Acer is a popular player in the laptop market with products at all levels, but it tends to be known more for its budget offerings. This company has truly embraced the ultra-thin trend and we’ve seen several models in its Swift, Spin, Switch, and Aspire lines over the past few years that are extremely portable and attractive. The latest Acer device that we’re reviewing is the new Aspire 5 Slim A515-52G, which as you can see boasts of its core attribute right in its name. Not only is it quite surprisingly thin for a 15-inch laptop, but the Acer Aspire 5 Slim is also very light, which means if you need a large screen to get work done on while on the go, you’re probably intrigued right now.
At first glance, it seems as though Acer has done quite well with this laptop. It’s the followup to last year’s Aspire 5 A515-51G, with a few updated components and a completely redesigned body. It seems as though Acer has addressed many of the complaints we had with that model. We’re going to find out how well this refreshed laptop is suited to life on the road, and whether the slimming process has had any unfortunate side effects.
Acer Aspire 5 Slim A515-52G design
Acer has gone with a metal lid for this laptop, which has a nice-looking brushed texture. The rest of it is all plastic, including the keyboard deck that has a similar brushed effect, which actually looks quite good. The 15.6-inch panel has relatively narrow side borders and this helps the Aspire 5 Slim look modern. However, we aren’t fans of the five stickers on the panel’s frame and on the wrist rest area, most of which were a little crooked and not aligned to anything on our review unit.
The lid feels surprisingly sturdy but there is a lot of warping on the panel if you try to bend or flex it even a little. The hinge is a little too stiff and it wasn’t possible for us to open the lid of this laptop with one hand. On the plus side, the lid folds all the way back to 180 degrees.
Weighing in at 1.9kg and just under 18mm thick, the Aspire 5 Slim isn’t too heavy or bulky to carry around or commute with every day. Most 15.6-inch laptops are better left on a desk, but this one can be moved around very easily.
We were disappointed to see only a single USB 3.0 Type-A port, though there’s also a Type-C port that works at the same speed. There are two more USB 2.0 ports but honestly that’s not good enough for a laptop at this price level. You also get Gigabit Ethernet, an HDMI video output, an SD card slot, a 3.5mm combo audio socket, and a Kensington lock slot.
As with most laptops now, the battery is not removable. To get to the RAM or storage slots, you’ll have to take the entire base off, destroying a “warranty void” sticker in the process. There are huge intake vents on the bottom through which you can see the motherboard, copper tubing for the CPU and GPU, and a single fan. Hot air is expelled through a very exposed heatsink at the back. We’re actually surprised by how exposed the insides of this laptop are — it looks as though dust buildup could become a problem.
The keyboard is one of the worst we’ve used in a very long time. In terms of physical quality, it feels cheaper than the keyboards on even sub-Rs. 15,000 laptops such as the iBall Compbook series. The entire thing dipped as we typed, and pressing keys in the centre caused not only the keyboard tray but also neighbouring keys to sink. The action is not all that good either – the keys feel too crisp and there’s no cushioning at all before they actuate. They also make a harsh metallic sound when pressed, which is loud enough to be distracting. We were quite frustrated by all of this.
Keyboard layout is also not ideal. Nearly all manufacturers now cram the arrow keys into a single row, but Acer has gone a step further and shoved a number pad into only three columns. Nothing is really where you’d expect it to be, and the paging keys (Page Up, Page Down, Home, and End) are only available as secondary functions of the number pad keys. Most 15-inch laptops with number pads still have dedicated paging keys.
The bottom row is too close to the rim of the keyboard tray, making it difficult to hit the space bar in a natural typing position. The power button is in the upper right corner, but at least it isn’t likely to be hit by accident. One clever touch is that you have to hold it down for two seconds before it will put the laptop to sleep or shut it down.
The trackpad is large and has a good texture, but palm rejection was occasionally an issue for us, causing the cursor to jump around randomly. Motion is smooth and multi-touch gestures are supported.
Acer Aspire 5 Slim A515-52G specifications and software
There are several variants of the Acer Aspire 5 Slim A515-52G, so make sure you know exactly what you’re getting. Our review unit has the designator NX.H57SI.002 and has the best specifications of the lineup. At its heart is an Intel Core i5-8265U processor, from Intel’s recently refreshed Whiskey Lake family. It has four cores with Hyper-Threading and runs at 1.6GHz with a maximum turbo speed of 3.9GHz. Along with this is the entry-level Nvidia GeForce MX150 discrete GPU with 2GB of VRAM of its own.
There’s 8GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive as well as a 16GB Intel Optane Memory module that acts as a small but very fast cache to accelerate reads and writes to the hard drive. This isn’t visible to users, it just works in the background. Acer has chosen to market this laptop as having 24GB of memory (though that is qualified as “16GB Intel Optane Memory + 8GB DDR4 Memory”) right on the huge sticker on the wrist rest.
Such potentially confusing wording is thankfully missing from the description on Acer’s website, but we can imagine that a lot of shoppers who see this laptop in a store alongside many others could be misled. For a full rundown of how Optane Memory works, you can read our full review of it. In short, it’s better than nothing but not as good as having an SSD.
The 15.6-inch screen thankfully has a resolution of 1920×1080, which is good enough at this size, though not especially crisp. Windows was set to scale to 125 percent by default but we preferred the spaciousness of the standard 100 percent. Acer claims that the 4-cell battery can last for eight hours of Web surfing, which doesn’t sound too impressive.
