Available for just $599 from Amazon, the Acer Aspire E 15 features Intel’s Core i5-8250U, Nvidia’s GeForce MX150, 8GB of DDR4 RAM and a 256GB SSD. It’s easily one of the cheapest laptops you can find equipped with the discrete MX150 and even comes with a decent sized SSD. Although Acer doesn’t specifically market it as a gaming laptop, we found it offers more than enough for simple gaming on a tight budget.
On our quest to find the best budget gaming laptops, we came across countless machines equipped with Intel or AMD integrated graphics. It isn’t difficult to find one of these notebooks under $600, but the gaming performance might be questionable, particularly if you have any plans to play modern games.
We decided it would be best to find the cheapest option with decent specs and a discrete graphics card to identify the lowest barrier of entry for gaming on a laptop. Acer’s Aspire E 15 was our most affordable find by far. It offers a highly competitive blend of everything you’d want in a gaming notebook: portability, cooling, price and performance.
Processor: Intel Core i5-8250U
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce MX150
Memory: 8GB DDR4
Display Type: IPS
Primary Storage: 256GB SSD
Media: SD card reader, DVD-RW drive
Connectivity: HDMI, VGA, Ethernet, USB 2.0, 2x USB 3.0, USB 3.1 Type C (Gen 1), headphone
Dimensions: 0.94 x 15.02 x 10.2 inches
Weight: 5.27 lbs
Warranty: One year
One of the key things we look for in a budget system is its ability (or lack thereof) to upgrade. It can be difficult to save up enough to get a high performance desktop or laptop, so a solid base model that allows you to easily DIY a couple of upgrades can go a very long way. Acer did a great job with this as the Aspire E 15 can be upgraded with additional memory and storage by simply removing three screws on the underside of the laptop.
While the Aspire E 15 doesn’t exactly offer stellar gaming performance, it really isn’t meant to. Where the system really shines is its versatility to fit the basic needs of a wide range of PC users. Of all the notebooks we tested in this range, the Aspire E 15 offered the longest lasting battery with close to 11 hours of straight use in our Twitch marathon viewing tests.
Combined with a couple of arguably dated features like a DVD-RW drive and a VGA port, the laptop makes for a surprisingly great choice for students on a budget. Its abundance of ports also includes: one USB 2.0, two USB 3.0, one USB 3.1 Type-C (Gen 1), Ethernet and HDMI ports. A 1080p IPS display, backlit keyboard, full numpad and decent set of speakers round out the features that help make the E 15 a great option for everyday computing.
In addition to its respectable 3DMark and game benchmark performance, the Aspire E 15 also scored surprisingly well in its PCMark and Cinebench testing with scores of 3672 and 543 respectively. In fact, the laptop scored much higher in nearly all of our tests when compared to the AMD Ryzen powered Acer Swift 3, which is actually priced $100 higher than the E 15. It even manages to handle all of this without becoming distractingly loud.
The Acer Aspire E 15 certainly won’t compete with a budget gaming desktop, but it easily outclasses all laptops with integrated graphics. Equipped with Nvidia’s MX150, the E 15 held its own in all of our benchmark tests, scoring 3223 in the 3DMark Fire Strike test at 1080p. That’s nearly triple the score of laptops we’ve tested with Intel’s integrated UHD 630. Real world tests were even more compelling, with our Ghost Recon Wildlands benchmarks more than doubling the performance with 26 fps on low settings at 1080p.
Below 30 fps isn’t exactly the best gaming experience available, but it’s certainly better than the unplayable 10-15 fps you’d get with integrated graphics. Dropping the settings further or playing at 720p makes things much more enjoyable. Older or less graphic intensive titles ran exceptionally well on the E 15. We were able to comfortably play Overwatch, World of Warcraft and League of Legends on high settings in 1080p with a stable 40+ fps.
Cooling is a pain point for just about every gaming laptop we’ve tested and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change any time soon. Generally speaking, higher performance means more energy and more heat. Gaming laptops also have a nasty habit of throttling performance when things get a little too hot. Luckily for us, the Aspire E 15 didn’t have too much of an issue thanks to its very efficient CPU and GPU. The notebook remained comfortably cool and only warmed up during extended gaming sessions.
Acer’s Aspire E 15 is a fantastic laptop for everyday use. It won’t give you the best experience playing 2018 games like Black Ops 4, but it certainly does a well enough job when you’re on a tight budget. We would easily recommend it for gaming over anything with integrated graphics. However, if you’re willing to sacrifice some of that versatility, Acer’s Nitro 5 equipped with an AMD Ryzen 5 and discrete RX 560X will offer even better gaming performance per dollar.