It’s not everyday I get my hands on a full-sized budget laptop for review, but I do know many of you are interested in getting the best bang for your buck, and the Acer Aspire R5-573G fits this description to a T.
The base models includes a 5th generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of memory and Nvidia 940M dedicated graphics– all for as little as $549.
Our test unit is the beefier configuration and offers a Core i7-5500U processor, the NVIDIA 940M chip with 4GB video memory, and a 1920 x 1080 px display. A unit with these specs sells for around $700 at the time of this post. You’ll be hard-pressed to find similar specs for such a low price– that’s for sure– but Acer did have to cut some corners in order to get the E5-573G as affordable as it is. We’ll talk about that, as well as the laptop’s strong points, in the following paragraphs.
Disclaimer: This unit came from Acer for the purpose of this review and the experience related in the post is based on it being my daily driver for about 2 weeks.
But first, a quick look at the specs so you’ll know exactly what’s on offer.
||Acer Aspire E5-573G-75B3
||15.6 inch, 1920 x 1080 px resolution, TN, matte, non-touch
||Intel Broadwell Core i7-5500U CPU, dual-core 2.4 GHz
||Integrated Intel HD 5500 HD
||8 GB DDR3
||500 GB HDD 5400rpm ()
||Wireless N Atheros QCA9377 , Qualcomm Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth 4.0
||1x USB 2.0, 2x USB 3.0, HDMI, VGA, RJ45, mic/earphone combo, SD card-reader, Kensington lock
||382 mm or 15.02” (w) x 256 mm or 10.08” (d) x 29.2 mm or 1.15” (h)
||2.39 kg or 5.29 lb
||non-backlit keyboard, stereo speakers, available in White, Gray, Blue and Red
Design and exterior
The E5-573G is not a premium notebook and you’ll quickly get that from the moment you take it out of the box.
For starters, the body is bulky, nearly 1.15 inches thick. It’s rather heavy as well, at 5.3 lbs.
The entire case is entirely made from plastic with no trace of metal or other fancy materials, but it’s actually a nice matte plastic, with a pronounced brushed texture on the lid and underbelly. Our test unit comes in a rather dull Gray finish, but Acer will sell this series in a bunch of more lively colors as well, including blue, red, and white. It’s also worth mentioning that the color scheme is consistent around the body, thus the outer case, interior, and bezel are all in the exact same color.
Despite the plastic shell, the E5-573G looks pretty good for its class and is fairly sturdy built. The textured surfaces feel nice to the touch and won’t catch fingerprints or smudges easily. While there’s still some flex in the lid-cover and in the keyboard area, Acer did a really nice job with the overall craftsmanship and the attention to details.
The display is held in place by sturdy hinges and will require the use of both hands to lift the screen. The panel is also flanked by rubber padding to ensure the actual display does touch the keyboard when closed. Last but not least, there are five rubber feet on the belly that keep the laptop properly in place on a desk and don’t seem like they would peel off easily– an issue I’ve had with cheap notebooks in the past.
As a full-size laptop, the Aspire E5-573G has plenty of room for IO. There’s the PSU, an optical-disc drive, and an USB slot on the right, card-reader and some status LEDs on the front, but most of the connectors are on the left side, where you’ll find the headphone/mic jack, two USB 3.0 ports, full-size HDMI, Ethernet, VGA slots and a Kensington lock port.
The cooling exhaust is also placed on this left edge, which means all the ports had to be pushed towards the front and will make the laptop rather uncomfortable to use by lefties, who’ll have to deal with both the hot air and the tangled mess of cables in this area.
At the end of the day, the E5-573G looks and feels how a basic laptop should nowadays: strong, simple, and without any special materials and features. The colorful cases will add a bit of style, but many of the other manufacturers offer similar options on their mainstream 15-inchers.
While you probably don’t expect much in terms of looks from a $500 laptop, I’m pretty sure you expect it to perform well in your daily activities, and that brings us to the screen, one of the most important elements in the mix.
Our test version comes with a 1920 x 1080 px 15.6 inch display, but relies on a rather poor TN panel. The resolution is high enough to ensure crisp texts and details, but the color accuracy, brightness, contrast and especially the viewing angles leave much to be desired.
