The last few years, Acer is the OEM with one of the best value notebooks and it aims to uphold its reputation with the new Acer Aspire 5 lineup. The series delivers a variety of configurations packed in a decent 15-inch and 17-inch bodies without too much compromise in build quality. The most interesting models, however, are the ones with the latest 8th Generation Intel Core-U processors. Luckily, we now have the chance to test the Core i7-8550U processor that features not two but four compute cores while retaining the 15W TDP from the previous generation. We can expect considerably better multi-core performance without losing the energy-efficient nature of the chip.
Most of the Aspire 5 sell without a discrete GPU and rely on the updated Intel UHD Graphics 620 but in our case, the 17-inch version we got sports the brand new NVIDIA GeForce MX150 that should be more than enough for multimedia purposes and even light gaming. Other specs include a Full HD IPS display with good properties, relatively low battery capacity of 48Wh and comfortable input devices. We expect configurations like this to be priced somewhere between $700-800 and pretty much offering an alternative to the old Acer Aspire V Nitro Black Edition lineup since the new one is priced in the high-end category with much more powerful hardware. Read the review to find out more about the pros and cons of the new addition to the Aspire family.
You can check prices and configurations: Buy from Amazon.com (#CommissionsEarned)
There’s nothing special about the packaging here – the laptop comes with the usual user manuals, AC adapter and power cord.
Design and construction
Basically, the Aspire 5 is just a cheaper Aspire V 17 Nitro Black Edition (VN7-793G) with less focus on materials and portability. Plastic is the most commonly found material around the case and brushed aluminum is used for the interior to give it a little more premium feel. But despite being a 17-incher, the weight of the device is pretty low – 2.38 kg, although a bit thicker than we would like it to be – 30 mm.
The most noticeable design feature of the Aspire 5 is the patterned plastic lid giving it a distinct look and although it looks identical to the more expensive Aspire Nitro V 17 Nitro BE, in reality, it feels quite different. It’s not as rigid as the Nitro V 17 and pressing the middle results in apparent deformation while small ripples appear on the LCD screen on the other side. It’s definitely not a big deal considering the price of the machine. On the contrary, the lid withstood our twisting attempts may be due to the placement of the hinges – they support the screen well and it isn’t prone to torsion. However, similarly to the Aspire V 17 Nitro, the middle of the lower bezel flexes quite a lot. We also noticed that the screen is kept firmly in place thanks to the tightened hinges, although they don’t allow opening the machine with just one hand. And as for the bottom, it’s made of that generic slightly roughened black plastic accommodating a few grills for cool air intake and two service lids for upgrading the HDD and memory.
As we already mentioned, the sides are pretty thick but at least deliver the bare minimum of connectors. The left side holds the RJ-45 LAN port, USB-C 3.1 (Gen 1), HDMI, just one USB 3.0 connector and an SD card reader. On the right, you will find the optical drive, 3.5 mm audio jack and two USB 2.0 connectors. And while we say it has the bare minimum of I/O, we definitely don’t mean it’s enough. We really would have appreciated maybe another USB-A 3.0 port in there at the very least. We are talking about a 17-inch laptop here.
The interior is practically the same fingerprint-sticking-brushed-aluminum surface as we saw in several other Acer models, including the Nitro V 17 BE. In terms of rigidity, the material is decent – there’s a noticeable flex only around the touchpad and spacebar area and towards the left edge of the interior. Speaking of the clickpad, it sits between chamfered edges and has buttery-smooth gliding surface. It also provides fairly accurate operation, although it’s a bit wobbly and mouse clicks feel stiff. The keyboard, on the other hand, is generally okay. The short key travel is compensated by the clicky feedback making it on par with most of the competition. But you should know that the arrow keys won’t be suitable for gaming although, this should be taken into consideration only if you are planning on buying the more expensive variants with GTX 1050 that can handle gaming.
All in all, we didn’t expect any breath-taking premium build given the price point of the product but it does have some apparent issues that don’t fit the “budget excuse” – the shallow keyboard and the slightly flexible interior are the most prominent issues.
