We’ve spent some time with the Acer Spin 3 SP314-52, the late-2018 update of the previous Spin 3 SP314-51 generation, in the last weeks and gathered our impressions down below, with the positives and the quirks.
This is an entry-level convertible laptop, with a starting price of around 650 EUR in Europe (and around $600 in the US, when available). This kind of money gets you a 14-inch laptop with an IPS touchscreen, latest generation Whiskey Lake hardware, a big battery that will keep this running for hours, as well as all the standard ports, but you’ll have to settle for a rather chunky all-plastic build and a non-backlit keyboard, among others.
In other words, this is the kind of laptop you should be interested in if you’re looking for good bang for your buck and definitely want a touchscreen, without caring for the premium looks, craftsmanship or fancy features you’d get with the higher-tier, and of course more expensive, options.
But is it good enough, and is such a laptop actually worth buying in 2019? You’ll find out from the rows down below.
Update: Quick jump to 2020, Acer have released a revised version of the Spin 3, and you can find all about it from our detailed review.
Specs as reviewed
||Acer Spin 3 SP314-52
||14.0 inch, 1920 x 1080 px, IPS, touch, glossy
||Intel Whiskey Lake Core i3-8145U CPU
||Intel UHD 620
||8 GB DDR4 (soldered, dual channel)
||128 M.2 PCIe SSD (80 mm – Kinston RBU-SN8154P3) + 500 GB 2.5″ 5400 rpm HDD (Toshiba MQ1ABF050)
||Wireless AC (Intel AC 9560), Bluetooth 5.0
||2x USB-A 3.0, 1x USB-A 2.0, HDMI, SD card reader, mic/headphone, Kensington lock
||60 Wh, 45W charger
||335 mm or 13.2” (w) x 231 mm or 9.1” (d) x 20 mm or 0.8” (h)
||3.75 lbs (1.7 kg)+ .53 lbs (.24 kg) charger and cables
||non-backlit keyboard, HD webcam, stereo speakers
Acer offers the Spin 3 SP314-52 in a few different configurations, with either Core i3 or i5 processors and various amounts of RAM and types of storage. Keep in mind there’s usually just a 1 TB HDD in the entry-level models, and you’ll want to upgrade that with an SSD in order to improve the everyday experience. I’d also aim for something with 8 GB of RAM, 4 GB are just too little for today’s requirements, even when dealing with basic browsing or movies.
Design and exterior
The Spin 3 is Acer’s entry-level series of convertible laptops, thus plastic is used for the entire construction and the device is larger and heavier than some of the higher-tier hybrids available these days.
At the same time, though, this is fairly well made, and the textured plastic feels nice and should handle the daily hassle quite well. There is a fair bit fo flex in the keyboard-deck, but the screen and the bottom are sturdily made, and the silver finishing does a good job at repelling smudges and scratches.
This laptop is also fairly practical. You’ll need both hands to lift up the screen, but then the hinges keep it snuggly in place, the rubber feet on the bottom provide good grip on a desk and the palm-rest is spacious enough to offer good arm support with daily use. There are also no sharp edges or corners, and no annoying lights that might bother you when using the computer at night.
You’ll also get a decent selection of ports with this laptop, with several full-size USB slots, HDMI for video output, and a card reader. There are no USB-C and no Lan port though.
The hybrid form-factor and the ability to use the Spin 3 both as a regular laptop and as a tablet might be one of the main reasons you’ll be interested in one of these. Having a screen that leans back to 180 degrees is definitely useful on a portable computer that you might often use on the lap or when traveling, but the tablet mode is not going to be as practical as you might think, as holding a large 3.75 lbs device in your hands for more than a few seconds is definitely not that comfortable, and Windows in tablet-mode is also not as smooth as Android/iOS or even ChromeOS.
What I’m basically saying is that entry-level convertibles can be a little misleading, and you should make sure you’re buying into them with the right expectations. I’d primarily get one for the touchscreen, but if that’s not a must, you’ll actually find better value in some of the cheaper and more compact clamshell notebooks. If a touchscreen is a must though and if you plan to use the device in tablet-mode often, I’d also look into one of the simpler, and much snappier as tablets, Chromebooks out there.
Keyboard and trackpad
This gets a standard chiclet keyboard, with a regular layout and well sized/spaced keys. My only nit is with the small arrow keys, further cramped up by the inclusion of PgUp and PgDn keys within the same block, something characteristics to Acer laptops in this segment.
The typing experience leaves some to be desired, as the keys are rather mushy and have a short stroke, thus don’t offer very accurate feedback. This is, however, a fast typer, and if you’re already used to this kind of shallower keyboards that are usually plastered on ultraportable laptops these days, I’d reckon you’re also going to get your accuracy in check over time.
Unfortunately, the Spin 3 lacks backlighting, which is going to be difficult to accept even in its class, and the keyboard is also fairly chattery and might attract raised eyebrows in quiet school and work environments.
