Acer Aspire E11 / ES1 $200 Netbook first impressions + Video

Posted on 10 November 2014 by

The Acer Aspire E11 (ES1 in some areas) is one of a new-wave of 200-euro / dollar Windows netbooks entering the market as both a response to low-cost Chromebooks and  part of a continuing drive to cut the cost of entry-level laptops. It’s made possible by a low-cost Intel System on Chip and tight motherboard integration, low-cost storage and the removal of the fan. Just 32GB of SSD storage is offered so there are some limits to how you can use the ES1. Look at it as a cloud-computer though (100GB of free One Drive is included) and it’s easy to see how it might fit into schools, bedrooms and living rooms in many houses across the world. The Acer Es1 can boot Linux too so if you feel like trying  XBMC , Tails, Ubuntu or other distros, you can. A full unboxing and test video is embedded below, after my words on the first 48 hours with the Acer Aspire E11 ES1-111M.

I unboxed the E 11 (ES1-111M from Amazon.co.uk) and spent an evening videoing and testing and came away feeling positive that the N2840 SoC and the eMMC were working well together. I continued the next day with general browsing, game testing and this…typing. The keyboard isn’t bad at all and although it’s got the a hollow-sounding plastic feel to it there’s a reasonable amount of travel and good accuracy. The touchpad is OK but a bit uncertain on two-finger scrolling as there’s a delay until it starts working.

More information including specifications and benchmarks in the database.

On opening the casing I found good and bad news. There’s a memory slot (2GB installed) but the header for the 2.5-inch drive bay has been removed which is a real shame as a SATA SSD upgrade would have been an easy and rewarding process. You’ll have to decide if you want to go for the slightly more expensive 500GB hard drive version but if you do, consider that until you add the SSD ($60-$100) you’ll have a noisier, slower, less-efficient and less rugged system than this 32GB eMMC version. 10GB is reserved for recovery so if you clean everything up you’ll have about 18GB of free space. The SD card slot is not full-length so you can’t leave the SD card in as storage.

eMMC storage is never as fast as a good SATA-connected SSD drive but my initial tests on the Acer Aspire E1 showed it to be one of the best eMMCs I’ve tested, until the disk space reduced. After 2 days I had just 4GB of free space left and disk write speeds had dropped. The 4K write speed started a 10MB/s (acceptable) but is now in the 4MB/s range which isn’t so good. I will clean the system, remove the recovery partition and re-test to see if I can improve those figures. I won’t publish the figures I have until I’ve done more testing.

How-to survive with 32GB storage on a Windows laptop and tablet.

The matte screen has reasonable brightness but appears a little washed. Contrast could be better and of course it’s only 1366×768 resolution which is a result of the price but improves battery life and some graphics performance over a Full HD screen.

Performance

The image above shows the CPU Turbo Boost running at 2.55Ghz constantly under a dual-core load. After 5 minutes there was no throttling indicating that the passive cooling solution works well enough. General Windows operation (after updates, indexing, virus scanning) is quick and responsive.

I’ve added the first set of benchmarks to the product information page here (Cinebench, Sunspider, Peacekeeper etc.) and they’re not bad considering this is an entry-level processor. The Aspire E11 certainly doesn’t feel like anything is holding it up under single-tasking operations but after installing Minecraft and playing for 30 minutes I came out to find slow Chrome tabs and the sluggishness you would normally associate with a pageing / swapping. The 2GB RAM could be more of a limitation than the low-end CPU for some people so consider a 4GB RAM upgrade when you buy your E11. Disk storage is another issue though and you’ll hear more about that below.

Something the Chromebook can’t do is connect to printers, stream files from a NAS, play DVDs and simple things like AC3 support and Bluetooth file transfers. The Acer Aspire E11 is a full PC and can be docked to a 1080p monitor and used just as you would a desktop PC. And it’s silent. I have a Surface Pro 3 that I use on the go sometimes and let me tell you this – at my co-working office space it’s damn annoying to hear the fan when I’m working hard. The move to fanless laptops is welcome.

Skype works fine in the background on Windows 8.1 (I use the RT version for more efficiency) but the camera is a bit grainy.

Speaker quality is OK and goes loud without distortion. There’s a typical lack of bass and roundedness though.

