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Acer Aspire 5 A514-54 review: A solid and affordable workday choice

It’s not fast or flashy, but the Acer Aspire 5 is a good laptop for the budget-conscious

Price
£416 exc VAT
  • Decent Core i5 CPU
  • Comfortable keyboard
  • Cheaper than rivals
  • Good connectivity
  • Mediocre build quality
  • Feeble screen
  • Middling battery life

Acer is one of the biggest players in the budget laptop market, and the Aspire 5 is the company’s latest attempt at supplying solid performance in an affordable and compact package.

The price of £416 exc VAT is tempting, and the Aspire’s 14in display means that it shouldn’t take up too much space on your desk – but more affordable notebooks can often suffer from compromised design and underwhelming performance.

Acer Aspire 5 A514-54 review: Design

The Acer is certainly no wallet-buster, but the low price means there’s no room for an extravagant design. Sand-blasted aluminium coats the lid and wrist-rest, with the rest of the rig assembled from plastic, but the bland metal is uninspiring and the display’s wide bezels make it look dated, too.  

The Aspire continues to underwhelm elsewhere. The 1.45kg weight is higher than most 14in laptops, and the 17.9mm thickness is fine, but not particularly impressive. The build quality is a mixed bag: the area around the keyboard is sturdy, but the screen flexes and the underside bends easily.

The Aspire isn’t ruinously ugly or weak – it’s still slim, light, and strong enough to function as anyone’s daily driver. But, if you’re willing to spend just a bit extra, there’s far more quality available: the Asus ZenBook 14 UX425 is better than the Acer in every design department, and it only costs £458 exc VAT if you match up the specifications.

And, if you want even more portability, consider the Microsoft Surface Go 3. If you buy the tablet and its keyboard it’ll cost £474 exc VAT, and the combined hardware weighs less than a kilo. It may not be a proper laptop, but Microsoft’s unit remains a viable alternative for lightweight tasks.

Acer Aspire 5 A514-54 review: Keyboard and trackpad

The Acer does fight back when it comes to ergonomics. The sunken keyboard has a reasonable 1.4mm of travel, and the buttons are soft and comfortable, with a pleasing bounce and modest noise levels. The Aspire’s typing gear is well-suited to all-day use, and it’s just as good as the crisper unit on the Asus and miles ahead of the Surface.

Beyond the typing action, though, the Aspire doesn’t impress – it’s got no backlight, the power button sits awkwardly on the keyboard itself, and there’s no numberpad. The Asus was more accommodating thanks to a backlight, a bonus column of buttons, and the ability to overlay a numberpad on the trackpad.

Speaking of which, the Acer’s trackpad is a bit soft and rattly, too. It’s entirely serviceable for everyday use, but if you’re going to sit at a desk then a USB mouse would be much better.

Acer Aspire 5 A514-54 review: Display

The keyboard is fine for a day’s typing, and the 14in panel’s 1,920 x 1,080 resolution is decent too – you’ve got enough space here for an Office application or a web browser.

Quality, though, is lacking. The Acer’s Delta E of 4.16 isn’t good enough to ensure that colours are rendered accurately, and the panel only reproduced 62.1% of the sRGB colour space – and its Adobe and DCI-P3 figures hovered at 44%. The contrast ratio of 1,252:1 is sufficient and delivers decent depth, but the peak brightness level of 263cd/m2 is low and means this screen can only handle indoor use.

Ultimately, it’s an entry-level 1080p display. It’s got the contrast and resolution to tackle web-browsing and Office work, but it’s not good enough for anything that requires accurate colours or a wide gamut. That’s entirely expected for a cheap display, but the pricier Asus and Microsoft machines are better, with brighter screens that produce a broader range of colours.

Acer Aspire 5 A514-54 review: Hardware and performance

The internals don’t offer any surprises either. The Acer is powered by a quad-core Intel i5-1135G7 processor, 8GB of dual-channel memory and a 512GB SSD. That’s fine hardware at this price, and in our benchmarks the Acer returned an overall score of 91. The CPU’s best score came in the single-threaded image-editing test, where it delivered a result of 130 – unsurprising from a quad-core chip that has a clear emphasis on single-threaded pace.

