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Acer Aspire E3-111 review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £230

A cheap but cheerful 11.6in netbook, the Acer Aspire E3-111 can handle the basics without a fuss

The Acer Aspire E3-111 is a budget netbook targeted at students with modest usage requirements. Effectively a Chromebook-specification device with more storage and Windows 8.1, it looks to be a promising and well-price laptop for general everyday use.

It’s very thin and light, which will appeal to those who want a computer that they can carry around everywhere. At just 21.2mm thick and 1.3kg in weight, the Aspire E3-111 is the definition of the ultraportable laptop. Because of its 11.6in form factor, some people maybe put off because of the rather cramped keyboard.

While our normal-sized hands were able to handle the keys with ease, those with big fingers will struggle to type on this laptop, and will almost certainly need a model with a larger keyboard. Even those that can cope with the small keyboard won’t find typing a pleasant experience: the keys are spongy and not hugely pleasant to type on, and the chassis has a nasty habit of rattling with every key press, which gets annoying fast. It’s a shame, because this is an otherwise reasonably well-built laptop.

Mouse buttons are integrated into the touchpad, so you can press down almost anywhere on the touchpad to activate the mouse buttons. While tapping and two-fingered scrolling worked without a hitch, we were unable to perform the pinch-to-zoom gesture on images and web pages. It’s a shame Acer doesn’t have any special gesture assistance software.

We like the styling of the lid. While it’s quite obviously cheap plastic, the brushed metal-style design does exude at least some level of class. We like less the huge black bezels around the screen, which you feel as if you’re staring through small a window onto the screen.

The Aspire E3-111 comes equipped with a 500GB hard disk, which should be enough for most buyers. Unusually for a small laptop, most of the ports and connectors are on the rear instead of the sides. You’ll find an SD card reader and a USB2 port on the left, while the high-speed USB3 port, which arguably would have been a lot more useful on the side, is at the rear along with another USB2 port, HDMI and VGA connectors and a Gigabit Ethernet port.

Processing performance comes in the form of a dual-core Intel Celeron N2830 chip. It runs at 2.16GHz but can increase to 2.41GHz when thermal conditions allow for it. By using this low power processor, Acer has been able to adopt a fanless design, which saves weight and means the laptop runs almost silently, say for the quiet clicking of the mechanical hard disk. At this price, all we’d expect this processor to be able to do is handle Windows 8.1 and load web pages and document editing software reasonably quickly and relatively smoothly, which it does. Expecting anything beyond that is unrealistic, but to be certain we put the laptop through our tough benchmarks anyway. It scored 29 in the image conversion test, which challenges single-core performance. Its score dropped to 16 for video conversion and 9 for multitasking, giving it an overall score of 14. Its single-core score is most relevant here, as this laptop is not designed for intense, processor-heavy tasks.

As expected, 3D games won’t run well on this laptop and it failed the Dirt Showdown benchmark. HD videos and basic flash games aren’t beyond its capabilities, but the latest 3D games certainly are.

The 1,366×768 pixel screen is fine, but nothing special. It’s able to display 60 per cent of the sRGB colour gamut, leaving brighter colours slightly short-changed. Because it has only an 11.6in panel, it looks reasonably sharp because the pixels are packed closer together. Contrast at 305:1 leaves quite a lot to be desired, and watching TV and movies with dark scenes may be a challenge, especially because black light levels are quite high at 0.82cd/m2, giving blacks a grey sheen.

In our battery burn test, the E3-111 went from a full charge to empty in 5h 31m. This is a good result for such a cheap laptop, and should negate most people’s plug socket anxiety when out and about.

The Acer E3-111 is a great-value laptop, managing competent performance for a price many buyers will find attractive. With that low price come the usual compromises including patchy build quality and a poor screen, but these problems are present on all budget netbooks. If you want something more colourful, the Asus X200MA would be a fine alternative.

Core specs
ProcessorDual-core 2.16GHz Intel Celeron N2830
Memory slots (free)2 (1)
Max memory8GB
SoundRealtek HD Audio
Pointing deviceTouchpad
Screen size11.6in
Screen resolution1,366×768
Graphics adaptorIntel HD Graphics
Graphics outputsHDMI
Graphics memoryShared
Total storage500GB hard disk
Optical drive typeNone
Ports and expansion
USB ports1x USB3, 2x USB2
Networking802.11n Wi-Fi, gigabit Ethernet
Memory card readerSDXC
Other portsNone
Operating systemWindows 8.1
Operating system restore optionRestore partition
Buying information
Parts and labour warrantyOne-year RTB
Price inc VAT£230
Part numberNX.MNTEK.027

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