Battery Life

I’m impressed, so far, with the battery life on the Acer Aspire E11. A 36Wh battery isn’t that big and yet it looks like the Acer Aspire E11 is a true 7-hour browsing laptop. Checking battery usage under various conditions showed good efficiency and very low background drain. I was using the E11 for 4hrs and 8 minutes on the first full day of usage (according to powercfg -batteryreport) and 40% battery was available on the next day. [As I finish this article there’s still 2 hours battery life left. 15% has been used in the last 2 hours.] Windows 8.1 with a highly consolidated mainboard can be incredibly efficient and I don’t see much difference at all between the Acer CB3 Chromebook and this Acer E11 Windows laptop.

Notes

  • Gigabit Ethernet port is included. (Why don’t we see these on the Chromebooks?)
  • No GPS or other sensors.
  • No TPM (and therefore no Windows 8.1 disk encryption.)
  • No detected heat during use.
  • Easy to remove back cover. Access to memory requires removing the mainboard (see video.)
  • Power button feals flimsy and low quality
  • Minecraft works on low settings but it’s totally smooth. Still, quite enjoyable.
  • 8GB of storage free out of box (10GB is used for recovery partition. This can be removed.)
  • Lots of Acer-installed programs but nothing much running in background except McAfee Live Safe (remove if you’re happy with Windows Defender)
  • No free Office 365 license. 100GB free One Drive (2 years) included.
  • Acer Office and cloud programs pre-installed. Not tested.
  • Screen is matte, not glossy.
  • Wifi is a/b/g/n  (Broadcom) and appears to be only 2.4Ghz capable
  • N2840 SoC includes Intel Quick Sync hardware encoding support. (Tested and working with Handbrake)

Linux on the Acer Aspire E11

There’s a legacy boot mode in the UEFI BIOS which is available after you add an administrator password, reboot, disable secure boot and reboot into UEFI again. [I think it’s F2 to get into the UEFI. I had problems though and used Windows recovery reboot options to get into UEFI] I booted Openelec from a USB stick and after wating a while was able to stream a YouTube video. You’ll see that in the video too.  There are issues though. WiFi didn’t work, the touchpad didn’t work and audio didn’t work. I couldn’t even output through the HDMI port. I haven’t tried Ubuntu but I suspect it will be better as it’s a distro that covers a wider range of hardware than Openelec. I will also try Tails (the privacy-focused, TOR-enabled distro) and XBMCBuntu over the coming weeks.

Video – 30 minutes unbox, tests, Linux, internals and more

Summary

The Acer Aspire E11 looks like a real bargain of a Windows laptop and once it’s settled after updating, indexing and virus-checking it’s a smooth experience for browsing and Windows RT apps.  Office has installed and is working. Minecraft too! The Acer E11 is nothing like the cramped 10-inch netbooks of 5 years ago and has more than ‘just enough’ performance but in a way, this new generation of low cost laptops is way more suited to being a Net-book than the original netbooks. The infrastructure is there too so I have non in continuing to use that label.

The disk space is going to limit local application use so consider this more of a cloud-storage laptop with occasional native app capability. There’s a big problem for the average consumer here though and we’ve seen it on Windows 8 tablets – disk management. After just 48 hours I had filled up the disk and that was without adding any content like videos or music. Chrome, Windows update files (not easy to remove before they are 30 days old) and other ‘cruft’ build up quickly.

These 1500 words have proven that the keyboard is accurate but the touchpad has poor multitouch performance and the mouse button clicks have a squishy feeling.

It’s silent, Linux-capable, 4GB RAM-capable, has long battery life and runs a complete Windows 8.1 build which , if kept clean is a smooth experience for basic Windows usage.

Testing continues…

Will I use a Netbook?

The Acer ES1 might cover most of my working scenarios well. I type a lot, I use the browser a lot. I’m getting used to OneDrive integration, music and video playback are important and when a laptop is as light and as quiet as this it’s a bonus. The big issue for someone like me is video editing when i’m mobile. While the Acer ES1 will be able to edit 720p videos with a basic desktop video editing application there are two issues. 1) speed of rendering. I think the ES1 will be able to render 720p in H.264 at about 2|X real time which is fine for me. 2) Storage of 10’s of Gigabytes of source videos and images. That’s the biggest problem I have with netbooks. I could, indeed, offload everything onto a fast USB3 SSD drive and I will try this Maybe the Acer E3-112 is for me. It’s a version of the E11 that comes with a 500GB hard drive. Upgrade that with a 250GB SSD and we’re talking!

