Review: Acer Spin 5 13.3" Convertible 2-in-1 Laptop SP513-53N-53Y5 (2020)

Acer Spin 5 is currently one of the best selling laptops on amazon in the 2-in-1 convertible laptop category. Its price has significantly come down in the last few months. So here is the question: is Acer Spin 5 a good choice if you are in the market for a budget 2-in-1 convertible laptop? To answer this question I will take a closer look at all the key features of this laptop spread across 8 rounds.

Round 1: Build Quality

Acer Spin 5 has a 13.3 inch full HD screen and its body is only 0.63 inches thick. The laptop weighs about 3.3 pounds which is little bit on the heavier side for a thin-n-light laptop. This is largely due to its full metal body construction. The chassis is constructed from real aluminum instead of some cheap plastic with a metallic paint job. The top of the laptop has a brushed aluminum finish which looks really clean. It feels smooth to touch and makes the laptop appear very premium.

The rest of the body is also made from the same milled aluminum. But instead of going with brushed metal finish, Acer decided to give it a matte finish. I like the choice of matte finish because it helps with reducing fingerprint and palm smudges. Acer has paid a lot of attention to detail. For example: all the edges on Spin 5 are beveled and seams have a tight tolerance, fit and finish.

One of the most important aspects of any convertible laptop is its hinge. The hinge needs to be sturdy and reliable, while also smooth and easy to manipulate. Spin 5 comes with a pair of dual-torque hinge which allows it to seamlessly transition from a traditional clam-shell, to laying flat on a table, to tent mode and finally to a tablet mode. The hinge holds the screen very tightly, I did not notice any wobbling during typing or while using the touchscreen with my fingers. Overall, I am very impressed with the build quality of this laptop

Round 2: Display Quality

Acer Spin 5 has a 13.3 inch Full HD screen clocking 1920 by 1080 resolution. It is an LED backlit IPS Panel which supports multi touch. The screen is plenty bright clocking about 280 nits of brightness. You will have no problem using this laptop in bright-lit environments be it a classroom or a conference room. The contrast level is also good and the screen produces deep inky blacks.

This screen has a wide viewing angle of 178 degrees. This means that the text and images look sharp even at skewed angles. The screen supports full windows 10 multi-touch features. It also supports an active stylus pen but unfortunately Acer does not include one with Spin 5. You can buy 3rd party compatible Active Stylus Pens that will work with this laptop. These stylus pens are perfect for students and working professionals who want to jot down quick notes. They are also good for sketching & drawing.

Now, I am not too fond of the big bezels on this laptop. The top bezel measures about 0.8 inches while the side bezels measure a little over a half an inch. While these chunky bezels dont look cool, they serve an important purpose in tablet mode. When holding Spin 5 in tablet mode, these bezels provide ample space for your fingers to rest without triggering any unwanted screen touch.

Round 3: CPU

Acer Spin 5 comes with an Intel Core i5 processor. Specifically this is the 8th generation Intel Core i5-8265U processor from the Whiskey Lake family. This is a 4 core 8 thread processor with a base frequency of 1.6 GHz and max turbo frequency of 3.9 Ghz. This CPU has a TDP threshold of 15 Watts. It is able to automatically overclock itself from 1.6 to 3.9 GHz while still maintaining the 15 Watt thermal envelope.
As a result, Spin 5 can deliver snappy performance while remaining cool. In passmark CPU benchmark this CPU scored 7989 points. If we compare it with the top 10 common laptop CPUs, Core i5-8265U sits at the 4th spot behind more power hungry and much higher clocked core-i7 processors.

For a thin and light 2-in-1 laptop, I think Acer has made the right call by going with this CPU. It gives good performance without sacrificing battery life. It handles day to day productivity tasks like running Microsoft office, outlook and word-processing and internet surfing with ease. Overall I am very happy with this CPUs performance

Round 4: GPU

Spin 5 does not come with a discrete graphics card. Instead you get an integrated Intel UHD 620 GPU. Most discrete GPUs generate too much heat and are not suitable for a thin and light 2 in 1 laptop form factor. But when it comes to performance, don't write off Intel UHD 620 just because it's an integrated GPU. On Dirt 3 GPU benchmark, Intel UHD 620 produced 37 frames per second. That is above the playability threshold which is 30 frames per second. That means you will be able to do casual gaming on this laptop without any issues.

