, both designs look great.
The full-HD display of 15.6-inch looks quite comparable to the screens we saw on other Aspire 5 models, and that’s a nice thing. The screen for a budget laptop is fairly bright, measuring approximately 260 nits (or candelas) according to our measurements.
Of course, we’ve seen 300-and-up display laptops, but they’re usually going to cost you (many) hundreds more. We also enjoyed the viewing angles on this IPS display, which look fairly nice until you move your head around the 45-degree mark even then the screen is only slightly dimmer.
In fact, sharing the screen of the Aspire with a neighbor should not pose much of a problem. In the meantime, the anti-glare “Comfy View” design by Acer has done a nice job of avoiding distracting reflections.
Speakers, Keyboard and trackpad
On this Aspire setup, the backlit keyboard is almost the same as on other designs that we’ve tested. Although travel (or how far the important moves on each keystroke) is a little shallower than I would like, the keys themselves have a strong, responsive bump with a springy rebound.
You also get a specialized numeric keypad with a slightly tight design that makes the keys look squished a little bit. As with the keyboard, this laptop’s trackpad is the normal problem for Acer’s Aspire 5 line: a bit on the big side, which (in my case, anyway) meant my palms often scratching it while I was typing.
Fortunately, the trackpad did a nice job of dismissing any false inputs. There’s not much to say about the speakers of the Aspire 5, besides being not fantastic. Of course, from laptop speakers, you can’t really expect much, especially on a budget model.
The Aspire speakers can get good and loud on the plus hand, and they are completely okay to listen to the audio on (for instance) YouTube videos. But these thin, bass-free speakers cannot hold a candle or a good couple of headphones to internal speakers.
Another feature you can’t expect is any kind of biometric safety on a laptop that is this cheap. Some mildly priced designs (nearer to the $500 range) feature fingerprint readers integrated in their trackpads, but this $350 version has no such product.
The choice of the port on this Aspire 5 model budget is reasonable. A single USB 3.0 Type-A port, a USB 2.0 port, HDMI, ethernet, and a combo audio jack with a barrel-shaped power port are available on the left side.
On the correct side of the Aspire 5, there is only one single USB 2.0 port (not counting the safety slot). Missing from the port group is a USB-C port that we saw on other Aspire 5 models and would have been useful to connect new internal storage equipment and other peripherals. We wouldn’t have worried about a memory card slot either.
This dual-core Ryzen 3-powered Aspire 5 is contrasted with a series of comparable Intel Core i3 and i5 laptops of the 8th generation, some of which have been retailing more than this specific model for hundreds.
Now, let’s just cut to the chase: The Aspire 5 that we are reviewing usually sits at or near the bottom of each of the graphs. However, keep in mind that this specific Acer laptop is one of the least costly device review you might ever check, so there’s a value proposition to consider.
Also, while the Aspire’s performance on these charts may look terrible, this doesn’t mean it can’t do a good job.
It can handle daily computing duties such as editing Office records, surfing the internet and drawing a picture or two.
Indeed, encountering any performance slowdowns that impeded user productivity during writing or carrying on basic tasks is least expected.
So when considering performance outcomes for this machine, it is suggested to take them in the sense of seeing the intrinsic trade-offs in this cheap laptop, rather than stroking a finger at (for instance) the sluggish output of the Aspire’s video encoding (which should not come as a surprise given its dual-core CPU). Another story is the iffy performance of the Aspire 5’s battery life test, as you’ll see soon.
PCMark 8 Conventional Work 2.0
First of all, the PCMark 8 benchmark simulates daily computing tasks such as online shopping, spreadsheet tinkering, light video chat, and other popular tasks. A PCMark 8 score above 2,000 implies that you should not see any potholes while, say, plugging away in a Word document, while anything around 3,000 should deliver output in butter productivity.
So yes, the Ryzen 3 Aspire ranks next to last in our PCMark 8 chart, just ahead of an analogous Intel Core i3 dual-core system, check out its rating: a hair above 3,000, which ensures it should fly through the day-to-day computing duties that this budget laptop was clearly designed to achieve.
Would a 3,500 PCMark 8 score make you 16 percent more productive than a 3,000 score? Probably not, and you’re not even likely to notice the distinction. That said, you would certainly feel the couple hundred extra bucks you’d spend on snagging that higher result of PCMark 8.
This HandBrake test involves encoding a 40 GB video file into a format appropriate for Android tablets using the free HandBrake utility.
It is a CPU-intensive task that rewards most processor cores for laptops, while dual-core systems such as our Aspire 5 system tend to lag behind. In any case, seeing the Aspire in (again) second to last place shouldn’t come as a shock, although it managed a much better handbrake rating than the Aspire 5 dual-core Core i3-powered model we listed previously. The laptops on the list that conducted scores of less than 6,000 HandBrake (lower numbers are better) are all powered by quad-core CPUs, and they all have higher price tags as well. So, should you worry about the not-so-steady HandBrake score from the Aspire? Well, that depends on whether you are, say, a creator of content who regularly plans to process big video files.
If you are worried, then yes, consider a quad-core or better CPU pricer system (such as this Aspire 5 Core i5-powered model). Only internet surfing planning and dealing with Office? If that’s the case, it’s not worth getting into a tizzy over the iffy HandBrake displaying by the Aspire.
Similar to our HandBrake benchmark in difficulty, Cinebench tests how fast a specified laptop can real-time make a 3D image. Again, it is a proper processor-intensive test of torture which tends to heat up CPUs and spin up cooling fans.
As with HandBrake, Cinebench favors processors with the most cores and threads, so it’s not surprising to see the AMD-powered Aspire 5 in its familiar next-to-last place, again slightly outperforming the Core i3-powered Aspire 5 model, with all the quad-core devices in the lead.
Now, the last-place single-thread performance of the Aspire gives us a moment’s pause, as it places dual- and quad-core laptops on an even playing field and speaks to the effectiveness of the individual CPU threads of a system. Then again, if the Aspire 5 single-thread Cinebench display were part of a trend, we would be more concerned. The strong PCMark 8 score of the laptop and our chirpy real-world experience suggest otherwise.
Diver 3DMark Sky 1.0
You can’t expect much from a laptop with an integrated graphics core in the manner of gaming results, but testing the Aspire 5 and its embedded Radeon Vega 3 graphics is required for comparison purposes.
With its embedded Intel UHD Graphics 620 core, the Aspire 5 sits next to the last, just ahead of the Core i3 Aspire.
All the laptops in our graphics graph are fundamentally in the same ship. Meanwhile, thanks to its dedicated Nvidia GeForce MX150 graphics card, the Acer E 15 laptop that tops our list has a big leg up, showing the boost dedicated graphics can give you (for an additional cost, of course).
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