The Acer Spin 5 is one of the best-buy convertibles available in stores, as an overall good product with an affordable price tag. There’s more about it in our review.
As of the Fall of 2017 Acer updated it with a new generation, the Spin 5 SP513-52N, which improves on many of the predecessors traits: gets a full metal construction, a better screen with pen support, a larger battery, a nicer keyboard and Intel’s KabyLake-R processors inside.
All these come with a bump in price as well, but overall the newer Spin 5 is a step-up from the previous generation.
We’ve already spent time with the Spin 5 SP513-52N in a configuration with an Intel Core i5-8250U CPU, which I believe makes the most sense on it. The impressions and thoguhts are gathered below, so read on to find out if this convertible is the one for you or not.
Specs as reviewed
||Acer Spin 5 SP513-52N
||13.3 inch, 1920 x 1080 px, 60 Hz, IPS, touch
||Intel KabyLake-R Core i5-8250U
||Intel HD 620
||8 GB DDR4 (soldered)
||256 GB SSD (M.2 80 mm SATA)
||Wireless AC (Qualcomm Atheros QCA6174), Bluetooth 4.1
||2x USB-A 3.1, 1x USB-A 2.0, 1x USB-C 3.1 gen 1, HDMI, mic/headphone, SD card reader
||54 Wh, 45 W power brick
||324 mm or 12.75” (w) x 226 mm or 8.89” (d) x 15.9 mm or 0.63” (h)
||1.54 kg / 3.39 lbs and .25 kg/ .55 lbs power brick
||backlit keyboard, HD camera, upwards facing stereo speakers
Acer offers the new Spin 5 in multiple other configuration, including some with standard dual-core Kabylake processors. There’s also a 15-inch model available, with similar quad-core platforms and Nvidia 1050 graphics, starting at around $1000. More details via this link.
Design and first look
On the outside the new Spin 5 is nothing like the previous model. It’s thinner, a little lighter and entirely made out of metal, with a nice looking dark-silver brushed finishing for the lid cover and smooth metal on the interior and underside. There’s limited branding (Acer logo on the lid, Spin logo on top of the keyboard) and even the status LEDs are out of sight, but the hinges are chromed and don’t fit that well with the otherwise subtle design. They do match the machined milled edges around the interior. Overall, I feel this laptop aces the aesthetics and it’s a bit different than anything else available out there.
It gets however a pretty large footprint for a 13-incher, as you can tell by the hefty bezels around the screen. I would have appreciated if Acer would have at least put a 14-inch panel on this chassis, there’s plenty of room for one.
This notebooks is also fairly heavy compared to some of the competitors in its niche and price-range (Lenovo Yoga 13, Asus Zenbook UX360). This kind of build allowed Acer to put the speakers on top of the keyboard and a slightly larger battery inside, although when you’ll look at the internal design you’ll see that the space wasn’t thoroughly optimized. More about that later.
The Spin 5 is fairly well built and finished. There’s some flex in the hood and little to none in the main chassis, despite having a plastic inner frame beneath. The finishing quality is good, yet the bottom panel doesn’t attach flushly to the main-body and leaves some gaps and sharp edges you’ll feel when grabbing the laptop.
On the practical side, the first thing you’ll notice is that the screen is a little difficult to grab, since there’s no crease on the front lip and the top is the same length as the bottom, not a bit longer like on some other laptops, so you’ll probably have to use your nails to grab it. Then, once you do manage to pick it up you’ll have to use both hands to completely open the screen, as the hinges stiffen past 45 degrees. Since this laptop is a convertible, the hinges allow the display to flip to 360 degrees on the back and the Spin 5 can be used as a laptop, tablet or anything in between.
There’s little to complain about it in notebook mode. The grippy feet on the bottom keep it well anchored on a flat surface, the hot air exhaust is on the back edge and fires away from the user, the stiff hinges keep the screen in place as set-up and while the edges are a little sharp, the laptop’s low profile ensures your writs don’t come in contact with them.
