A few years ago netbooks were highly popular, as light, compact and inexpensive laptops you could easily lug around to school or work. They weren’t very well crafted though and didn’t perform that well either, so eventually faded away.
These days there are still a few succesors of those netbooks still available out there, most of them targeting budget users and competing against the affordable Chromebooks in the sub-$300 segment.
The late-2017 update of the Acer Spin 1 on the other hand is different. It’s a premium built 11-incher with a fully-metallic body, a nice IPS touchscreen with pen support, a convertible form-factor, a pretty good keyboard and to most ends, the hardware to handle everyday demands smoothly. It’s also rather expensive for its class though, with the higher end configurations going for around 500-600 EUR in Europe and around $500 in the US, and at this level such a small laptop needs to impress in order to be worth more than a look.
We spent a few weeks with the Spin 1 and gathered all our impressions below, with the nice quirks and the issues we encountered, so by the end of the article you’ll know if the Acer Spin 1 Sp111-32N is the mini-notebook you’re looking for or not.
Specs as reviewed
|Acer Spin 1 SP111-32N|
|Screen||11.6 inch, 1920 x 1080 px, IPS, glossy, touch|
|Processor||Intel Apollo Lake Pentium N4200|
|Video||Intel HD 505|
|Memory||4 GB LPDDR3 (Soldered)|
|Storage||128 GB eMMC (Toshiba G32)|
|Connectivity||Wireless AC (Intel Dual-Band 7265), Bluetooth 4.0|
|Ports||1x USB-C 3.0, 1x USB 2.0, HDMI, mic/headphone, microSD card reader|
|Battery||36 Wh, 45 W power brick|
|Size327||290 mm or 11.41” (w) x 200 mm or 7.87” (d) x 14.1 mm or 0.55” (h)|
|Weight||1.18 kg / 2.60 lbs and 0.15 kg / 0.33 lbs power brick|
|Extras||non-backlit keyboard, VGA camera|
Acer offers the Spin 1 in a few different configurations and the one we have here is the higher end variant. The lower-end version bundles an Intel Celeron N3350 processor, 4 GB of RAM and only 32 GB of storage.
Design and first look
The Spin 1 is not like most other 11-inch notebooks available these days. It’s mostly made out of metal and is very sturdily built, as you’ll feel immediately when you’ll get it out of the box. There’s no flex in the screen, very little give in the keyboard deck and no squeaking when grabbing it firmly.
But while it shines in terms of manufacturing, it’s lacks in terms of practicality and finishing, as there are a lot of sharp edges and bits on this computer. The first ones you’ll notice are on the bottom, where the panel doesn’t attach flushly to the edges and the USB ports have sharp metallic corners. Due to the laptop’s thinness, the USBs are not entirely covered by the metallic edge and leave an open gap on the bottom, with pointy corners, as detailed in some of the pictures below.
Then you’ll notice the sharpness of the screen part when trying to open it. There’s no crease on the front lip and the hinges are very stiff, so your fingertips will suffer and you’ll still need both hands to get inside. Lastly, there are the beveled edges around the inner body and the pointy corners, but at least the Spin has a low-profile and these shouldn’t be an issue as long as you mostly use the device on a large desk. On the lap or in cramped spaces, they’ll bite into your wrists.
You’ll also feel them when using the Spin as a tablet, because as I’ve already mentioned in the beginning, this one is a hybrid with a 360-degrees convertible screen. The tablet experience is otherwise decent and the strong build and fanless hardware help enhance it. The big bezel around the screen doesn’t though and make the Spin 1 look dated for this day and age, when most tablets and even most 2-in-1s offer much nicer screen-to-body ratios. At least the panel is good though and there’s support for Acer’s active pen that we previously tested on the Spin 5.
The laptop experience on the other hand is pretty nice, with a decent keyboard, a big enough palm-rest and a screen that can lean back as much as needed. Just don’t forget this is an 11-incher and thus not as roomy as the larger laptops out there.
Acer didn’t skim much on the IO either. There are two full-size USB slots on the sides and a full-size HDMI port, but only a microSD card-reader, yet overall the ports selection is superior to what most other 11-inchers offer.
Bottom point, the Spin 1 is well made, but not that comfortable to use due to its multiple sharp edges and stiff hinges. I would have also appreciated if Acer put a bigger screen on this one, there’s plenty of room for a 12.5-inch panel with smaller bezels.
Keyboard and trackpad
The keyboard on the Spin 1 is a little shrunken from what’s available on the bigger Acer laptops, with 14 x 14 mm keys, but otherwise gets the same layout. The keys are well spaced, just a tad smaller, and those of you with large hands might struggle with this keyboard.