Disassembly, maintenance and upgrade options
Since there are just two small service lids, they give access only to the 2.5-inch HDD and the RAM slot. However, the whole bottom comes off pretty easy as well and you just have to remove all the screws on it. Also, try to pry it up starting with the back grill and continue from there. And don’t forget to remove the optical drive.
Storage upgrades – 2.5-inch HDD/SSD, M.2 SSD
As we’ve already mentioned, the 2.5-inch HDD can be changed just by removing the small service lid. However, if you want to access the M.2 SSD slot, which by the way supports PCIe NVMe, you will have to dig a little deeper. Removing the whole bottom piece is required.
|M.2 SSD 2280 slot 1||Free||Buy from Amazon.com (#CommissionsEarned)|
|2.5-inch HDD/SSD slot||1TB Toshiba HDD @5400 rpm||Buy from Amazon.com (#CommissionsEarned)|
Unfortunately, the motherboard comes with just one RAM chip slot and there are no soldered chips either. This means that you can’t take advantage of the dual-channel memory but you can still go up to 16GB of DDR4-2666 memory, which should be more than enough even for gaming. The chip we found inside is Kingsto 8GB DDR4-2666.
|Slot 1||8GB Kingston DDR4-2666||Buy from Amazon.com (#CommissionsEarned)|
The Wi-Fi adapter is placed right next to the cooling fan and it’s Intel 3168NGW.
The battery isn’t really big and holds just 48Wh charge but the system fared pretty well in our battery tests, especially for a budget 17-incher.
The cooling system is pretty simple and consists of just one large cooling fan and one big heatpipe connecting both heatsinks – one for the CPU and one for the GPU.
Quite surprisingly, the laptop features the same Full HD (1920×1080) IPS panel as the high-end gaming Lenovo Legion Y920 notebook. The panel is LG LP173WF4-SPF5 and features 17.3-inch diagonal, 127 ppi and pixel pitch of 0.1995 x 0.1995 mm. The screen can be considered as “Retina” when viewed from 69 cm.
Viewing angles are excellent.
We’ve measured pretty high maximum brightness in the center – 404 cd/m2 and 393 cd/m2 as average across the surface with just 6% deviation. The correlated color temperature on white screen at maximum luminance is 7600K with the optimal being 6500K. This means that colors will appear slightly colder than they should. And as we go along the grayscale, things remain pretty much the same – the average color temperature is 7670K. You can see how these values change at 140 cd/m2 (28% brightness) in the image below.
The maximum dE2000 (color deviation) at 28% brightness is 3.0, which is absolutely fine since values above 4.0 are unwanted. The contrast ratio is high as well – 1140:1 before calibration and 1040:1 after profiling.
To make sure we are on the same page, we would like to give you a little introduction of the sRGB color gamut and the Adobe RGB. To start, there’s the CIE 1976 Uniform Chromaticity Diagram that represents the visible specter of colors by the human eye, giving you a better perception of the color gamut coverage and the color accuracy.
Inside the black triangle, you will see the standard color gamut (sRGB) that is being used by millions of people in HDTV and on the web. As for the Adobe RGB, this is used in professional cameras, monitors etc for printing. Basically, colors inside the black triangle are used by everyone and this is the essential part of the color quality and color accuracy of a mainstream notebook.
Still, we’ve included other color spaces like the famous DCI-P3 standard used by movie studios, as well as the digital UHD Rec.2020 standard. Rec.2020, however, is still a thing of the future and it’s difficult for today’s displays to cover that well. We’ve also included the so-called Michael Pointer gamut, or Pointer’s gamut, which represents the colors that naturally occur around us every day.
As to be expected, the display covers 90% of the sRGB color gamut making it suitable for multimedia as well.
Below you will see practically the same image but with the color circles representing the reference colors and the white circles being the result. You can see main and additional colors with 25%, 50%, 75% and 100% saturation inside the sRGB gamut pre and post calibration.
