Don’t look to Acer’s product names for clues to its 2-in-1 convertible laptops’ screen sizes. The Acer Spin 3 is a 15.6-inch hybrid, while the Spin 7 is a 14-inch system. The Acer Spin 5 seen here ($ 799.99 as tested) is a 13.3-inch convertible, though there’s also a 15.6-inch model. If that isn’t confusing enough, you can look for our test unit by its model number (SP513-52N-58WW) or part number (NX.GR7AA.007). Whatever you call it, the Spin 5 has several things to recommend it, from its affordable price to its aluminum construction and eighth-generation Intel quad-core CPU. Compared with competitors like the Editors’ Choice Lenovo Yoga 720 (13-inch), however, it’s heavy and unwieldy in Tablet mode, and its benchmark performance, while adequate, is nothing special.
The Spin 5’s appeal may depend on finding it on sale—and coincidentally, as of this writing, Acer’s site linked to a Micro Center deal that marked our test unit down from $ 799.99 to a more tempting $ 699.99. At that price, we’re more sympathetic toward the Spin 5. It’s not like we couldn’t afford to lose a few ounces ourselves.
A Bland Silver Slab
The Spin 5’s design is pretty plain, with a crosshatched aluminum lid featuring a chrome Acer logo and a chrome accent strip running around the front and sides of the machine. The system measures 0.63 by 12.8 by 8.9 inches (HWD), a bit bulky compared with the Lenovo Yoga 720 (13-inch) (0.6 by 12.2 by 8.4 inches) or the Dell Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 (7373) (0.62 by 12.2 by 8.5).
Worse, the Spin 5 weighs 3.53 pounds, topping the Dell Inspiron 7373 (3.2 pounds), which we complained about as topping the Lenovo Yoga 720 (2.83 pounds). The extra seven-tenths of a pound is quite noticeable if you’re trying to hold the system with one hand in Tablet mode; it’s even noticeable if you’re carrying the device in a briefcase. You’ll likely keep this laptop on your lap (or, of course, on a desk in Laptop, Stand, or Tent modes).
Our review system features a 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-8250U processor with Intel UHD 620 integrated graphics, a full HD (1,920-by-1,080) In-Plane Switching (IPS) touch screen, 8GB of memory, and a 256GB SATA solid-state drive (SSD). The $ 599.99 starter model gets by with an Intel Core i5-6200U and half as much RAM and storage. The 15.6-inch model ($ 999.99) boasts an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 graphics card instead of integrated graphics, but putters along with a 1TB spinning hard drive instead of an SSD.
The Spin 5 is solidly built, with no flex in the keyboard deck and almost none when you grasp the screen corners. Two chrome hinges hold the screen securely, with little wobble when you tap or swipe the panel in Laptop or Stand mode. A wide bezel around the display allows room for your thumbs when grasping the unit in Tablet mode.
The webcam centered above the screen captures averagely bright, only slightly grainy selfies, but neither it nor the small fingerprint reader embedded in the touchpad works with Windows Hello to let you skip passwords during login. Top-mounted speakers behind a grille above the keyboard deliver ample audio up to three-quarters volume, above which things get raucous and distorted; supplied Dolby software has presets for Music, Movie, Dynamic, and Game modes.
A Full Set of Features
Clustered on the laptop’s left side, you’ll find two USB 3.0 ports, a USB-C port, and an HDMI port for an external monitor, along with the connector for the compact AC adapter. The power button, a USB 2.0 port, and an audio jack and volume rocker are on the right, as is an SD card slot that leaves cards protruding.
The backlit keyboard features tiny Escape and Delete keys and cursor arrows; the latter are crowded together with Page Up and Page Down keys, which team with the Fn key for Home and End. It has a pliant, but somewhat stiff and shallow, typing feel. The chrome-trimmed touchpad glides and taps smoothly, with a quiet click when you press its lower corners.
The glossy screen offers plenty of brightness—we could work happily with the backlight turned down three or four notches instead of our usual maximum of two—and shows fine details clearly. YouTube and Netflix 1080p videos looked great, with rich colors and ample contrast. IPS technology permits wide viewing angles, but the glass overlay shows reflections from the room around you.
Touch-screen operations are quick and precise. I briefly played with Acer’s $ 49.99 optional active stylus, a battery-powered pen that kept up with rapid sweeps and responded to different levels of pressure; it’s a handy option for Tablet-mode sketching or scribbling.
A “Kaby Lake R” Contender
As I said earlier, our Spin 5 unit’s configuration revolves around Intel’s eighth-generation Core i5-8250U, a 1.6GHz (3.4GHz turbo) quad-core CPU that has quickly become the norm for mainstream laptops and convertibles. It wasn’t the fastest among the 13.3-inch convertibles we collected for competition—speed demons will frown that it was a step off the pace in our Cinebench processor test and Handbrake video-editing exercise, though easily ahead of systems with dual-core CPUs.
And, like all 2-in-1 systems with integrated graphics, it’s not built for lively gameplay, coming nowhere near the 30 frames per second (fps) threshold for smooth gameplay in our Heaven and Valley game simulations. The Dell Inspiron 7373, among others, did better in these tests, though still coming far short of the playability of machines with dedicated graphics.
In our PCMark 8 office productivity performance test, the Spin 5 posted a perfectly fine score of 3,206 (any machine able to score over 2,500 can run Word, Excel, and PowerPoint with no problem). And it impressed us with 13 hours of battery life in our video rundown test, topping the Lenovo Yoga 720’s 12 hours and the Samsung Notebook 7 Spin’s 11 hours and 39 minutes. (Stay tuned for our review of the Samsung unit soon.)
The Acer Spin 5 lacks some show-off technologies like Thunderbolt 3 and Windows Hello. Most convertible shoppers can comfortably live without them, but that leaves them to decide whether the Spin 5’s capable performance and solid battery life outweigh its, well, weight and bulk. We think the system’s best bet is to play the value card, but we don’t see it challenging the Lenovo Yoga 720 for Editors’ Choice honors, considering the latter’s world-class keyboard, Windows Hello fingerprint reader, Thunderbolt 3, and much greater comfort when held in Tablet mode.