Acer ES1-111M-C3CP review

Acer ES1-111M-C3CP
Acer ES1-111M-C3CP

A few months ago I bought a new laptop: the Acer ES1-111M-C3CP. I wanted something small and quiet. I didn’t need anything particularly powerful—that was the point: just something that would allow me to get on with some writing projects while Reuben. Joshua and Isaac hijack my desktop PC to play LEGO computer games.

Specification

The laptop features:

  • Windows 8.1 64-bit
  • Intel Celeron N2840 2.16 GHz
  • Intel HD graphics
  • 11.6″ HD LED display screen (1366 × 768 pixels)
  • Fanless (silent performance)
  • 8 GB DDR3 RAM (upgraded from 2 GB — there’s a guide here on how to upgrade the RAM: Acer Aspire E3-111 Disassembly)
  • eMMC 32 GB (solid state disk)

Setting up the laptop

My plan was to install only a few applications:

  1. Google Chrome (browser)
  2. Dropbox (selective sync of only writing projects)
  3. Scrivener (writing application)
  4. Write! (a beautifully simple editor)
  5. LibreOffice (a Microsoft Office-compatible office suite)
  6. Scapple (free-form text
  7. Mindjet Mind Manager (mind mapping)
  8. MusicBee (audio player)
  9. VLC media player (for watching the occasional Mpeg-4)
  10. Skype (video and text chat)
  11. F-lux (adjust the screen colour temperature)

Out of the box, set-up didn’t take terribly long (once I’d swapped out the 2 GB RAM for an 8 GB module) and I signed into my Microsoft account

I then uninstalled most of the bundled applications (McAfee, Microsoft Office 2013 Home and Student trial, a few Acer media/office applications, plus a bunch of Windows Modern UI (Metro) apps and set about the seemingly never-ending task of running Windows Update which pulled in more than 130 updates.

But here’s the thing… the laptop only started with 32 GB of hard disk space. On initial startup there is a little more than 9 GB of free space. After the Windows updates only 3.13 GB of hard drive space is left.

Windows updates ate almost 6 GB of hard drive space!?

And that’s after uninstalling the bundled software and running Disk Clean-up to remove remnant update files.

Experience

Over the last couple of months I appear to have performed a factory reset more often than actually using the laptop for the purpose for which I bought it.

The factory reset is pretty good, to be fair. The 32 GB drive is divided into three partitions:

  • 100 MB (EPI system partition)
  • 19.40 GB (NTFS—Windows 8.1)
  • 9.5 GB (recovery partition)

Despite what the Acer factory reset application advises, once you’ve created a USB recovery disk you cannot delete the recovery partition. According to some on various discussion forums, this partition is a Windows Image File Boot (WIMBoot) that is required to run Windows.

Which means that if you find that you’ve installed too large a collection of applications you end up with your C: drive reporting 0 bytes free, as I did for the umteenth time last night.

To try to get around this I attached a tiny Sandisk 32 GB USB 3.0 drive as storage (installation files and music) and onto which I could install applications. But, of course, whenever you install any software on Windows, no matter where, the C: drive is always used.

And so I still managed to overflow the C: drive and had to perform yet another factory reset.

Currently my ambitions are a little less ambitious:

  1. Google Chrome (browser)
  2. Dropbox (Modern UI)
  3. Scrivener (writing application)
  4. Write! (a beautifully simple editor)
  5. F-lux (adjust the screen colour temperature)

I’ll see how I get on. With those five applications installed I have 2.63 GB free on C: drive. Far from the 9.5 GB that I had expected when I bought the machine.

Conclusion

I can’t help feeling rather disappointed with my first couple of months with this machine. The build quality is really pretty decent for something at this price (£179): the screen is large and bright enough for my needs, the keyboard feels comfortable, and so far I’ve had no issues with the touchpad (though I do prefer to use a USB Microsoft Intellimouse Optical mouse.

32 GB is clearly not enough. I would have happily paid more for double that. 64 GB would have made this gem of a machine far more flexible. Instead I have to worry about installing as little as possible. I can’t simply get on and write, I always have to have an eye on whether Windows Update has run and used up the remaining sliver of hard drive.

(UPDATE: Note that the hard drive cannot be upgraded. It’s an eMMC drive — like flash storage — that is soldered to the motherboard.)

Hey! There’s not even enough free space to keep the trial installation of Microsoft Office 2013 that it ships with—how utterly ill-thought through is that?!

If I’d been using this as a Windows-flavoured ChromeBook-equivalent, relying entirely on web apps and storage, I would probably be delighted with the machine. But as it is, I’m not writing everything in Google Drive and I’ve more or less given up on Microsoft OneDrive due its unreliable file synchronisation for documents. (Something that a friend of mine from St Andrews was also complaining about on Facebook the other day, prompting her move to Dropbox.)

Anyway, I’ll report back here in a couple of months to give an update on how I’m getting on… in the meantime, if you’re looking to buy this laptop yourself be warned that once you’ve done all the updates you’ll have next to no drive space to store anything, let alone run the thing.

