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Lifewire / Jeremy Laukkonen
Full HD display
Fantastic battery life
Solid performance for the price
Optional discrete Nvidia card
Lots of bloatware
Heavier and thicker than competitors
Design fails to impress aesthetically
The Acer Aspire E 15 offers best-in-class performance at this price point, includes a full HD display and a DVD writer, and has a fantastic battery life.
Budget-priced laptops in the sub-$500 category all have to cut corners somewhere to hit that price point. This usually manifests in things like poor battery life, low quality screens, and other concessions. Acer has managed to defy that stereotype with the Aspire E 15, which smashes the competition in terms of performance, display quality, battery life, and even includes a VGA port for anyone who actually needs one of those.
We put an Acer Aspire E 15 to the test around the office and out in the world to see how it holds up outside of basic benchmarks. Read on to see how it did.
Aesthetics may be the Acer Aspire E 15’s weakest area — it’s a big, chunky laptop that measures in at over an inch thick at the rear and tapers to a bit less than an inch at the front. It also tips the scales at over five pounds, which is definitely on the heavy side for a 15.6” laptop.
The body, lid, and bezel are all plastic, which feels a bit cheap to the touch. But it does have a pleasant brushed pattern that breaks the monotony of the basic black case, and the interior deck features a textured metallic finish that looks and feels significantly better than the rest of the laptop.
On the right side of the Aspire E 15, you’ll find the power jack, headphone jack, a USB 2.0 port, and a DVD burner. The SD card reader is located on the front of the device, alongside the LED indicator lights. On the left side is the VGA port that Acer still loves to throw on everything, an HDMI port, two USB 3.0 ports, an ethernet jack, and a USB port.
Aesthetics may be the Acer Aspire E 15’s weakest area.
The keyboard is roomy and comfortable and the keys feel sharp and springy. The trackpad is massive and responsive, but it doesn’t feel as robust as the keyboard. The left and right buttons are incorporated into the main body of the trackpad, and they have far too much give—if we pressed down with more than the absolute minimum necessary force, it felt like the trackpad might collapse.
The Acer Aspire E 15 comes with Windows 10 preloaded, and the setup process isn’t really anything out of the ordinary for a Windows 10 laptop. Acer requests some contact information during the initial setup, which is something that most of the OEMs do to help with warranties and support. We timed the process from start to finish, and it took about 10 minutes to go from plugging it in and turning it on, to hitting the desktop for the first time.
Once you finish the initial setup, most users will also want to take additional time to remove the substantial amount of bloatware that comes preinstalled. This isn’t necessary but is something that most users will probably want to do, and it does add quite a bit of time to the setup process if you opt to go that route.
While the Aspire E 15’s screen isn’t the brightest or most colorful in the world, it is a full HD display that absolutely shines compared to the low-resolution screens found on a lot of laptops in this category.
The display has decent viewing angles and great contrast, but the colors are a bit washed out. It’s fine for watching videos on YouTube and Netflix—and DVDs, of course—but it wouldn’t be our first choice for movie night. It’s definitely a display that’s best suited for work, with media and gaming as afterthoughts.
The Acer Aspire E 15 suffers a bit from a slow hard drive, and it could stand to have a bit more RAM, but it performs exceedingly well for a laptop in this category. It beats most of the competition in all important benchmarks and is a joy to use for productivity tasks, web browsing, and even light gaming.
The Acer Aspire E 15 is available in two basic configurations. The unit we tested was the less expensive of the two, featuring an Intel Core i3-8130U running at 2.2 GHz, an Intel UHD Graphics 620 GPU, and 6GB DDR3L RAM. The more expensive configuration comes with a Core i7 processor, a discrete Nvidia graphics card, more RAM, and an SSD, so it performs even better.
We ran the PCMark 10 benchmark, and the Aspire E 15 recorded an overall score of 2,657. It did best in the essentials category, with a score of 5,097, and slightly worse in productivity and digital content creation with scores of 4,534 and 2,203 respectively. In comparison, the similarly-priced Lenovo Ideapad 320 managed an overall score of just 1,062.
The full HD screen and snappy performance make productivity tasks a breeze.
So how does that score translate into the real world? It means the Aspire E 15 opens apps without a lot of lag, is capable of multitasking without bogging down, and can juggle more than a dozen web browser windows without skipping a beat, even if you’re streaming video.
We also ran a few gaming benchmarks from 3DMark, with slightly less stellar results. The first one we tried was Fire Strike, which is designed for gaming laptops. It only managed a score of 855 in that benchmark, running at just 4 FPS during the graphics test and 17 FPS during the physics test.
That was significantly better than other laptops we tested in this category, but the integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620 GPU was definitely a bottleneck.
We also ran the Cloud Gate benchmark, which is designed for low end desktops and basic laptops. That resulted in a score of 6,492 at 36 FPS, indicating that the Aspire E 15 is capable of basic gaming.
