Acer Spin 3 2020 Hands-on Review: More for the Money
Concrete build quality
Lovely 16:10 QHD + display
Thinner and lighter
Fake recharge pen included
Tiger Lake promises to perform well
Keyboard keycap was a bit slow
Big tops and bottom bezels look old-school
Acer’s Spin 3 is a midrange entry into the company’s 360-degree convertible 2-in-1 market. Its previous iteration was well received as a 2-in-1 with some interesting features, such as a pen that was recharged, while solid performance and build quality, as well as docked in a convenient slot it was done.
However, this was not good enough for Acer, as it announced an updated version that changed the design of the laptop, promising to retain what was best about the previous version. I went hands-on with a pre-release unit of Acer Spin 3. Here are my initial impressions.
The most important update of the Spin 3 is a switch for its performance which has a 16:10 aspect ratio instead of the usual 16: 9. This makes the display longer, fitting in more detail and reducing the need to scroll. The 16: 9 aspect ratio is becoming more common, as laptops like the Dell XPS 13 have led the charge, but Acer’s approach is different.
While Dell used close to the same display chassis size and simply filled it with a 16:10 panel, leaving behind some smaller bezels and a 90% screen-to-body ratio, the Spin 3 has a larger bezel at the top And surprisingly big chin on the floor. The screen-to-body ratio is only 79%, meaning that the spin is not only less modern than the XPS 13, but it can be much larger than that. An advantage of Acer’s approach is that wrist rest is large and comfortable, unlike some small-bezel laptops, where there is barely enough space.
Spin 3 feels it will be more solid than its price. Its lid resolves any twisting, zero flex in the keyboard deck, and doesn’t move under the chassis with rough handling. It’s an aluminum design around this time, where the previous version included some plastic parts, and I can tell. I love the way Spin 3 feels.
Speaking of how it feels, the Spin 3 weighs around 3.08 pounds and is 0.62 inches thin. It is 0.67 inches heavier than the HP Specter x360 13 and 2.88 pounds heavier, but also thinner. Nevertheless, I found the Spin 3 to be comfortable to carry and use in all its different modes. Tablet mode was a bit chunky, but this is true of all non-tablet 2-in-1s (including Spector x360 13).
Spin 3 is an attractive if 2-in-1 surprise. My unit came in the usual semi-gloss silver found on so many laptops, and had only a few chrome pieces, including the Acer logo on the lid and hinges.
The hinge is well tuned, allowing the lid to be opened with one hand while holding the display through all four modes – clamshells, tents, media, and laptops. This is a quality commonly found on more expensive machines.
Connectivity is another strength. There are two USB-C’s with a Thunderbolt 4 port on the left hand side, to go with a full-size HDMI port, USB-A3.2 port and a miniSD card reader. On the right, you’ll find another USB-A 3.2 port, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a Kensington lock port. Wireless connectivity is provided by Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1.
Spin 3 looks good on paper. It offers an 11th generation quad-core Intel Core i7-1165G7 with Intel Iris X graphics, up to 16GB of LPDDR4X RAM and dual PCIe SSDs with either 512GB or 1TB. As an example, the machine I’m looking at is equipped with a Core i5-1135G7, 16GB of RAM, and 1TBDD.
We haven’t tested enough Tiger Lake machines to draw any firm conclusions, but what we’ve seen from Intel’s reference machine gives us some solid performance expectations. At the very least, Tiger Lake should help close the distance with AMD’s Rision 4000 series, which has so far proved to be much faster than Intel’s 15-watt CPU.
The performance of Spin 3 is a beauty. The 16:10 display comes in FHD + (1920 x 1200) or QHD + (2560 x 1600) resolution, and my unit includes the latter.
I found it very fast (although I prefer the 4K display) with contrasting loads. The colors were natural and bright, and I felt that the performance did an amazing job in all the works I threw at it.
The 16:10 aspect ratio is very good. This provides more vertical space, which is useful since documents and web pages are designed to scroll vertically. You can see more on a 16:10 display than just a 16: 9 display.
Audio was capable, providing a very high volume thanks to upward-firing speakers with zero distortion. High and Maid were prominent and, as usual, the bass was minimal. I may occasionally watch using the speakers for YouTube videos and solo Netflix shows, but for music and action films I would recommend a pair of headphones.
Keyboard and touchpad
Spin 3 uses the normal island keyboard with black keycap and white lettering. I don’t know if the keyboard is backlit or not – I couldn’t find a button to turn it on. I thought the keypaps themselves were a bit small and this affected the spacing, and they were also a touch slippery. The mechanism was comfortable, though, with a light touch and a soft-bottomed action that I don’t like but still allowed me to type at almost full speed.
The touchpad was medium sized and plastic coated. It is a Microsoft precision touchpad and therefore it was responsible for swiping and using multitouch gestures. The display is definitely touch-enabled and the included Wacom AES 1.0 pen has worked well for Windows Incoming.
Interestingly, my unit did not have Windows 10 Hello support, neither fingerprint reader nor infrared camera for facial recognition. I understand that while this would be true with the base model, advanced machines would come with a fingerprint reader.
I could not run my normal battery test and therefore I cannot report on longevity. The Spin 3 has a 56 watt-hour battery, which is average for a machine with a display of this size. I think the Core i5 and FHD + variant will get a very good battery life, while the Core i7 and QHD + will make up thanks to the extra power and higher resolution.
Pricing and availability
The Acer Spin 3 will start at $ 850 for an 11-gen Intel Core i5, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB solid-state drive (SSD). Other pricing and availability will be announced soon.