Design and build: like an ultra-portable laptop
Although made entirely from plastic, the Aspire 5253 has a sober and relatively elegant design. However, to the touch it's disappointing. All the plastic parts—both around and under the keyboard—sink in when you press on them. Acer really needs to think about improving the finish on its laptops so as not to put off demanding users. The good news is that only the screen surround (in addition to the screen itself) is glossy, so it's the only area of the laptop that's susceptible to picking up finger prints.
Otherwise, the keyboard is almost faultless. Typing is supple and quiet. The keys are all where you'd expect them to be and they're correctly proportioned. The only exception is the 'Enter' key, which you sometimes miss when you reach for it just after pressing on the 'Backspace' key. Otherwise, any typing errors are more likely to be down to you than the keyboard!
The multitouch touchpad is good quality and precise, even though we would have liked it to be a good deal bigger. That said, a smooth glide makes it pleasant to use.
The webcam image is one of the worst we've seen. Black areas are displayed as a block of colour and movements glitch and lack fluidity. Lighter colours are either dark or underexposed. Anyone buying this laptop should really consider opting for an external webcam too.
To keep the casing as slim as possible (3 cm), Dell has limited connectivity options to the bare essentials. At the front, there's just an SD card reader. On the left, there's a VGA out, an RJ45 (Ethernet) port, an HDMI out, a USB 2.0 port and the mic and headphones sockets. On the right, there's a DVD rewriter and two USB 2.0 ports.
Unless you stick your ear right beside the 5253, you'll have trouble hearing the fan. Temperature levels are well controlled all the same. Even when you work the computer hard, the temperature remains under the 34°C mark.
The 5253's temperature readings with the components working hardReadings taken using a Fluke Ti25 (Distrame) camera
Underneath, once the panel has been unscrewed
Power, VGA out, RJ45, HDMI out, USB 2.0 port, mic and headphones out
USB 2.0 port (x2), DVD burner
Processor power: a big netbook
There's no point expecting to be able to do everything you can do with a standard notebook with the Aspire 5253. Our tests show that the AMD E-Series E-350 processor (CPU index 29) offers slightly better performance than an Intel Atom N550 (CPU index: 24). The Aspire 5253 will therefore be limited to office documents and Internet use. Processing times for more demanding applications are simply too long.
High definition video playback (HD 1080p, Blu-ray equivalent) is no problem as long as you use playback software that supports graphics hardware assisted decoding (recent version of VLC, Media Player Classic HD with the right codecs or Power DVD as of version 9). On its own, the processor part can't take you beyond 720p, and so the graphics hardware is also required (AMD Radeon HD 6310).
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit takes 49 seconds to boot. You'll need to wait another 5 to 10 seconds for the various background applications to start running (antivirus off). It turns off in 18 seconds.
Gaming: limited ability
The Radeon HD 6310 that's integrated into the APU soom shows its limitats. In practice, the Aspire 5253 does reasonably well with a selection of less demanding games, but more recent titles only work with the graphics settings turned right down and, more often than not, at low resolutions. These performances aren't really any better than a netbook with an NVIDIA ION 2nd generation graphics chip.
Audio: where are the speakers?A single, low-power speaker of average quality is a pretty poor show. Don't expect it to be able to fill your flat with noise, then! The headphones out makes up for things slightly, providing a clean audio signal.
Battery life: a nice surprise!When it comes to battery life, you're in for a pleasant surprise. The Aspire 5253 lasted 4 hrs 30 sec without switching itself off. It's a match for the MacBook Pro 15-inch, which gives 4 hrs 45 sec under the same conditions (Wi-Fi off, headphones plugged in and brightness at 100 cd/m²).
Unfortunately, even though the casing is slim, the 15.6-inch screen means the 5253 won't slip into your bag easily. In any case, at 2.6 Kg, it's probably a little too heavy to carry around for more than an hour or two.