The traditional, portly but feature-rich notebook was dealt quite a blow by the arrival of the MacBook Air and Ultrabooks that followed it. Now even quite large notebooks are aiming for thin and light status. Acer's V5-571P Touch blends the thin and light concept with a touchscreen that attempts to make Windows 8 usable, whilst not compromising on features.
The V5 is built around a 15.6in chassis with a silver finish on the top parts, and black plastic base. There's quite a lot of plastic used across the whole device, but it manages to avoid looking cheap. In fact, this is a reasonably stylish and attractive notebook, albeit not on par with the top models from Samsung or Apple's MacBook Pros. However, despite measuring just 24mm thick, it's relatively heavy at 2.4kg. So this is not quite the perfect everyday travel companion, although it is still going to be easy enough to carry around.
Despite the larger format, the V5 still relies on a processor from Intel's ultra-low voltage range. In this case, it's the Core i5 3317U, which runs at a nominal 1.7GHz. However, Turbo Boost means two cores can increase to 2.4GHz when required, and a single core to 2.6GHz. The processor also supports Hyper-Threading, so presents four virtual cores rather than the two physical ones it actually has. All of this put together means that, despite the 17 Watt maximum power consumption, there's plenty of processing grunt available for single apps and multitasking alike.
Acer has partnered the Core i5 with a healthy 6GB of DDR3 SDRAM, and the system supports up to 8GB, with the modules accessible from the base of the machine, making user upgrade possible. The Intel Core i5 also supplies the graphics, and as the 3317U is from the Ivy Bridge generation, the graphics are Intel's HD 4000. As a result, performance will be approaching that of a low-end discrete chipset, although you might expect a little more than that in a notebook this size.
Storage is entirely conventional. Taking care of primary capacity for the operating system and applications is a 500GB Western Digital Scorpio Blue hard disk, which has a 5,400rpm rotational speed so is more on the budget rather than performance end of the spectrum for mechanical hard disks. There is no option for a solid state disk, or even a larger capacity hard drive. Also, unlike the majority of Ultrabooks, the V5 includes an optical drive, in this case a DVD rewriter, located on the right-hand side of the system. The essential SD card reader resides on the front left corner.
Acer gets quite a few things right when it comes to everyday usage. The Chiclet-style keyboard does have a light action, with only limited travel, but it's still comfortable enough for extended touch typing. Best of all, the large trackpad has been positioned to the left, directly beneath the space bar. It continues to amaze us how few notebook manufacturers make this simple design choice, as it really helps prevent accidental hand-brushing when you are touch typing. The touchpad itself is an all-in-one affair, with integrated buttons and no visual indication of where these are. However, in practice the touchpad is responsive and easy to use, supporting the full range of multi-touch gestures.
Of course, the touchpad is not the V5's only pointing device. The entire 15in screen is a touch panel, and a reasonably decent one, too, with good finger accuracy. However, the resolution of 1,366 x 768 is quite low for a 15.6in screen, and viewing angles are merely mediocre, although colours are vibrant and rich, making it a good screen to enjoy multimedia on – from the appropriate angle.
Audio is as lacking in bass as we usually expect from notebooks, although there is a decent level of volume available, and very little distortion at the maximum setting.
The port allocation is comprehensive, although these are exclusively found on the left of the machine, which could cause cable routing and congestion issues. Alongside an HDMI port, you’ll find three USB ports, two of which are USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0. There is also a combo minijack for headphone and microphone. The svelte chassis hasn't left room for wired LAN or VGA, but these are supplied on a proprietary breakout cable. It's not an ideal solution, as you will be a bit stuck if you lose this cable or leave it behind. Nevertheless, all the important bases are covered, and there's 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi as well as Bluetooth 4.0 for wireless connectivity.
Performance is pretty much exactly what we would expect from the V5's components. The Maxon Cinebench R11.5 rendering score of 2.33 is in keeping with an ultra-low voltage processor in this class, and the OpenGL result of 14.85 is similarly par for the course. The Futuremark 3DMark11 result of 593 is also about what we would expect for Intel HD 4000 graphics running alongside this processor. This is no gaming portable, but it will at least be able to deal with recent 3D games and applications at modest settings.
The reasonable performance is unfortunately not so closely matched by the battery life. Acer claims a five hour maximum battery run time from the V5's 2500mAh four-cell unit, but the duration recorded in our intensive 100 per cent graphics and processor test was a rather unimpressive 83 minutes. With a more mixed and lightweight set of tasks you are likely to get over four hours, but you would have to be frugal to achieve close to the quoted five.
Overall, the Acer Aspire V5-571P Touch is an impressive contender, thanks in large part to its sub-£600 price. (Note that the specific model we reviewed was called the V5-571P-53315G50Mass). Although we would have liked an hour or so more battery life, in most other respects this notebook has the performance and features for business or consumer alike.
The range of ports and reasonable portability make it a decent option for mobile presentations, and there is enough power available for a wide range of applications. As an inexpensive and flexible travel companion for a blend of work and entertainment, the Acer Aspire V5-571P fits the bill nicely.
Manufacturer and Model
Acer Aspire V5-571P Touch
1.7GHz Intel Core i5 3317U
6GB DDR3 SDRAM
Intel HD 4000
500GB Western Digital Scorpio 5,400rpm
15.6in LED backlit touchscreen TFT with 1,366 x 768 pixels
Gigabit Ethernet (via adapter), 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
2 x USB 2.0, USB 3.0, HDMI, LAN (via adapter), VGA (via adapter), headphone/microphone combo, SD card reader
Width x Depth x Height
382 x 253 x 24.5mm
1 year carry-in