Review: Acer Spin 5 convertible with 8th gen Core i7

For the past few weeks, my primary laptop has been the Acer Spin 5, another convertible with big ambitions to service your computing lifestyle, regardless of the need or...

For the past few weeks, my primary laptop has been the Acer Spin 5, another convertible with big ambitions to service your computing lifestyle, regardless of the need or location. While many people choose a new laptop out of inertia, I think its time we stopped and seriously considered 2-in-1s like the Spin 5, given the performance and thickness are no longer areas of compromise.

The Acer Spin 5 is available in a number of variants which will help you choose based on your desired price point, however, this review unit featured the latest 8th generation Intel Core i7-8550U CPU with 8GB RAM. Along for the ride is a healthy 500GB SSD, but sadly the 13″ display is only FullHD (1920×1080), quite low by today’s standards. There’s also no dedicated graphics, so you rely on the Intel 620 Graphics.

Design

The body of the Spin 5 is a sleek, professionally dressed combination of grey/black which is comfortable at home on the coffee table, or at the desk in the board room at work. The single most distinctive feature of these convertibles is how their hinge mechanism allows for the transformation to take place between different configurations. Acer’s 360 hinges are well designed with 2 solid hinge mechanisms securely holding the display at any angle you want, while still being easy to move. They’re also accented in a lighter silver which I think adds to the design, while I could understand some people wishing they were colour matched to the body to fade into the design, rather than contrasting it.

There are 4 different configurations available thanks to this hinge, I found myself using the laptop and Netflix modes the most, although folding the screen completely back on itself and using the touchscreen was also a big benefit for occasional use.

The keyboard is fantastic to use, one of my favourite in the last 12 months, with chiclet keys that have the perfect amount of travel and allow a touch typist to smash out long-form content while gliding between keys. The large trackpad is generous and responsive, exactly what you want when making precise movements.

I particularly love the design of the speakers in this device, a deliberate assignment of holes in the top edge of the body that fall over the angled edge as it approaches the bottom of the screen. This is a case of design with purpose, which we’ll get to in a second.

In terms of the thickness of the Spin 5, the body of the device is as only as thick an HDMI port, that’s it. It does make you wonder why they didn’t opt for a mini-display port like so many others. The answer could lie in the battery and cooling mechanisms. With the screen closed, the entire height of the convertible is 15.90mm. That is a high number compared to the thinnest laptop, but I believe the functionality is definitely worth the compromise in size. Remember this will still easily slip into any backpack and weighs just 1.6kg.

Features

The feature list on this device is extensive, the most notable the convertible design, but while Acer has their own hinge style, that’s not exactly a unique feature these days. It is great to see inclusions in the feature list of the Spin 5, like backlit keyboard, innovative speaker design that works in all orientations and has Dolby Audio certification. There’s also a fingerprint reader integrated into the generously sized trackpad.

The lineup of ports on the Spin 5 is equally impressive, 2x USB3, along with 1x USB Type-C, great for charging your phone or driving an external display. That full-sized HDMI port is actually really convenient to connect to a TV, rather than search for adapters and dongles, as is the full sized SD card reader, great for those using DLSR cameras.

Performance

The easiest way to understand the performance of this device is not a benchmark number, its day-to-day use and what I can tell you is that the machine boots in seconds, apps launch quickly and the experience as a whole is a fast one, thanks to that processor. Obviously, this is not a gaming laptop, if you want that, look elsewhere, but for everything then you’ll find yourself with a performing, transforming portable device.

For those who seek benchmark numbers the Novabench Score is 1193, which compared to a budget laptop, is 66% faster, with a 55% higher CPU score and even the onboard graphics is 103% better. Even when compared to a mid-level gaming laptop, this CPU is 10% better.

Battery life
If you look at the spec sheet, you’ll see Acer is touting ‘up to 13 hours battery life’. Inside the body is a just a 3-cell 4670 mAh Li-Polymer battery, not much larger than our phones, which speaks to how impressive the new Intel processor is on battery. In reality, the battery life is around 10 hours, which will certainly get you through a workday. More practically, you can pick up the laptop, use it for a couple hours a night and basically charge it once a week.

Battery life figures certainly vary considerably based on usage, but considering the performance of a Core i7, the battery life is impressive.

Issues

Acer has nailed the hardware on the Spin 5, but unfortunately, they’ve been tempted by software customisations which are actually detrimental to the user experience. Commonly known as bloatware, the software that comes pre-installed are things like a trial of Norton’s anti-virus, after 30 days, you’re then expected to pay for it. Windows 10 comes with AV built in and is more than adequate to protect end users, setting them up to pay for a product most don’t need is a pretty poor choice.

Then as we look through the start menu, you’ll notice there’s a bunch of apps like abFiles and abPhotos along with an array of shortcuts like Agoda which is just a went shortcut for a travel site.

There’s also Bubble Witch 3 Saga and Candy Crush Soda Saga which aren’t links to the Store, they’re actually pre-installed. There’s even Mozilla Firefox installed, given Edge, IE comes by default and a majority of users use Chrome, pre-installing Firefox, seems like the result of a pay-day, rather than anything that could be interpreted as a user-focused decision.

About the only legitimate software that belongs are utilities from Acer, that I can bear, but overall, this is one of the worst examples of pre-unwanted pre-installed software I’ve seen for a while. The good news, all of this is changable, unlike many devices which suffer from hardware compromises.

Price and Availability

The Acer Spin 5 comes in multiple configurations that range between A$999 and A$1,699. The exact spec of this machine is currently not listed in Australia.

Overall

The Acer Spin 5 is now a serious contender for your portable convertible needs. Even if you’re reading this review and think you’re unlikely to ever flip it around into anything other than a standard laptop position, there’s not really a premium or a penalty for getting a convertible now. This means it’ll easily service your day-to-day needs and should you ever find yourself on a plane, in a bus, the backseat of a car and need to use it in a different configuration, that option is at least available, so my advice is to reconsider.

Personally, I found a number of times where I did enjoy the flexibility to reconfigure the Spin 5, like laying on the couch, putting it on the coffee table in tent mode and using the just the touchscreen to interact with the device. If you have the mental picture of convertibles from 5 years ago, that was heavy and clumsy, its time to take another look. The Acer Spin 5 shows clearly that you can get a convertible that offers modern performance and battery specs, while still remaining ultra-portable.

For more information, head to Acer.

9
Acer Spin 5 convertible laptop
The Good
  • Convertibility
  • Battery Life
The Bad
  • Only Full HD display
  • Design
    9
  • Features
    9.3
  • Value
    8.8
Categories
AcerReviews

Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis.