Product review – Acer Aspire E11 laptop
As I mentioned in the recent update to the article about my mobile office, I had to replace two laptop computers. The machine chosen to replace them was an Acer Aspire E11, model number E3-111-C9AR.
The specifications of the machine were rather basic. It’s not my main computer so it doesn’t need to be super powerful. The main use for it is doing training and demonstrations and to provide something reasonably light to carry when I’m travelling. It obviously had to run Windows and have enough disk space to store all the programs and data that I travel with. It also needed enough power to run my everyday programs at a reasonable speed. Price was also a consideration, because this is not my main computer so there was no real need to spend a fortune on it.
I was attracted to Acer because I have used their machines in the past without any problems. One machine being replaced was an Acer laptop which had survived rather harsh treatment such as being dropped from the top of some stairs and bouncing to the bottom. I have also had a couple of Acer desktop machines which have worked very well and I know a lot of my clients use them without any problems as well. By pure chance the cheapest laptop available from Officeworks when the time came to purchase was an Acer.
- Processor: Intel Celeron N 2830 2.41GHz (more powerful processors are available in the range)
- Operating system: 64bit Windows 8.1
- Screen: 11.6 inch diagonal, 1366 x 768 pixels (not a touchscreen)
- RAM: 2 GB (see more about this below)
- 500Gb hard disk
- 2 USB 2 ports, 1 USB 3 port
- HDMI port
- SD card reader
- Gigabit Ethernet port
- No cooling fan, for silent running
- Full sized keyboard
- Touchpad optimised for Windows 8
- Dimensions: 288m wide, 210mm deep, 21.2mm thick at the thickest point
- Weight: 1.3Kg
- Additional software: Various things from Acer, none of them essential to use the machine.
Things that it doesn’t have:
- Enough RAM. The minimum recommended for Windows 8 in 64 bit form is 4Gb. Unfortunately it can’t be expanded as all RAM is built into the motherboard and there is no room in the thin design to allow any expansion slots. As other machines in the range have up to 8Gb and RAM is relatively cheap there is probably no excuse for not having at least 4Gb. The impact on performance is mentioned below.
- A VGA port to connect a projector. This is another casualty of the thin design, but it was easily fixed by buying a USB to VGA adapter (shown at right). Cost was about $20 from eBay.
- It doesn’t have a touch screen. I didn’t want one anyway, so this is not really a problem.
Rather surprisingly the small amount of RAM doesn’t appear to have affected performance badly. Large programs like Photoshop can be slow to load but once they are running performance is quite adequate. It was never going to be a ball of fire, but a Celeron isn’t an i7 either. The sort of use to which I put it generally doesn’t require me to have more than one program running at a time, so I can live with the performance. Program starting times would be improved by replacing the hard disk with an SSD device but there is no great urgency to spend money on this right now.
I haven’t had the thing long enough to know how long it will last and what sort of treatment it can stand, but it feels robust, the keyboard has a strong feel to it, and my experience with Acer products suggests that it should remain useful for a long time. My only concern is that the screen can contact the base just above the keyboard when the cover is closed, leaving a mark on the screen. Whether this would turn into permanent scratching I don’t know, but I use a small square of thin foam which I place on the keyboard when I close the cover.
The Acer Aspire E11 is a perfectly adequate computer for people with limited needs. It doesn’t pretend to be a powerhouse machine, but for someone who just needs to write some letters, do some accounts, maybe do some photo manipulation, play music with iTunes, and the usual Internet things like web and email it will do the job quite well. I’m certainly satisfied with it and I don’t regret the purchase at all.