In and Around the Acer Aspire V5-171

Being essentially either a glorified netbook or a budget ultrabook, the Acer Aspire V5-171 is par for the course with Acer's more affordable offerings. Anyone expecting a great upheaval in design is going to be disappointed; this is a $550 notebook and while I don't think it feels too cheap, there were definitely some concessions made in hitting that price point. That said, there are some nice surprises too.

Probably the nicest surprise is the lack of glossy plastic. The lid is plastic but with a silver brushed-aluminum print that actually looks reasonably classy. Acer does a kind of sandwiching two-tone with the V5, where the lid and the palm rest surface are silver, but the screen bezel is black (unfortunately a glossy bezel) and the keyboard itself is comprised of matte black plastic. Finally, the underside of the notebook is matte black plastic as well, but Acer did budget users a kindness with the design here.

So how about that keyboard and trackpad? Acer dispensed with the floating island style keys some time ago, and the new chiclet-style keyboard is vastly superior. That said, the keys are still a bit on the mushy side and could use slightly more contour. You do benefit from the extra height of the V5, though, as the keys have more travel and depth than ultrabook keyboards tend to have. I've heard complaints about the diminutive size of the arrow keys and document navigation keys, but maybe it's my tiny, delicate hands...I haven't had a problem with them and I actually very much like the placement of the Page Up and Page Down keys. In a perfect world, though, Acer would put the Home and End keys at the top right of the keyboard, and then have Print Screen and Break as the Fn combinations for the Insert and Delete keys.

Acer keeps the clickpad on a separate piece of plastic, and given the dimensions of the notebook I'm much more apt to forgive them for using a clickpad instead of having dedicated mouse buttons. The height of the clickpad is already cramped enough, and side-mounted dedicated mouse buttons have never been a good idea. I've read a couple other reviews of the V5 and the clickpad has been a source of consternation, but I'm going to dissent. It's not great, but it's not the worst clickpad I've used and for the most part it's actually pretty usable. Sensitivity is less than ideal for the mouse gestures that run Windows 8, but at the same time, Windows 8 benefits tremendously from the clickpad.

As I mentioned before, Acer does the end user a solid with the bottom of the notebook. Air is vented primarily through the side vent (meaning you can actually use the V5 on your lap), but the battery is user replaceable and the bottom panel is actually a single piece that snaps on and is held in place by a solitary screw. Remove it, and you have access to everything. You can upgrade the wireless card with another half-height PCIe card, replace the hard drive, and in a rare move for a notebook in this class, there are actually a pair of DIMM slots instead of some of the RAM simply being soldered to the motherboard.

Ultimately there's some flex to the chassis and the down-firing speakers sound pretty terrible, but the level of user serviceability, usable keyboard and touchpad, and smart thermal design (more on this later) go a long way towards bringing value to the V5 and making it feel more like an inexpensive notebook rather than just a cheap one.

Introducing the Acer Aspire V5-171 Application and Futuremark Performance
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  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, November 22, 2012 - link

    Well, me, for one.

    You make it sound like the battery lasts a whole fifteen minutes and the display borders on illegible. Neither of these is the case.

    Four hours of useful running time isn't dire; my X100e ran for less during CES this year and still never ran down completely.

    And yeah, the glossy display kind of sucks, but it still works and gets the job done.

    In exchange, you have a system with a tremendous amount of performance on tap in a very portable form factor, with great thermals and noise and a low price. It's also far more responsive and enjoyable to use than an Atom netbook, and its IGP doesn't have the teething issues Atom's does.

    Note also that this is NOT an ultrabook. It's simply an ultraportable, and for me at least, it's pretty ideal.
    Reply
  • Calin - Thursday, November 22, 2012 - link

    I think the money might buy you dual channel DDR (or interleaved or whatever it's called). If this is the case, there is quite a bit of extra graphic performance to be had, I think. Anyway, $200 is probably overpriced even so Reply
  • MrSpadge - Thursday, November 22, 2012 - link

    The tested version already has dual channel (there are no 6 GB modules..), And most of the price increase is due to the CPU and is directly forwarded to Intel. Reply
  • Anonymous Blowhard - Thursday, November 22, 2012 - link

    So glad that Acer decided to make this easily serviceable. Two DIMM slots, both on the bottom, and an easy-to-access HDD for a quick 7mm SSD upgrade? Love it.