Check out the numbers below for more details. The contrast is not as bad as my Spyder4 says, which has problems registering Black levels on such poor panels. The colors are bad out of the box, but can be somewhat addressed with a calibration tool. Even so, this panel is not going to be a good pick for color-accurate work.
- Panel HardwareID: AU Optronics AUO38ED B156HTN03.8;
- Coverage: 59% sRGB, 41% NTSC, 44% AdobeRGB;
- Measured gamma: 2.23;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 208 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 90:1;
- White point: 7300 K;
- Black on max brightness: 2.38 cd/m2;
- Average DeltaE: 9.65 uncalibrated, 3.11 calibrated .
Keep in mind that I am being subjective here, as much as I try not to, because I’m used to much better screens on my daily drivers. The truth is this screen is not worse than what you’re getting on most other affordable notebooks. In fact, some might say it’s a superior pick due to its increased resolution, and I’d agree that’s a plus for everyday/multimedia use.
On top of that, the surface is matte, something I do appreciate, although that means this screen lacks touch. And to be frank, a matte finishing on a device that’s going to spend most of its life indoors and simply lacks the brightness required to be useable in bright environments isn’t as much of a feature as on an ultraportable meant to spend its life on the go. But that’s another story.
Bottom point, the screen is pretty crappy here. You can either live with its shortcomings, go for a different laptop (but you won’t find better in this price-range) or upgrade it if you have the skills (authorized services can do it for you if you just have the will :P).
Keyboard and trackpad
Having written several thousands words on this keyboard, I can say it’s not bad. It’s not great either, though.
It lacks backlightning, which can be a deal-breaker for many– and that’s even more annoying since the keys are black and set on a dark-gray background (on this particular color scheme), so lack any kind of contrast to set them apart in dim-light.
That aside though, I don’t have much to complain. The keys are well spaced and have a decent stroke and feedback. They do feel a bit mushy, but I actually had no problems with missed hits. They aren’t very noisy either, although the spacebar does have a more pronounced sound.
It did take me a while to get used to the layout, though. Acer took a weird approach with the Up and Down arrow keys and messed up the layout keys in the top-right area, so the “Del” key is especially difficult to find without looking (I would expect it to be aligned to BackSpace on layouts with a Numpad, but it’s not there). That’s mostly due to having the Power Button integrated within the keyboard, a dreaded approach I’ve dealt with before. The Power key is not stiffer than the keys around it, like on the Asus laptops for instance, so you can easily press it by mistake. Fortunately though, hitting it did absolutely nothing, as you can you can set up what it does from one of the many proprietary Acer apps installed.
The trackpad is huge, and that means you’ll have plenty of space for swipes and gestures. Taps and clicks are a bit noisy, but nothing utterly annoying, and its surface was overall accurate and responsive.
This is an Elan trackpad and I was expecting hectic performance, given my poor experience with Elan drivers in the past, but that wasn’t the case. You should keep in mind that if you won’t like the default settings, you’ll have a much harder time tweaking them to your liking in this case than you’d do on a Synaptics pad.
Hardware, performance and upgrade options
While this machine is average at best in most other fields, it does excel in terms of the hardware specs you’ll be getting for the money.
Like I said in the beginning, our test model comes with an Intel Core i7-5500U processor, 8 GB of RAM, a 500 GB HDD and dedicated Nvidia 940M graphics with 4 GB of video memory. This laptop uses Optimus, meaning the embedded Intel graphics are used for most operations while the Nvidia chip is used on request for demanding games, or as set by the Nvidia control panel.
The GT 940M is a recently released chip, part of the latest Nvidia series. Don’t be mistaken by the fancy 900-series name: in reality it’s only an Nvidia 840M chip running at a marginally higher frequency, as I’ve explained in this post. The 940M chip should run somewhat cooler than its predecessor though, and that would allow more room for potential overclocking, especially on computer with plenty of space inside for a large cooling solution, like we have here. However, there’s no way to increase the number of CUDA cores, so don’t expect any significant performance increase by overclocking.
Hardware wise, this Acer is built on Intel’s Broadwell U platform, so it packs the same hardware available in ultraportable laptops but in a larger package. That puts it on par with those portable computers in terms of performance, which means it can easily handle all sorts of daily activities, from editing text to watching multimedia content and browsing with multiple tabs open.
