Acer TravelMate B5 14 Review

Acer TravelMate B5 14 review

The Acer TravelMate B5 14 is an interesting laptop. It’s designed for school (and the education system in general) and features enhanced robustness and replaceable components to complement this. There are also some neat features that help it fit into a classroom and benefit teachers and, in a country that forces iPads on school kids, can Acer’s TravelMate be a better choice?

Specs

Screen14-inch, matte, 60Hz, 1,920 x 1,080, LCD display
Processor3.8GHz Intel Core i3-N305 CPU
Memory8GB LPDDR5 RAM
GraphicsIntel UHD
Hard drive256GB
ConnectivityWi-Fi 6E
Bluetooth 5.2
HDMI 2.0
1 x USB-C 3.2 Gen 1
2 x USB-A 3.2 Gen 1
MicroSD card slot
3.5mm audio jack
Speakers“Dual”
Extra SecurityTPM module
Webcam720p
Battery50Wh
Dimensions330 x 232 x 24mm
Weight1.7KG
SKUTMB514-31-30BS
Full specs here.

Features, Ergonomics and Design

The Acer TravelMate B5 14 doesn’t look like many other laptops. Its textured lid and ‘slate grey’ colour scheme is classy and the unusual band around the lid is a neat design feature that both looks good and provides enhanced drop protection. Acer knows how laptops get treated in schools, but it’s good to see that some aesthetic thought has gone into the utilitarian design elements.

Acer TravelMate B5 14 Review oblique and dongle
The Acer TravelMate B5 14 looks good despite its utilitarian credentials. It also comes with a USB-A to Ethernet dongle.

Opening it up reveals the Full HD screen which is surrounded by a relatively thick bezel. Below that is an unusual keyboard which has rigid, plastic, ‘mechanically anchored’ keys that won’t fall off in a school environment. We were concerned it might be too firm to type upon comfortably but we had no such issues. They are very-well weighted and comfortable and accurate to type upon for extended periods.

The keyboard is also spill resistant and modular to the point where it can be replaced in a classroom by simply prying it up with a credit card and removing two screws at the base. Acer makes the point that replaceable components are good for a sustainable design and they’re not wrong. We’re not sure how many classrooms would have a backup stock of keyboards but it’s way better than forcing iPads upon school kids.

Acer TravelMate B5 14 Review keyboard
The keys on the Acer TravelMate B5 14 look tough, but they’re not unforgiving on your fingers. It can be a little bit of a fingerprint magnet but it’s spill resistant and can easily be wiped clean.

The trackpad is smooth and accurate. Its buttons are a little stiffer than we’ve seen elsewhere but they’re still fine for everyday use.

Above the screen is an HD webcam which does a good job of capturing detail in low light. The dual-microphone array is also particularly impressive at capturing clear audio in noisy environments.

Interestingly, on the lid, is an LED which changes colour according to internet connectivity and low battery. This is so that a teacher can see if a student is doing something they shouldn’t or needs to be charged.

Acer TravelMate B5 14 Review flat
Acer TravelMate B5 14 review: it folds down flat and has a solid hinge. But, it doesn’t have a touchscreen.

Other unique, student-friendly feature include a proximity sensor by the webcam that will show a warning if you get too close to the screen. Another warning will appear – reminding you to take a break – if you use the laptop for too long and risk eyestrain risks.

We don’t often run promo videos, but it’s a good way to see unique features in action.

The dual speakers get relatively loud and offer decent fidelity from top to bottom. There’s no bass to speak of, though.

The matte, 14-inch screen itself displays a crisp and clear Windows Desktop but colours are somewhat muted. This translates into multimedia performance where colours, contrast and gradients are utilitarian rather than cinematic and immersive. Furthermore, the 60Hz refresh rate, coupled with the modest refresh rate, leaves very-fast moving objects looking blurry. But, all such content is considered a distraction to the B5’s target market.

Acer TravelMate B5 14 Review backlight bleed
There’s a fair amount of blacklight bleed on a dark screen on the Acer TravelMate B5 14. But, it’s totally irrelevant on this laptop.

The Acer TravelMate B5 14 also has some bona fide green credentials. Recycled, ocean-bound plastic is used in the laptop’s ‘OceanGlass’ touchpad. Like Lenovo and HP, it uses minimal, sustainable packaging materials for lower transport and packaging environmental impact. It is certified by EPEAT, TCO and is part of Acer’s Earthion sustainability program.

It’s also worth noting that Acer’s education-related technology stretches beyond hardware. The company also adds additional educational resources on its site which are available to customers and non-customers alike.

