Acer Aspire ES1-111M review
A good screen and excellent battery life lift Acer's budget laptop above the average
There’s something appealingly stripped-back about the design of the Aspire ES1-111M. Where some of Acer’s previous budget laptops and Chromebooks look and feel like My First Ultrabook, this one is all about the bare essentials. See also: what's the best laptop you can buy in 2015?
The base still feels lightweight, and there’s too much flex in the lid, but the overall construction is solid, and the matte textures and rubber feet mean it sits as well on the lap as on the desk. At just over 21mm thick and a weight of 1.29kg, the ES1-111M is light and portable.
Acer Aspire ES1-111M review: display and audio quality
The screen is among the best we've seen on a budget laptop. Viewing angles could be wider, with colours fading once you move off-centre, but the brightness level of 273cd/m2 is impressive, even if it comes at the cost of darker greys and deep black.
Images look crisp and punchy, while movies have plenty of impact. Colour accuracy is only average, but the ES1-111M still manages to cover 66.2% of the sRGB colour gamut; not bad by budget laptop standards.
The speakers have their plus points, with a little more space and clarity to the sound than you might expect, but as soon as the drums kick in or a big action scene commences you’ll be aware of their limitations – there’s next to no bass response.
Acer Aspire ES1-111M review: ergonomics and connectivity
Ergonomics get off to a good start with the responsive touchpad, which is impressively broad for an 11.6in laptop, measuring 104mm across. Sadly, they take a nose dive when it comes to the keyboard. The feel is horrifically spongy, and there are some oddities in the layout, including tiny cursor keys that double as volume and brightness controls, and the fact that what appears to be the Return key is split between return and backspace functions. It isn't ideal for getting work done.
Unusually, most of the connectivity is at the back, with HDMI and Gigabit Ethernet ports, plus one each of USB 2 and USB 3. There’s an SD card slot and a headphone socket on the left-hand side. The ports at the back are a bit cramped, though, and you might end up saying the same thing about the Acer’s eMMC storage. Only 11.2GB is available once Windows 8.1 with Bing, the recovery partition and Acer’s usual mountain of bloatware are accounted for. The latter includes some worthy apps, including older versions of CyberLink’s video and photo-editing packages, but elsewhere the selection is not so palatable.
Acer Aspire ES1-111M review: performance and battery life
Performance is good, with a Celeron N2840 CPU perfectly capable of handling any workload that isn't too demanding. However, we noticed that while Acer ships the ES1-111M with 2GB of RAM as standard, our test sample shipped with 4GB. This means our figures will be slightly faster than the figures you'll get from a retail machine.
Luckily, this doesn’t affect its biggest selling point: battery life. Lasting for well over 13 hours of light use and over eight hours of heavy work, the ES1-111M keeps going when most other laptops – of any price – start to falter.
Acer Aspire ES1-111M review: verdict
It seems unfair to be too harsh on a laptop which costs a measly £175, but such a low price isn't the headline-grabbing feature it once was. There are plenty of excellent rivals available for similar money - not least the HP Stream 11 - and the Acer just isn't consistently good enough to win itself an award. If battery life is a prioroty, however, we wouldn't rule it out completely.