The footprint, weight and large bezels on the other hand make this Spin 5 a little uncomfortable to hold and use as a tablet. I appreciate that there’s a rubbery edge below the screen that makes for a good grip, but unfortunately that means your hand will be placed on top of the exhaust, which can get unpleasant.
I’ll also add that due to the larger bezels this computer is actually fairly nice to use in Tent mode, to watch movies and Youtube clips. So the design in a mixed bag, with pros and cons, but even so I feel that there’s just too much body for a 13-inch screen on this computer.
The IO is lined on the edges, with most connectors on the left side. There’s pretty much everything you’ll need here, except for Thunderbolt 3, which again some of the 13-inch convertibles are starting to offer these days.
Keyboard and trackpad
The keyboard is pretty standard for an Acer ultraportable, with full-size keys and cramped arrows flanked by PgUp and PgDn dedicated keys. Aside from this peculiarity , which some might actually appreciate, the layout is one of the better in the niche.
This keyboard types well too, with springy response and good feedback. I couldn’t quite get my speed to where it usually is, but I was able to type accurately and didn’t need a lot of time to get used to its feedback. Keep in mind this is a short-stroke keyboard, so those of you coming from older laptops might struggle with it at first, but that’s just common for ultra-thin laptops.
The keys are also quiet and backlit, with white-blueish LEDs a single level of brightness available.
For mouse Acer went with a fairly large clickpad indented into the middle of the palm-rest and flanked by a beveled edge. It’s an Elan plastic surface with very few tweaking options, but it works well out of the box and provides a consistent experience with everyday use.
The surface rattles when tapped firmly on the lower half though, and the physical clicks are a bit loud and stiff, but overall I’d say most of you will find this good enough.
There’s also a fingerprint sensor integrated with the clickpad, a bit small, but one that works fine with Windows Hello.
The previous Spin 5 came with a dim panel and Acer partially addressed that with the new model by going with a different screen. It’s still nothing to brag about, but it’s a good option as long as you don’t plan to take the laptop outdoors or use it in very bright environments, where the 260 nits max brightness corroborated with the glossy glass coating will bend the knee.
That aside though, the IPS panel Acer went with offers good viewing angles, contrast and color reproduction, as you can see below (taken with a Spyder 4). I’ll also add that I didn’t notice any obvious light bleeding with this panel.
- Panel HardwareID: ?? LM133LF1L02;
- Coverage: 99% sRGB, 75% NTSC, 78% AdobeRGB;
- Measured gamma: 2.3;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 257 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 690:1;
- White point: 7200 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.38 cd/m2;
- Average DeltaE: 1.32 uncalibrated, 0.72 calibrated.
You can use our calibrated profile to correct the gamma, colors and gray-levels skews.
The screen supports touch of course and also Acer’s Active Stylus Pen, bundled with the laptop. It gets 1024 levels of pressure from what I could find online, as well as palm-rejection. It provides a decent writing/sketching experience with this computer, but I did run into some glitches and jerkiness here and there, so I’d advise to further look into the matter if you’re planning to extensively use this feature.
Hardware, performance and upgrade options
Hardware wise, our unit came with an Intel Core i5-8250U processor, 8 GB of RAM and a 256 GB M.2 80 mm SATA SSD (PCIe SSDs are also compatible).
The CPU is the big selling point here, as it’s one of the quad-core ULV 8th generation KabyLake-R processors which offers improved multi-core performance in the same 15 W TDP as the previously available dual-core ULVs. Out test unit is an early pre-production sample, so take out findings with a grain of salt.
But before we get to that, I’ll add that the CPU and RAM are soldered on the motherboard, but the storage, wireless chip and battery are accessible inside. For that you’ll need to get past the back panel, which is hold in place by a handful of screws. Inside you’ll notice that there’s a fair amount of unused space, around the battery and to the left of the fan, where the BIOS battery, SSD and Wi-Fi chip are placed, which suggests Acer could have made this laptop smaller if they wanted, but instead went for a simple internal layout in order to cut R&D costs and get the laptop cheaper in stores.
