The 14-inch Acer Aspire 1 A114-32-C1YA is a perfect choice for bargain hunters looking for an affordable, stylish and lightweight laptop for daily productivity, and one that offers the flexibility of Windows 10, something Chromebooks lack.
PROS: A bright, 1080p display. Slick, slim and lightweight. Stylish design. Very affordable.
CONS: Middling battery life. Webcam would be better.
Value systems are all about compromises –sluggish performance, mediocre displays and poor designs. This is especially true if the laptop you buying costs anything below $400, but with the Aspire 1, Acer wants to change that. With the latest Aspire 1, Acer is offering a budget laptop with a stylish design that is both slim and lightweight, with a 1080p display that’s sharper that what rivals offer for the same price.
Of course, it does get a few shortcomings –below average battery life, a grainy webcam and a not-so-solid construction– but the Acer Aspire 1 A114-32-C1YA remains an excellent choice for anyone on a budget, but in need of a new Windows laptop.
Stylish, slim and lightweight. That’s the best we can do to describe the Acer Aspire 1’s sleek design. It incorporates a lightweight profile, which raises it above its inexpensive rivals. Measuring 0.7 by 13.5 by 9.65 inches (HWD), and weighing in at a relatively light 3.64 pounds, the system is portable enough, just like most Chromebooks. You don’t get a DVD drive, which helps keep the system so thin.
It’s just about a quarter of an inch deeper than the 13-inch ASUS ZenBook UX330UA-AH54 (0.5 by 12.7 by 0.5), which isn’t far much apart. The system is also only 1 pound heavier than the ZenBook, a difference that you’d be hard pressed to notice even when held on both hands.
If you’re looking for some color, you might have to look elsewhere, as you won’t find that on the Aspire 1. The only color here is the silver Acer logo on the lid and the white keyboard font, otherwise the rest of the laptop is black. It does get some brushed texture on the lid and deck, something that elevates the Aspire 1’s otherwise-common aesthetic.
The 14-inch screen has a full HD (1920-by-1080) resolution. That’s pretty good for a bargain system, considering that majority come with a 1,366-by-768 resolution, like the ASUS L402SA.
The screen doesn’t support, and it is not the brightest around, since you can spot grid patterns when watching HD movies. Still, the screen is perfectly adequate for Web surfing, YouTube videos.
The system’s front facing webcam shoots 640-by-480 resolution, slightly below the 1080p most webcams capture. Still, it isn’t bad for quick Skype chats with friends, but isn’t the best for impromptu business meetings, especially if you’re away from your station.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Build quality is a mixed bag, as it largely depends on what you prefer, while at the same time considering how much you are paying for the laptop. The keyboard has some springiness when pressed hard, but it the hinges are sturdy and they can rotate 180 degrees, meaning you can fold the display back flat. This is a nice design feature as it allows for collaboration, but I find it better if offered alongside a touchscreen, something the Aspire 1 lacks.
Overall, the chiclet-style keyboard is comfortable with nice keystrokes. It doesn’t get much key travel, but your fingers will adapt easily to the speedy touch typing. The one-piece touchpad is wide enough, with support for standard multi-touch commands like two-finger scrolling and tapping when using Windows 10.
Ports and Storage
Port selection is good. On the left, you’ll find an HDMI port, an SD card reader and a USB 3.0 port. On the right are two USB 2.0 ports – for connecting a mouse or printer, a headphone jack and a Power jack for connecting the adapter. The speakers are on the bottom, and are loud enough for listening to music or video, and can fill a small room. Wireless connectivity comes via 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.
Being a bargain notebook, the feature set is fairly modest but very acceptable for the price. The Aspire 1 has 4GB of system memory and 64GB flash storage. This is in the same ballpark with most Chromebooks and notebook like the ASUS VivoBook E403NA-US04, but much less than the 1TB, 5,400rpm hard drive in the Acer Aspire E 15 E5-576-392H. You can always supplement the local storage with an SD card (128GB maximum) or an external hard drive via the USB 3.0 port for fast write speeds.
The Acer Aspire 1 A114-32-C1YA with its 1.1GHz Intel Celeron N4000 CPU, 4GB of RAM and Intel UHD 600 graphics cards comes in a stylish package and, will handle most of your basic productivity tasks. Though, not thrilling by any means. Case on point, you might need a few minutes before it fully loads a dozen Google Chrome tabs at once, but one it loads everything moves smoothly.
In fact, I’m hard pressed to classify it as a desktop-replacement laptop, since it can’t handle most of your office projects, especially if your core is on spreadsheets. Plus, it lacks a full-size keyboard that would accommodate a number pad, making it a bad choice for anyone who deals in numbers in the office. If that describes part of your daily workflow, the 15-inch Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575-33BM is worth a look.
It scores well as a media consumption device, that will allow you stream movies, watch videos, web browsing and handle basic office tasks. Gaming is on the single-digit side, so don’t even think of playing high-spec games on the system.
While budget laptops tend to offer lackluster performance on just about everything, at least a number offer good battery life. The Acer Aspire 1’s battery lasts 6 hours 32 minutes on a single charge, which, while acceptable is shorter than competitors like the HP Stream 14 (7:06), and a few minutes short of the budget laptop average of 7 hours 13 minutes.
The Bottom Line
For those on strict budget and Windows is a must-have in the laptop of choice, the 14-inch Acer Aspire 1 A114-32-C1YA is a perfect shoo-in. At this price range, you can get your hands on a nicely designed and better speced Chromebook, but the lacks of Windows OS is a major hindrance to many of us. Thus, the only impressive alternative must be the Aspire 1 that costs less, but is a far-better version of the repulsive, low-res devices we see in this price range.
That said, the Aspire’s plastic chassis is marred by some amount of flex, the webcam is grainy and battery life would be better to match the slick form factor. At this price, you have a couple of alternatives like the HP Stream 14, which offers better battery life, of which you have to do with a dim display and slower performance; or the Samsung Chromebook 3 that comes with Chrome OS, thus you sacrifice the versatility of Windows 10. That leaves us with the Aspire 1 as the only compelling option for anyone on a budget, and for $249.99 at Amazon , it’s a deal you can’t beat.