Acer Spin 5 (2020) review: A 2-in-1 that competes with the best of them

Josh Goldman/CNET

Honestly, I’ve never been too impressed with Acer’s Spin two-in-one laptops. They were OK, but against Lenovo’s Yoga, HP’s Envy or Spectre x360 and Dell’s XPS 13 2-in-1 they just couldn’t compete. Then, the new Spin 5 arrived earlier this year and it was hard not to take notice because it literally stood above the competition. 

LikeExcellent small, ultralight body with a tall 3:2-ratio displayBuilt-in Wacom active penLots of connectivity options

Don’t LikeNo mic or camera privacy featuresHinges can get misaligned

Co-engineered with Intel as part of its Project Athena program, Acer updated the design and features to improve its mobility, but also added a bright 2,256×1,504-pixel resolution, 13.5-inch touchscreen. The 3:2 screen ratio gives you much more vertical space and, since its roughly the size of a sheet of paper, it’s more comfortable to use for notetaking and sketching with the included active pen. 

The Spin 5’s thin body is made from lightweight magnesium alloy. 

Josh Goldman/CNET

The Spin 5 was originally priced starting at $899, but that was before the pandemic. You can get one direct from Acer for $999 with a 10th-gen Intel Core i5 or go up to a Core i7 for $1,099. In the UK, it sells for £1,099 and AU$2,162 in Australia. All in all, while the deal isn’t as good, the Spin 5 is still reasonably priced for everything you’re getting. 

Acer Spin 5 SP513-54N-74V2

Price as reviewed

$1,099

Display size/resolution

13.5-inch 2,256×1,504-pixel touchscreen

Processor

1.3GHz Intel Core i7-1065G7

Memory

16GB LPDDR3 3,200MHz dual-channel

Graphics

Integrated Intel Iris Plus Graphics

Storage

512GB NVMe PCIe SSD

Ports

2x USB-C (Thunderbolt 3), 2x USB-A, HDMI out, audio/mic jack, microSD card slot

Networking

802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) , Bluetooth 5.0

Operating system

Windows 10 Home (64 bit)

Weight

2.7 pounds (1.2 kilograms)

The 13.3-inch Asus ZenBook 13 versus the 13.5-inch Acer Spin 5 (right). 

Josh Goldman/CNET
Less scrolling, more working

The slightly taller display might not seem like much but it does give you more room to work without significantly increasing its size compared to the typical 13.3-inch 16:9 laptop. For example, the Spin 5 is about the same width as the super-small Asus ZenBook 13 UX325JA but it has roughly the same screen height as a 15.6-inch laptop. So without significantly increasing the size of the laptop, you can keep more of what you’re working on, on the screen. And at only 2.7 pounds (1.2 kilograms) the larger display definitely didn’t impact its weight.

It’s like a digital sheet of paper

The extra vertical space is nice to have for working on the two-in-one in its laptop position, but it’s also nice in tablet mode. The 3:2 ratio and 13.5-inch size makes the display roughly the dimensions of A4-size paper. Add in the light weight and you can comfortably use the Spin 5 on your arm as you write on the screen — something that’s a little awkward with a larger 14-inch model like the Yoga C940. Like the Yoga, though, Acer includes a small active pen that stores and charges in a garage on the right side. 

The slim pen works well for quick sketches and taking notes. 

Josh Goldman/CNET

The pen’s tip feels good on the Gorilla Glass display. Sort of like a wax pencil writing on glass. There’s enough friction that you don’t feel like you’re writing on glass but the movement is still fluid. I used it a lot with Microsoft’s OneNote and Whiteboard apps and it worked perfectly, even if it’s a little thin for me to use for an extended time. 

In general, the hinge design is similar to what you’d find on most other two-in-ones. Acer did design them to slightly lift the rear when you’re using it as a laptop, which is nice. I did notice that the hinges would occasionally become misaligned when opening it, however, requiring me to close and open it again to get them in line. 

All your charging options are on the left side. 

Josh Goldman/CNET
A connection assortment worth mentioning

The Spin 5 has two USB-A and two USB-C ports. The latter are Thunderbolt 3 and they can also be used for charging. However, it also has a barrel-connector charger so you can use both USB-C ports for other things. All three are on the left side, though, so you can only charge it from that side. Still, along with a full-size HDMI out and a microSD card slot, this laptop has more connections than most. 

The rest of the Spin 5 is what you’d expect to find on a premium two-in-one. There’s a comfortable backlit keyboard paired with a smooth precision touchpad with a responsive fingerprint reader embedded in it. The speakers are at the rear of the laptop and can be heard regardless of the mode the Spin 5 is in. They’re nothing special and to my ear sound better when you shut off the included DTS audio processing. 

No mic or webcam kill switches for privacy. 

Josh Goldman/CNET

The webcam and mics are good, though in low light the video is definitely heavy with noise reduction to the point where I looked like a painting. Virtually no Chromebooks, Windows laptops or MacBooks have decent full-HD-or-better webcams, which is a shame now that everyone’s using them nonstop. Also, there is no webcam privacy shutter or mic kill switch on the keyboard, which the competition has at this price. 

Performance is on par with the leaders

Despite the thin body, the Acer Spin 5 has all the performance of its competitors (though it does get a little warm at times on your lap). This will have you covered for office tasks, school work and basic photo and video editing, so some light content creation isn’t out of the question with the Intel Iris Plus integrated graphics. It kept up or surpassed similarly configured models like the Yoga C940 and Spectre x360 13. 

As for battery life, it hit a solid 8 hours, 51 minutes on our streaming video test with the display brightness and volume set to 50%. That’s a little shy of what Acer expects you to get, so it should be possible to get better battery life with some more power management. I can say I had no problem writing, web browsing and streaming music for an entire 8-hour workday and still had an estimated 30% (1 hour, 50 minutes) remaining on the battery. 

Case closed.

Josh Goldman/CNET

The Acer Spin 5 is finally something special. With its taller screen, compact lightweight metal body, excellent performance and overall fine feature set, it has just about everything you’ll find on competing premium two-in-ones. There’s still some room for improvement, but no real deal breakers. 


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