With that out of the way, let’s focus on the CPU. It gets four cores and eight treads, with a base speed of 1.8 GHz and Turbo speeds of up to 3.4 GHz, as well as the ability to clock down to 800 MHz when needed. As a result, our sample performed very well with everyday activities. You’ll find details on speeds and temperatures in the pics below.
When it comes to continuous demanding loads, things are a bit different. The Core i5-8250U is a 15 W TDP, but it can spike above that for limited periods of time. That’s noticeable in Cinebench for instance, where the CPU runs at 3.4 GHz and around 25 W TDP for a few seconds, but then clocks down to about 2.2 GHz and the 15 W TDP limit. Details below.
When it comes to games, both the CPU’s cores and integrated GPU have to fit within the 15 W TDP constrain, which at least on this sample means that both the CPU and GPU run below their advertised speeds. I must again stress that these findings should be taken with a grain of salt and you shouldn’t draw any final conclusions based on this review unit alone. But the behavior makes total sense to me.
Knowing all these, the benchmarks results below shouldn’t be a surprise. The i5-8250U matches the i5-7200U/i7-7500U in most single-core CPU tests, outmatches them by a big margin in multi-core tests and by a minor margin in GPU tests. The Intel UHD 620 solution integrated with the KabyLake-R processors runs at 5-10% higher clocks than the Intel HD 620 bundled with the dual-core KabyLake ULVs and that has a slight impact in benchmarks.
- 3DMark 11: P1776;
- 3DMark 13: Sky Driver – 4103, Fire Strike – 978, Time Spy – 383;
- PCMark 08: Home Conventional – 2875;
- PCMark 10: 3522;
- Geekbench 3 32-bit: Single-Core: 3042, Multi-core: 6337;
- Geekbench 4 64-bit: Single-Core: 4335, Multi-core: 8228;
- CineBench 11.5: OpenGL 33.75 fps, CPU 3.48 pts, CPU Single Core 1.55 pts;
- CineBench R15: OpenGL 40.69 fps, CPU 308 cb, CPU Single Core 131 cb;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 – 103.49 fps, Pass 2 – 19.02 fps.
You’ll find more about the Intel Core i5-8250U processor in this dedicated article, with more thorough benchmarks results based on multiple review units and conclusions on what to expect from it.
We also ran a few games on our sample and here’s what we got.
||Intel UHD 620 – FHD Low
||Intel HD 620 – FHD Low*
|NFS: Most Wanted
The results are a bit under the Intel HD 620 chip paired with the i7-7500U processor(*). In theory, the UHD 620 on the i5-8250U runs at up to 1100 MHz Turbo Speeds, but in practice it averaged around 900 MHz in our tests, and that’s mostly why the HD 620, with a max theoretical Turbo of 1050 MHz, but higher real-life frequencies, was able to beat it. Whether that’s going to be the case on the final retail units or not remains to be seen.
When it comes to gaming you should’t however rely on any of these integrated Intel chips anyway, but rather opt for one of the ultraportables with Nvidia 940MX or MX150 dedicated graphics, which improve on both the CPU (by taking the integrated GPU out of the equation) and GPU performance.
Emissions (noise, heat), Connectivity and speakers
The cooling on this new Spin 5 is very similar to the cooling on the older unit, with a small fan, short heat-pipes and a small CPU plate that barely covers the processor and attaches in only three points. I’d reckon that could have been improved in order to squeeze better performance in demanding loads from the KabyLake-R configurations, yet Acer chose not to.
Still, as far as everyday use goes, noise, temperatures and performances, as you’ve seen below, are not a concern. The fan is active all the time but it’s barely audible, at 36-38 dB at head level with movies and browsing, albeit it occasionally ramps up to 40 dB with multitasking and by that time you’ll hear it in a normal environment. There’s no electrical noise either, but this laptop is never completely quiet as the fan refuses to shut off even with the most basic of activities.
Under load, the fan remains quieter than on most other ultraportables, ramping up to just 42 dB at head-level. Case level temperatures on the other hand jump fairly high, but mostly on the underside, as you can see below.