The “Design and Gaming” profile is created at 140 cd/m2 brightness, D65 (6500K) white point and optimal gamma in sRGB mode.
We tested the accuracy of the display with 24 commonly used colors like light and dark human skin, blue sky, green grass, orange etc. You can check out the results at factory condition and also, with the “Design and Gaming” profile.
The next figure shows how well the display is able to reproduce really dark parts of an image, which is essential when watching movies or playing games in low ambient light.
The left side of the image represents the display with stock settings, while the right one is with the “Gaming and Web Design” profile activated. On the horizontal axis, you will find the grayscale and on the vertical axis – the luminance of the display. On the two graphs below you can easily check for yourself how your display handles the darkest nuances but keep in mind that this also depends on the settings of your current display, the calibration, the viewing angle and the surrounding light conditions.
We test the reaction time of the pixels with the usual “black-to-white” and “white-to-black” method from 10% to 90% and reverse.
We recorded Fall Time + Rise Time = 19 ms.
PWM (Screen flickering)
Pulse-width modulation (PWM) is an easy way to control monitor brightness. When you lower the brightness, the light intensity of the backlight is not lowered, but instead turned off and on by the electronics with a frequency indistinguishable to the human eye. In these light impulses, the light/no-light time ratio varies, while brightness remains unchanged, which is harmful to your eyes. You can read more about that in our dedicated article on PWM.
As expected, we didn’t detect any PWM across all brightness levels – only some small pulsations at times with extremely high frequency (120 kHz), which cannot be perceived by the human eye anyway.
Blue light emissions
Installing of our Health-Guard profile not only eliminates PWM but also reduces the harmful Blue Light emissions while keeping the colors of the screen perceptually accurate. If you’re not familiar with the Blue light, the TL;DR version is – emissions that negatively affect your eyes, skin and your whole body. You can find more information about that in our dedicated article on Blue Light.
You can see the levels of emitted blue light on the spectral power distribution (SPD) graph.
To be honest, when we read the specs sheet of the 17-inch Aspire 5, we were expecting a decent budget IPS panel that should be much better than the TN alternatives out there but nothing special. But when we saw the model number, we were stoked – the current LG panel is an excellent choice, especially in this price range. To put things in perspective – the Acer Aspire 5 (A517-51G) starts at just $700 (at least according to Acer’s website) while the Legion Y920 goes above $2 000 easily… and they both share the same panel. Anyway, you will be granted high maximum brightness, wide sRGB coverage, high contrast and virtually no PWM across all brightness levels – typically what you’d expect from a high-end IPS screen.
Buy our display profiles
Since our profiles are tailored for each individual display model, this article and its respective profile package is meant for Acer Aspire 5 configurations with 17.3″ LG LP173WF4-SPF5 (FHD, 1920 × 1080) IPS screen and the laptop can be found at Amazon: Buy from Amazon.com (#CommissionsEarned)
*Should you have problems with downloading the purchased file, try using a different browser to open the link you’ll receive via e-mail. If the download target is a .php file instead of an archive, change the file extension to .zip or contact us at [email protected]
Read more about the profiles HERE.
In addition to receiving efficient and health-friendly profiles, by buying LaptopMedia's products you also support the development of our labs, where we test devices in order to produce the most objective reviews possible.
Office Work should be used mostly by users who spend most of the time looking at pieces of text, tables or just surfing. This profile aims to deliver better distinctness and clarity by keeping a flat gamma curve (2.20), native color temperature and perceptually accurate colors.
Design and Gaming
This profile is aimed at designers who work with colors professionally, and for games and movies as well. Design and Gaming takes display panels to their limits, making them as accurate as possible in the sRGB IEC61966-2-1 standard for Web and HDTV, at white point D65.
Health-Guard eliminates the harmful Pulse-Width Modulation (PWM) and reduces the negative Blue Light which affects our eyes and body. Since it’s custom tailored for every panel, it manages to keep the colors perceptually accurate. Health-Guard simulates paper so the pressure on the eyes is greatly reduced.
