Home Computing Acer Aspire Go 14 Review: Competent Windows Laptop at a Chromebook Price

Acer Aspire Go 14 Review: Competent Windows Laptop at a Chromebook Price

Acer Aspire Go 14 laptop on a chair on a front porch

7.8/ 10
SCORE

Acer Aspire Go 14

Pros

  • Excellent battery life
  • Enough performance for basic use
  • Decent build quality for the price

Cons

  • Dismal viewing angles for display
  • 128GB SSD is tight for Windows laptop
  • Grainy 720p webcam
  • Terrible speakers
  • Slow USB-C connectivity

When you say a laptop looks like it costs $500, it’s usually an insult. For the Acer Aspire Go 14, however, it’s actually a compliment. This Windows laptop costs a mere $300 but holds its own against other budget models that cost $500 or more. The design cannot be described as enticing or exciting, but it’s functional and unlikely to offend. Performance from the quad-core AMD Ryzen 3 7000 series CPU and 8GB of RAM suffices for basic use, and battery life is shockingly long. 

In addition to a practical design and passable performance, the Aspire Go 14 features a 14-inch display with a modern 16:10 aspect ratio. Sadly, the display’s viewing angles are pretty bad, which makes for a poor experience unless you have the display positioned just so. Other demerits: The 128GB SSD is tight for a Windows laptop, and the version of Windows you get is the limited Windows 11 Home in S Mode, designed for schools and other large enterprises. For parents of younger students who need a Windows laptop and not a Chromebook for school, the Aspire Go 14 covers the basics at a bargain-basement price.

Acer Aspire Go 14 (AG14-21P-R3FZ) specifications

Price as reviewed $300
Display size/resolution 14-inch 1,920×1,200
CPU AMD Ryzen 3 7320U
Memory 8GB LPDDR5 5500MHz RAM (soldered)
Graphics AMD Radeon Graphics
Storage 128GB SSD
Ports USB-C 3.2 Gen 2, 2 x USB-A 3.2 Gen 1, HDMI 2.1, combo audio
Networking Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1
Operating system Windows 11 Home in S Mode
Weight 3.2 pounds (1.5 kg)

Acer sells two versions of the Aspire Go 14, one AMD and one Intel. Both are fixed configurations. We reviewed the lone AMD-based model (AG14-21P-R3FZ). It features a Ryzen 3 7320U processor, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. Acer lists it for $350, but it was discounted to $300 at the time of this review. The Intel model (AG14-31P-30AT) costs $350 and has not been discounted since I’ve been eyeing it. and is based on a Core i3-N305 CPU.

The Aspire Go 14 is not available in Australia, but a product page exists for it on Acer’s UK site

Acer Aspire Go 14 silver lid Acer Aspire Go 14 silver lid

Matt Elliott/CNET

As you’ll see in the charts below, the Aspire Go 14 finished last among a group of low-cost laptops in lab testing, but it wasn’t exactly a fair fight. The other four models cost two or three times as much as the $300 Aspire Go 14 and feature either Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 processors with more physical cores and processing threads. All but the HP Laptop 17 offer twice the memory of the Aspire Go 14.

The Aspire Go 14’s Ryzen 3 7320U is a quad-core chip with eight threads. Its core/thread count trails that of Core i5 and Ryzen 5 chips, but just the fact that it’s a threaded chip is a huge advantage over previous entry-level laptops that relied on unthreaded CPUs like the Intel N200 or older Celeron parts. The Ryzen 5 chips in the HP Pavilion Aero 13 and HP Laptop 17 feature six cores and 12 threads, while the Core i5 chips in the MSI Modern 14 C13M and Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 offer 10 cores (two performance cores and eight efficiency cores as part of Intel’s hybrid architecture) and 12 threads. 

These other four systems finished ahead of the Aspire Go 14 on our application and graphics benchmarks, but the Aspire Go 14 still offers enough performance to make it a useful laptop for basic tasks. And that’s really the goal. No one should consider a new $300 laptop for heavy lifting. It’s not the right pick for any media editing or intensive database work, but it still has enough oomph to run Windows smoothly. Apps opened quickly with only the occasional lag. I was able to bounce between a dozen open Edge tabs without any hiccups, and videos streamed smoothly on YouTube and Netflix.

