I’ve been using the £199 Acer ES-1 132 as my main ‘writing machine’ for a few weeks—working in Microsoft Word—and syncing Doc files via Dropbox. It works surprisingly well, in fact it’s a remarkably effective solution. The question is, how does a cheap setup like this compare to a premium offering such as Apple’s MacBook, which retails for £1,249? That’s £1,000 more than this Acer, plus some change.
Let’s look at the two devices, starting with the Acer. The Acer ES-1 is a cut-down notebook that’s comparable spec-wise to many Chromebooks. Instead of a ‘full size’ main drive it uses the Windows recovery drive as the main boot partition—providing a measly 32BG of solid state disk space. Once you’ve got Windows 10 updated and Microsoft Office installed you’re left with 8GB. With only 4GB RAM you might expect sluggish performance but it runs Word and Chrome smoothly. If you need more space you can insert a low-profile memory stick into the USB 3 port. Unfortunately, the SD card does not fully insert into the SD-card slot, leaving half the card sticking out. This makes it unsuitable for use as a permanent drive. The screen’s default setting is exceptionally high contrast, but offers adequate sharpness. Overall, it’s fine for word processing, even though the display’s viewing angle isn’t great and it has a limited colour gamut. Topped off with a mobile Celeron CPU, and a ‘meh’ trackpad the specs are undeniably basic—plus there’s no room to grow. Having said this, it’s cheap and functional. If only there was space for an M.2 drive instead of a soldered-on module, but what do you expect for £199?
The MacBook, on the other hand, shouts out ‘premium product’ with its gorgeous screen and a stunning aluminium build design. While it feels precious, that can also be a disadvantage. I’m used to working on trains, chucking a notebook into a rucksack, and not having to worry too much about scratching a notebook that’s designed like jewellery and might attract the eye of thieves. Equally important is how much better Word performs on Windows than it does on macOS, and the fact that this cheap-as-chips Acer has, I believe, a much nicer keyboard. Sure, the MacBook keyboard looks stunning, it’s a great piece of visual design, but it provides a remarkably unsatisfying typing experience.
In terms of ports the Acer blows the more expensive MacBook out of the water, boasting two USB 2 ports, one USB 3, an SD-card slot, an HDMI (which outputs to 1080p), and even a network port. The MacBook, on the other hand, offers a higher end CPU that supports one USB-C port. The MacBook has the more elegant solution with higher storage capacity and a superior screen, but in other ways it’s arguably less functional with the £199 Acer ES-1 132 doing the job with aplomb and without the whopping price tag.