More information including specifications and benchmarks in the database.

  • Jon

    I have an Acer 1810T with a Core 2 Duo CPU, 4 GB of RAM for $300 plus a $100 SSD back in 2010. How does the E11 perform compared to it?

    • Marc

      I had an Acer 1830T with a Core i5. The mobo of the device died. Replaced with a Asus Vivotab Note 8 as my uses cases have changed. The performance of the Atom Baytrail seems to be quite close from the 4 year old Core i5. Maybe the system is also making this happening. The Core i5 of my SUrface Pro 2 is however clearly in another league. It’s clear that processor performance continues to evolve, but what we do with the device also…

    • NOVA

      Acer E3-111 sucks! I just bought it 3 weeks ago from Octagon.. they wouldn’t replace it even if the spacebar is not working. It lags everytime. Freezes!!!and the music sometimes disappears and becomes robotic, the screen becomes black all of the sudden! I regret buying an ACER! My HP compaq works so great and have had it for more than 3 years now but ACER is nothing as compared to this!so cheap an a failure!!!!

  • Hello – great review. I got this laptop and have been really enjoying it so far, except for one thing:

    I can’t seem to delete the recovery partition. Even after making a recovery USB and copying the partition to the USB drive, I can’t delete it. There’s no option for deleting the recovery partition in the Control Panel Recovery tool, or when using Acer’s packaged recovery management software.

    I’ve deleted the partition by using gparted standalone, and EaseUS partition manager, both of which leave the system unbootable. Fixing the hard drive using Startup Repair through the recovery disk does no good, neither does turning off Secure Boot. I’ve even tried removing fastboot and turning off hibernate, since I thought there might be a chance these are being written to the recovery partition. No luck!

    Any ideas?? What have you tried? I want that extra 10 gigs!

    Thanks!
    Avery

    • Isabel

      Impossible!! JUst now I,m chatting whit ACER SPAIN for that question and it seems that they have no idea, the are checking the product’s specifications…

      • Jason

        I just started a thread at the Acer Support Forum regarding this issue. Do a search for “Can’t delete the recovery partition on Aspire ES1-111M” Please chime in. Thanks

        • Bob

          I think this might be related:
          http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dn594399.aspx
          blogs.windows.com/itpro/2014/04/10/what-is-windows-image-boot-wimboot/

          With WIM boot, the recovery partition IS your windows installation, so deleting it would remove your Windows installation.

          I own this laptop and in Disk Management the C: partition is described as: Healthy(Boot, Page File, Crash Dump, Wim boot, Primary Partition). I think this shows pretty conclusively that these latptops have a WIM boot installation.

  • Peter Jang

    Hi, this is an excellent review.
    I have one of them, I realized that there is not enough hard drive capacity. You said “the header for the 2.5-inch drive bay has been removed”. Do you think it is possible to install the header so that I can add SSD?
    I appreciate if you answer to this question.

    Thank you.

  • thomas

    Hi,nice review.
    You could just get the “Acer Aspire E3-112-C43A Netbook 11,6 Intel Quad-Core 4GB 500GB mattes Display ohne Betriebssystem” Version. The slightly more recent Quad N2940 Celeron, 4gig’s by default und a sata connected spinning disk (should fit an ssd as well) for 250€. It just lacks Windows. It seems to be a little bit more flexible if you happen to already own an OS or are using linux anyway.

  • Hoddi

    Can i play team fortress 2 on it?

  • Bob

    Thanks for the video and review, it was very helpful to me. I did replace the RAM with an 8 gig stick which should make this machine much more usable. Bitlocker does work without TPM, you need to enable “Require Additional Authentication at Startup” in Run-> gpedit.msc . At startup I have to enter a bitlocker password before I can login normally.

