Acer Aspire V5 Touch (V5-571P-53316G50)
Laptops seem to fall into two main camps these days: pricey Ultrabook-like models that, let's face it, can be astronomically expensive, and those less-hot budget models such as Chromebooks and those plastic-chassis lower-spec models. Then there's the middle ground, the kind of desktop-replacement area that Acer's Aspire V5 Touch covers well from a specification point of view.
The model we've got in for review - the V5-571-53316G50Mass according to the back of the device, even though only a "Makk" version is available on the current Acer website - is among the more highly specified of its kind, and for its £600 outlay the dual-core 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U processor and 6GB of RAM sounds like fair cop to us. As the name suggests there's also a touchscreen to get that extra functionality out of the Windows 8 operating system.
Out of the box and it's immediately clear that the V5 Touch isn't going for the light as a feather approach. Weighing in close to the 2.3kg mark, it might well work as a desktop replacement with some occasional carrying around - but it's otherwise fairly weighty to use as an on-the-go laptop.
The design is simple and plasticky for the main. The exterior's grey shell isn't exactly exciting, but then that's not really this laptop's goal. Pricier, more "designer" models are available elsewhere but with a far greater asking price - think of the Acer Aspire S7, for example.
READ: Acer Aspire S7 review
Lift the lid and things take a turn for the better. There's a full keyboard including number pad to the right-hand side, yet across the V5's given girth the keys still manage to be of a reasonable size. They're even backlit too which helps heaps when typing in dimmer conditions - a nice feature to have on board for the price point.
The V5's trackpad is a decent finish, all smooth and responsive to the press. Well, it is once you've got used to its off-centre alignment to the left-hand side as a counter to the additional numbered keys. That can take a while; at first we found using the trackpad a right nuisance and instead reverted to lots of hands-on touchscreen control instead. The screen's touch panel is capable of 10-point touch - if you happen to want to go crazy with your digits - which we found to be responsive and accurate at this scale.
However, the V5's screen does offer only a 1366 x 768 pixel resolution. On the one hand that's capable of handing 720p HD with some to spare, but on the other it's a low resolution compared to what else is out there. Indeed many would argue that plenty of similar-priced smartphones have better resolution screens than that these days.
We're not all too fussed by the low resolution though as the screen still shows up detail just fine, it's other factors that are the problem: a so-so viewing angle and washed-out, flat colour palette from the LED backlighting make this a pretty average viewing experience. We would rather have seen a better screen even if that cost other features elsewhere.
The initial boot-up for the V5 took what most would describe as an age. Once all the boxes were ticked, details added and the machine was up and running the restart time wasn't much better - on each restart it took one minute or more to get to the password screen and a further 30 seconds from there before Windows 8's tile-based screen was up and running. Odd, because a boot from cold takes less than half of this time.
Part of the reason for such sluggishness is the 500GB hard disk drive. SSD this is not, but then that's exactly what we'd anticipated at this price point.
Otherwise performance is fairly decent for the price once things get up and running, although some of the cash outlay is going into that touchscreen. Case in point: the beefier, yet less attractive, Dell Inspiron 15R SE has plenty of spec power for its near-£600 price but doesn't come with the most up to date touchscreen control.
While the Acer Aspire V5 Touch isn't a gaming laptop by any means - at least not in the hardcore sense as there's no third-party GPU on board - it does have enough power to run plenty of applications without so much as a hiccup. We've loaded up Steam, used the Skype application, and tinkered around with some downloaded games from the Store. However some of these were fraught with delays before they fired up - the V5 Touch isn't quick off the mark at the best of times.
Another ongoing niggle is the McAfee bloatware that will continually pop up in the corner when you try to do pretty much anything. Different people have different views on such anti-virus software, and we're not totally keen on its - admittedly standard - implementation. Not the fault of the V5 as such, just a common complaint that we find with most laptops these days.
Still, the V5 has lived with us for a long weekend of typing where it dealt out the words for plenty of trade show hands-on preview pieces. Despite the weight it did a pretty good job, even if the left-sided shift to the keyboard feels a little off to begin with and the keys aren't large enough to allow for much error. But our fingers took to it eventually, and we found the resistance of the keys to be spot on for our liking.
It's just a shame that battery life isn't particularly inspiring, as it wasn't up to scratch for lasting on long train journeys without any access to power. The V5 is able to hold out for around the five hour mark with light use, which while not awful isn't sustainable when running a variety of software.
Also included on board is a DVD-RW drive - a rare thing these days - an SD card slot, 3.5mm headphones out, one USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 slots, and both HDMI and VGA outports so connectivity comes aplenty.
There's a fair lot of good to be said for the Acer Aspire V5 Touch from a specs point of view. For the money there's a whack of power on offer and that'll make this machine an attractive prospect, particularly as - despite its bulk and 2.3kg weight - there's scope to transport it and make the most out of touch-based Windows 8.
However everything's just a bit slow to get moving: it takes too long to boot up or wake from sleep, and delays in loading up software seem unfounded, given the specification. The so-so screen resolution is also met with a washed-out, display with a limited viewing angle that's just altogether average.
For some this will be the ideal laptop that ticks plenty of the boxes. We like the feel of the trackpad and backlit keyboard, even if its left-aligned favour does take some getting used to, and once things were up and running we were happy with what this mid-level plastic beast could do. Exciting might not be the word, but we think there's a fair amount on offer for a fair price, it's just a shame it's sluggish to get moving.