    Battery life is a bit of a shame and the display is the usual budget crock, but like you said w.r.t Brazos laptops, if the price is right, you're willing to overlook some of these faults.
    Reply
  • Matti - Thursday, November 22, 2012 - link

    It's a joke to compare E-350 with i5 3317U (or E1200). Brazos are for Atom to compare with. Why not to include A6 4455M for comparsion, actually the tdp 17 W is just the same. It would be interesting to look at low voltage Trinity to perform against Intel ULV. Reply
  • Roland00Address - Thursday, November 22, 2012 - link

    An a6-4455m is a 2 core (1 module) trinity part with 17w tdp, Its base clock is 2.1 ghz and it can turbo to 2.6 ghz. Compare this to an a10-4600m (the best laptop trinity)
    An a10-4600m is a 4 core (2 module) trinity part with a 35w tdp. Its base clock is 2.3 ghz and it can turbo up to 3.2 ghz. Thus the a10 has double the cores, as well as a 9% faster base clock, and a 23% faster turbo clock.

    Well the i5-3317u (17w) is faster than the a10-4600m (35w) in both single and multithreaded tasks (the a10-4600m is faster in gpu). See the anandtech mobile bench.
    http://www.anandtech.com/bench/Product/727?vs=600

    In Cinebench R11.5 (Single-Threaded Benchmark) the i5-3317u scores 1.08 vs the a10-4600m 0.70 fps which makes the i5-3317u 54% faster in single threaded.
    In Cinebench R11.5 (Multithreaded Benchmark) the i5-3517 scores 2.41 pts vs the a10-4600m 2.05 pts which makes the i5-3317u 17% faster in multithread.

    There is no way a dual core a6 with lower clock speed can keep up with an i5 ivy when the quad core a10 is having problems.

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    Now in graphics the a10 is faster than the i5 ulv ivybridge. But the a6-4455m has a lot less shader power. The a6 has 256 shaders instead of 384 (a10), in other words 66% of the shaders . In addition the a6-4455m has lower clocks 327 mhz instead of 496 mhz (a10), only 66% of the clock speed. Thus if the game is shader limited instead of memory, rop, or cpu limited the worse case scenario for the a6 ulv is that it will perform 43% as well as the a10. (In many games the a6 will perform a lot closer than the 43% since memory, rop, and cpu power does play a factor.)

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    There are very few computers using the a6-4455m. AMD pretty much only got design wins with a couple hp 15.6" sleekbooks and a samsung 13.3" sleekbook. These a6 sleekbooks computers are all priced at 500 or greater. The i5 in this v5 on the other hand occupies a similar price range yet is in a smaller computer.

    AMD just can't seem to gain any traction with the smaller size laptops.
    Reply
  • MrSpadge - Thursday, November 22, 2012 - link

    I like this form factor and the benefits a little more z-height brings over Ultrabooks. Personally I'd want higher quality (and would pay more for this), but may recommend this one to others. Reply
  • jeffkro - Thursday, November 22, 2012 - link

    The best replacement for the netbook is the new chromebook laptops, nice light OS on light hardware. This thing is just a cheaper ultrabook. Reply
  • Death666Angel - Friday, November 23, 2012 - link

    I have the Travelmate 8172 with a Core i3 330UM (Arrandale ULV chips). I was considering buying the 1810 back in the day, but didn't like the glossy all over the place. The battery life with this unit is not as good (Arrandale ULV chips aren't that great at using less energy). But it still lasts me between 4 and 7 hours, depending on what I do with it. Build quality is great apart from one key that always fell off (which I could fix in 30 seconds with some pliers). This unit sounds like a great deal, it has a better chip, more RAM and is cheaper (I paid 650€ for my Travelmate). The downsides are the smaller battery and glossy display. If I had any reason to upgrade (I don't right now, hardly use the notebook these days), I would probably buy it or at least something similar. I don't like the Ultrabooks much, too much emphasise on style/size/weight and not enough on serviceability, price, usefulness. Still, I think Acer has come quite a way since they started out as the ultra-cheap vendor. :) Reply
  • Ignatius - Friday, November 23, 2012 - link

    I notice the HDD it comes with is only SATA II. Does anyone know if this Acer supports SATA III? It would seem kind of a waste to put an SSD in it to only get half the performance. Reply

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