- Good price to performance ratio
- Full HD display resolution
- Available in multiple colors
- Abysmal battery life
- All plastic design
- Lackluster keyboard feel and no backlighting
- Slow hard drive
The Acer Aspire E series is a budget-friendly multimedia notebook line with models starting under $400. Our fully equipped review model is $799.99 and includes a 15.6″ full HD display, Intel Core i7-5500U dual-core processor, Nvidia GT 940M 4GB graphics, a generous 16GB of system memory, and a large but slow 1TB hard drive; all in all, it’s well-equipped for the money. We unfortunately found the Aspire E 15 has too many shortcomings for us to give it a glowing recommendation, including abysmal battery life, an all-plastic construction, a limited viewing angle display, so-so keyboard feel and a lack of keyboard backlighting.
Build and Design
The Aspire E 15 is available in several different color schemes including the stark white and black two-tone of our review unit. The color contrast is certainly more eye-catching than the monotones normally found on budget notebooks.
The palm rest and surrounding areas have textured surfaces, and the lid’s surface has a cross-hatched pattern. It’s a step in the right direction to make the E 15 look less generic, but it’s not nearly as classy as a brushed aluminum surface.
While the all-plastic construction is less than inspiring, the chassis is actually quite stiff with minimal flex. The palm rest is as solid as they come – we weren’t able to get it to flex even using abnormal pressure.
The lid on the other hand could use some extra support; pushing in on the back yields some ripples on the front of the display that impact picture quality. It would be a good idea not to put any heavy objects on top of this notebook and if you store it in an overhead compartment during a flight try not to let other passengers jam luggage against this laptop. The lid also has noticeable flex side-to-side.
User upgrades clearly weren’t a major concern when Acer designed the Aspire E 15. All 18 screws on the underside of the chassis must be removed to access the internals. The 2.5-inch storage drive is accessible as are the two memory slots. Our review unit was already maxed out with a 1TB hard drive in the 2.5″ bay and an 8GB module in each of the memory slots. As we’ll see in the Performance section of this review, tech-savvy users may consider upgrading the 1TB storage drive to an SSD as it’s an easy way to improve the performance of this laptop.
Ports and Features
The E 15 has an average collection of ports for a 15.6″ notebook. It lacks an internal optical drive although it appears it was designed to accommodate one; the bay it would occupy on the right side of the notebook is covered by a filler piece.
Along the left side is a lock slot, cooling exhaust vent, VGA out, Ethernet, HDMI out, USB 3.0, a USB 3.0 sleep-and-charge, and a headphone/microphone combination jack. The right side has a USB 2.0 and the AC power jack. Finally, the front of the notebook has an SD card reader and status indicator lights.
Screen and Speakers
A selling point for this model is its full HD display with a 1920×1080 resolution. The extra resolution compared to a standard 1366×768 display is easy to appreciate while multitasking since two windows can be used side-by-side without much resizing and is also beneficial for multimedia purposes – the E 15 as equipped has plenty of power to play back full HD video. Unlike glossy displays, the anti-glare surface finish on this display prevents annoying reflections under bright lights. Although our review model wasn’t so equipped, there are E 15 models available with touch.
The display’s picture quality leaves something to be desired. While it has enough contrast, we’d like to see the brightness go another notch or two higher – it’s just bright enough to be usable outdoors in the shade on a sunny day. A larger issue still is the limited viewing angles, an unfortunate characteristic of the Aspire’s TN (twisted nematic) panel. Looking at this display at any angle other than head-on is a problem since the picture washes out and the colors progressively distort. This is normally a non-issue for one person but could be an issue for multiple people sitting around the notebook trying to watch a movie or view photos. Lastly, while the saturation is better on this display than it is on most 1366×768 resolution displays, it’s still a bit on the cold side and could use a boost. The use of an IPS panel would have likely gone a long way towards remedying our complaints about the picture quality.
There are two stereo speakers integrated below either side of the palm rest. They have average sound quality for a notebook. The clarity suffers since they’re recessed within the chassis, and there’s only a hint of bass. We also wish the sound level was a bit louder. They’ll nonetheless do in a pinch.
The full-size chiclet keyboard spans nearly the entire width of the chassis. People who deal with data entry on a regular basis will appreciate the separate numeric keypad, though it takes a bit of extra precision since its keys are two-thirds sized. The key layout is familiar and intuitive since it’s very close to that of a desktop keyboard. The one oddity is that the power button is a keyboard key located in the upper right corner. This looks like a cost-cutting measure; it should be its own dedicated button on the chassis. The power button keyboard key is too easy to press and doesn’t light up either; to see if the notebook is powered on, you’ll instead have to reference the tiny blue status indicator lights under the left front edge of the chassis.
The E 15 needs some help in the keyboard feedback department. The keys have a hollow plastic feel and sound which doesn’t inspire confidence. Despite a good amount of key travel distance, the tactile feel is lackluster at best. On a positive note, the keyboard has no discernible flex.
The oversized buttonless trackpad is centered beneath the keyboard’s spacebar. The smooth anti-glare surface is easy to track fingers across. The amount of pressure required to produce a click is relatively consistent, though it does take slightly more towards the very top. The trackpad’s surface has some give prior to actually clicking; this makes for a slightly vague feel. The clicks are moreover too loud.