In and Around the Acer Aspire V5-171

Being essentially either a glorified netbook or a budget ultrabook, the Acer Aspire V5-171 is par for the course with Acer's more affordable offerings. Anyone expecting a great upheaval in design is going to be disappointed; this is a $550 notebook and while I don't think it feels too cheap, there were definitely some concessions made in hitting that price point. That said, there are some nice surprises too.

Probably the nicest surprise is the lack of glossy plastic. The lid is plastic but with a silver brushed-aluminum print that actually looks reasonably classy. Acer does a kind of sandwiching two-tone with the V5, where the lid and the palm rest surface are silver, but the screen bezel is black (unfortunately a glossy bezel) and the keyboard itself is comprised of matte black plastic. Finally, the underside of the notebook is matte black plastic as well, but Acer did budget users a kindness with the design here.

So how about that keyboard and trackpad? Acer dispensed with the floating island style keys some time ago, and the new chiclet-style keyboard is vastly superior. That said, the keys are still a bit on the mushy side and could use slightly more contour. You do benefit from the extra height of the V5, though, as the keys have more travel and depth than ultrabook keyboards tend to have. I've heard complaints about the diminutive size of the arrow keys and document navigation keys, but maybe it's my tiny, delicate hands...I haven't had a problem with them and I actually very much like the placement of the Page Up and Page Down keys. In a perfect world, though, Acer would put the Home and End keys at the top right of the keyboard, and then have Print Screen and Break as the Fn combinations for the Insert and Delete keys.

Acer keeps the clickpad on a separate piece of plastic, and given the dimensions of the notebook I'm much more apt to forgive them for using a clickpad instead of having dedicated mouse buttons. The height of the clickpad is already cramped enough, and side-mounted dedicated mouse buttons have never been a good idea. I've read a couple other reviews of the V5 and the clickpad has been a source of consternation, but I'm going to dissent. It's not great, but it's not the worst clickpad I've used and for the most part it's actually pretty usable. Sensitivity is less than ideal for the mouse gestures that run Windows 8, but at the same time, Windows 8 benefits tremendously from the clickpad.

As I mentioned before, Acer does the end user a solid with the bottom of the notebook. Air is vented primarily through the side vent (meaning you can actually use the V5 on your lap), but the battery is user replaceable and the bottom panel is actually a single piece that snaps on and is held in place by a solitary screw. Remove it, and you have access to everything. You can upgrade the wireless card with another half-height PCIe card, replace the hard drive, and in a rare move for a notebook in this class, there are actually a pair of DIMM slots instead of some of the RAM simply being soldered to the motherboard.

Ultimately there's some flex to the chassis and the down-firing speakers sound pretty terrible, but the level of user serviceability, usable keyboard and touchpad, and smart thermal design (more on this later) go a long way towards bringing value to the V5 and making it feel more like an inexpensive notebook rather than just a cheap one.

Introducing the Acer Aspire V5-171 Application and Futuremark Performance
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  • DanNeely - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    The one thing they've all lacked vs my EEE 1005 (premium netbook) is battery life. When it was new I could get 10-13 hours of light use on it, while every non-atom option I've looked at has been done by someone who decided the 5-7 hours of the stock netbook is good enough; draining the 6hr battery on my first netbook semi-regularly was the main reason I paid extra for the 1005 so I rather strongly disagree with that premise.

    Some of the clovertrail tablet-dock combinations announced recently at least offer similar to better battery life and with the user of narrow bezels some have even matched the physical size too; but I've yet to see anything with a faster CPU able to do the same.
  • joe30987rr - Saturday, November 24, 2012 - link

    LOL ! the competitor to this notebook isnt an e-350, its a Llano, or better yet Trinity, both of which blow this laptop out of the water for graphics and multithreaded performance. Couldn't find any for the review ? What an unbelievable sham this site is. Why don't u guys just join the Intel marketing dept.
  • Novaguy - Saturday, December 1, 2012 - link

    Yeah, but there just aren't that many low power llano's or trinity's on the market. You would think that new low power 19W trinity (the a8-4555m quad core,which even comes with the full graphics portion, just underclocked to hit the tdp, I think) would be a great option in this market, but you just don't see them in wild that often. You just keep seeing the trinity chips in the 14 to 17.3 inch market.
  • ltcommanderdata - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    What did they do to the battery life on that thing? I had an 11.6" Acer 1810T, which is a predecessor to the notebook being reviewed. I got it when notebooks in this form factor were called ultraportables instead of ultrabooks and this was before the 11.6" MacBook Air was released. I liked it over the common netbooks of the time because it offered much of the portability of netbooks while having a decent CPU (1.4GHz dual core Penryn Core 2 Duo), a GPU with hardware h.264 acceleration (GMA 4500MHD), while offering just enough battery life to make it through a day of light use ~7 hr. Plus it was only $500 CND. The Acer Aspire V5-171 having only ~4 hrs battery life just doesn't have the same usefulness even if the specs and price are right.
  • MadMan007 - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    It's got a pretty small battery - look at the Wh ratings in the battery life charts. Having said that, are there extended batteries available? If so that would fix the most glaring issue that can be fixed with this notebook.
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    The 1810T is listed as having a "62W" (presumably they mean 62 Wh) battery; that's 67% more capacity. Unfortunately Acer chased smaller rather than longer lasting in the current model.
  • liem107 - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    Yep i had the 1810tz but it had a 6cell battery and it was about 200 g heavier i think.
  • creed3020 - Friday, November 23, 2012 - link

    We have the 1810 with Intel Core 2 Solo CPU. For it's age it runs Windows 7 with ease with the stock 3GB of RAM and 250GB HDD. My wife is the primary user but during university I was able to take this on campus and stretch the usage out for a solid 8 hours I actively managed the screen brightness, wifi usage, and the number of applications that I was running.

    This guy even served as our HTPC for a time and played back 720p content with ease.

    Sound it ever get slow I'll drop in an SSD for a breath of fresh air and look at a someone selling RAM on Kijiji to bring it up to 4GB.
  • prdola0 - Thursday, November 22, 2012 - link

    Glossy screen on a portable device? Thanks, but no. I don't want it.
  • cjs150 - Thursday, November 22, 2012 - link

    It looks a reasonably priced piece of kit but I do question its usefulness.

    I own an Atom notebook. Battery life is around 6 hours. I can surf the web, log into my office and do some work/read emails, play movies and old games. I have had it for 3+ years.

    I could do all of the above just as well using a tablet and maybe an add on keyboard (sadly I am becoming a fan of the MS design) or a docking station when I will get better screen quality and longer battery life.

    So an ultrabook has to fill a niche that a tablet cannot. 11.6" mediocre screen on ultrabook versus a 10.6" high quality screen on a tablet is already a win for the tablet at least until you get a 13" screen for an ultrabook.

    There are only two niches that I can see this sort of ultrabook being useful for - really cheap, substantially undercutting the tablets and secondly for those people on the move that require a lot more power than the tablets provide.

    For power users on the road, the screen quality and lack of battery life becomes a major issue.

    Which brings me back to the question - who the heck does Acer expect will buy this ultrabook?

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