The Aspire Go 14 flipped the script with battery testing, finishing first among this group of budget laptops — and by a considerable margin. It lasted more than 15 hours on our online streaming battery drain test. The next closest runtime was 10 hours and 40 minutes from the HP Pavilion Aero 13.

Acer Aspire Go 14 laptop on a black desk mat against a gray wall Acer Aspire Go 14 laptop on a black desk mat against a gray wall

Matt Elliott/CNET

One final note on our test configuration: Acer sells the Aspire Go 14 with Windows 11 Home in S Mode, but our test system featured Windows 11 Home so we could install and run our suite of benchmarks. S Mode is a limited version of Windows 11 Home that places an emphasis on security, letting you download apps only from the Microsoft Store. You can always switch out of S Mode and install the full version of Windows 11 Home, but there’s no switching back. Notably, you won’t find Google’s Chrome browser in the Microsoft Store, so you’ll need to use Microsoft’s Edge browser or find another alternative in the Store, such as Firefox.

The upshot of S Mode is that you might get a bit better performance and even longer battery life with the streamlined OS designed to run on lower-end hardware, in addition to the added protection against malware.

Display needs to be positioned just right

With sufficient performance and fantastic battery life, the Aspire Go 14 cleared the hurdles before it in CNET Labs. The largest obstacle to a higher recommendation is the display. More specifically, the display’s viewing angles. The panel itself is fine. It’s a 14-inch panel with a 1,920×1,200-pixel resolution and a 16:10 aspect ratio. I expected it to have an outdated, wider 16:9 panel at its low price, so I was happy to see the roomier ratio. I also expected the display to be a dim, 250-nit panel common on entry-level laptops and was pleasantly surprised to see it exceed 300 nits. It hit a peak brightness of 310 nits in testing with a Spyder X Elite colorimeter.

The poor viewing angles result from the TN (Twisted Nematic) display technology. Most mainstream laptops feature IPS (in-plane switching) displays that offer better color accuracy and wider viewing angles, with high-end TN panels favored by gamers for their fast response times and high refresh rates. As soon as I opened up the Aspire Go 14, I knew I was staring at a TN panel. And not a particularly good one. The horizontal viewing angles were below average, but the vertical viewing angles were dreadful. The screen looked washed out unless I positioned it at the perfect angle. I had to push the panel back further than usual in order to get the best picture. 

Color accuracy proved to be terrible also. It covered only 64% of the sRGB gamut and 49% of the AdobeRGB and P3 color spaces.

Acer Aspire Go 14 has a display with poor viewing angles Acer Aspire Go 14 has a display with poor viewing angles

Matt Elliott/CNET

The rest of the Aspire Go 14’s design is more than acceptable for the price. The all-plastic chassis feels firm and is fairly compact. The laptop weighs 3.2 pounds, which is average for its size. The keyboard sounds a little “clacky” with a louder-than-usual key response, but the keys themselves feel snappy and firm enough. The touchpad is undersized but functional.

Unsurprisingly, the Aspire Go 14 has a 720p webcam instead of a 1080p camera, but its grainy image was still disappointing. With the Ryzen 3 lacking an NPU for AI processing, you miss out on Windows Studio Effects that can improve your presence on Zoom, Teams and other video calls by blurring the background and automatically panning to keep your face in the center of the frame. 

Acer Aspire Go 14 keyboard and undersized touchpad Acer Aspire Go 14 keyboard and undersized touchpad

Matt Elliott/CNET

Acer’s PurifiedVoice AI Noise Reduction did an impressive job of isolating my voice — not just reducing but nearly eliminating background noise. I had a speaker playing music about six feet away at a fairly high volume and video recordings sounded like I was speaking in a quiet room. I could hear the music only during pauses in my voice and then only faintly. If I wasn’t listening for it, I doubt I would have heard it.

