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The Acer Aspire E5-551G-F57K (15.6”): a solid midrange laptop

April 16, 2015
The Acer Aspire E5-551G-F57K (15.6”): a solid midrange laptop
If you’re in need of a new midrange laptop and either need or want a large screen, check out the 15.6-inch Acer Aspire E5-551G-F57K. While it’s not perfect, you might just find that with this one, Acer is offering a package that’s well rounded enough to be just right for you.

What you get
This Aspire is a large laptop – no ifs, ands or buts. Its exact dimensions are 15.02 x 10.08 x 1.19 inches, and weight-wise it clocks in at 5.51 pounds or 2.5 kilograms, which is not too bad considering that, say, a 13-inch Apple MacBook Pro (the older non-Retina display version), which is on the heavy side in this day and age, weighs 4.5 pounds.

But that being said, our Aspire doesn’t feel as “needlessly hefty” as many other laptops in its size class do – quite a few of its fellow size-classers can feel like behemoths and can get users to suspect that they have too much empty space inside. This laptop from Acer feels just right in this respect. It’s large but trim and you feel that some effort has been put into keeping it as slim as possible.

The requisite figures: our tester comes with an AMD A-Series quad-core processor, the FX-7500, which runs up to 3.3GHz. Graphics are handled by the 2GB AMD Radeon R7. The standard 4GB of DDR3L memory isn’t too much in this day and age, but it’s more than enough to get started with.

The equipment list is pretty much as expected, from the drawer-type 8X DVD-Super Multi optical drive to a bevy of ports (HDMI, Ethernet, VGA, USB 3.0 and 2.0, and so on) to the usual WLAN, Bluetooth 4.0 and LAN connectivity. The Acer Crystal Eye HD webcam permits 720p HD video recording, by the way.

Oh, and what’s in the box? Not very much aside from the requisite cord, adapter and manuals/certification.

How it’s put together

We’re happy to report that the E5-551G-F57K appears to have been put together with a little more care and attention than your average 15-plus-incher.

Overall, the design of this big laptop is unmistakably Acer – exceedingly understated, from the brushed-metal look of its lid and palm rest to the simplicity of the hard-wearing matte plastic on its underparts and hinge. It’s pretty sleek as well; it doesn’t look very big at first glance, which is of course a good thing. It’s the sort of laptop that won’t look out of place anywhere, from the boardroom to the classroom and everywhere in between.
It’s a little unfortunate, though, that the lid and palm rest are quite susceptible to fingerprint oil smudges. Even a light fingerprint will leave some sort of stain. Fortunately, any and all smudges and stains are quite easily taken care of with a microfiber cloth or anything of that sort.

This Aspire is a pretty solid device. Panels don’t creak or bend even with moderate pressure, and everything fits well together – not a hair out of place. This is the sort of thing that bodes quite well for any laptop’s longevity and value for money.

What it’s like to use
The E5-551G-F57K is pretty good to use on a daily basis, despite a few niggles.

Let’s start with the chiclet keyboard. The keys are well spaced and make good use of the available real estate. That said, key travel is a little insufficient and the feel isn’t as crisp or as immediate as it could be. However, this is an efficient keyboard and it’s not hard at all to get up to speed. Additionally, those of you who need to type plenty of documents will really appreciate the size of the keyboard (which does feature a numeric keypad, a boon for those of you who want or need one).

The touchpad is quite decently sized, but its location might not work too well for some users – it’s skewed towards the left and right-handed users who don’t want to stretch too far might not be served very well, and users might struggle with the comparatively small real estate available for resting one’s palm on the left side. At any rate, it’s located square beneath the space bar, so this might actually be a non-issue and just a matter of getting used to.

As for the trackpad, we felt it could stand to be improved. While large and responsive to taps, we feel the ‘click’ response could be improved somewhat – it’s a little harsh and abrupt. Moreover, it feels like the pad might get worn through with time and/or heavy usage.

Now a few words about the display. While bright and clear, in this day and age of super-sharp displays, it falls a little bit short. Edges of certain images can appear jagged even a moderate distance away from the screen itself.

Viewing angles are relatively decent from left to right, but the quality of images on the screen can vary quite considerably when the screen is tilted up and down, even a little bit – something to consider when watching movies or looking at pictures. The bezels are decently sized, being neither too big nor too small.

The speakers are nothing to write home about. Akin to those on most mid- to lower-range laptops, they’re located on the underside of the device, and as such don’t project the sound directly to the listener. The effect is more diffused when the laptop is placed on a soft surface, such as a bed.

The webcam didn’t prove as clear or as sharp as we wanted. It captured images that were grainy, and the color was often subpar especially when shots were off-center. That being said, video quality is more than sufficient for Google or Skype calls.

By the way, the Aspire E-series laptops are all Skype-certified, meaning that they’ve been proven to meet Skype’s audio and visual standards. We didn’t test it extensively in this department, but all the calls we made went pretty well – sound was very clear and images were about as sharp as the screen could support.

As for overall performance, our tester did relatively well. We put it through its paces using a bevy of the usual software, including a wide range of operations using the browser, and found it to be quite a decent performer. This laptop’s a good multitasker; we pushed it a bit for hours, running the same YouTube videos over and over with plenty of tabs open, and it proved to be a good workhorse.

A word on included software and apps – as is par for the course with budget and midrange systems, the E15 comes with a ton of these freebies, from expected and welcome ones such as Dropbox to others including Foxit PhantomPDF, Acer Portal and so on and so forth.

Regarding heat management, the E5-551G-F57K again performed quite well, never heating up too much even when pushed. Users might find the left side a tad uncomfortable, because the fan pushes the warm air out through that side, but that stream of warm air is easily avoided and doesn’t impact usability.

As for battery life, it’s nothing if not decent. At best we were able to eke out about 6 hours and a half from a full charge until the battery was completely drained – not too bad, decent battery life being one of the abiding advantages of any device with a generously sized battery.

The last word in this section is on variety. Ours isn’t the only Aspire E available in the local market. Nine other distinct versions exist, each sporting either 14- or 15.6-inch displays; a choice of processors, from the 1.83 GHz quad-core Celeron N2940 to the range-topping 2 GHz Core i7-4510U; from 2GB to 8GB of RAM; and so on and so forth.

The 15.6-inch Acer Aspire E5-551G-F57K is no standout in any single area – and there are certain areas that could use a little tweaking – but it’s a solid performer in just about every key respect, a jack-of-all-trades in the budget-to-midrange laptop segment.

If you’re in the market for a laptop in this price and size class, you might want to check it out. We feel that niggles aside, it’s got the value proposition down pat.