Affordable. Excellent components for the price. Full HD display. 1TB of storage. Long battery life.
Some keyboard flex. Subpar speakers.
- Bottom Line
The Acer Aspire E 15 (E5-575-33BM) is a fully featured laptop for a low price, with a large HD screen, solid performance, and best-in-class battery life.
Shopping for budget laptops is all about finding the point where the most useful suite of features and components meets the lowest price. Right now, the $349.99 Acer Aspire E 15 (E5-575-33BM) hits that sweet spot, offering a full HD display, plenty of storage, and a long battery life. There are some less expensive options if you're really looking to save money, but considering this laptop is only $20 more than our previous top pick, the Dell Inspiron 15 3000 Series (3558), and delivers better performance and a higher-resolution display, the Acer Aspire E 15 (E5-575-33BM) is our Editors' Choice for low-cost desktop-replacement laptops.
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Solid Build, Nice Features for the Price
The Aspire E 15's design isn't fancy, but it's solidly build for a budget system. The entire body is plastic, with brushed patterns on the lid and keyboard deck to add just a little flair to an otherwise basic style. It measures 1.19 by 15.02 by 10.2 inches (HWD) and 5.12 pounds—not particularly portable, but reasonably thin and moderately weighted for the category. Other 15-inch laptops like the Dell Inspiron 15 3000 Series (3558) (0.9 by 14.7 by 10.2 inches, 4.96 pounds), the HP Notebook 15 (ba009dx) (0.9 by 15.1 by 10 inches, 4.7 pounds), and the Asus F556UA-AB32 (0.9 by 14.7 by 10.2 inches, 5 pounds) are a little lighter and thinner, if you're concerned about lugging this laptop around with you regularly, but the differences are minimal.
You get a 15.6-inch full HD (1,920-by-1,080 resolution) display, while the Dell and the HP only offer 720p. For the price, including a full HD, LED-backlit display is impressive, though the Asus earns the same plaudit. It's not going to wow you with brightness or sharpness, but it's not a poor picture, like in the Editors' Choice budget gaming laptop, the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (7567).
This good-not-great build quality extends to the keyboard and touchpad, which are in line with what you'd expect from a value system. The keyboard feels OK to type on—there's some flex in the deck, but the key travel distance and physical response are decent—and it's backlit. The touchpad is responsive, and looks nice trimmed in silver. The construction as a whole is sturdy enough, though, and it should be a given that you're not getting a high-end metal build in a $350 laptop. The speakers leave something to be desired, as they're adequate at best, but certainly not high quality. They can get quite loud, but at full volume the sound is tinny, especially the highs, and there's not much bass.
There's a strong degree of port variety, which is a plus for something inexpensive and intended to be versatile. The left panel holds most of the ports, including two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI port, a VGA connection, an Ethernet jack, and even a USB-C port. The right side has another USB port, the headset jack, and a DVD drive. The front also includes an SD card slot, useful for transferring files and adding to the laptop's storage. There's a 1TB 5,400RPM hard drive inside, meaning you probably won't need to expand via a card unless you're storing a large amount of files, but it's convenient to have the option. The Inspiron 15 3000 Series (3558) offers the same 1TB amount, while the HP 15-ba010nr has half that. These capacities are much more than you'll find in inexpensive Chromebook alternatives, though, as most are limited to small amounts of flash memory.
Other features include 802.11ac Wi-Fi (with MU-MIMO technology for increased speed, a nice bonus at this price), and easy access to the hard drive and memory. Through a compartment on the bottom panel, you can swap in the storage and RAM down the line (or right away if you've got some parts in mind) for some quick upgrades. Acer supports the laptop with a one-year limited warranty.
This Aspire E 15 model is equipped with a 2.4GHz Intel Core i3-7100U processor, 4GB of memory, and integrated graphics. The CPU is Kaby Lake, the latest Intel generation, so you're getting efficient performance out of this value system. Its PCMark 8 Work Conventional general productivity score is higher than the Inspiron 15, and much better than the HP 15. The E 15 performed even better on the multimedia tests, where it edged the Dell and handily beat the HP. It's not up to the speeds of Core i5 and i7 systems, obviously, but those machines enter whole different price tiers. You won't want to make this your media project centerpiece, but as a general-use laptop for watching videos, browsing the web, word processing, and similar tasks, it'll get the job done.
Integrated graphics means strenuous 3D gaming is out the window, though you can get away with less-demanding 2D or text-heavy games. On the Heaven and Valley gaming tests at 720p and medium-quality settings, the E 15 was only able to average 18 frames per second (fps) and 21fps, respectively, which is short of smooth gaming. It's far less capable in HD and Ultra-quality settings, not even reaching 5fps, so any titles will have to run at a lower resolution and graphics settings.
Where the E 15 does excel is battery life, which is excellent for the category. It lasted 9 hours and 49 minutes on our rundown test, better than most of the main competition, like the Dell Inspiron 15 3000 Series (8:44), the Asus (7:31), and the HP Notebook 15 (5:37). Only a handful smaller laptops ran for longer, like the Asus Transformer Mini (T102HA-D4-GR)(14:14) and the Lenovo Yoga 710 (11") (11:12). The E 15 can last through a work day off the charger and entertain you on a commute.
The Aspire E 15 is the very definition of a top-value laptop, offering a useful set of features and good hardware for a low price. It's only $20 more than the Dell Inspiron 15 3000 Series (3558) unit we tested, but performs better, includes a superior display, and has a longer-lasting battery. There are some even cheaper options that involve compromises, like the HP Notebook 15 (ba009dx). But for the best combination of value and feature set, the Acer Aspire E 15 (E5-575-33BM) is our top pick.
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Matthew Buzzi is a junior analyst on the Hardware team at PCMag. Matthew graduated from Iona College with a degree in Mass Communications/Journalism. He interned for a college semester at Kotaku, writing about gaming. He has written about technology and video game news, as well as hardware and gaming reviews. In his free time, he likes to go out with friends, watch and discuss sports, play video games, read too much Twitter, and obsessively manage any fantasy sports leagues he's involved in. More »
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