The arrival of lightweight machines like the MacBook Air and the various Windows/Intel Ultrabooks have given sales of traditional, portly, heavy but affordable laptops a bit of a kicking. There are still plenty about but most are bulky, cheap affairs that you’d only buy for reasons of price. Acer’s latest Aspire though seeks to inject a bit of style into the traditional laptop by combining a reasonably thin body with a touchscreen and an affordable price tag of just under £600 . In other words it looks a bit like an Ultrabook but costs the same as a traditional laptop.

The new V5 is built around a 15.6-inch screen mounted to a chassis finished in a rather smart silver and black colour scheme. There's a lot of plastic in use but on the whole it manages to avoid looking or feeling too cheap. In fact it is a rather stylish and attractive notebook and at just 24mm thick it's pretty svelte. It is relatively weighty for such as thin machine at 2.4kg though while that is heavy for an Ultrabook but still pretty light for a regular laptop.

The V5 still relies on a processor from Intel's previous generation low voltage range, in this case the Intel Core i5 3317U, which runs at a nominal 1.7GHz though the two cores can up that speed to 2.4GHz when required while a single core can even hit 2.6GHz when the heat is really on. The processor isn’t from Intel’s new Haswell range of chips but it’s a powerful and modern enough processor for the price.

The Core i5 is coupled with a healthy 6GB of RAM though the system supports up to 8GB and the module bays are accessible from the base of the machine making user upgrade easy. The chipset also supplies the graphics and as the 3317U is from the previous Ivy Bridge generation, the graphics are Intel's HD 4000. This makes the V5 a fair rather than good gaming platform.

Storage is taken care of by a 500GB Western Digital hard disk and unlike the majority of Ultrabooks the V5 also packs in an optical drive, though as you’d expect at the price it’s a DVD rather than Blu-ray drive. There is an SD card reader on the front left corner of the body too.

The chiclet keyboard doesn't have a backlight but it does have a positive and light action even if key travel is a wee bit shallow while the large trackpad has been well positioned to the left directly beneath the space bar. The touchpad is an all-in-one affair with integrated buttons and no visual indication of where these are but in practice the set up is responsive and easy to use.

Of course, the touchpad is not the V5's only pointing device. The entire screen is a touch panel and a reasonably decent one too with good finger accuracy. However, the resolution of 1,366 x 768 is quite low for a screen of this size and viewing angles are a bit mediocre, although colours are vibrant and rich, making it a good screen to enjoy multimedia on just as long as you are looking at it head-on.

There’s a decent selection of ports though they are all on the left of the machine, which could cause cable congestion issues. Alongside an HDMI port you’ll find three USB ports, two of which are USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0 and a 3.5mm combo audio jack. The thin chassis hasn't left room for an Ethernet or VGA connector but these are supplied on a proprietary USB connection cable cable but there's 802.11n Wi-Fi as well as Bluetooth 4.0 for wireless connectivity.

Performance is pretty much what you would expect from the V5's components. Or to put it another way the V5 will easily handle most household tasks short of high-end 3D gaming and serious HD video processing. The performance is unfortunately not so closely matched by the battery life.  Acer claims a five hour maximum run time from the 2500mAh four-cell battery but we struggled to get much past four in general use though that’s probably acceptable to most users.

Verdict: The Acer Aspire V5-571P Touch is a very impressive machine for its sub-£600 price tag. We would have liked an hour more battery life but in most respects this laptop has performance and features enough for business users or domestic consumers alike. The range of ports and reasonable portability make it a decent option for mobile use and there is enough power available to run a wide range of applications. In a nutshell as an inexpensive and flexible travel machine for work and entertainment the Acer Aspire V5-571P is a rather fine laptop.

Price: £599

Info: Acer UK's Aspire V5 Page.

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