A few things to point out about this model/series. First of all, Acer equips the E5-573G with a standard HDD. Most of the models available in stores get hybrid storage (a HDD with a small SSD meant to improve speed and loading times), but our model only came with an HDD, and that took its toll on performance– especially when it came to booting up from cold, installing, and launching programs.
Second, there’s a fair amount of bloatware preinstalled on this laptop, including a multitude of Acer programs and a bunch of other trials and software you’ll probably never use. Getting rid of them will speed up performance as well.
Third, this laptop can be upgraded fairly easily. You’ll need to take the whole back panel apart, since there’s no quick upgrade bay, but you’ll get access to the 2.5″ storage bay, the two memory slots (one of them is free in our case, which means the laptop can actually take up to 16 GB of RAM), the optical bay and the Wi-Fi card.
Now, even with the slow HDD, this test model scored great results in benchmarks, as you can see below.
- 3DMark 11: P2496;
- 3DMark 13: Ice Storm – 45707, Cloud Gate – 6491, Sky Diver – 5446, Fire Strike – 1433;
- PCMark 08: Home Conventional – 2439;
- CineBench 11.5: OpenGL 49.90 fps, CPU 3.05 pts, CPU Single Core 1.38 pts;
- CineBench R15: OpenGL 58.09 fps, CPU 276 pts, CPU Single Core 116 pts.
- x264 Benchmark 4.0: Pass 1 – 97.16 fps, Pass 2 – 18.57 fps.
And since it packs dedicated graphics I had to try a few games.
||13 x 7 high details
|19 x 10 low details
|NFS Most Wanted
|Metro Last Light
Now, the Nvidia 940M is a mainstream chip and that means it can’t exactly offer top-notch results in the latest games. It even struggles with titles launched in the last several years, only playing them with low details in the default 1920 x 1080 resolution. If you’ll drop the resolution to 1360 x 768, though, you’d be able to play most games with medium to high details.
So, just keep in mind this sort of configuration does not make the E5-573G a gaming machine.
I should also add that there are two versions of the Nvidia 940M chip out there, one with 2 GB of VRAM and another with 4 GB. We have the latter one for this review. But while that might seem like a big difference on paper, in practice you’ll only notice it in some games that require 4 GB of video memory and the thing is those are actually modern titles that won’t be able to run well on a mainstream chip like the 940M in the first place.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers and others
On the other hand, having such hardware in a large body and pairing it with a good cooling option means the laptop has no issues with throttling (not even in stress tests with Prime95 and Furmark), plus it runs cool and fairly quiet even when put to serious work. It also leaves some room to overclock the graphics, although you’ll do that on your own risk, so make sure you know exactly what you’re up to.
There’s a fan inside, and it never completely shuts off, thus this computer is never totally silent. But, it spins at barely audible levels most of the time and only ramps up when running games or other very demanding tasks. At the same time, both the components and the outer-case remain cool in daily use and don’t get very hot under stress either.
*Daily Use – 1080p Youtube clip in IE for 30 minutes
*Load – playing Need for Speed Most Wanted for 30 minutes
In other words, I had no problems using the laptop on my lap for anything besides games. When gaming, the bottom did reach temperatures north of 40 degrees, which is outside my comfort zone. Regardless, it’s advisable not to cover the intake grills on the belly, especially if you’ll put the machine to serious work.
Connectivity wise, there’s Wireless N, Bluetooth 4.0 and Gigabit LAN on the Aspire E5-573G. Acer went for a Wi-Fi N Atheros QCA9377 Wi-Fi module, so if you’ll need solid performance you’ll either have to turn to the wired connection or just replace the Wi-Fi card.
The speakers can’t be replaced though, and that’s a pity, because they are awful in pretty much every aspect. They lack volume, bass, and even mids. In fact, they sound so tiny and hollow you’ll probably just want to use headphones with this laptop all the time if you expect any bit of sound accuracy.
There’s also a webcam on top of the screen which should do alright for occasional Skype chats or Hangouts. The mic is placed on the palm-rest though, near the trackpad, and you should be careful not to muffle it if you need to use the keyboard during your calls.
