Sustainability and environmental awareness are more prominent in the tech world than ever before – many flagship phones are ditching chargers to lower electronic waste (allegedly), packaging of many tech products are made from recycled and recyclable materials, and rare metals used in electronics are recycled more than ever. Acer is taking this idea a step further with the Acer Aspire Vero – a laptop that incorporates a bit of trash, ocean plastic and other recycled materials in building the shell.

Read: This is why you don’t need a 5G smartphone

While trash might be part of its design, the resulting laptop is anything but. It has solid performance, is easily upgradeable for further sustainability and has a truly unique look and feel in a world boringly similar netbooks. In our Acer Aspire Vero review we explore whether the green credentials elevate it to a worthy desktop replacement.

Design and Build

According to Acer the chassis of the Aspire Vero is made from 30 percent recycled plastic, while the keyboard’s caps bump that up to 50 percent. This results in manufacturing carbon dioxide output being 21 percent lower than would otherwise be the case. While the intention is obvious and greatly appreciated, it does result in a laptop that feels like nothing else on the market.

It isn’t as solid as a body that is made of metal, naturally, but we have used other non-metal laptops that feel more robust. When you pick it up on a corner, you can feel (and sometimes hear) a bit of flex in the body. While it is nothing to worry about when it comes to long-term build quality, it is definitely something to get used to if you’re coming from a more solid laptop. The lid is reinforced, so there is no flex and bending in the part that houses the display.

The look and feel is where the Aspire Vero shines, albeit not literally. The constructed body is unpainted and has a great textured finish with an unusual speckled grey and yellow colour scheme. The fact that it’s unpainted also means that it is really difficult to get dirty. The overall aesthetic is definitely industrial, with square edges and straightforward design, which completely works with this type of device. I also like the fact that it doesn’t have any ugly stickers on either side of the trackpad, but the deck has the words “Intel Core” and “Post Consumer Recycled” etched into it for a much classier look.

When it comes to ports, the Vero certainly sets itself apart. It impressively includes a gigabit Ethernet LAN port, an HDMI 2.0 socket, a single USB-C 3.2 Gen 1 port, three USB Type-A ports (two 3.2 Gen 1 spec and one 2.0 spec), and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

The typing experience isn’t the best here, perhaps due to the nature of the shell. While feedback is relatively good, the mushiness of the caps doesn’t lead to enjoyable long session of typing. A major boon is the inclusion of a numpad to the right of the deck.

Something that won’t appeal to everyone, including myself, is that the letters E and R are printed in mirror image and in yellow. This represents the four key parts of Acer’s environmental philosophy: Review, Rethink, Recycle, Reduce. While I usually like individual design flares, on a keyboard the eye keeps being drawn to the R and E key graphics, which can detract from the thought process and flow of typing if you glance at your hands every now and again while bashing out a piece of writing (as was the case while writing this review).

Display

When buying a laptop of this price, you wouldn’t necessarily expect the best display, and this holds true in the case of the Acer Aspire Vero. Even compared to others in this price range, it doesn’t impress. It is a 15.6-inch IPS 1080p display, with the biggest problem being the brightness levels it offers.

It uses Acer ComfyView technology, an anti-glare matte display that reduces light reflection for a more comfortable viewing experience. While this certainly works in decreasing glare, it may also be the reason the display can appear very dim at times, even at full brightness. It isn’t a touch display either, although that is only a problem if you have a very specific use case for touch on a laptop.

The contrast ratio is a strong point, at 1,350:1, but the colour gamut isn’t good enough to take advantage of this. It will be immediately noticeable when consuming streaming content of playing some colourful games.

Performance and Battery

The Acer Aspire Vero has a couple of available configurations, but you’re most likely to find the Intel Core i7 version in South Africa. It is the i7-1195G7 processor, but the Core i5 version delivers very similar performance in practice. Both chips use Intel’s entry-level Iris Xe graphics core, and both are low-power CPUs designed for slim laptops.

Other than the two processor variants, the rest is pretty much identical, other than the Core i7 version having 1TB of storage compared to 512GB in the Core i5. Both models have 16GB of RAM, dual-band 802.11ax wireless and Bluetooth 5.0.

The laptop is an admirable performer. You’ll have no trouble with basic productivity tasks, like using large numbers of browser tabs, word processors and spreadsheets. It easily handles multitasking while doing this, with me running communication and media apps as well. It will also chug through photo-editing easily. With no dedicated graphics, you’re not going to be able to play demanding games or do lots of video editing, but that’s not the target market for this machine.

The Aspire Vero has a 48Wh battery, which may seem a bit small for a laptop with a 15.6-inch display. However, given it has no dedicated graphics to power and a mediocre display, it performs relatively well. With general use you should be able to get about 8 hours on the battery, but that dropped quickly to around 4 hours when pushing the hardware with more demanding tasks.

The Vero performs as well as expected given its internals. Good enough for the intended customer, but no one aspect that performs better than the competition.

Conclusion

There is only one kind of potential buyer we would recommend the Acer Aspire Vero to – an environmentally conscious consumer looking for a laptop that is trying to lower its carbon footprint with a unique, quirky design. While the minor gains made in terms of carbon dioxide output in producing a laptop like this seems fleeting, it is good that some manufacturers are at least trying.

In practical considerations, the Aspire Vero is nothing to write home about. The build quality is not good enough in today’s market, and the display is extremely average, bordering on bad. It has a comfortable, albeit forgettable, keyboard and trackpad (the inclusion of a fingerprint scanner is nice). Battery life is average, but should be good enough for non-power users.

That being said, even at the relatively affordable price of the around R15,000 for the Core i5 version, there are several better options out there.