Next up, we installed Steam and fired up Capcom’s blockbuster hit Monster Hunter for a true torture test. Astoundingly, the game was almost playable. It took forever to load into Astera due to the slow HDD, but we set out on a short expedition anyway. The game ran at between 20 and 30 FPS the whole time, but found that the action really bogged down with a big monster on the screen.
The takeaway is that we absolutely wouldn’t recommend buying this laptop for the purpose of playing games, but it is capable of rising to the task if you’re willing to lower the settings and stick to older games.
The Aspire E 15 is designed with productivity in mind. While we found that it was capable of some light gaming, it’s definitely intended for students and people who need a basic business laptop.
The full HD screen and snappy performance make productivity tasks a breeze. You won’t have to wait around every time you want to load or switch between apps. The keyboard is comfortable and responsive, which is great for long typing sessions, and the fantastic battery life means that you can unplug for an entire work or school day without worrying about power.
The speakers are decent enough, but the audio quality is still one of the Aspire E 15’s weaker points. They just don’t get all that loud, and when we did crank the volume all the way up, we noticed a bit of distortion in some frequency ranges. There isn’t a whole lot of bass, either, so everything sounds a little tinny—and that only gets worse at louder volumes.
Strangely enough, the audio is actually louder and clearer when the laptop is sitting on a flat surface. It seems like there is a lot of sound escaping from the vents as well as through the actual speaker grills, and placing it on a solid surface seems to improve the audio quality.
The Aspire E 15 includes a wireless card that’s capable of connecting to both 2.4 and 5 GHz wireless networks, which is a nice touch if you have a wireless router that lets you take advantage of this feature. 2.4 and 5 GHz network compatibility is standard on more expensive laptops, but a lot of competitors in the budget category leave it out.
Acer advertises a 12-hour battery life, and we found that to be a pretty accurate claim.
We found that the Aspire E 15 was able to achieve download speeds of 260 Mbps and upload speeds of 65 Mbps when connected to our 5 GHz network. When connected to our 2.4 GHz network, it notched speeds of 66 Mbps down and 64 Mbps up. These speeds are pretty good across the board.
The included webcam is capable of capturing 720p video, and while it works well enough for basic video calls on Skype or Discord, it may not be up to the standards necessary for professional video conferencing. It also takes grainy still images, although that may not be a huge concern unless you really need to take photos with your webcam for some reason.
The battery in the Aspire E 15 is exceptional, especially compared to the mediocre offerings found in similarly-priced competitors. Acer advertises a 12-hour battery life, and we found that to be a pretty accurate claim.
Under ideal conditions (and with extremely light use) we found that the battery lasted about 14 hours in our testing. You’re unlikely to achieve this in everyday scenarios, but that’s the baseline maximum you could expect it to last.
Subjected to normal levels of use—constantly on with the brightness lowered and power management set to favor battery life—we found that the battery lasts about eight and a half hours. With similar settings, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect a full day of work or school out of this laptop.
In a category where a lot of competing devices die out after four or five hours, that’s pretty remarkable.
The Acer Aspire E 15 comes with Windows 10, some basic Windows apps, and a free trial of Microsoft 365. It also comes with a whole bunch of bloatware from Acer, Netflix, Evernote, an outdated version of Firefox, and several games you probably won’t want or need.
If you’re a Firefox user, it might be nice to have that already downloaded (just remember to update it immediately). But the rest of this bloatware is most likely going to be an annoyance that needs to get uninstalled.
With an MSRP of just $380, the Aspire E 15 is a fantastic deal. If you can get it for even less than that, then it’s truly a steal. The more expensive configuration with an SSD, discrete graphics, and Core i7, is also a good deal at an MSRP of $599 if you have a little more room in your budget.
The Acer Aspire E 15 beats most of the competition in its price range thanks to superior hardware. It has a full HD screen, where competitors like the HP Notebook 15 and Lenovo Ideapad 320, priced at $288 and $299 respectively, both have 1366 x 768 displays. The Aspire E 15 also has more RAM than either of those laptops, a better CPU, and faster Wi-Fi speeds.
The Aspire E 15 also beats the competition, hands down, in battery life. While the Aspire E 15 can last for 12 hours, the HP Notebook 15 and Ideapad 320 both putter out at around the five-hour mark.
One thing the Aspire E 15 doesn’t have is a touchscreen, which can be found in some budget laptops. For example, the HP 15-BS013DX is priced in the sub-$500 category, and it includes a touchscreen.
Worth buying (and spending extra for the upgraded version if you can).
The Acer Aspire E 15 hits almost all the right notes while keeping the price way, way down. If you have a little room in your budget, it’s worth investing in the more expensive configuration of this laptop, which comes with a discrete NVIDIA graphics card for gaming, extra RAM, and a speedy SSD.