The audio output of the laptop’s speakers is predictably underwhelming. Finding decent sound from small laptop speakers is rare and next to impossible on such a cheap laptop. The Aspire Go 14’s sound is wholly uninspiring so you’ll have to make do with an external speaker or headphones.

Also uninspiring is the Aspire Go 14’s storage capacity. It offers a meager 128GB SSD, which is very small for a Windows laptop. Even a 256GB SSD can fill up fast when you consider that Windows itself takes up a fair amount of space. Our test system’s full version of Windows 11 Home left only 76GB of free space. You’ll get more room with S Mode, but even that limited version requires about 24GB of disk space, leaving you with roughly 100GB of local storage.

The good news about the Aspire Go 14’s port selection is that it offers both USB Type-C and Type-A ports. The bad news is that the USB-C port offers a 10Gbps USB 3.2 Gen 2 connection, which is slow compared to a 20Gbps USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 port or the leading 40Gbps speed you would get with a USB4 or Thunderbolt 4 port. Something to keep in mind if you plan to offset the meager internal storage with an external drive.

In the end, none of the Aspire Go 14’s drawbacks are deal-breakers when considering the rock-bottom price of $300. The display’s poor viewing angles come the closest to souring the deal, but I was eventually able to get comfortable with this limitation as I found the narrow sweet spot for positioning the display. And if you’re regularly connecting to an external monitor (it has an HDMI out for a quick connection), it’s even less of an issue. Otherwise, the Aspire Go 14 provides great value with its acceptable build quality, capable performance and long battery life.

The review process for laptops, desktops, tablets and other computerlike devices consists of two parts: performance testing under controlled conditions in the CNET Labs and extensive hands-on use by our expert reviewers. This includes evaluating a device’s aesthetics, ergonomics and features. A final review verdict is a combination of both objective and subjective judgments. 

The list of benchmarking software we use changes over time as the devices we test evolve. The most important core tests we’re currently running on every compatible computer include Primate Labs Geekbench 6, Cinebench R23, PCMark 10 and 3DMark Fire Strike Ultra

A more detailed description of each benchmark and how we use it can be found on our How We Test Computers page. 

Geekbench 6 (multicore)

MSI Modern 14 C13M 7,091HP Pavilion Aero 13 6,871HP Laptop 17 5,880Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 5,593Acer Aspire Go 14 3,857

Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

PCMark 10 Pro Edition

HP Pavilion Aero 13 5,790HP Laptop 17 5,781MSI Modern 14 C13M 5,157Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 4,205Acer Aspire Go 14 4,113

Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Cinebench R23 (multicore)

MSI Modern 14 C13M 10,078HP Pavilion Aero 13 8,157HP Laptop 17 7,098Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 5,481Acer Aspire Go 14 4,831

Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

3DMark Wild Life Extreme Unlimited

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 2,787MSI Modern 14 C13M 2,259HP Pavilion Aero 13 2,191HP Laptop 17 1,720Acer Aspire Go 14 715

Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Online streaming battery drain test

Acer Aspire Go 14 914HP Pavilion Aero 13 640Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 600HP Laptop 17 530MSI Modern 14 C13M 369

Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

System Configurations

Acer Aspire Go 14 Windows 11 Home, AMD Ryzen 3 7320U, 8GB DDR5 RAM, AMD Radeon Graphics, 128GB SSD
HP Laptop 17 Windows 11 Home, AMD Ryzen 5 5625U, 8GB DDR4 RAM, AMD Radeon Graphics, 256GB SSD
HP Pavilion Aero 13 Windows 11 Home, AMD Ryzen 5 7535U, 16GB DDR5 RAM, Intel Iris Xe Graphics, 256GB SSD
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 Windows 11 Home, Intel Core i5-1235U, 16GB DDR5 RAM, Intel Iris Xe Graphics, 256GB SSD
MSI Modern 14 C13M Windows 11 Home, Intel Core i5-1335U, 16GB DDR4 RAM, Intel Iris Xe Graphics, 512GB SSD


 

Reference

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