Comparison of my work PC, home PC and laptop

For a while I’ve thought that my PC at work (which I acquired in February 2008) was flagging a little. An upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7 certainly helped but subjectively I felt that compared with my home PC and my laptop it wasn’t running particularly quickly, as I was waiting quite a while for files to open or applications to start.

So I used the AusLogics BenchTown benchmarking application to put all three computers to the test:

  1. Work (Dell Precision 690, Xeon 5120 @ 1.86 GHz, 4GB RAM, 64-bit OS)
  2. Home (Cube 24/7, Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 @ 2.40GHz, 4GB RAM, 32-bit OS)
  3. Laptop (Acer Aspire 5630, Intel Core 2 T5500 @ 1.67 GHz, 2GB RAM, 32-bit OS)

Now, I’m not particularly familiar with the various benchmarking applications available, or which one is better than the next but I felt it important simply to use the same application on all three computers so that it gave me a fair comparison.

These were the results, and compared with fastest results submitted to the BenchTown website, from some seriously overclocked, high-spec machines:

Work Home Laptop Fastest
CPU 840 2179 786 10073
Memory 346 494 551 2130
HDD 365 625 311 5161
Graphics 2D 168 272 131 804
Graphics 3D 202 1253 98 4504
Overall 325 645 255 2619

2011-10-01-benchtown

As you can see my suspicions were justified: my work PC isn’t that much faster than my laptop.

I got a phone call on Thursday to say that I’m getting a new PC ordered for me at work.

Can you run it?

Screenshot of Can You Run It showing that Battlefield 2 passes
Battlefield 2 passes with flying colours on my laptop

Downsizing and upsizing

By the recent photographs of my study in various states of disarray you probably know by now that I’m in the process of reorganising a few rooms in our house.

And by now you probably also know the reason why I’m doing it, judging by the recent scan of a 12 weeks and 3 days old baby currently gestating in my wife’s tummy.

Yes, we need to make room for another minor human some time in late January 2011.  So, I’m downsizing some of my … well, stuff, while Jane’s tummy is … well, I guess upsizing.

(She doesn’t read my blog, so don’t worry about that last sentence.)

Battlefield 2

In my study I have two PCs.  One is on my desk, the other is on Jane’s desk/our-old-dining-room-table.  One gets used almost every day, the other gets used only when Valley Boy Rich comes to visit, to play Battlefield 2 over the network.

But the time has finally arrived for my trusty Nethighstreet PC (MSI K7N2 Delta, 2.8 GHz Athlon CPU, 2GB RAM, Creative X-Fi soundcard) to be retired to the PC graveyard that is either Freecycle or eBay (I haven’t quite decided yet). Which obviously leaves us one PC down for our mildly regular death-matches.

Can you run it?

So there I was thinking, if only there was some way of discovering whether Battlefield 2 will run on my laptop when I discovered Can you run it? from System Requirements Lab.

It requires the Java runtime environment to be installed but it’s pretty simple to use:

  1. Visit Can you run it?
  2. Type in a game, or select one from the drop-down list.
  3. Click on the Can you run it? button.
  4. Can you run it? tells you whether you can run it. Or not. Any why.

Genius!  Within a few seconds I was given the good news that Battlefield 2 will run successfully on my laptop.  And what’s more it will do so at a pretty high spec.

I also discovered that it will not run Call of Duty 4, isn’t entirely sure about Lego Star Wars or Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts and hasn’t even heard of Heaven & Hell.

It’s alive!

Laptop with PC on a desk.
My PC is back up and running — it’s the double-monitor wonder to the right of the laptop.

It would appear that my PC had completely burned out the CPU as after an evening of educated tinkering beneath my desk — and no, that’s not a euphemism — my PC is alive once more.

Eager to tell someone I fired up Windows Live Messenger and chatted with my good friend Simon.

Gareth: Hey! Great news! My PC is alive again.

Simon: It’s alive. It’s aliiivvveeee! Very good news. Not as good as the news that Jesus died for your sins, but a close second.

A fair point, I suppose, all things considered.

So now my PC is back up and running, which is great news. But I’m still feeling a little cautious around it, wondering if it will fail on me again.

I imagine that it’s a bit like when you’ve been invited to an important and prestigious ball by your girlfriend, and you spend ages getting ready, and it’s quite a big deal and you arrive and everything is going well and you’re meeting loads of great people and the food is good and you’ve having a great time — in fact you are literally ‘having a ball’ — but then you get separated from your girlfriend but it doesn’t matter because you trust her and she trusts you and you get involved watching some entertainment, but then the entertainment ends and you go looking for your girlfriend and you discover her in a darkened room with another boy. And they are kissing. And then the next morning in the light of day you’re not quite sure if you do trust her any more, even though nothing has actually changed. Apart from the kissing another boy bit. I imagine that it might be a bit like that. I guess.

Only time will tell. That and good ventilation.