The typing experience is alright if you can get past the potential size issue, as the keys are responsive and travel fairly deep into the frame. They actuate a little to easily for my taste, which lead to a higher than average error rate during my tests, but typing on this laptop is fast though, and with enough exercise can get fairly accurate as well. Just keep in mind that these keys are rather noisy, so typing in a quiet office or library might raise some eyebrows from the people around.
Another important aspect to mention is the fact that this keyboard isn’t backlit, which imo is a little hard to swallow in this day and age.
The trackpad isn’t very big and is made out of plastic, but is nicely indented into the frame and works well with swipes, taps and gestures. Not much to complain about here, other than perhaps the fact that the clicks are a bit clunky.
The Spin 1 gets an 11.6-inch touchscreen with an IPS panel, a fairly good IPS panel actually, with nice colors and good contrast, as you can see below.
- Panel HardwareID: Panda LC116LF3L01;
- Coverage: 96% sRGB, 71% NTSC, 75% AdobeRGB;
- Measured gamma: 2.1;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 255 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 730:1;
- White point: 7100 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.35 cd/m2;
- Average DeltaE: 1.04 uncalibrated, 0.60 calibrated.
The calibrated color profile is available here, in case you want to correct the default slight gamma skewage and blue tint.
The brightness levels might not allow you to properly use this laptop outdoors, especially paired with the glare of the glass layer on top of the screen, but for indoor use this is a very nice panel. I noticed some slight light bleeding around the edges on my unit, but as I’ve mentioned in many other reviews, this is unfortunately a lottery with most notebooks today.
The screen is touch-enabled, includes a digitizer and supports Acer’s Active Stylus that should come included in the pack with retail units. It wasn’t included with our sample, but you’ll find my impressions of this pen over here.
Hardware, performance and upgrade options
As I mentioned in the beginning, our version of the Spin 1 comes with an Intel Apollo Lake Pentium N4200 processor, 4 GB of DDR3 RAM and 128 GB of eMMC storage.
The CPU is a quad-core without HyperThreading, but that doesn’t mean much as it’s a 6W processor with low clock speeds (1.1 GHz base frequency, with Turbo up to 2.5 GHz) and there’s only that much it can do in multitasking. It’s also paired with just 4 GB of RAM, which further limits multitasking, especially knowing what memory hogs browsers are these days.
As for the storage, the included eMMC is not as fast as an SSD, but not as slow as the older eMMCs we’ve seen in the past either, so overall it’s not this build’s bottleneck and won’t have as much of an impact on performance as the CPU and RAM. Just keep in mind that Acer also offers this laptop with 32 or 64 GB of storage space and Windows takes a fair chunk of it, so personally I would at least buy a configuration with 64 GB of storage, if not this one with 128 GB of space.
You can get inside this computer by removing the back panel that’s hold in place by a couple of Philips screws, but I doubt you’ll have to, as the RAM and storage are soldered and the only components accessible here are the Wi-Fi chip and the battery.
As far as performance goes, as already hinted earlier, this laptop can handle everyday activities well enough (movies, streaming, music, editing texts, browsing, etc), but you’ll want to keep multitasking at bay. Chrome with a couple of tabs running in the background is enough to send the CPU at 100% loads and at that time you’ll start noticing sluggishness. Of course, you should keep in mind that I’m used to the fast response and performance of the modern ultraportables and my expectations are set high. If you’re coming from an older laptop and especially one without an SSD, this might not feel that slow to you. Still, don’t get false expectations, this Spin 1 is nonetheless a low-power computer and it performs accordingly.
As a side note, this notebook might feel very sluggish out of the box while it performs its mandatory Windows updates. I’d recommend letting it do its thing for an hour or two and then it should work fine. If you hit CTRL+ALT+DEL and find that the CPU is still at 100% load, you’ll know it’s not yet done with the updates. Unfortunately that’s going to be an issue every time it needs to update though, which is fairly often with Windows 10.
I’ve added some benchmarks results below, in case you’re interested in the hard numbers, as well as some HWInfo logs showing the temperatures and overall performance with everyday activities.
- 3DMark 11: P774;
- PCMark 10: 1529;
- PassMark: 1114;
- Geekbench 3 32-bit: Single-Core: 1527, Multi-core: 5052;
- Geekbench 4 64-bit: Single-Core: 1613, Multi-core: 4800;
- CineBench 11.5: OpenGL 13.67 fps, CPU 2.05 pts, CPU Single Core 0.65 pts;
- CineBench R15: OpenGL 17.65.69 fps, CPU 148 cb, CPU Single Core 45 cb;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 – 59.61 fps, Pass 2 – 11.95 fps.
