Pink But Not Quite Panther



The Acer Aspire 1 A114-33 is a budget laptop that rarely misses a beat with low-intensity tasks, from email and word processing to streaming the latest box set and surfing the web. But can it compete in an increasingly overstuffed sub-£300 field?

With a price tag of £299, expectations should be realistically modest. At the same time, £50 less will get you the impressive Asus E410, while £50 more will stretch to the stylish Lenovo IdeaPad 3i 14. There’s competition everywhere you look.

The Aspire 1 A114-33 is a new addition to the Aspire 1 series, lacking quite the same confusing array of spec options of the preceding Aspire 1 A114-32. At the time of writing, Acer UK is offering just a single model with a solitary list of low-end components through its website. Checkout choice paralysis has been avoided, which is a mercy at this price point.

We have seen a lower-specced model for £50 less available from some third-party sellers, but we’ll be focusing on the main (top) model here.

Design & Build

One thing’s for sure, the Acer Aspire 1 A114-33 is no lightweight. At 1.9kg, it’s a relatively hefty piece of kit to lug around. It’s pretty thick, too, at just a lick under 20mm. It is a very cheap laptop, after all.

Even before you attempt to pick the laptop up, however, it’ll have made an impression one way or another. Coming only in a particularly soft shade of ‘Peachy Pink’, and with a metal-effect plastic casing, it certainly isn’t low-key. You’re either going to love it or hate it, though there are silver and blue options if you don’t mind a lower grade processor.

There’s a reasonable amount of flex to the body of the laptop, but it holds up well in the areas that count. Resting my palms on the bottom corners whilst typing didn’t yield any great movement or creaking.

This being a cheap laptop, you’ll find plenty of those tell-tale corner-cutting touches, such as a hinge that’s too stiff for the weight of the bottom half, meaning you’ll have to use both hands to open it up. Still, this serves a double purpose, and the overly stiff hinge ensures a rock-solid viewing experience with zero wobble.

The screen bezels are about as subtle as that shade of Peachy Pink, with a thick border and a particularly chunky chin. The shiny Acer logo almost gets lost in all that plastic, but again, this isn’t unusual in such a cheap laptop.

Up top, there’s no physical privacy shutter on the web like the Lenovo IdeaPad 3i. But at least this front-facing camera hits 720p resolution.

Keyboard & Trackpad

We’re well past the point where a solid typing experience is unusual in a budget laptop, but props should still go to Acer for coming up with the goods all the same. 

I researched and wrote this entire review on the Aspire 1, moving directly over from (and flitting in between) a 2019 MacBook Pro. Perhaps the best thing I can say about the experience is that it was a more or less friction-free transition – the usual Windows shortcut rewiring process aside.

The gravitational pull of modern keyboard design long ago shifted towards Apple, of course, but Acer has found a solid way of replicating the standard chicklet experience on a low budget, with appropriate spacing and key travel. There’s a certain amount of wobble and sponginess to the keys, but I experienced no discernible false or missed presses.

Just about the only layout annoyance here relates to the close positioning of the Page Up and Page Down keys so close to the left and right arrow keys. I found them a little too easy to press by mistake, but your mileage may vary on that.

There’s no backlighting facility here, though, so you’ll have to type by the light of that 14in display in the absence of sun or lamplight.

The touchpad is fine for a cheap laptop, with on-point touch response. The buttons are slightly clunky, though, and this was where I experienced a few false presses. As is often the case with laptops of this price, you’re probably better off adapting to the touch and gesture controls rather than relying on physical inputs.

Screen & Speakers

The Acer Aspire 1 (A114-33) offers a 14-inch IPS display with a Full HD resolution, which is really all you can ask for at this price, where low-grade TN panels are frequently an option and even at HD.

With the benefits of in-plane switching included, viewing angles are respectable. I didn’t feel the need to endlessly fiddle with that stiff hinge, as is often the case for many cheap TN-packing laptops.

It yielded a more than respectable 310 nits maximum brightness in my testing, too, which means that it remains perfectly usable on half-brightness in regular daytime indoors conditions. You wouldn’t want to take it outside on a sunny day, though this is a ComfyView display, which means it has an anti-glare matte surface to improve viewability in bright conditions.

Colour reproduction is solid, though notably lacking in pop compared to pricier laptops. It’s fine for productivity tasks and the odd YouTube video, but a little too washed out to do full justice to movies and box sets. 

Acer has included a set of stereo speakers, seemingly situated on the underside of the base. I struggled to discern any great separation between left and right channels, at least until I played a stereo sound test that exaggerated the split profile. Sound quality is clear enough, but incredibly thin and weedy, with plenty of treble but virtually no low end. 

Suffice to say, if you’re planning to consume any long-form music or video content, you’ll want to make full use of the built-in Bluetooth 5.0, or else plug into the 3.5mm headphone jack situated on the right-hand edge.