It also supports hardware acceleration of all popular codecs like h264, AVC and vp9. This means smooth 4K video playback on youtube and netflix with no dropped frames. But remember this is an integrated GPU. Dont expect Nvidia or AMD discrete GPU class performance. If you plan to do hardcore gaming, you are probably better off buying a gaming laptop. I have already reviewed plenty of awesome gaming laptops which you can checkout below:
Acer Predator Triton 500
Lenovo Ideapad L340 Gaming Laptop
Asus TUF FX505DT Gaming Laptop

Round 5: System RAM & SSD

Spin 5 comes with 8 gig of DDR4 system memory. Unfortunately Acer has soldered the RAM to the motherboard. There are no DIMM slots available for adding extra RAM. Now 8 GIG RAM should be sufficient for most folks but power users will be disappointed. When it comes to disk storage, Spin 5 comes with 256 GIG of PCIe Nvme SSD. If you want to increase storage you will have to swap this SSD with a bigger SSD. Below are links to compatible SSDs that will work with Spin 5:
500GB M.2 SSD

In order to do that, you will have to open the back of the laptop to access the m.2 slot. But remember one thing: Before you replace the old SSD with a new one, you will have to clone it. In order to clone your old SSD to a new SSD, you will need an SSD Enclosure Adapter. First put the new SSD in this enclosure and connect it to your laptop using USB cable. Then using Macrium Reflect, which is a free disk cloning software, you will be able to clone the disk. After you have successfully cloned your old SSD, remove it from the laptop and replace it with the new one. And that's it, you are done. Restart Spin 5 and windows will boot from this new SSD.

Round 6: Battery Life

Spin 5 comes with a 3-cell battery measuring 4670 milliampere hour capacity. Acer claims a whopping 13 hours battery life on a single charge. But in my testing which involved web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness, I got about 8 hours of battery life. For a 2-in-1 ultrabook I think this is a pretty good battery life.

If you are a student who plans to use this laptop in the classroom you should be fine. Acer has done an excellent job with thermal heat dissipation on this laptop. After watching videos on Netflix & YouTube for more than half an hour, the laptop body still felt cool. There was no heating or loud fans cranking at full throttle. This is primarily due to well a designed heat-sink and cooling fan system, which does a great job at keeping the laptop cool

Round 7: Keyboard and Trackpad

Acer Spin 5 has an island-style keyboard. The keys are black in color and they have white lettering which is backlit illuminated. The key travel distance is about 1.7 millimeters and they offer about 79 grams of actuation force. This results in a very pleasant typing experience as the keys don't feel mushy and give a nice tactile feedback. The keyboard deck is made of milled aluminum and feels very comfortable when your palm is resting on it. I would say that for a thin and light laptop design, this is an excellent keyboard.

The trackpad on this laptop measures 4.1 by 2.6 inches which is large enough to scroll around comfortably. It has well-defined edges which help your fingers stay within the active area.  Even though this trackpad isn't made of glass, it still feels very smooth and precise. It offers four levels of sensitivity which can be fine tuned in the software. The trackpad comes with windows precision drivers and handles swipes, gestures, taps, and palm rejection really well.

It also offers plenty of customization features, including three-finger and four-finger taps that you can map to things like switching apps, switching desktops, adjusting volume, and launching Cortana. Acer has also included a finger-print sensor on the top left corner of the track-pad. This extra level of biometric security is a nice welcome addition. I am very bad with coming up secure passwords, so I really appreciate a builtin fingerprint sensor

Round 8: Speakers & Ports

Spin 5 has dual front facing speakers and they provide loud audio with decent bass. The speakers are hidden behind the grill at the top of the keyboard. I really like this placement of speakers because they are facing you in both laptop & tablet mode. The maximum volume is around 74 decibels and even at top volume I did not hear any distortion. Pretty impressive for an ultrabook because usually they tend to have tinny speakers.

You also get a decent selection of ports with this laptop. There is a USB Type C port which supports both display over data and power delivery. So that means you can charge this laptop via USB type C port and also connect it to a compatible external monitor. Now if your monitor doesn't support display over USB type C, don't worry because Spin 5 also comes with an HDMI port. In addition to these ports you also get old-school USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports.

For camera nerds, there is an SD card reader which is really  awesome. BTW Spin 5 fully supports the newer bluetooth 5.0 protocol which means better audio quality when using the newer generation headphones. So for a thin and light 2-in-1 laptop, this is an excellent choice of ports. You wont be needing any stupid dongles. I think Tim Cook should take note, this is how you should design your laptops

Conclusion: The Bottom Line

OK, so after 8 gruelling rounds what do I think about this laptop? For the price, Acer Spin 5 is a steal. There are very few thin and light laptops available in the market at this price point, which offer comparable performance and features.  The only other 2-in-1 convertible laptop that I can think of is Lenovo Flex 14, which I have already reviewed here.

Purchase Links:

Buy Acer Spin 5
Buy Lenovo Flex 14
Buy Acer Predator Triton 500
Buy Lenovo Ideapad L340 Gaming Laptop
Buy Asus TUF FX505DT Gaming Laptop
Buy MSI GF63
Buy 500GB M.2 SSD
Buy 1TB M.2 SSD
Buy 2TB M.2 SSD

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