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Which budget-friendly laptop is best?

Acer and Lenovo have made some of the most popular laptops over the last several years. Acer typically focuses on efficient, reasonably priced models, while Lenovo has made a name for itself with novel designs and premium components.

Acer’s Aspire family offers some of the most affordable laptops, and the latest Aspire 5 continues that trend. In contrast, the Flex 5 represents Lenovo’s most recent and successful foray into cost-effective two-in-one laptops.

At the end of the day, they’re both moderately priced, no-nonsense laptops that perform everyday tasks without much difficulty. So, which one is better?

Acer Aspire 5

Like most of Acer’s laptops, the Aspire 5 series balances price and performance decently well. This is especially true for versions equipped with AMD central and graphics processor combinations, which tend to be faster and more efficient than competing Intel chipsets.

Acer’s latest release in the Aspire 5 lineup is an OK entry-level model that has the hardware needed for a relatively frustration-free Windows experience. Professionals who spend most of the day on a computer and demand snappy performance and a long battery life should look elsewhere. Like most of Acer’s affordable laptops, this one’s best in the hands of students or others who don’t need the highest performance.

Acer Aspire 5 pros

  • Capable hardware: Most variants come with a quad-core processor or better. They have at least 8 gigabytes of RAM, ensuring good performance across a wide selection of today’s most popular software.
  • Decent value: Acer continues to offer some of the best prices on laptops suitable for casual and professional use.
  • Diverse port selection: The Aspire 5 has plenty of USB ports, an HDMI output and an Ethernet jack. This kind of port availability is impressive in a world where physical ports seem to be disappearing with each new release.
  • Advanced wireless connectivity: Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5 support means you won’t have to worry about bandwidth or signal strength issues with wireless networks or headphones.
  • Upgradable RAM: Unlike many competitors, you can add more system memory to the Aspire 5. Most versions feature 8 GB of memory soldered to the mainboard with an additional slot for expansion.

Acer Aspire 5 cons

  • Poor battery life: In real-world use, this laptop’s battery doesn’t come anywhere close to the manufacturer’s claim of a 10-hour lifespan. It’s far closer to four or six hours, depending on your workload, which is relatively poor even for bargain-basement standards.
  • Subpar display quality: The screen doesn’t get very bright or display colors boldly, so it’s not ideal for vivid pictures or videos.
  • Less-than-ideal build quality: Its plastic chassis leads to a noticeable amount of flex during casual use.

Best Acer Aspire 5 models

Acer Aspire A515

Acer Aspire 5 A515

You can choose which Ryzen processor you want, but otherwise, it’s a straightforward laptop that doesn’t cost much and runs Windows well. Sold by Acer and Amazon

Acer Aspire 5 A517

Acer Aspire 5 A517

Offering plenty of power in a sleek design, this is one of the most reasonably priced 17-inch laptops anywhere. Sold by Acer and Amazon

Lenovo Flex 5

Premium laptops such as the ThinkPad X1 Carbon are Lenovo’s bread and butter. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the Flex 5 and its various iterations, which don’t pack a ton of firepower but are well-made and affordable. In addition to besting the Aspire 5 in a number of categories, the Flex 5 (in particular, the 14-inch option) is one of the best low-cost laptops available today.

In fact, the current Lenovo Flex 5 gets high marks even from many demanding tech enthusiasts. This is due largely to the performance its Ryzen accelerated processing unit delivers at the laptop’s impressively low price point. This isn’t a surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention, as the previous iteration of the Flex 5 also received high praise, and was equipped with the similarly efficient Ryzen 4000-series APU.

If you’re looking for a laptop that can tackle all your everyday tasks and then some, while also making it easy to consume all your favorite media, the Flex 5 deserves a good look. 

Lenovo Flex 5 pros

  • Above-average performance: Fast and efficient hardware combined with Lenovo’s highly effective system configuration deliver impressive amounts of processing power for an entry-level laptop.
  • Great image clarity: Its 14-inch display has a 1080p resolution, which makes for a clearer picture than some 15-inch Full HD laptops have.
  • 360-degree rotating hinge: This lets you use the laptop in tablet or tent mode for viewing media and scrolling through social media with ease.
  • Precise touchscreen: Whether in laptop or tablet mode, Windows offers better support for touch mode than in the past.
  • Long battery life: As long as you have a reasonable brightness level and don’t use a bunch of resource-intensive programs, it should last for nearly an entire workday without needing a recharge.
  • Rapid charge mode: Just 15 minutes of charging from empty gives you two hours of battery life.
  • Reassuring security features: This includes a fingerprint reader and a physical webcam shutter.
  • Comes in a Chromebook version: If you’re looking for added convenience and increased performance, the lighter operating system makes the Lenovo  Chromebook Flex 5 a great option.

Lenovo Flex 5 cons

  • Below-average peak brightness: The display is rated for a mere 250 nits of brightness, so it doesn’t provide the best visuals.
  • Poor webcam performance: During testing, video calls had a somewhat grainy and low-resolution appearance, despite supposedly capturing in 720p.

Best Lenovo Flex 5 models

Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 14

Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 14

As one of the best entry-level laptops you’ll find today, it’s a no-brainer at this price. Those on the go will appreciate its long battery life.  Sold by Lenovo and Amazon

Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook

Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook

Since it runs on the lightweight Chrome OS, it’s more secure, better streamlined and in some ways faster than comparable Windows machines. Sold by Lenovo and Amazon

Should you get the Acer Aspire 5 or Lenovo Flex 5?

Although the specs are similar, Lenovo’s factory configuration gives it a much better performance. The Flex 5 also wins out in a big way in terms of battery life and build quality. Another difference is that the Lenovo sports a convertible 2-in-1 design and comes in an even more affordable Chromebook version. Altogether, these make compelling reasons to choose the Lenovo Flex 5 over the Acer Aspire 5. In fact, the 14-inch, AMD-powered 2-in-1 Flex 5 convertible is one of the top entry-level notebook PCs today, and it’s been that way for at least one generation running.


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Chris Thomas writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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