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Acer V5-121 review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £247
inc VAT

It's small and invitingly cheap, but this ultraportable just isn't powerful enough for most users

The Acer V5-121 is a low-power ultraportable laptop which, a couple of years ago, we’d have called a netbook. With the same compact chassis as other recent models in the V5 range, the laptop has an 11.6in screen, is just 19mm thick and weighs 1.2kg. It’s small and light enough to carry around with ease, and the glossy black lid feels reasonably tough, even though the laptop itself is lightweight and plasticky.

Acer V5-121

The display, with its standard laptop resolution of 1,366×768, is surprisingly good. It has a glossy finish, but wasn’t too reflective under bright office lighting. We tested the screen using a calibration device and found that, although its contrast was just 342:1, which is typical of a budget laptop, it had an unusually deep black level of 0.25cd/m2. We measured the screen’s sRGB colour gamut as a dismal 51.8% but, apart from appearing very slightly cold, the screen’s colour reproduction seemed fairly accurate and natural in our subjective tests.

The keyboard is also rather good. Although the keys feel a little loose and flimsy, they’re well positioned for accurate touch-typing. There’s no numeric keypad, leaving plenty of space on even this laptop’s small chassis for the keyboard. The touchpad, on the other hand, feels rather cramped and tiny. It responds to the usual gestures such as two-fingered scrolling, but still has a single-finger scroll area occupying the right of the pad, which feels redundant and makes it more likely that you’ll scroll by accident. There’s not much space on the touchpad, but it’s accurate. There’s just about enough room to the right of it to rest our wrists, too, even though we’d have preferred it to be positioned slightly more central to the laptop.

Acer V5-121

The integrated speakers are only really good for system sounds, as they not only lack bass but have rather fuzzy mid-range reproduction, aren’t very loud and distort a bit when pushed to their maximum volume. If you want to listen to music, you’d be well advised to connect headphones or speakers to the 3.5mm headset port on the right of the laptop. Next to the headset port are two USB sockets, while the opposite side of the laptop has a USB3 port. There are also VGA and HDMI ports so you can connect a second screen. The Ethernet port only runs at 10/100 speed, but the lack of Gigabit Ethernet is unlikely to create any performance bottlenecks for most people, especially considering the laptop’s low power. Accompanying this is an 802.11n integrated Wi-Fi adaptor. There’s no disc drive, but the 320GB hard disk leaves you a reasonable amount of space to install software and store data.

Acer V5-121

Compared to almost any other laptop, the V5-121 is painfully slow and underpowered. It doesn’t struggle too much if you’re running a web browser with just a couple of open tabs, watching a video or creating an office document, but even the most basic bit of multitasking, such as opening a photo in the default Windows 8 image viewer while installing another piece of software, makes it grind to a halt.

The 1GHz AMD C-70 processor managed an overall score of just seven in our tests, coming a cropper most of all in the multitasking portion, with an abysmal 5. There’s also only 2GB of memory in the laptop’s single slot, which further contributes to the V5-121’s sluggish performance and makes it unsuitable for editing video, or large audio or image files. At least Windows 8 doesn’t feel too slow or unwieldy when you stick to single, not-too-intensive programs. The processor’s integrated AMD Radeon HD 6290 graphics chipset is, unsurprisingly, entirely useless for 3D games and due to the underpowered processor, we wouldn’t recommend getting too ambitious when it comes to anything much more demanding than casual browser games, either.

Acer V5-121

We expect low-power laptops like this to have a long battery life. The V5-121 met our expectations, lasting for six hours and 10 minutes in our light usage test. That’s long enough to keep you busy on a train journey or medium-haul flight.

This is a simple, compact laptop with good battery life that you can use to browse the web and write documents. If you need to do more than that, you’ll have to spend a bit more to buy a more capable – and probably larger – laptop such as the Toshiba Satellite C50-A-156. If you really don’t have any more ambitious requirements than the most basic tasks, then this tiny laptop’s equally-small £247 price makes it one of the cheapest ways to get online and run Office applications.

Basic Specifications

ProcessorAMD C-70
Processor clock speed1GHz
Memory slots1
Memory slots free0
Maximum memory4GB
SoundRealtek HD Audio
Pointing devicetouchpad


Viewable size11.6 in
Native resolution1,366×768
Graphics ProcessorAMD Radeon HD 6290
Graphics/video portsHDMI, VGA
Graphics Memory256MB


Total storage capacity320GB
Optical drive typenone

Ports and Expansion

USB ports3
Wired network ports1x 10/100
Wireless networking support802.11n
PC Card slotsnone
Supported memory cardsnone
Other ports1x 3.5mm headset


Carrying caseNo
Operating systemWindows 8
Operating system restore optionrestore partition
Software includednone
Optional extrasnone

Buying Information

Warrantyone year RTB