*Daily Use – 1080p Youtube clip in EDGE for 30 minutes
*Load – playing Neef For Speed: Most Wanted 4 for 30 minutes
For radios Acer went with a Qualcomm Atheros QCA6174 module that performed well on this sample, both near the router and at 30 feet with 2 walls in between, where many other laptops struggle.
The speakers are placed on top of the keyboard, as already mentioned earlier, and that means they fire up and they’re impossible to muffle with daily use in notebook mode. They’re fairly punchy and loud, going up to 81 dB at head level in our tests, and they’re also fairly clean, with no distortions at high volumes. The sound quality is above average for the class, with lows noticeable down to 75 Hz.
I’ll also add that there’s an HD camera placed on top of the screen and it’s good enough for occasional Skype calls and hangouts.
With a 54 Wh battery, a FHD screen and a CPU that quickly adjusts its speed based on activity, the new Spin 5 is cable of going for 4-8 hours of daily use on a charge easily, as you can see below (the screen was set at 40% brightness, roughly 120 nits).
- 8.3 W (~6 h 30 min of use) – text editing in Google Drive, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 6.8 W (~8 of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Internet Explorer, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 4.2 W (~13 h of use) – 1080p fullscreen .mkv video in the Movie app, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 6.0 W (~9 h of use) – 4K fullscreen .mkv video in the Movie app, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 13.5 W (~4 h of use) – heavy browsing in Edge, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 24.2 W (~2 h 10 min of use) –gaming – NFS:Most Wanted, High Performance Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON.
The i5-8250U proved more efficient than an i5-7200U with movies/Youtube and little more power hungry with browsing and multitasking. Overall though, if you were afraid the extra cores would take a toll on battery life, that’s not at all the case.
The Spin 5 comes with a 45 W power brick that weighs .25 kg / .55 lbs with the EU cables. It’s compact, but a little heavier than other 45 W chargers I’ve seen. A full charge takes about 2 hours and there’s no quick-charge feature as far as I can tell.
Price and availability
Acer offers the Spin 5 in multiple configurations, with dual-core and quad-core processors.
The Core i5-8250U version of the Spin 5 SP513-52N sells for around 900 EUR in Europe and about $800 in the US, which is a competitive price. More powerful configurations built on the Core i7-8550U processor are also an option for $100 more. Follow this link for more details at the time you’re reading the post.
Acer also offers a larger 15-inch version of this laptop built on the same quad-core KabyLake-R Core U platform, but with Nvidia 1050 graphics. This one starts at just under $1000 in the US. More details via this link.
The new Spin 5 improves on many aspects of the previous generation. It’s entirely built out of metal and looks nice, it gets a brighter panel with pen support, it gets better front-facing speakers and a bigger battery, paired with fast wireless and proper IO.
Then there’s the hardware. The quad-core KabyLake-R processor performs flawlessly and efficiently with everyday use and gives a bump in multi-core power when needed, mostly for multitasking and even demanding loads. Given Intel prices the i5-8250U just a bit above the i5-7200U and around $100 under the i7-7500U, I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t get this new i5 configuration, unless you plan to use your computer lightly, in which case the older i5-7200U models make sense as well.
When it comes to demanding chores and games though, there’s only that much you can expect from this processor inside this thin format. So if you’re looking for the most powerful thin-and-light convertible, this Spin 5 might not be for you.
It’s also not the most compact or the lightest, which you’ll primarily feel in tablet mode, especially when compared to the likes of the Lenovo Yoga 720 13, Asus Zenbook UX360UA or even the Dell Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1. But it does get a bigger battery and it should get you KabyLake-R configurations sooner than most rivals.
So all in all, while there are a few aspects that could steer you away from the Spin 5 SP513-52N, I believe this will retain the best-buy badge of the previous Spin 5 if Acer actually delivers on pricing. I would however suggest buying from a place that offers a good return policy and good after sale services, as Acer’s quality control isn’t that great, based on what I could find online on the previous Spin 5.
That wraps-up this article. The comments section below is open though, so if you have any questions about the Acer Spin 5 SP513-52N or the KabyLake-R platform, as well as any feedback or anything to add to the post, feel free to get in touch and we’ll help if we can.
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