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Acer Enduro N3 review: Thin and light, for a rugged laptop

Written by Cliff Joseph, Contributor on
acer-enduro-n3-header.jpg

Acer Enduro N3

8.0 / 10
Excellent

pros and cons

Pros
  • IP53 rating for dust/water resistance
  • MIL-STD-810G ruggedness
  • Good connectivity
  • Comfortable keyboard and trackpad
Cons
  • Average battery life
  • Limited upgrade options
  • FHD (1920 x 1080) display only
  • No mobile broadband option
  • Editors' Review
  • Specs

Rugged laptops such as Acer's Enduro range might not seem essential for the millions of people who are still working from home, so Acer has executed a neat pivot for its latest Enduro N3 model. As well as the mobile professionals depicted in much of the company's marketing materials, Acer also pitches the Enduro as a laptop for 'first responders', construction workers and others who have continued to work outdoors in recent months.

Features & design 

In any event, the Enduro N3 lives up to its name, with a sturdy design that can cope with life in the great outdoors. Acer claims that it's the thinnest and lightest 14-inch laptop to provide an IP53 rating for dust and water resistance (5 signifies 'dust protected', while 3 means that laptop can handle 'spraying water'). It also passes MIL-STD 810G tests for impact resistance (it should survive being dropped from a height of 1.22m) and will also cope with wind-blown sand and dust, extreme temperatures and vibrations, as well as corrosion from 'salt fog'.

acer-enduro-n3-main.jpg

The 14-inch Enduro N3 measures 351mm wide by 247mm deep by 28.85mm thick and weighs 2.45kg, which is relatively thin and light for a rugged (IP53, MIL-STD 810G) laptop.

Images: Acer

The Gorilla glass display is sealed around the edges to protect it from water, and if you spill coffee over the keyboard there are four drainage holes in the base of the laptop that allow the liquid to flow through. The internal cooling system also includes a special 'aquafan' that's designed to repel and expel liquids before they can cause any damage. Even the laptop's extensive collection of ports is protected with sealed flaps that cover the connectors when they're not in use. 

If all this isn't enough, Acer sells an Enduro N7 model that provides even greater protection (IP65, MIL-STG 810G). 

acer-enduro-n3-ports.jpg

The Enduro N3's ports -- which include legacy VGA and RS-232 serial -- are protected by sealed covers.

Images: Acer

As mentioned, the Enduro N3 boasts an impressive range of connectivity features, including some legacy ones. There's one USB-C port, HDMI for an external display, and a fingerprint reader for biometric authentication, along with two USB 3.2 ports and an SD card slot. It supports the latest WiFi 6 (802.11ax), as well as wired Gigabit Ethernet for when you get back to the office. The Enduro N3 also includes a VGA port, an RS-232 serial port and a Smart Card slot – rare sights on a mainstream laptop, but not unusual for a rugged system. So, should you find yourself in a far-flung war-zone with just a VGA monitor and a serial printer for company, you'll be prepared. Conversely, the lack of a SIM slot for mobile broadband seems like an oversight in a laptop that focuses heavily on outdoor use.

Inevitably, its rugged design means that the Enduro N3 is larger and heavier than your average mainstream 14-inch laptop, measuring 351mm wide by 247mm deep by 28.85mm thick and weighing 2.45kg. The broad bezels surrounding the 14-inch display also pad it out to something closer to 16 inches, measured diagonally. 

The chunky design does have one other advantage, too, as it provides room for a spacious keyboard, with comfortable keys that travel well -- a pleasure I'd almost forgotten in recent years -- as well as a trackpad with two dedicated mouse buttons. Despite the room, there's no separate numeric keypad.  

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acer-enduro-n3-keyboard.jpg

The backlit keyboard is spacious, and the keys have plenty of travel.

Image: Acer

The FHD (1920 x 1080, 157.3ppi) IPS display is relatively modest, but it's bright and clear, and more than adequate for running routine apps such as MS Office or the occasional alfresco presentation. The built-in stereo speakers aren't particularly loud though, so you might struggle to hear them if you're working in a noisy environment. 

Price & options 

Acer's UK website offers the Enduro N3 in two configurations, with an entry-level model based on a 10th-generation Core i3 processor that costs £749.99 (ex. VAT; £899.99 inc. VAT). We tested a model with a more powerful quad-core Core i5 processor that's available from a number of Acer's third-party retailers in the UK, or direct from Acer in the US. This costs around £770 (ex. VAT; £924 inc. VAT) or $1099.99 with a Core i5-10210U, running at 1.6GHz (up to 2.1GHz with TurboBoost), along with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. Acer's website indicates that Core i7 processors and discrete Nvidia graphics are also available, but we hadn't seen those for sale online at the time of writing. 

Performance 

The Enduro N3's Core i5 processor is a mid-range option, delivering Geekbench 5 CPU scores of 1060 (single core) performance and 2770 (multi core). Those won't win any awards, but they're comparable to other laptops based on the same CPU and will be more than adequate for running Microsoft Office and other productivity apps, as well as simple photo or video-editing for presentations work. 

Professionals in fields such as engineering or architecture might require stronger performance -- and a discrete GPU -- for more demanding software, but that's not the audience the Enduro N3 is aiming at, and it will do the job perfectly well if you just need a rugged laptop for general day-to-day use. 

SEE: Windows 10 Start menu hacks (TechRepublic Premium)

Batter life could be a little stronger, though. Acer quotes a battery life of 'up to 13 hours', but when streaming video via Wi-Fi the Enduro N3 only just nudged past the eight-hour mark in our tests. To be fair, that still counts as 'all-day' battery life, and if you're not using the Wi-Fi while working outdoors then you should be able to squeeze another hour or so out of it. But, given the Enduro N3's relatively modest processor, there still seems to be room for improvement there. It's also worth noting that the Enduro N7 model offers hot-swappable batteries as well. 

acer-enduro-n3-verdict.jpg
Image: Acer

Conclusions 

The Enduro N3 is a fairly conventional, mid-range laptop that stands out by virtue of its rugged -- or perhaps more accurately, semi-rugged -- design. Most people who are working at home -- or getting ready to venture back to their office for the first time in months -- won't need that durability. But if you need to work outdoors in challenging environments where water, dust and debris threaten the safety of your laptop, then the Enduro N3 should earn its keep. And if you need something tougher, there's always the N7 model.

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