It's cheap, but you'll need a calendar rather than a stopwatch to measure the performance of this laptop's processor
A super cheap laptop, such as the Acer Aspire V5-123, may look like an attractive deal, but there’s a lot that can go wrong, and getting the right balance of components makes it hard. This is particularly true if, like with this laptop, it’s running Windows 8, which demands quite a lot.
Things are certainly off to a good start, as the Aspire V5-123’s design belies its cheapness: the silvery-grey plastic which coats the lid actually looks quite good in a minimalist sort of way, and it’s also exceptionally light at just 1.2kg. It’s thin, too, at just 2.4cm when closed. It’ll easily slip into a small bag and it’s almost light enough to forget about when carrying it around.
Open it up and you’re presented with a chassis housing an 11.6in screen. The keyboard is an island-style design with black, plastic keys. As with other small form-factor laptops, the keyboard feels a little cramped when typing. Typing for long periods on the V5-123 isn’t a pleasant affair because the keys have very little travel to them. It’s not the worst keyboard we’ve used on a laptop, but it’s far from best, with the keys bottoming out very quickly. It is at least a fairly quiet keyboard, with minimal rattle.
The touchpad is worse: while swiping and tapping around the small area is doable, the tiny physical buttons, which are in a bar at the bottom of the touchpad, are hard to use and a little unresponsive. This makes the using the touchpad a rather frustrating experience and we recommend using an external USB mouse when you can.
There are three USB ports, one of which is USB3. There are also HDMI and VGA ports, so connecting a monitor or projector will be very easy. You get a Gigabit Ethernet port and 802.11n Wi-Fi for network connectivity, too. Audio is provided by a 3.5mm headset jack. You could also use the built-in speakers but these certainly won’t bring out the best in your movies and games as they lack any bass and mid-range presence.
An AMD E1-2100 processor provides what little performance the V5-123 has. This is a 1GHz, dual-core chip from the AMD Kabini line, designed for budget devices. The processor is exceptionally cheap, and it shows. Windows feels extremely slow at all times and you’ll certainly not be using this laptop for anything remotely processor intensive. At a pinch, you’ll be able to stream videos from YouTube and access your social media sites, but you can do more for less money with a Chromebook or even a tablet. In our benchmarking tests, which check performance on multimedia tasks such as video and photo conversion, the V5-123 scored 6 overall, which is woeful. Unsurprisingly, the laptop was unable to handle the Dirt Showdown benchmark, failing the test. Most 3D games are beyond the capabilities of its on-board AMD HD 8210 graphics chip.
The 11.6in screen has a 1,366×768 panel, which is the lowest resolution you should expect from a modern laptop. It’s enough for a single web page or document, but not for much else. It’s also not Full HD, which means you won’t get the most out of BBC iPlayer, Netflix or high-quality YouTube videos. It’s able to display 59 per cent of the sRGB colour gamut, with a contrast ratio of 289:1. This rather short changes high quality and brightly coloured images, but is fine for users not fussy about quality. Intriguingly, the screen can be tilted back to the point where it’s almost completely flat with the surface it’s on, so it’s usable even when you’re standing up or sitting in bed with the laptop on your knees.
Battery life is around what we’d expect, with the small, 4-cell battery lasting 3h 59m in our tests. It’s a shame it doesn’t have a little more longevity because light laptops are even better when you don’t have to worry about plugging them in on a regular basis.
Overall, the Acer V5-123 just isn’t powerful enough. It would have been much better to load this machine with a lightweight operating system such as Chrome OS or even Ubuntu Linux. The laptop’s hardware just isn’t powerful enough to handle the challenges even the lightest of users will throw at it. You can get better performance from the cheaper Acer E3-111 so we’d recommend that instead.
|Processor||Dual-core 1GHz AMD E1-2100|
|Memory slots (free)||1 (0)|
|Sound||Realtek HD Audio (3.5mm headset port|
|Graphics adaptor||AMD Radeon HD 8210|
|Graphics outputs||HDMI, VGA|
|Total storage||500GB hard disk|
|Optical drive type||None|
|Ports and expansion|
|USB ports||1x USB3, 2x USB2|
|Memory card reader||SDXC|
|Operating system||Windows 8|
|Operating system restore option||Restore partition|
|Parts and labour warranty||One-year RTB|
|Price inc VAT||£317|