There’s no good reason to shun affordable laptops anymore.

Case in point, Acer’s Aspire E series, which starts from S$799 for the 14in version. That’s practically half the price of a mid-range laptop by today’s standard. Which, by the way, is exactly what Acer throws into the E series.

On paper, the Aspire E sounds too good to be true. After all, it uses Intel’s Broadwell chip, with the option of a Core i5 or the more powerful Core i7 processors to power the laptop.

The laptop isn’t lacking in connectivity options too, which includes a useful HDMI port to expand your viewing experience and a bevy of USB ports for your gadget inventory.

The million-dollar (well, it’s really a few hundred dollars) question is - can you justify this purchase when your other half asks about it? We’ve got you covered with the reasons below.

The rule of plastic

Let’s set the record straight - there’s nothing wrong with a plastic body. It might be an eyesore for those who value design above everything. But it isn’t fair to fault the Aspire E for this. After all, Acer’s priority is to reduce cost with certain compromises.

Fortunately, it didn’t compromise on the typing experience, parking a full-sized QWERTY keyboard with a numeric keypad on the laptop. The said numeric keypad is generally usable, though the arrow keys are a tad too small for our fat fingers.

That said, its body has a textured finish, which explains why we love running our fingers along the lid. It’s easier to grip too, making it a breeze to lift up the 2.4kg light (by mid-range laptop standards) laptop and plonking it into a bag. Don’t worry, it’s portable and won’t strain your back.

Plastic is a preferred option if you’re worried about overheating laptops. In winter conditions, a laptop that doubles up as a hand warmer is definitely welcomed. Tropical countries, however, will do far better with a laptop like the Aspire E that doesn’t burn your hand like a toaster oven does.

Display woes

Full HD reigns supreme in today’s gadgets. Smartphones and tablets have even crossed into the 2K realm, so it kind of makes you wonder how your eyes can adjust to the 1366 x 768 screen resolution of the Aspire E.

Regardless if you’re staring at the 14in or 15in version, one thing remains clear. Or actually, not clear, because you’ll feel something’s quite off when you’re looking at fine text or low-resolution media files. Anything less than full HD resolution will make the display’s not-so-high resolution even more obvious than it already is.

Don’t expect any stellar graphics from it either during a gaming session. Viewing angles are decent, despite the fact that it lacks in-plane switching.

The Aspire E is, however, first and foremost an above average workstation that’s functional for basic work requirements. It suffices for emails, going through documents and basically general merriment on the internet. Anything beyond that, however, is really asking too much from an otherwise decent budget laptop.

Sound decision (not)

If you’re wondering where the caveat is for this affordable laptop, you’ll hear it from us first. Or actually, from the Aspire E’s lackluster sound system. Muffled and lacking depth, we were pretty shocked by its audio quality.

But really, there’s really nothing wrong with its speakers. This is evident when we lifted the Aspire E off the desk and heard its speakers delivering a strong punch and balanced out with the right vocals. Curious, we looked underneath the laptop and realised Acer’s design department didn’t really think things through when it decided to place the speakers under the chassis.

Not a very sound decision, and one that you’ll have to live with. Alternatives include buying a laptop stand to free the speakers from being squashed. But it’s still a minus point that you shouldn’t have to rectify.

Gentle performance

Fortunately, the caveat of this affordable laptop is not within the performance category. For a start, the hardware on paper is mighty impressive, with either a Core i5 or i7 processor running the show with 8GB of RAM to keep things in check.

All that is duly reflected in the user experience, with quick responses when we opened new windows, made a few quick flicks on the touchpad to move the mouse and instant loading when we opened new tabs in the web browser. This, despite the fact that Acer has loaded a bunch of software that stayed mostly untouched while we were using it.

The 15in version we’ve tested can handle a few rounds of gaming. Though you can’t expect too much out of it, even with the discrete Nvidia graphics chip running the show. For example, we had to dial down the graphics setting for Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn when it got a little too sluggish on higher settings. Less graphics intensive games such as Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead won’t hurt its processors as much.

The upside to both tests is how quiet the fans were, a sign that the Aspire E wasn't going into overdrive just to match the graphics setting.

Good for a day

Just like smartphones, a laptop is a mobile device that lives and dies by its battery life. It’s also the mark of a good device, and it’s safe to say the Aspire E isn’t too far off the mark.

On a full charge, this 15in notebook can survive for nearly six hours. Mind you, this includes the standard fare of web browsing, a binge-watching session on Netflix and some gaming time. All of which are power draining tasks in their own rights, so you get a sense of how the Aspire E works in a real-world environment.

It’s really more than you can ask for from this budget-friendly yet above average notebook.

Acer Aspire E verdict

Two years ago, you might have scoffed at the thought of getting a budget laptop. Today, you’ll be remiss to ignore these affordable laptops. Admittedly, the Acer Aspire E isn’t a powerhouse notebook that churns crazy amount of details on its display. Nor does it make your jaw drop when you run everything on moderate graphics settings to keep things smooth.

But one thing that Acer has done right is making this laptop as accessible and affordable as it can to everyone with minimal sacrifice and compromise to the user experience.

Tech Specs 
Operating system
Windows 8.1
Screen
15in with 1366 x 768 resolution
CPU
Intel 5th Gen Core i7-5500U
GPU
Discrete Nvidia graphics
RAM
8GB DDR3L
Storage
1TB SATA HDD (5400RPM)
Optical drive
Yes
Connectivity
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0 USB 3.0 x 2, USB 2.0 x 1, HDMI x 1, VGA x 1, SD card reader
Dimensions
381.6 x 256 x 24.9/29.2 mm
Weight
2.4kg
Stuff says... 

Acer Aspire E review

You get what you pay for, and in this case, it’s a value-for-money laptop
from
S$799
Good Stuff 
Portable
Affordable price, mid-range specs
Average battery life for a full work day
Bad Stuff 
Less than stellar screen
Questionable placement of speakers
screen
0
build
0
battery
0
power
0