A well-built and competent convertible laptop that unassumingly goes about its business
Acer’s new addition to the Spin 5 convertible line-up is a totally refreshed design, befitting the latest 8th-generation quad-core Intel CPU. On paper, the Spin 5 seems like nothing remarkable, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find a competent workhorse.
If you’re after something flashy to show off, the Spin 5’s basic grey exterior probably won’t do it for you. Refreshingly, Acer resisted adorning the laptop with a huge logo or heaps of ostentatious colours, unlike some of its competitors.
These plain looks hide the Spin 5’s premium feel, thanks to a metal case, brushed plastics and no creaks or hollow areas. There’s also no frame bending when picked up from a corner and the Spin 5’s hinge passes the single handed opening test. Acer has done a solid job on the build quality.
The downside of that robustness is that the Spin 5 weighs in at 1.6kg and is 16mm thick. Compared to the competition, that’s a bit on the porky side. The Lenovo Yoga 920 for example has roughly the same specs, but is over 200 grams lighter and 2mm thinner.
As you’d expect on a laptop of this calibre, the keyboard is backlit and despite the relative thinness of the Spin 5, keys are full sized and comfortable for prolonged use with no flex during a heavy typing session. The trackpad is extremely usable, with a smooth coating and a decent size. Not too big so that it gets in the way, but not the size of postage stamp either. The embedded fingerprint reader works seamlessly with Windows Hello for quick and easy logins.
It’s debatable as to how useful the touch screen is on these convertible laptops, but if you do need it for whatever purpose, the Spin 5 has one. It’s a full 10-point multi-touch setup and the included stylus (thank you Acer!) has 1024 levels of pressure and palm rejection. The touch screen is certainly not on the same level as the Surface range, but fine for quick annotations or touch-up work.
Wi-Fi performance is excellent thanks to the Acer’s ExoAmp system, which is a simple rubber cut-out at the top of display for clearer signal. The included SSD is unfortunately not a PCIe NVMe unit, just a basic M.2 mSATA drive. The 2MP webcam is nothing to write home about, but produces a clear image suitable for video conferencing. One oddity with the port arrangement is the inclusion of 2x USB 3.0 ports and a single USB 2.0 port. Couldn’t Acer have made all 3 ports USB 3.0?
The 1920x1080 13.3in IPS display is rich and vibrant with excellent viewing angles, but isn’t bright enough for outdoor use. The only downside are the large bezels, which look out of place compared to other modern ultrabooks.
One of the highlights of the Spin 5 is Intel’s i5-8250U processor. This is the first time a quad core CPU has featured in such a thin device. In single threaded operations, performance isn’t a huge improvement over previous generations of Intel CPUs, but once you start multi-threaded operations it really shines.
Acer provides the option of bumping the RAM up from 8GB to 16GB, perfect for those wanting to take advantage of the quad-core CPU and run virtual machines on the go. Battery life isn’t mind-blowing, at 4hr 1min in the PCMark 8 Battery Test, about average for a 13in laptop with these specs, but well below something like the Dell XPS 13.
All up, the Acer Spin 5 SP513-52N isn’t best in class, but is very competent in all areas. It’s well built, but a little heavy. The keyboard, trackpad and screen are great but not the best in the market. The tablet functionality works, but is obviously not as smooth as a Microsoft Surface. If the Acer Spin 5 was to be summed up in a word, it would simply be “good”.