The Aspire won’t break records, but it does have the grunt to tackle Office tools, browsers with loads of open tabs and some light photo-editing. The rival Asus machine has the same core components, so expect the same level of performance. 

There’s a huge gulf between the Acer and the Microsoft Surface, though. In Geekbench’s single- and multi-core tests the Aspire returned scores of 1,408 and 4,253, while the Pentium-powered surface could only supply a fraction of the speed.

The Aspire’s performance is reasonable for £416 exc VAT, but it’s not without flaws. The SSD’s read pace of 1,988MB/sec is fine, but its write pace of 984MB/sec is poor, and caused Windows to stutter occasionally. It’s not quiet if you push the hardware, either – in work benchmarks the fan noise was noticeable, and it made the Acer louder than the Asus and Microsoft devices.

And, while the Aspire matches the Asus and outpaces the Surface, bear in mind that you can spend between £50 to £100 more and find 14in laptops with Intel Core i7 or AMD Ryzen 7 processors that easily beat the Core i5 chip included here. For content-creation scenarios, those processors are better.  

Acer Aspire 5 A514-54 review: Battery life

The battery is only mediocre, too. Acer’s notebook lasted for 9hrs 35mins in our 170cd/m2 video benchmark, and that figure declined to 7hrs 43mins in a productivity test with the screen brightness increased.

While those results are enough for a day’s work and they easily exceed the Surface, it’s half the lifespan of the Asus. If you need longevity, the ZenBook is the better choice.

Acer Aspire 5 A514-54 review: Ports and features

The Acer’s left-hand edge has two USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports and a USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C connector that handles DisplayPort. There’s a Gigabit Ethernet socket and an HDMI 2.0 output here, too, and the right-hand boundary serves up a USB 2.0 port and an audio jack. On the inside, connectivity comes from dual-band Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1.

Elsewhere, the Acer has a fingerprint reader that supports Windows Hello alongside a 720p webcam, and it’s easy enough to pop off the base panel and access the SSD and one memory slot, alongside a spare 2.5in drive bay. Security comes from TPM 2.0 and a Kensington lock slot. The speakers aren’t particularly loud, and they’ve got a muddy mid-range and tinny high-end sounds – they’re only suitable for basic duties.

It’s a fine set of features for everyday use, and the Aspire does go further than both rivals – the Asus had a Windows Hello webcam but skimped everywhere else, and the Surface has a minimal port selection. That said, the Aspire isn’t perfect: its USB ports aren’t particularly fast, and the USB-C port doesn’t have any power delivery, charging or Thunderbolt capabilities.  

Acer Aspire 5 A514-54 review: Verdict

There’s no getting around the fact that Acer’s cheap portable has some noticeable flaws. Its exterior looks and feels underwhelming, the display is dull, and it doesn’t have many high-end features to speak of.

At £416 exc VAT, though, those issues don’t ruin this product. The build quality is still good enough for this laptop to function as a daily device, and the screen can manage everyday Office and browser-based tasks. Elsewhere, the keyboard is comfortable, the processor is decent, and the battery will last a working day.

It’s worth spending a little more on a rival if you want something for creative tasks, or a sturdier notebook. But if you want a daily work machine on a budget, the Aspire does the job.

Acer Aspire 5 A514-54 Specifications

Processor

0.9GHz – 2.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i5-1135G7

RAM

8GB DDR4

Graphics

Intel Iris Xe

Storage

512GB SSD

Display

14in 1,920 x 1,280 IPS

Operating system

Windows 10 Home 64-bit

Connectivity

Gigabit Ethernet, Dual-band 802.11ax WiFi, Bluetooth 5

Ports

2 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C/Power delivery/DisplayPort, 2 x USB 3.2 Gen 1, 1 x HDMI, 1 x audio

Dimensions

328 x 223 x 17.9mm (WxDxH)

Weight

1.45kg

Warranty

1yr RTB

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