With the Acer Aspire 5 (A515-43-R19L), you’re getting more laptop than you’re paying for. It offers a combination of a crisp 1080p display, light-weight profile, and a palatable price that most buyers on a tight budget will appreciate.
- Solid productivity performance for the price
- Very good battery life
- A better-than-budget display
- Comfortable keyboard and touchpad
- Sleek design
- So-so build quality
- Display bezels are not small enough
One of the mainstays of Acer’s popular budget laptops line-up, the Aspire 5 Series receives frequent updates and tweaks. The 2019 iteration we review here is the Acer Aspire 5 (A515-43-R19L) is a sleek, portable 15-inch notebook that’s a remarkable improvement over last year’s Acer Aspire E 15. The cheapest Aspire 5 around gets you an AMD Ryzen 3 processor and a Vega 3 graphics card, but more money will get you an Intel Core i7 processor, Nvidia’s GeForce MX250 graphics card and tops out at 512GB SSD storage.
The Aspire 5 Series offers lots of configurations to choose from depending on your budget. With the Aspire A515-43-R19L, expect a few drawbacks, like a not accurate touchpad and so-so build quality, meaning like every budget laptop, this Aspire 5 is a study in compromises. But it shines along the way than many.
At just over 3.9 pounds, and 0.7 inches thin, the Acer A515-43-R19L is quite light for a budget-priced 15-inch laptop. Most laptops at this price range are often heavy pieces of equipment moulded from black plastic. In contrast, the Aspire 5’s exterior is made of silver aluminum, meaning this notebook is not only light, but sports a sleek, modern look as well. However, it’s not anywhere close to the Acer Swift 5 that weighs a paltry 2.2 pounds, but it will still not weigh you down in your backpack.
Around the display edges there’s some plastic but the keyboard deck and rest of the interior surface are made of the same material used on the exterior. Even with the improved dimension and better materials, you’ll notice that the base of the unit is slightly wobbly, even when resting on a flat tabletop. There’s some flex on the base, too, which doesn’t inspire lots of confidence in the Aspire’s durability if the body is banged around much.
When you open the lid, you’re greeted by a 15.6-inch full HD (1,920-by-1,080) display, alongside the new standard LED backlight and in-plane (IPS) technology. The screen is of excellent quality, with clear and vivid colors, when the backlight is set to its optimal level. Better still, the screen achieves this quality using a matte finish that reduces glare from ambient lights.
On the downside, Acer doesn’t offer a touchscreen option, but is a remarkable improvement over last year’s model. Above the display, there is a 720p webcam with decent – but slightly grainy video quality, that lacks IR sensors that would allow you to log into your Windows 10 account using face recognition. After all, we didn’t expect such a feature on a budget laptop.
Keyboard, Touchpad & Ports
Another interesting feature on the Acer A515-43-R19L must be the backlit keyboard, just above the touchpad. It’s comfortable, sturdy and offers the flexibility you’d need during intense typing sessions. Again, it gets little give when you strike the keys forcefully. The keyboard has a dedicated number pad on the right side, but unlike the main part of the board, its keys are not full-size.
The touchpad used here doesn’t boost a built-in fingerprint reader, and it lacks dedicated left- and right-click buttons. Instead, the entire surface on the pad is clickable, although it results in a fairly mushy feel whenever you click.
Connectivity options are excellent, especially if you hate dongles but have lots of peripherals and cables to plug into your laptop. The left edge has a power connector, full-size Gigabit Ethernet and HDMI ports, and two USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports (one with power-off charging). The other edge holds a Kensington-style cable, a two USB 2.0 ports, and a 3.5mm audio output. Wireless connectivity comes via Bluetooth 4.2 and 802.11ac Wi-Fi with MU-MIMO support.
While you can’t build a custom-configured Aspire, there are many variants to choose from, ranging from the low-end model to the top-of-the-line Core i7 model. Our review unit, the Acer Aspire 5 A515-43-R19L is the base model, featuring an AMD Ryzen 3 3200U processor, 4GB DDR4 RAM, 128GB NVMe SSD, integrated AMD Vega 3 graphics card and Windows 10 in S mode.
With Windows 10 S mode, you’re limited to apps found in the Microsoft Store, the same way you would do with Chrome OS running Google Apps, but this version offers a lightweight full Windows 10 experience. It makes lots of sense to have Windows 10 on this laptop, as it gives you flexibility to do most tasks over the limitations of Chrome OS found on similarly priced Chromebooks.
As configured, the 3.5GHz AMD Ryzen processor used here is enough for web browsing, video streaming, word processing and other productivity tasks that you’d usually perform on a daily basis. That makes the Aspire A515-43-R19L a perfect candidate for college use or small home-office use, especially when a Chromebook isn’t a viable option.
That said, the 4GB RAM and 128GB SSD are a bit tight, but you can always swap them later with big capacity storage and maybe 8GB RAM if necessary. Battery life is excellent, with the notebook lasting just over 7 hours 20 minutes on a single charge.
With the Acer Aspire 5 (2019 model), you’re getting more laptop than you’re paying for. It offers a combination of a crisp 1080p display, light-weight profile, and a palatable price that most buyers on a tight budget will appreciate. It does make a few tradeoffs like a finicky touchpad and a so-so build, but those are compromises to weigh instead of reasons not to buy.
If you need more power and storage, the Aspire 5 is available in other configurations that offer exactly that. So, the most important considerations here are how much you can spend and what you plan to use your laptop for. But if all you need is a big-screen machine for basic Windows tasks and have less $500 on the table, the Aspire 5 is the best way to spend your cash.
Is there a better alternative?
If you can still buy it, the ASUS VivoBook 15 (F512FA-AB34) is a strong competitor. It’s just around the same price for a Core i5-8145U, 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB SATA SSD. It offers strong build, has a backlit keyboard with a fingerprint sensor activated via Windows Hello, and better connectivity including USB Type-C.
Acer’s Aspire 5 (A515-54-51DJ) is another option, particularly if you’re considering the midrange version of the Aspire 5. It costs a few hundred dollars more for a Core i5-8265U processor, 12GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD.
Finally, you can consider the Lenovo Ideapad 330s, it’s better looking and packs more power at a great price. It comes with an Intel Core i5-8250U processor, 20GB (4GB + 16GB Intel Optane Memory), a 1TB hard drive for storage and Windows 10 Home operating system. Of course, you can spend less with the Aspire 5 and get more RAM and external storage – so it depends on how much better looks and build quality matter.
Should you buy it?
Yes. The Acer Aspire 5 (A515-43-R19L), whether in its AMD Ryzen + Vega 3 graphics configuration or its slightly more expensive Intel Core i5 model with much better components is our new Top Pick budget laptop.