For mouse, Acer went with a plastic clickpad with Precision drivers. It’s averagely sized and works alright, handling swiped, gestures, taps, and palm-rejection well enough. The physical clicks are clunky and loud, though, and the entire surface rattles when tapped a little firmer.
This laptop gets a 14-inch touchscreen. Touch works fine, but the build isn’t great and you’ll notice some ripples in the panel when pressing around the edges.
This panel is also dim and you’ll definitely struggle if you plan to use the Spin outdoors or in other bright environments, especially since glare from the glass on top of the panel is also part of the equation. That aside though, it should do for daily use, as the blacks and contrast-level are fairly good, and the viewing angles are generous. Color reproduction is, however, one more area where this falls short, but at least the gray-levels and White=point are almost excellent out of the box. You can use this calibrated color profile to address some of the tiny imbalances, but it’s not a must.
- Panel HardwareID: BOE BOE0779 (NV140FHM-N41);
- Coverage: 66% sRGB, 49% NTSC, 51% AdobeRGB;
- Measured gamma: 2.2;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 191 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 730:1;
- White point: 6400 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.26 cd/m2;
- PWM: Yes, flicker at 1000 Hz.
Acer uses PWM for brightness adjustment with this panel, with a rather low refresh-rate of 1000 Hz, which will bother those among you sensitive to flickering. On top of that, we also noticed some light bleeding on our sample, as well as poor brightness distribution at lower brightness levels, with the bottom half being up to 20% dimmer than the top.
Hardware and performance
Our sample is a mid-range configuration of the Spin 3 SP314-52 model, with merely a Core i3-8145U processor, but 8 GB of RAM, a 128 GB PCIe SSD and a 2.5″ 5400 rpm mechanical HDD for mass storage.
Higher end versions ship with the Core i5-8265U processor and larger SSDs, while lower-end models only get 4 GB of RAM. I would advise against getting a laptop with only 4 GB of RAM in this day and age though.
The Core i3-8145U is a dual-core quad-thread processor and while it’s not as capable as the quad-core i5s and i7s, it’s actually a good enough option for everyday use, movies and a fair bit of multitasking.
The CPU, GPU, and RAM are soldered on the motherboard, but the storage is not. The PCIe SSD Acer put on our test-sample is well suited for daily use, with fast read-speeds and average write abilities. You can upgrade it if you absolutely want to, and for that, you’ll need to remove the back panel in order to get access to the internals. It’s a simple task, as it’s held in place by a handful of Philips screws, all visible on the sides.
As far as performance goes, I mentioned earlier that the i3 powered Swift 3 is perfectly capable of handling everyday tasks and browsing. The logs below will show you what to expect in terms of performance and temperatures in these cases.
However, keep in mind there’s a fair bit of preinstalled bloatware on this laptop, including the Norton antivirus and a bunch of Acer and third-party applications, which you should uninstall to get the best performance out of this kind of hardware.
The Whiskey Lake processor is not necessarily meant for demanding loads, but if you’re interested in benchmark results, here’s what we got on our sample:
- PCMark 10: 3327;
- PassMark: Rating: 30894, CPU mark: 5447, 3D Graphics Mark: 1097;
- GeekBench 3.4.2 32-bit: Single-Core: 3713, Multi-core: 7112;
- GeekBench 4.1.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 4717, Multi-core: 8501;
- CineBench R15: OpenGL 77.19 fps, CPU 318 cb, CPU Single Core 147 cb;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 – 107.89 fps, Pass 2 – 19.894 fps.
The i3-8145U on this unit has a TDP threshold on 15 W, which means its Turbo Speed frequency adjusts automatically when running demanding loads for a longer time, in order to stay within the boundaries of this TDP and keep temperatures at bay. Running Cinebench R15 in a loop is a perfect way of showcasing the CPU’s maximum potential performance in taxing loads.
Undervolting the CPU lowers voltage and temperatures, and as a result, the CPU is able to run at higher frequencies within the same TDP threshold. We undervolted this test unit at -100 mV (this article explains what undervolting means and how you can do it too) and this translated in a slight 10% increase in Cinebench frequencies and marginally improved benchmarks results in some tests.
Relying on Intel HD 620 graphics only, the Spin 3 is not a computer for gaming. For that, you should rather get something with at least Nvidia MX150 graphics, if not higher, like one of Acer’s 14-inch Swift 3 models.
Emissions (noise, heat), Connectivity and speakers
The late-2018 Spin 3 SP514-52 implements a simple cooling solution, with a single fan and single heat-pipe on top of the CPU, complimented by intake grills on the underbelly, back and to some degree on the inside, at the top of the keyboard. Hot air is pushed out through the exhaust grill on the back.
The fan is active all the time with daily use and spins quite loudly, at about 38-40 dB most of the time, with peaks up to 43-44 dB with multitasking, which is impossible to ignore unless there’s music coming from the speakers, are these are loud enough to cover it up. I didn’t notice any electronic noise or coil whine on our test unit, though.
The Spin does, however, run cool with daily use and multitasking, so there’s plenty of headroom for a more tamed down fan profile and even passive cooling with light use. Hopefully, Acer will tweak the behavior in a future BIOS update, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for it, as software support is usually neglected in this lower-tier segment.
*Daily Use – browsing in EDGE for 30 minutes
The Spin 3 gets an Intel AC 9560 wireless module, but it didn’t perform as well as other implementations with our setup, only hitting transfer speeds of around 200 Mbps right next to our router, and lower at 30+ feet with obstacles in between. However, you’re not going to notice this with regular use, and I’ll also add that we didn’t encounter any drops or any other issues during our time with this computer.
This laptop gets front-firing speakers hidden behind the grill at the top of the keyboard and they’re actually an improvement over the previous generation, with a maximum volume of around 74 dB and decent audio quality, for this class.
The camera is not bad either. It’s grainy, but takes clear and decent quality shots, is placed at the top of the screen and is flanked by a set of near-field microphones that work with Cortana and Alexa.
There’s a 60 Wh battery inside the Spin 3, larger than what you’ll get with other laptops in this category. Paired with the efficient hardware and low-brightness screen, you can expect 5-7 hours of daily multitasking and 8-10 hours of video.
Here’s what we got in our tests, with the screen set at 50% brightness, roughly 120 nits.
- 6.5 W (~9 h of use) – very light browsing and text editing in Google Drive, Better Battery Mode, screen at 50%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 6 W (~10 h of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Edge, Better Battery Mode, screen at 50%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 5.5 W (~11 h of use) – 1080p fullscreen Netflix video in Edge, Better Battery Mode, screen at 50%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 10 W (~6 h of use) – heavy browsing in Edge, Better Performance Mode, screen at 50%, Wi-Fi ON.
It’s worth adding that the performance gets sluggish on the Better Battery power mode, so you’ll probably want to stick with Better Performance most of the time, which will take a small toll on the battery life.
The laptop comes with a compact 45 Wh power brick and no quick-charging, that’s why it charges slowly and a full recharge from 10 to 100% takes more than 3 hours.
Price and availability
The 14-inch Acer Spin SP314-52 is available in some regions of the world, but mostly in Europe.
Prices start at 650 EUR in Germany and 650 GBP in the UK for the Core i3-8145U model with 8 GB of RAM and either 256 GB SSD/ 1 TB HDD. Lower end models with just 4 GB of RAM are also available, but I’d advise staying away from any device with just 4 GB of non-upgradeable memory.
In the US you’ll still mostly find the previous Spin 3 SP314-51 version, which is pretty much identical, but gets KabyLake-R hardware and a smaller 52 Wh battery. It starts at around $600 for a Core i5 / 8 GB / 256 GB SSD configuration.
Follow this link for updated prices and configurations and the time you’re reading this post.
Acer usually delivers excellent value in the entry-level segments, but the Spin 3, even in its updated SP314-52 variant that addresses some of the issues of the previous SP314-51 generation, still remains a quirky product.
On the positives side, this is fairly well built, performs alright with daily use even in the base-level configurations (just make sure to get something with 8 GB of RAM and get rid of the bloatware) and lasts for a very long-time on each charge. It also gets decent speakers, a decent keyboard if you can get used to its shallow feedback, as well as good, yet basic, IO.
However, the keyboard is still not backlit, the screen is dim and only alright for indoor use, the fans are active all the time (without any reason) and the battery takes a long time to charge. On top of that, the convertible form-factor might not be actually that useful with daily use, as a large and heavy 3.75 lbs tablet is definitely not going to be comfortable to hold in hand, so for me, the only real benefit here is in the adjustable touchscreen.
Now, it’s not like the competition offers a lot better in this class, and that includes devices like the Asus VivoBook Flip TP402, Dell Inspiron 14 5000 2-in-1, HP Pavillion x360 and the Lenovo Yoga 530. Some are a bit smaller and use nicer materials, most get slightly brighter displays and some include some sort of low-tier dedicated graphics, but at the same time these also get smaller batteries and are usually more expensive than the Acer Spin 3 lines.
In other words, despite its flaws, the Spin 3 is competitive in its class of entry to mid-range 2-in-1 laptops, but that’s because the entire segment hasn’t seen much progress in the last few years, and all the existing options are quirky and/or overpriced, to some extent. That’s why, if you absolutely must have a touchscreen on your laptop, I’d suggest going with an older generation model of one of the more premium convertibles instead, while if you’re looking for value for your money and can live without a convertible touchscreen, get one of the nicer polished clamshell notebooks instead. Finally, this article goes over a wider selection of good-value budget laptops.
That wraps up our review of the Acer Spin 3 SP314-52, but I’m looking for your feedback and questions down below in the comments section, so don’t hesitate to come in touch.
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