Several of the machines in this test include Intel Core i5 processors, but this Acer's chip doesn't use Intel's latest Haswell type. Instead the Aspire V5 makes do with last year's Ivy Bridge, but we can forgive that when its £499 price is the second-cheapest here. See also Group test: what's the best budget laptop?
The Core i5-3317U is one of Intel's low-power processors, and its clock speed of 1.7GHz can be dynamically lifted to 2.6GHz by automatic Turbo Boost. Its two cores are Hyper-Threaded, so the chip can address four simultaneous threads, and it's got 3MB of L3 cache – the same as Haswell. Take a look at The 8 best laptops of 2013.
The Acer's processor was paired with a generous 6GB of DDR3 RAM, but it could only score 2413 points in the PCMark 7 benchmark. It's the second-slowest result here, but it's a mid-table score that saw Windows 8 run without any sluggishness – and we had no issues when running office software, light photo-editing tools and media either, even if more intensive software will struggle.
The older silicon lagged behind more dramatically in the gaming benchmarks. The HD Graphics 4000 core inside this machine averaged 21fps in Stalker: Call of Pripyat at 1280 x 720 and Medium quality. For comparison, Intel's HD Graphics 4600 chip, found inside the Toshiba, rattled through at 33fps.
The Acer's Low-detail DiRT 3 result of 33fps was playable, but it was around half the pace of the Toshiba machine – and the Acer's mediocre 20fps score in BioShock Infinite was 10fps slower than this test's fastest laptop.
This machine didn't cover itself in glory throughout the rest of our tests either. Its 500GB hard disk wasn't the fastest or the most capacious in this group, and its battery life of 3 hours and 18 minutes was the worst result here – joint with the Asus X75VC.
The touchscreen, too, is mediocre. Its 211cd/m2 brightness level lags behind the Packard Bell and Toshiba laptops, and its measured black level of 0.57cd/m2 is mid-table. It makes for a contrast ratio of 370:1 and a screen that's not as punchy as we'd like. It's especially disappointing given the average Delta E of 3.7, which is the best here – those relatively level colours are hampered by the lack of vibrancy.
The uninspiring specification is, at least, crammed inside a better exterior. The Aspire's build quality is consistently good: there's very little give in the wrist-rest, and the screen is one of the sturdiest here. Design-wise, it's unfussy but reasonable: chrome-effect metal coats the plastic chassis and looks smart initially at least, and there's a glossy black screen surround. The Acer's maximum thickness of 24mm isn't much more than an Ultrabook, although its 2.6kg weight is on the heavy side for a modern 15.6in machine – like the Asus V550C, which also weighs 2.6kg, you'll notice the Aspire's presence in a bag or backpack.
Around the edges you'll find a standard port selection, with one USB 3.0 socket, two USB 2.0 connections and an HDMI output. The right-hand edge also houses a DVD writer.
The keyboard, too is reasonable: the base is extremely firm, which goes some way to making up for the light, shallow Scrabble-style keys. The Dell Latitude 3440 and Asus V550C both have better typing actions, but we were still quickly up to speed on the Acer. The trackpad is good, with two responsive buttons and a wide, smooth and accurate surface.