Specs & Performance

The single configuration of the Acer Aspire 1 A114-33 offered by Acer UK gives you a 1.1GHz quad-core Intel Pentium Silver N6000 CPU. I’ve also spotted a couple of cheaper variants, available from the likes of Amazon and AO, which pack a lesser dual-core Intel Celeron N4500 or N4020.

According to Intel, the top model’s N6000 processor has gained 30% performance over the Pentium N5030 before it. But there’s no denying it’s a modest provision, especially with a limited 4GB of DDR4 SDRAM as a wingman.

In general usage, I found that the Aspire 1 is realistically capable of running one light task at a time. Hopping between multiple tasks tends to cause a fairly lengthy pause, and clicking on a dormant web tab will lead to another wait as the content loads back in. I’d have loved a little more memory to smooth things over, that’s for sure, but such is the way with cheap laptops.

One other note of warning: you’ll have to make do with a scant 64GB of flash memory, which can and does quickly fill up – especially with 6GB of that taken up by Reserved Storage out of the gate. It’s a perfectly fine amount for a Chromebook, but not so hot in a Windows 10 machine – albeit one that comes with S Mode set as the default. This limits you to Microsoft’s official App Store and a generally more locked down experience until you make the (free) one-way trip to full Windows 10.

In benchmark terms, the Aspire 1 falls just a little shy of the Intel Core i3-1005G1 Lenovo IdeaPad 3i in the CPU-focused Geekbench 5 multi-core stakes, but gets soundly trounced in PC Mark 10, which is more indicative of real-world usage. Check out how the Aspire 1 compares with similarly priced rivals in our benchmark tests below.

When it comes to connectivity, the Aspire 1 is pretty basic. You get three USB-A ports, two of which are USB 3.2, one of which is the slower USB 2.0. You also get an HDMI port for those external monitor moments, a Kensington lock slot, and a Gigabit ethernet connection, but there’s no modern USB-C facility or SD card slot. 

Battery Life

The Acer Aspire 1 is strong all-round when it comes to battery performance. Acer claims you’ll get eight hours from a single charge, which tallies closely with my experience. 

During one morning’s work I wrote a review in Word, loaded 50 pictures into storage using an SD card dongle, juggled multiple Chrome tabs, checked email semi-frequently, and watched around 40 minutes-worth of YouTube videos.

All of this was with the screen brightness set to around two-thirds for comfortable viewing in a naturally lit home office. At the end of this four-hour period, the Aspire 1’s battery had dropped from full to 55%.

In our usual video loop test, the Aspire 1 lasted 13 hours 32 minutes, which is about 20 minutes shy of the aforementioned Lenovo IdeaPad 3i, and 44 minutes better than the Asus E410.

It’s not too sluggish when it comes time to recharge, either. With 30 minutes of charging from the bundled 45W AC adaptor, the Aspire 1’s 42Wh cell went from dead to 42%, which is a pretty good job for a cheap laptop. The Asus E410, by comparison, could only manage 33%, while the Lenovo IdeaPad 3i got to 26% in the same test.

Price

The Acer Aspire 1 A114-33 costs a very reasonable £299 for the solitary model that’s currently being featured on Acer UK, which you can buy from Laptops Direct for £279.

You can also source a cheaper model with a less powerful dual-core Intel Celeron N4500 for £269 and you can drop down to an N4020 for £249. However, we’d recommend sticking with the top Pentium model if you can afford it.

The Acer Aspire is certainly cheap but competition is strong so check our best budget laptop chart to see what other options you have.

Verdict

The Acer Aspire 1 A114-33 is a decent-value laptop that offers few surprises or stand-out features. But then, that’s not really what most people are after for their £300.

Featuring a fine typing experience, a solid Full HD IPS display, and strong all-day stamina, this is the ideal laptop for those who need a long-lasting laptop for lighter tasks without breaking the bank.

It’s not the slinkiest laptop on the market, even within its modest price bracket. And that Peachy Pink shade certainly won’t be for everyone and appears to be the only colour available for the top-spec SKU.

But if you spend most of your working day in Word, Excel, Chrome, Gdocs and Mail, and often find yourself away from a power point while you’re completing such undemanding tasks, then the Aspire 1 A114-33 won’t let you down.

Specs
Acer Aspire 1 (A114-33): Specs

Windows 10 Home in S Mode

14in Full HD (1920×1080) IPS LCD panel

Intel Pentium Silver N6000 processor (4 Cores/4 threads 1.10GHz, up to 3.30GHz Turbo Boost)

4GB 2933 MHz DDR4 RAM
64GB M.2 SSD

HDMI port

2x USB 3.2 (Gen 1) Type-A

USB 2.0 Type-A

3.5mm headphone jack

2 x Speakers

720p webcam

Intel Wireless-AC 9462 Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac)

Bluetooth 5.0

42Wh 2-cell Li-ion battery

328 x 236 x 19.9mm

1.90kg



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