Windows 8 is full of touch-based gestures and big, colourful live tiles just begging to be poked. New laptops are therefore going to need to boast touch-enabled displays if they want to be taken seriously.
Acer's V5-571P offers just such a display and doesn't charge the world in exchange -- far from it. It's on Amazon now for only £430. That price only nets you an old Intel Core i3 processor and 4GB of RAM though.
It might be affordable, but is it worth it?
Should I buy the Acer Aspire V5-571P?
With an asking price of only £430, the V5 is a very affordable entry into the touchscreen world of Windows 8. It will demand that you make some serious compromises for that price though.
The screen for one is very low resolution for a 15-inch machine. Colours look pretty awful on it too, and are only slightly remedied by tinkering with the display calibration.
The processor too is one of the older-generation Intel Sandy Bridge models which doesn't offer much in the way of performance. It'll handle the essentials adequately but that's about it. For £30 less, you can snag a Core i5-packing HP laptop with 6GB of RAM.
If you desperately want a Windows 8 touchscreen laptop on the cheap then it's an option worth consideration, but it's far from perfect.
Design and build quality
Outwardly, the V5 is really nothing to write home about. The lid is simply a wide expanse of grey, broken only in the middle by the Acer logo. That same grey can also be found under the lid, and is only offset by the black keyboard tiles.
It really is a very dull design, but it is at least functional. If you're after something a bit more stylish to show off in a coffee shop, Acer's S7 ultrabook with its white glass lid will be much more suitable -- although it will cost you many hundreds of pounds more.
The V5 measures 386mm wide and 254mm deep, putting it at the larger end of what you'd realistically describe as portable. It's only 23mm thick though, so it should slide easily into a sleeve and isn't heavy enough to be a drag as you carry it around.
The chassis has an all-plastic construction, which makes it feel somewhat cheap -- although I'm happy to forgive this given the very reasonable £430 price tag. There's not much in the way of flex in the lid or the keyboard tray and it feels as though it could take at least a few knocks inside a bag.
Around the edges you'll spy an HDMI port, three USB 3.0 ports, an SD card slot and a 3.5mm headphone jack. There's also an odd, slim port which turned out to be a combined Ethernet and VGA port -- courtesy of an adaptor that you'll find in the box. That's fine, but those adaptors aren't common, so if you lose it, you'll struggle to replace it. I'd prefer those ports to be built into the computer itself.
There's also a DVD drive tucked into the side. It doesn't take high-definition Blu-ray discs, but the screen doesn't have the resolution to cope with Blu-ray anyway. Considering the price, DVD is a perfectly acceptable option.
The keyboard is every bit as dull as the outer shell, but is at least comfortable to type on. The keys are evenly spaced, and the large trackpad below is responsive and uses multi-touch gestures for when you just can't be bothered to swipe at the screen.
The V5's 15.6-inch screen is touch enabled, letting you take full advantage of the various gestures and live tiles critical to Windows 8's interface. You can swipe your way around the homescreen, poking at big apps, switching to the keyboard when you need to type. It's a fairly responsive display, which is helpful -- but that's where the good news runs out.
The display is reasonably bright, but the colours are awful. There's a very annoying blue tinge to the screen, which makes whites looks grey and miserable and the usually vivid reds, pinks and greens of the Windows 8 homescreen look muted and dull.
It's not going to make anything appear great, be it videos, photos, Web pages or even just office documents. I was able to tune it to a certain extent using the display calibration tool, but it was far from perfect and not something I've ever felt the urge to do on any laptop before now.
It also has an unimpressive resolution of 1,366x768 pixels. The minimum I'd like to see on a display of this size is 1,600x900 pixels, but it's forgivable to an extent given the low price. It'll be able to cope with 720p video, but don't bother wasting your bandwidth streaming Full HD movies.
Power and performance
The V5 packs an Intel Core i3-2365M processor running at 1.4GHz paired with 4GB of RAM. The '2' in that name indicates that that's one of the older generation of Intel Sandy Bridge chips, rather than the more recent Ivy Bridge models. Considering how long Ivy Bridge has been around now, it's very disappointing to see such old hardware still in use.
Perhaps unsurprisingly then, it didn't impress in my tests. It achieved 3,916 in the Geekbench benchmark test, failing even to match Acer's own Aspire 5749, which cost about the same when it was released in January last year.
General performance was acceptable though. I didn't notice a massive amount of lag when swiping around Windows 8 and switching apps, and it was able to jump between open Web browser tabs without delay. On occasion it had something of a senior moment, freezing briefly when opening Explorer windows. This will quickly become annoying when you start to load it up with numerous concurrent tasks.
Editing photos in Adobe Lightroom 4 was possible, if a little sluggish. There was a slight delay between moving the settings sliders and seeing the change take place, and exporting my 2MB file took around 8 seconds -- still, that's a massive improvement over the 1 minute it took the HP Envy x2 to do the same task. It was able to perform my video encoding task in 23 minutes and 30 seconds, which is certainly rather slow, but once again, acceptable for the price.
The Aspire V5 really isn't built for demanding tasks like video editing or gaming, but it will handle the essential Web browsing, social networking and some of the lighter-weight apps from the Windows 8 store without too much trouble.
It's hardly a powerhouse, but for £430 you'd be wrong to expect it to be. The poor screen colours can be rescued slightly in software, but it's not a good display by any means. If you're particularly keen to get your hands on a touchscreen Windows 8 laptop and don't want to spend much cash, the V5 is an option, but you can get better performance from similarly priced machines without the touchscreen.