Acer cut the corner with the battery on the Aspire E5-573G, as they went for a rather small 37W one on this unit– far smaller then what they have on their more portable units. That was somewhat expected, though, as it’s a way to shave off a few dollars. Thus, these affordable 15-inchers usually get small batteries, despite having plenty of space inside for larger ones.
Regardless, paired with the efficient platform, this Acer will go for between 4 to 6 hours of daily use on a charge, which isn’t bad.
- 3.5 W (~9 h of use) – idle, Power Saving Mode, screen at 0%, Wi-Fi OFF;
- 5.5 W (~5 h 30 min of use) – very light browsing and text editing in Google Drive, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 6.5 W (~4 h 40 min of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Internet Explorer, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 7.5 W (~4 h of use) – 1080p fullscreen .mkv video in VLC Player, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 7 W (~4 h 20 min of use) – medium browsing in Internet Explorer, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 8.5 W (~3 h 30 min of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Chrome, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON.
The laptop comes with a 65W power brick and a long cable. Charging up the battery from 10 to 100% takes under two hours, but I do have to complain about the PSU being placed on the right edge. On top of that, the charging tip is a bit rough and requires extra effort to be inserted in its slot, bur I’d rather have this than a loose tip.
The 65W power brick
Price and availability
The Acer Aspire E5-573G is already available in stores around the world at the time of this review.
Acer offers a few different configurations. Among them, here are the ones that caught my attention:
- Acer Aspire E5-573G-59C3 – sells for $549 for an Intel Core i5-5200U CPU, Nvidia GT 940M 2GB graphics, 8 GB RAM, 1 TB HDD + 8 GB SSD and the 1366 x 768 px display;
- Acer Aspire E5-573G-75B3 – sells for $699 for an Intel Core i7-5500U CPU, Nvidia GT 940M 4GB graphics, 8 GB RAM, 1 TB HDD + 8 GB SSD and the 1920 x 1080 px display.
These are the prices and configurations available at the time of this post (July 2015) and the base config mentioned above is rather difficult to find in stock right now (no wonder). Follow this link for up-to-date models and prices at the time you’re reading the article.
Spending $170 more will basically get you the Core i7 CPU, the theoretically beefier Nvidia chip with 4GB of video memory, and the FHD display. But if you ask me, these aren’t worth that kind of money.
The base version is a much better deal for what you’d be paying. Unless you really need the extra power provided by the faster CPU (here’s how the Broadwell i5 and i7 processors stack against each other), I’d just get the $499 model and use the extra $170 to replace the HDD with an SSD, get 16 GB of RAM or even upgrade the screen to something that’s actually worth paying extra for.
A great configuration is available for $499, that if you can actually find it in stock
Cheaper versions will be available as well, as Acer plan to offer the E5-573G series in a multitude on configurations, with processors ranging from Pentiums up to Core i7s and various types of dedicated graphics.
After spending the last two weeks with this Acer Aspire E5-573G, I believe it is one of the decent 15-inch all-round laptops you can get these days if you’re on a very limited budget.
The powerful configuration with dedicated graphics and multiple upgrade possibilities are this series’s main selling points. On the other hand, the poor display, tiny speakers and the only average keyboard are my nits with it. Many of you might also be steered away by the lack of a touchscreen.
This Aspire is not without rivals, though. In fact, pretty much every manufacturer offers something in the affordable 15-inch range, with the likes of the Dell Inspiron 15 3000, the Asus X555, the Lenovo G50, the GP 250 or the Toshiba Satellite L50 as some of the alternatives to consider. But none of these actually include a 5th gen processor, 8 GB of RAM and Nvidia 940M graphics for as little as $499. In fact, you won’t get that for under $600 either.
For the money, you won’t find anything similar to the Acer 573G right now if you want modern hardware and dedicated graphics in a 15-inch laptop
So how does Acer manage to bring to stores such configurations for such little money? To be frank, I don’t know, I find it hard to explain. But that should matter less for us, as end buyers.
At the end of the day, if you’re fine with this laptop’s shortcomings and can actually track down on of these Acer E5-573Gs in stock, I’d say go for it. Just make sure you get extended warranty as well if available. I feel that would be a safer bet down the road.
Douglas Black contributed to this report.
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