Performance

The Acer TravelMate B5 14 is powered by a 12th-gen, Intel Core i3-N305 CPU which has eight cores and runs operates up to 3.8GHz. It’s the most basic processor we’ve seen for a long time and it’s only flanked by 8GB of low-powered LPDDR5 RAM and a 256GB hard drive. We, were keen to see what it could and couldn’t do.

First off, the Acer TravelMate B5 14 wouldn’t actually run the general-computing-mimicking, PCMark 10 benchmark because the integrated Intel UHD 3D graphics weren’t capable of handling the benchmark’s integrated, basic, 3D-processing tasks. As such, we ran the PCMark 10 Express benchmark which excludes this test (while running the others) and it scored 3,873. That’s the lowest score we’ve seen for years, but it’s enough to perform general office tasks and schoolwork.

The Acer TravelMate B5 14 also scored 883 and 4,820 in the Cinebench rendering tests which is only slightly better than the low-powered, 10th-gen processor we saw in Huawei’s budget D14 Matebook and the ultralight Venom Blackbook Zero 14 Phantom.

The Acer TravelMate B5 14 and its UHD graphics didn’t run any of our gaming tests but, again, that’s by design. Still, sneaky students can still able play games like Quake in a web browser and get away with it.

Ultimately, it’s a very low-performance laptop in terms of processing power, but this eliminates distractions in a learning environment and we approve of that.

In terms of cooling and noise, the Acer TravelMate B5 14 never gets more than lukewarm and its fans, under heavy load, only ever hit a very low, high-pitched whine that’s not distracting.

Connectivity

Acer TravelMate B5 14 Review left side
On the left of the left of the Acer TravelMate B5 14 is a USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 port, an HDMI 2.0 port, and a USB-C 3.2 Gen 1 port that’s used for charging.
Acer TravelMate B5 14 Review right side
On the right is a microSD card slot, a 3.5mm audio jack and another USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 port.

Inside, there’s Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2 plus, a USB-A-to-Ethernet networking dongle is included in the box. It’s good to see latest-gen wireless technology and Acer says that the antennae is also particularly strong in order to avoid internet dropouts in classrooms. There’s a good variety of ports. Just note that the power supply connects via the only USB-C port.

Portability

The Acer TravelMate B5 14 weighs 1.7KG which is at the upper end of the ultraportable laptop scale, but that’s still relatively low for a laptop with enhanced robustness. The power brick is small and only adds another 262g to the bulk, keeping it just shy of 2KG.

Acer TravelMate B5 14 Review underside view
The screws at the bottom of the Acer TravelMate B5 14 mean its serviceable and components (like the keyboard) can easily be replaced. It’s not an unfixable nightmare like an iPad.

In order to survive life in an educational system, Acer has certified the TravelMate B5 to military-spec MIL-STD-10H. On top of this, Acer adds, “A spill-resistant keyboard, reinforced IO ports and a shock-absorbent bumper that protects from drops of up to 122cm.” School kids will doubtless still find ways of damaging it, but it’s going to be stronger than most other alternatives – especially iPads.

Inside there’s a small-ish 50Wh battery, but it managed to run this low-powered laptop for an impressive 11 hours 10 minutes which should equate to a full day in the classroom.

Price and Availability

The Acer TravelMate B5 14 costs $1,389 which is good value owing to the rugged credentials and unique features. There aren’t too many direct competitors but we’ll be looking for more as it’s an important category.

Potential alternatives are Venom’s Blackbook Zeros which are much more expensive but also more stylish. They too eschew performance for distraction-free work and have solid green credentials.

Conclusion: Should you buy the Acer TravelMate B5 14?

The Acer TravelMate B5 14 is certainly not for everyone. It’s very low powered indeed, multimedia performance is mediocre and it’s unsuitable for gaming… but it’s supposed to be to avoid distractions. So, it’s more of a feature than a failing, in this instance.

If you need a laptop that is capable of surviving school life (or life on the road) but can easily handle general educational and office tasks – and doesn’t facilitate distractions – then it’s well worth a look.

Awards

Good Value Laptop Award
The Acer TravelMate B15 14 won High Performance Laptops’ Good Value Laptop Award in Sept 2023.

Pros

Robust build quality
Replaceable parts
Unique education features

Cons

Very low performance
Mediocre screen
Fingerprint magnet

Results

Acer TravelMate B5 14 Scores
  • 2D Performance
  • 3D Performance
  • Features, Ergonomics & Design
  • Stability
  • Portability
  • Value
3.5

Summary

The low-powered, Acer TravelMate B5 14 is designed to survive school life while eliminating distractions and it achieves this without sacrificing usability.

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