Joshua Goldman/CNET

Good, inexpensive laptops are in short supply at the moment because a lot of people suddenly found themselves working from home with many working alongside their kids. This laptop category includes the Acer Aspire 1, a simple 15.6-inch notebook for basic home office work and entertainment with good battery life that normally sells for only $230. Unfortunately, it’s currently selling for more than that and, unless you’re really in a bind, I would recommend checking out other laptop options under $500 first

Like

  • Cheap
  • Good battery life
  • Comfortable keyboard
  • Did I mention it was cheap?

Don’t Like

  • Internal storage is small and can’t be increased
  • Dim display with poor off-angle viewing

Like the Aspire 5 and 7 I reviewed recently, the Aspire 1 is all about value. However, given its rock-bottom price, there’s not too much Acer can do to sweeten this deal. The big selling point here is the larger 15.6-inch display. Models under $300 typically have 11.6- to 14-inch screen sizes. The other Aspire 1 laptops Acer makes are actually 14-inch models.  

Acer Aspire 1 A115-31-C23T

Price as reviewed $230
Display size/resolution 15.6-inch 1,366×768 display
CPU 1.1GHz Intel Celeron N4000
Memory 4GB DDR4 SDRAM 2.4GHz
Graphics 128MB integrated Intel UHD Graphics 600
Storage 64GB eMMC flash
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.1
Operating system Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

However, the display is not especially bright and it washes out to the sides and, off-angle, you’ll see some color inversion. Essentially you need to be sitting in front of it and have the screen angled appropriately for your position. If it’s in the sweet spot, though, it’s perfectly fine for getting basic home and school tasks done and streaming video. Wireless performance is good, too, but there’s also a Gigabit Ethernet jack if you’d prefer a wired connection. 

The processor, memory and storage are not unlike what you’d find in your average $200-to-$300 Chromebook except this is running Windows 10. That’s a benefit if you want to install specific software and its 64GB eMMC flash storage helps Windows boot up relatively fast compared with the old slow-spinning hard drives you used to get in lower-end laptops. It’s worth noting, too, that while my review laptop had full Windows 10 Home edition on it, some versions come with Windows 10 in S Mode. This version requires you to only install software that’s available in Microsoft’s software store as a safety measure; however, you can always opt to switch to regular Windows 10 if you want. 

Read more: Laptop vs. Chromebook: Which portable computer is best in 2020  

But if all of what you do can be done with a web browser, you might be better off with a Chromebook, which runs on Google’s smaller, lighter Chrome operating system. I say that not because Windows runs poorly on this laptop, but because the OS and other preinstalled software eats up all but 41.6GB of its storage. Plus, the storage is soldered on and there’s no room to add an additional internal drive. There’s no memory card slot either, so if you need more space for files, you’ll need an external drive or cloud storage. 

acer-aspire-1-2020-0009

The Aspire 1 has a comfortable keyboard with a number pad. 


Joshua Goldman/CNET

No surprises

If you can live with the storage restraints and don’t mind adjusting your display angle every so often, the rest of the Aspire 1 is good for the money. The keyboard, while not backlit, is comfortable and there is a number pad, though you might have to adjust to its button layout. Acer used a precision touchpad that works well: The performance was smooth and I experienced no cursor jumpiness. 

The laptop’s body is attractive if unexciting and feels nice with a mixture of metal and plastic. Plus, it’s somewhat light given its size, but doesn’t have a lot of flex in the lid or keyboard deck. Ports around the sides include three USB-A ports, a headphone/mic jack, HDMI output and the aforementioned Ethernet. It does have a webcam and although it’s not particularly good, if you or your kids suddenly need to get on a Zoom or Skype call, this will do that. 

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Most of the Aspire 1’s ports are on the left side, including power. 


Joshua Goldman/CNET

The Aspire 1 is charged with an included pin-style adapter but actually had surprisingly good battery life, hitting 9 hours, 5 minutes in our streaming video test. 

Again, there are no surprises and nothing’s extraordinary here but this laptop’s price. For those in need of an inexpensive Windows laptop for undemanding tasks, though, the Acer Aspire 1 offers just enough to get the basics done and a larger screen to do them on.

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