Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Acer Aspire ES11 Review: A good entry-level laptop let-down by its sub-standard battery life

The Acer Aspire ES 11, compared to other Windows entry-level laptops, stands out with its standard 4 GB configuration; in comparison the HP Stream 11 is only available in the UK in its 2 GB version. If HP released the 4 GB version of the HP Stream 11 then it would be, in my opinion, the better option with its significantly better battery life. Yes, on paper, the Acer ES 11 comes with a slightly better Apollo Lake N3350 processor but the difference is negligible in real world use. After using Acer's ES 11 for some time below are my main impressions:
  • I was attracted to the Acer ES 11 due to its Apollo Lake N3350 processor (I was previously underwhelmed with the HP Stream 14's Celeron N3060). After using the processor in the Acer Aspire ES11, I found little difference between the the Apollo Lake N3350 and Celeron Braswell N3060. For a smoother user-experience the Braswell Celeron N3160, Apollo Lake Celeron N3450 and Apollo Lake Pentium N4200 perform significantly better (many budget laptops now run with quad core versions of these processors).  
  • Laptops in this category offer adequate performance for everyday computing but expect some slugishness. None of these laptops are recommend as a primary computing device, so it makes sense to primarily consider the smaller and more portable 11.6 models. The HP Stream 14, while relatively lightweight for its larger form factor, comes with a poor display and low DPI (to be fair, poor screen quality is a broader issue with laptops in general. Vendors tend to over-price their laptop hardware and it is common to even find mid-tier laptops with 1366 X 768 screens). Acer also sell a larger 13.3 inch Acer Aspire ES13 that weighs 1.7 KG with near identical specifications. Again, the extra weight and larger form factor are not suitable for the purposes of on-the-go mobile computing.    
  • Relative to other devices in this category, the Acer ES11 comes with a nice matte display and the pre-installed blue light shield software is one of the better implementations of the feature I've seen. 
  • Considering the importance of portability in this category the Aspire ES11's battery is some way behind similarly priced laptops. Acer tends to over-estimate battery life and the advertised 'up to 8 hours' is considerably off; with battery saver on and mixed use, the more accurate estimate would be closer to six hours. In comparison the HP Stream 14, that I used and tested, advertised a more accurate 'up to 10 hours' (the HP Stream 11 is advertised with an even longer 'up to 10 hours and 45 minutes').
Overall, the Acer ES 11 is a good choice for a portable secondary computing device. Another possibility is the Lenovo's 110S; the 110S comes in different configurations but the 4 GB version, that also comes with 64 GB storage (double the storage compared to the Acer ES11), goes beyond the £200 threshold. This raises the issue if a low powered mobile device is worth the extra cost. In other words, once going over the £200 threshold it might be better idea to go for a better and more powerful budget option that can be used, by many users, as a primary device e.g. the Asus VivoBook L403. Another issue to consider is that refurbished Acer ES11 units are widely available and can be found as low as £115.

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