    I think I figured out why people are having trouble deleting the recovery partition. In effect, Windows 8.1 OEM installations on flash media can use the recovery partition as part of the Windows installation and that way reduce the overall footprint. This is called WIM boot. blogs.windows.com/itpro/2014/04/10/what-is-windows-image-boot-wimboot/ Evidence: Looking at my Disk Management on this computer the C: partition lists a WIM boot description. When I run the Windows defrag TRIM optimizer it lists C: and “Images”. My C: partition only uses about 12 gigs total and Windows 8.1 can consume at least 20 by itself. The good news is that this means the space is conserved out of the box, the bad news is that there isn’t any more space to be gleaned. For those of you looking to clear up some space, I found that my system did have hibernation enabled and disabling it and removing hiberfile.sys saved nearly 7 gigs. And Acer has 1gb of driver installation files at C:\OEM\Preload\Autorun\DRV. I didn’t delete those myself but I think you could that safely. Also I ordered a 32gb low profile usb 3.0 flash drive that should fit almost flush in the rear USB port.

  • Jim Bob

    I just returned my Acer Aspire E11. I had a bunch of problems with the touchpad. It was randomly intermittent. You would move your finger then it would stop working. Then you could sometimes get it to work again by toggling FN F7 to turn it on and off. But that rarely working. Other people online say it’s a static electricity grounding issue with newer Acer laptops. Since I was withing my return period I just got a refund. It’s a great little laptop once you take off all the bloatware. I didn’t bother with the recovery partition, I think others were right in saying you have to keep it since it’s a WIM boot partition. Thankfully I left it alone, made it easier to wipe it and return.

    My only other plan to compensate for the lack of space was to get a low profile USB 3.0 Sandisk flash drive for the port at the back.

    Other then the mouse/touch pad not working randomly, it was a great little laptop. I’ll be looking into an HP Stream 11 next, hopefully others don’t end up with the intermittent mouse issue. The Acer forum is full of other hopelessly looking for drivers and bios fixes across multiple models, one guy even wrote an article instructables about fixing it on an Acer C7.

  • John B

    Thanks for the great review and video! I’m looking for a new work notebook for web browsing, Outlook and Excel and this model caught my eye. Is the 32GB SSD sufficient for this? Also, would I need Torx screwdrivers to open the case in order to replace the RAM, or are the screws Phillips?

  • Navin

    Thanks for the “only” detailed review on this model. Just ordered one here in Canada. My plan is to use it as a XBMC box connected to a TV. So hopefully the lack of disk space will not be an issue. And it is straight from Microsoft…what they call a Signature edition, so no bloatware should be on it. My only worry is not being able to install any apps to external HDD or SDcard. That will become an issue if I start loading it up with too many applications.

  • Thanks for the review. Really need a new laptop for working at home and think will buy this one. Hope everything will runs smoothly..

  • Really no matter if someone doesn’t know then its up to otherusers that they will assist, so here it happens.

  • Random Dude

    Thanks for the in-depth review! I bought one of the HDD-equipped versions at Target for $140 (it had been returned so they marked it down), and after I switched to an SSD and 4 GB of RAM, this is the best laptop I’ve ever used. Doesn’t really heat up all that much, is silent, and does everything I need away from the home. I play Guild Wars 2 on it at 20-25 FPS, which is more than suitable for a quick playing away from home. I’d give this machine a 10/10!

    • ezra parker

      how did you do it please help out i have an aspire e11 es1 111m c9vz 32gb emmc

  • Simrandeep Singh

    What is the maximum.size of the memory card.. I can injevlct in Aspire Switch 11.. Plz tell me

  • someone

    Hello, I own an ES1-111 with only 32GB emmc and finally I found someone that has soldered a sata ebay to the motherboard.

    It seems to work !!!

    • Thanks for sharing.

    • Aldrik Koster

      do you have more info fot tis mod?
      i m thinking to solder a ssd bay to on this laptop

      • Wayne D. Neely

        Are you able to boot from the sata drive?

        • Aldrik Koster

          I did not try that, i just need the space for my photos. Maby in the future i wil tray, bun now not. But i think is not a problim to boot from HDD

      • ezra parker

        DOES THAT ALSO WORK FOR THE ACER ASPIRE E 11 ES1-111M-C9VZ BECAUSE I USE EMMC

        • Aldrik Koster

          don’t now

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