If you want a sub-$350 Windows laptop, you usually have to settle for a dull, low-res screen; lackluster design; and mediocre performance. For $349 ($429 with Windows Office), Acer’s Aspire E 15 E5-575-33BM defies those expectations, providing a colorful 1080p display, solid build quality and a reasonable Core i3 processor. Throw in over 8 hours of battery life, a DVD drive and just about every port you can imagine, and this 15.6-inch laptop is a real winner for consumers on a budget.
Acer’s Aspire E 15 is made of sturdy black plastic with a dark gray, matte lid that has a subtle crosshatch pattern and texture, along with a deck that looks like faux brushed aluminum. The notebook seems to have solid build quality, because it didn’t creak or buckle during my use; the keyboard didn’t show any signs of flex while typing either.
At 10.2 x 1.5 x 1.2 inches and 5.06 pounds, the E 15 E5-575-33BM is bulky, but it’s not much bigger than other budget 15-inch laptops. The Dell Inspiron 15 5000 is heavier (5.2 pounds) but thinner (0.92 inches), while the HP Notebook 15-ba009dx (4.6 pounds, 0.96 inches thick) is both thinner and lighter. The 14-inch Asus VivoBook E403SA is a much smaller alternative, at 3.18 pounds and 0.7 inches thick.
Ports: Everything you need plus DVD
The Aspire’s thick frame leaves plenty of room for both a DVD writer and almost every conceivable port. The left side houses a full-size Ethernet port, two USB 3.0 connectors, HDMI-out, VGA-out and a USB Type-C 3.1 port that’s good for data but that can’t be used to charge the laptop. The right side contains the DVD drive, a third USB port and a 3.5mm audio jack. The front lip offers an SD card reader.
Keyboard and Touchpad: Comfy and accurate
The Acer E 15’s keyboard offers a good typing experience that’s free from any of the shallowness or flex we find on many budget laptops. The keys provide a full 1.5mm of vertical travel and require 64 grams of force to actuate, a combination which prevented me from bottoming out as I typed. I reached a strong 100 words. Many users will appreciate the dedicated numeric keypad, which makes using the calculator or editing spreadsheets easier.
The 4.2 x 3-inch buttonless touchpad provides reasonably-accurate navigation around the desktop, but its surface felt a little slippery to me. The pad seemed to have a little trouble with pinch-to-zoom, as it didn’t always respond right away when I performed the gesture in Chrome browser or Windows 10’s photo app. Three-finger swiping to switch between apps worked every time.
Display: Surprisingly good
It’s rare that you find a 1920 x 1080 display on a sub-$400 laptop, let alone a display that covers this much of the color gamut. The Aspire E 15’s 15.6-inch screen outputs at a sharp 1080p resolution with tones that are vibrant, though not always accurate, and very limited viewing angles. When I watched a trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming, the reds and blues in Spidey’s costume popped, but appeared a bit oversaturated.
According to our colorimeter, the Acer E 15 can reproduce an impressive 159 percent of the sRGB color gamut, which is well above the 94 percent mainstream laptop average. That showing also trounces competitors in the E 15’s price range, such as the HP Notebook 15 (70 percent), Asus VivoBook E403SA (68 percent) and Dell Inspiron 15 5000 (72 percent).
Unfortunately, the numbers here don’t tell the full story, as the viewing angles were quite narrow. Dark images began inverting at just 45 degrees to the left or right.
Don’t try using this laptop in direct sunlight. The Aspire E 15 E5-575-33BM registered just 215 nits on our light meter, well below the 276-nit category average but actually better than showings by the Notebook 15 (174 nits) and VivoBook E403SA (201 nits). The Inspiron 15 5000 (213 nits) had a nearly identical score.