The sound quality is good – low, mid and high frequencies sound are clear and without any noticeable distortions.
The current specs sheet is for this particular model and configurations may differ depending on your region
Acer Aspire 5 (A517-51G) technical specifications table
We used the pre-installed Windows 10 Pro for the writing of this review but if you wish to perform a clean install of the OS, we suggest downloading all of the latest drivers from Acer’s official support page.
To our surprise, the laptop did pretty well in our battery tests despite the rather small (48Wh) battery on board and the big 17.3-inch IPS display. Maybe the Core i5-8250U was able to pull out those impressive scores. The results are usually intrinsic to 15-inch laptops and this one puts to shame most of the 17-inch notebooks we’ve tested.
Of course, all tests were run with the same settings as always – Wi-Fi turned on, screen brightness set to 120 cd/m2 and Windows battery saving feature turned on.
In order to simulate real-life conditions, we used our own script for automatic web browsing through over 70 websites.
Impressive web browsing runtime – 482 minutes (8 hours and 2 minutes).
For every test like this, we use the same video in HD.
As expected, a bit lower result but still above the average for this class – 372 minutes (6 hours and 12 minutes).
We recently started using F1 2017’s built-in benchmark on loop in order to simulate real-life gaming.
This test got the most of the battery since it’s the most demanding one and surely, you won’t start a gaming session away from the power source but you can still squeeze 131 minutes (2 hours and 11 minutes) if needed.
CPU – Intel Core i7-8550U
The Intel Core i7-8550U is part of the new 8th Generation Kaby Lake Refresh and it’s a direct successor to the Intel Core i7-7500U from the Kaby Lake generation and the Intel Core i7-6500U from the 6th Skylake generation. With the latest alteration to the ULV (ultra-low voltage) processors, Intel doubles the core count from 2 to 4 and retaining the so-called Hyper-Threading technology, keeping the same 14nm manufacturing process and feature the same 15W TDP.
However, due to the core count change, the base frequency of the Core i7-8550U is lowered to only 1.8 GHz while Turbo Boost frequencies remain pretty high – somewhere between 3.7 – 4.0 GHz. This ensures considerably higher multi-core and single-core performance during short workloads before going back to more bearable frequencies considering the 15W TDP but most of the other specs and features remain the same.
The chip also incorporates a newer Intel Gen 9.5 integrated graphics called Intel UHD Graphics 620. The support for Google’s VP9 codec and H.265/HEVC Main 10 is still the most notable feature of the iGPU. Intel claims that the new UHD 620 chips improve the overall power consumption compared to the previous one.
You can browse through our top CPUs ranking: http://laptopmedia.com/top-laptop-cpu-ranking/
Here you will find other useful information and every notebook we’ve tested with this processor: http://laptopmedia.com/processor/intel-core-i7-8550u/
Results are from the Cinebench 20 CPU test (the higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Fritz chess benchmark (the higher the score, the better)
Fritz is a chess benchmark that tests the computing capabilities of the CPU with various chess moves. The Intel Core i7-8550U managed to get 10.128 million moves per second. For comparison, one of the most powerful computers, Deep(er) Blue, was able to squeeze out 200 million moves per second. In 1997 Deep(er) Blue even beat the famous Garry Kasparov with 3.5 to 2.5.
GPU – NVIDIA GeForce MX150 (2GB GDDR5)
The GeForce MX150 is an entry-level mobile card that is part of the latest NVIDIA Pascal lineup of GPUs, based on the GP108 chip paired with 2GB of GDDR5 memory via 64-bit interface. The GPU is the successor of GeForce 940MX and it was announced in Q2 of 2017.