Moving on, we have Bluetooth 5 and Gigabit-class 2×2 Wi-Fi 802.11ac which is one of the key features of Intel’s Whiskey Lake platform. Of course you’ll have to have a compatible router to take advantage of this. The USB Type-C port works at USB 3.1 Gen 1 speed (5Gbps) and does not support video output but can be used to supply 4.5W of power to charge external devices.
According to Acer, you can upgrade this laptop with up to 32GB of RAM across two SODIMM slots. There’s obviously an M.2 slot for the Optane Memory module and a 2.5mm bay, so there is significant upgrade potential here if you’re willing to pop off the entire bottom panel.
Our review unit came to us running Windows 10 Home and a lot of third-party software was preloaded. Some users might appreciate Norton Security but we found its constant popups and subscription prompts intrusive. Firefox and Amazon were pinned to the taskbar, and several of the apps and Web shortcuts pinned to the Start Menu, including Lazada, Ebay and Agoda aren’t even relevant in India. Polarr Photo Editor, Cyberlink PowerDirector and CyberLink PhotoDirector are at least potentially useful. There’s a WildTangent Games launcher and over 25 shortcuts to specific games in its store. That’s all in addition to Acer’s own Acer Collection S app store, Product Registration, and Care apps.
Acer Aspire 5 Slim A515-52G performance
We had a generally pleasant time using the Acer Aspire 5 Slim, with only a little lag now and then when loading apps or opening files, most likely thanks to the slow spinning hard drive. The Optane Memory does speed up small file copy operations but 16GB is not a lot, and it quickly becomes apparent that you aren’t getting SSD-class speeds when moving lots of data around. Still, considering the price of this laptop and everything else you get, it isn’t too bad.
The 15.6-inch screen is pretty expansive and we liked being able to work with multiple windows side by side. That said, the screen quality isn’t all that great. It’s fine for reading, writing, and surfing the Web, but the viewing angles aren’t great and colours appeared a bit blown out when we were watching videos. The bottom-firing speakers are quite good, and while the sound was a little shrill, there was very little distortion at high volumes and vocals were crisp in videos and music.
Benchmark tests showed that the Intel Core i5 CPU performs decently. Cinebench R15 gave us single-core and multi-core scores of 161 and 501 respectively, and POVRay finished its benchmark run in 3 minutes, 56 seconds. PCMark 10 Extended managed a result of 3,432 points. Our 7zip file compression test using a 3.24GB folder of assorted files took 5 minutes, 42 seconds. We used Handbrake to encode a 1.3GB AVI file to H.265 720p, and that took 2 minutes, 4 seconds.
The GeForce MX150 GPU is definitely better than Intel’s integrated offerings, but is not good enough for serious gaming. You’ll be able to run older titles at decent quality settings, just don’t expect too much. We got scores of 1,162 and 1,630 in 3DMark’s Time Spy and Fire Strike Extreme tests which are roughly twice as much as what we would expect with integrated graphics. The Unigine Valley test did not run on this laptop.
Rise of the Tomb Raider ran at 1920×1080 at its Low preset and we got a score of 35.47fps using its internal benchmark, but textures were barely able to load and the pop-in effect was very pronounced and distracting. Far Cry 5 only ran at 1280×720 using the low preset, and we saw the same problem even though the frame rate was relatively smooth at an average of 42fps. The main issue is the paltry 2GB of VRAM available to the GPU.
While playing games and running other heavy tasks, the Aspire 5 Slim’s fan was audible but not distracting. The wrist rest and keyboard never got too hot for comfort but strangely we could feel the fan pulling air in through the upper middle of the keyboard, which was very weird. Our left hand was warm and our right hand had cool air drawn across it. The fan also occasionally kicked in when we were just running casual apps, and we found that we could feel the draft on our right hand even when it was spinning slowly. This was especially annoying when typing. We’ve never encountered this kind of design issue before.
As for battery life, the Aspire 5 Slim did reasonably well. It ran for a very impressive 2 hours, 59 minutes in the Battery Eater Pro benchmark, and we were just about able to get through 6 hours of casual usage including some video streaming and music, with the screen at 40 percent brightness throughout.
The Acer Aspire 5 Slim A515-52G is a confusing laptop. It does some things very well but has a lot of issues that go beyond quirks. The hardware is capable and the package is portable, but this laptop just isn’t always comfortable to use. For people like us whose main work involves typing, the keyboard layout and quality, not to mention the airflow issue, are absolute dealbreakers.
Battery life is a strong point and the display is decent enough. Even the speakers are surprisingly good. There’s even a lot of upgrade potential, which we are happy to see. For the price, though, we would have liked more conveniences such as keyboard backlighting and more USB 3.0 ports. Portability is also nice, but in this case it has come at the cost of sturdiness.
As always, we encourage potential buyers to try out a laptop at a retail location before buying, so you know exactly what you’re getting. Specifications are one thing, but comfort is just as important.
Price (MRP): Rs. 63,999 (as reviewed)
Light and portable
Good battery life
Lots of potential for upgrades
Poor keyboard layout and quality
Average display quality
Lots of bloatware
Ratings (out of 5)
Battery life: 4
Value for money: 3