Gaming is normally out of reach for such a computer, but if you plan to run some very old titles at lower resolutions, well, you can.
Emissions (noise, heat), Connectivity and speakers
There’s no fan inside inside this computer, no moving parts, and I haven’t notice any coil whining or electrical noise on my sample either, so as a result the Spin 1 is perfectly quiet.
As far as temperatures go, the thin metallic body can heat-up with multitasking, but never to the point where it would get hot or even uncomfortable to use on the lap or hold in hands, which is a benefit of going with the efficient Apollo Lake hardware.
*Daily Use – 1080p Youtube clip in EDGE for 30 minutes
For connectivity Acer went with an Intel dual-band AC7265 that provides wireless AC and Bluetooth. It’s a good mid-level chip and as a result the Spin performed well both near the router and at medium ranges with some obstacles in between.
For audio Acer went with a set of stereo speakers firing though small pinhole cuts on the edges. They’re fairly loud, peaking at around 80 dB at head level in our tests, and they don’t distort or vibrate at high volumes either. The sound coming out of these speakers is tinny though, as they clearly lack bass and lows are only noticeable down to about 130 Hz.
The last thing to mention here is the webcam, which unfortunately is pretty crap, with a mediocre VGA sensor.
There’s a 36 Wh battery inside this computer, which is fair-sized for an 11-incher and a good match for the hardware inside, even if the IPS panel is a little more hungry than the poorer screens that are usually bundled in this size segment and even if Acer actually had the space inside the frame for a larger one.
Still, here’s what you should expect with daily use (the screen was set at around 120 nits – 30% brightness):
- 6.1 W (~5 h 45 min of use) – text editing in Google Drive, Balanced Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 4.6 W (~7 h 30 min of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Internet Explorer, Balanced Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 3.1 W (~11 h of use) – 1080p fullscreen .mkv video in the Movie app, Balanced Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 4.8 W (~7 h of use) – 4K fullscreen .mkv video in the Movie app, Balanced Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 8.8 W (~4 h of use) – heavy browsing in Edge, Balanced Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;.
The Spin 1 is bundled with a compact and light 45 W power brick and a full-charge takes around 2 hours, as there’s no Quick Charging technology implemented.
Price and availability
The Acer Spin 1 SP111-32N is only available in Europe at the time of this update, with a starting price of 499 EUR for the Petium N4200 / 4 GB RAM / 64 GB storage configuration and about 100 EUR on top for the model with 128 GB of storage space. It’s not yet available in the US, but I’d expect it to start at around $450 – $500, and we’ll update this section once we know more.
Overall, the Spin 1 is more expensive than other 2-in-1 laptops with the same kind of hardware like the first generation Acer Spin 1 or the Lenovo ThinkPad N24, but that’s not a surprise, given its nicer screen and the premium build.
But is the Spin 1 worth that kind of money?
First of all, you’ll have to understand that this is a niche computer and should only be on your list if you’re after a premium crafted mini-laptop with a convertible form-factor and a nice IPS touchscreen, which of course come with a premium. Once you accept these, the Spin 1 is not going to feel overpriced, but you’ll still have to decide if you can live with its quirks, like the uncomfortably sharp bits and edges, the ugly large bezels around the screen, the rattly non-backlit keyboard and the limited performance of the Apollo Lake platform.
If the answer is yes, and if you don’t mind paying extra for the build and screen, like I mentioned earlier, the Acer Spin 1 could be the right pick for you. I’d also have a look at some of the exiting 12-inch Windows tablets though, as well as the slightly more expensive Lenovo Yoga 710, which is also an 11-incher, but built on a faster Intel Core Y hardware platform, with more RAM and SSD storage. Or you can go through this selection of mini notebooks for an updated set of other options. Lastly, if you’re a bit flexible when it comes to the size and weight, you’ll find better balanced products in the 13-inch class of thin-and-lights.
Anyway, that wraps up our review of the Acer Spin 1 SP111-32N, but the comments section is open for your feedback and questions, and we’re around to help out if we can.
Andrei Girbea, Editor-in-Chief at Ultrabookreview.com. I never liked carrying big laptops around and that fueled my passion for mobile computers back in the 2000s. Things have changed much since then, but I'm still interested in the topic and in the meantime I've owned and tested hundreds of thin and lights, so I know a thing or two about them. You'll find mostly reviews and guides written by me here on the site.