Gadget makers have come up with a couple of tactics to curb e-waste and prevent plastic from heading straight to the landfill. On the one hand, you have devices like the Fairphone 4 and the Framework laptop, which seek to reduce waste by making gadgets easier to upgrade and repair. On the other, you have systems like the new Acer Aspire Vero, which is raising the bar for how much recycled material companies reuse in new electronics.
Eco-Friendly Doesn’t Mean Ugly
This isn’t the first time a gadget maker has used recycled plastic in a laptop—back in 2019, HP stuck a speaker module made from ocean-bound plastic back in 2019 on the Elite Dragonfly. But the speakers on a laptop are a relatively small component. With the Aspire Vero (starting at $700, $900 as reviewed), Acer is all in with post-consumer recycled plastic. The Vero’s chassis features 30% PCR plastic and its keycaps are made of 50% recycled plastic, which Acer claims is enough to reduce the Vero’s carbon footprint by around 21%.
Acer’s sustainability efforts don’t stop there, though. The company says the panel on the Vero’s screen is 99% recyclable, and the laptop also has EPEAT silver certification and comes in a cardboard box that’s 100% percent recyclable. And if you don’t want to recycle the box, you can even reuse it another way by folding parts into a mini laptop stand.
However, my favorite thing about the Vero’s eco-friendly design is that Acer skipped painting the system. The company instead allows the little flecks of charcoal and yellow scattered throughout the Vero’s recycled plastic chassis show through, similar to some patterns you see on today’s running shoes—which might even be where some of the Vero’s PCR plastic comes from. The laptop combines form and function in a sustainable way for a design I can get behind. And while it isn’t nearly as modular as the Framework laptop, all of the screws on the underside of the Vero are easy to access, so upgrading RAM or storage down the line shouldn’t be too difficult.
Even if you don’t care about cutting down on e-waste (which you really should), the Vero still compares well to less sustainable competitors. The laptop has relatively thin and light dimensions (3.97 pounds and measuring 0.7 inches thick) for a sub-$1,000 notebook. You even get handy features like a built-in fingerprint sensor that works with Windows Hello, and a healthy selection of ports: Ethernet, two USB-A 3.2 ports, a USB-C 3.2 port, a headphone jack, and even a full-size HDMI 2.0 port.
Also, as one of Acer’s first batch of Windows 11 laptops, the Vero makes it easy to upgrade to Microsoft’s latest OS without worrying if your current machine has the specs and hardware to move up from Windows 10.
My only gripes about the Vero’s design is that there’s a little more flex on its deck than I’d like, and that the somewhat large chin below its screen looks a bit outdated compared to the ever-shrinking bezels on so many of today’s laptops.
Excellent Performance With a Fine Display
The Vero is available with an 11th-gen Intel Core i7-1195G7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, 512GB of NVMe SSD storage, and Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics—and that’s actually kind of overkill. In benchmarks, the Vero posted scores similar to Samsung’s Galaxy Book Pro and just slightly behind AMD-powered systems like Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 4, which is pretty good for a laptop that starts at hundreds less than those machines. And if you’re into gaming, you can even run Overwatch pretty smoothly if you don’t mind messing around with the game’s settings a bit. Just don’t delude yourself into thinking this is meant to handle new texture-heavy AAA titles.
But if we’re being honest, for a system designed to be an affordable all-rounder without discrete graphics, you’re almost certainly better off waiting for the Core i5 model, which starts at $700 and is expected to go on sale sometime closer to the end of the October.
The other reason big reason why I feel like the Core i5 model makes more sense is that with relatively lackluster speakers and a 15.6-inch 1920 x 1080 screen that tops out at around 250 nits (ideally you’d want something closer to 300 or more), the Vero’s display looks and feels much more appropriate on an affordable notebook than something priced closer to its more premium competition.
The webcam is also pretty mediocre. It’s fine for web meetings and video calls, but with a 720p resolution and just OK image quality, you’re not going to want to use it for much else. And I appreciate the inclusion of a numpad (and Acer’s neat styling on the R and E keys), but the Vero’s keyboard and touchpad are simply fine, not fantastic.
Battery life and charging
Tallying a battery life that of 5 hours and 16 minutes on our wifi video rundown test, the Vero fared just a tad better than the Framework Laptop (5:03) and more powerful gaming notebooks like MSI’s GP66 (4:35). Unfortunately, that 5:16 runtime is below the 8:06 average we’re used to seeing on a typical laptop. You can eke out an extra hour or maybe an hour and a half by turning on Acer’s Eco and Eco+ power-saving modes, but that’s still not really good enough for the Vero to rise above being simply decent.
For me, the bigger issue is Acer’s use of a tiny barrel-style power plug. At this point, I feel like every laptop should be moving towards USB-C charging unless the system is just too big or too power-hungry to make that an option, which definitely isn’t true for the Vero. In 2021, no one really wants to carry power cords that can only charge a single device. And while I have to take most of the blame for this, I should also mention that while battery testing the Vero, I stepped on its right-angle power plug barefoot while it was pointing straight up, leaving me with a bloody hole in my sole and worse pain than stepping on any Lego. I have only myself to blame, but at the same time, I feel like this situation wouldn’t have happened if the Vero had USB-C charging cable.
A Mix of Sustainability and Affordability
The Vero isn’t super flashy and it’s not going to blow you away with a fancy screen or a beastly GPU, but that’s OK. The Vero is the kind of simple, straightforward machine that would make a good family laptop or a notebook for a young student learning from home. It’s got a great selection of ports, good performance, and if you wait for the Core i5 model, the Vero is an excellent value too. It might not have the premium aluminum chassis found on more expensive machines, but the Vero has its own sense of style that’s fresh and eco-friendly. Acer may not have solved e-waste, but the Aspire Vero is a humble laptop that’s light on your wallet and better for the environment.