The GeForce MX150 operates at a relatively high base frequency of 1469 MHz, while the Boost frequencies can go up to 1532 MHz. The GPU incorporates 384 shader units (CUDA cores) while the memory is clocked at 6008MHz (effective). These specs ensure a significant performance boost over the previous generation of Maxwell GPUs. The TDP of the GPU is lower than the last generation GTX 950M and even the GTX 1050 – 25W compared to 40W for the two models above. Performance-wise, the GeForce MX150 should be similar to the desktop GeForce GT 1030.
Along with all the power consumption and performance improvements, the GPU now supports essential features like Multi-Projection, VR Ready, G-SYNC, Vulkan and Multi-Monitor.
Check the prices of all notebooks equipped with NVIDIA GeForce MX150: Buy from Amazon.com (#CommissionsEarned)
Results are from the 3DMark: Fire Strike (Graphics) benchmark (higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Unigine Heaven 3.0 benchmark (higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Unigine Heaven 4.0 benchmark (higher the score, the better)
|CS:GO||HD 768p, Low (Check settings)||HD 768p, Medium (Check settings)||HD 768p, MAX (Check settings)|
|Average FPS||135 fps||110 fps||79 fps|
|Grand Theft Auto V (GTA 5)||HD, Low (Check settings)||HD, Medium (Check settings)||HD, Very High (Check settings)|
|Average FPS||107 fps||53 fps||28 fps|
Of course, the stress tests that we perform don’t represent real-life usage scenarios because even the most demanding games don’t require 100% CPU and 100% GPU load at the same time for long periods of time. However, the torture tests remain as the most reliable way to assess the overall stability and longevity of the cooling system.
We started off with 100% CPU load for about an hour and the Core i7-8550U utilized the maximum clock speeds for four active cores at around 3.5 GHz but only for a few seconds. Then, clock speeds started to decline until resided at stable 2.1 GHz.
Turning on the GPU stress test resulted in much lower CPU clock speeds but still within the base-boost frequency range (@1.8 GHz). The GeForce MX150, on the other hand, ran at whopping 1645 MHz stable the whole time, which is above the maximum frequency and also ran a little bit too hot – 84 °C. Of course, this shouldn’t be an issue during normal use.
Despite the inner temperatures, the surface around the interior remained cool throughout the whole test.
The best in class multimedia 17.3-inch laptop. Period. It may have some unpolished edges here and there – we refer to the slightly flexible interior, lid and the wobbly touchpad – but it delivers exceptional multimedia experience and pretty powerful hardware for the asking price.
More often than not, 17-inch notebooks in the entry-level segment of the market tend to cut more than one corner when it comes to performance or screen quality. However, in this case, the Aspire 5 (A517-51G) checks all the boxes in this regard. The Core i7-8550U (or the Core i5-8250U if you go for the base model) along with the GeForce MX150, make a good team for light gaming, especially in the competitive gaming segment. Don’t expect high frame rates at higher resolution settings, though.
Speaking of resolution, we can’t miss mentioning the most exciting thing about the Aspire 5 (17-inch) – the surprisingly good IPS display. Laptops in the same ballpark tend to incorporate either a TN panel or a budget IPS panel but this time around, Acer used a high-end LG panel that’s also found on the Lenovo Legion Y920, which costs more than twice as much. This ensures wide sRGB coverage, high contrast and exceptionally high maximum brightness. And last, but not least, the Aspire 5 delivers pretty good battery runtimes despite the rather small 48Wh battery leaving behind some 15-inch laptops as well.
What do we get from all of this? Well, it’s pretty simple – if you are looking for a 17-inch laptop, either for light gaming, multimedia, work etc., the Acer Aspire 5 (A571-51G) is probably the best all-rounder for now. It should be able to bring way above average user experience no matter what you will be using it for.
You can check prices and configurations: Buy from Amazon.com (#CommissionsEarned)
- Decent build with small exceptions
- Best in class display – bright, vibrant and with wide sRGB coverage
- No PWM at any brightness level
- Good price/performance ratio
- Impressive battery runtimes for a budget 17-inch laptop
- Wobbly touchpad
- No keyboard LED illumination
- Just a few flexible areas – the lid and interior