Acer Aspire V7
26th Sep 2014 | 14:20
Can portability and performance coexist in one Ultrabook?
Introduction and design
Laptops fall into neat categories. The 11.6-inch notebooks stay small and affordable, the Ultrabook sits at the higher-end spectrum of mobile computing and anything 14 inches and up is represented with budget or gaming laptops up until you get to the 17-inch mobile gaming rigs.
Enter the Acer Aspire V7. It's an interesting 14-inch notebook that splits the difference between a Ultrabook and larger gaming machines like itself. Acer has not made any allusions to it's laptop being perfect for both use cases; instead, the Aspire V7 is just barely a gaming machine and just barely an Ultrabook.
Basically, this is a slimmed down, 14-inch laptop equipped with a vivid 1080p touchscreen and Nvidia GT 770M graphics card, whereas most Ultrabooks would forego including a dedicated GPU. Has Acer hit the right balance between portability and power, or does the Aspire V7 suffer an identity crisis?
Compared to other ultraportable notebooks, the Aspire V7 is one of the most plasticky machines around. Users won't find any Gorilla Glass, as with the company's high-end Aspire S7 Ultrabook or the Samsung ATIV Book 9's metal casing. Measuring 0.9 inches thick, the Acer is also considerably thicker than the exquisitely thin 13-inch MacBook Air and all the other wedge-shaped laptops it has inspired.
It's obvious the Aspire V7 won't win any beauty pageants against premium Ultrabooks, and I wouldn't expect it to with its much lower price, starting at $799 (£469 or AU$1,299) Despite the all-plastic frame, the V7 is still a very attractive package. The chassis does not creek at all under the full weight of your palms, or as your fingers tack away on the keyboard.
Acer has also nimbly avoided using the oft-used plain plastic by giving both the laptop lid and keyboard deck with a brushed aluminum-like finish. Even the underside looks and feel good, thanks to a rubber bottom. The rubberized underside also helps keep the laptop firmly planted on desks and feels softer on bare knees.
Aside from the surface details, Acer has sculpted the V7 with gently curved edges. Most notably, you won't feel like your wrists are cutting into the laptop's gently rounded edges. Elsewhere, the palm rest flows smoothly into the slightly sunken in keyboard before another curve caresses upwards to meet the display. They're all minor aesthetic touches, but taken as a whole, there's a consistent look you'll appreciate about the Aspire V7.
Around the back of the laptop you'll notice it's a bit thicker and this is to make way for a video output ports as well as a USB 3.0 and ethernet jack. Some users might not appreciate this port placement, but it's perfect for those using the Aspire V7 as their main work computer. Users will be able to plug in the laptop to a monitor on their desk and USB hub while keeping the cables tucked away and hidden behind the screen.
Specifications and performance
The Acer Aspire V7 is one of the lighter 14-inch laptops around, weighting in just 4.41 pounds. It's also fairly compact at 13.4 x 9.4 x 0.9 inches. The Lenovo Y40 is just as thin, but its rounder plastic body makes it a tad larger overall, at 13.7 x 9.8 x 0.9 inches and 4.85 pounds.
Of course, the Aspire V7 can't compete with the portability of the Asus Zenbook UX301LA. The smaller 13.3-inch Asus Ultrabook tips the scales at 3.08 pounds and measures 12.8 x 8.8 x 0.6 inches.
Here is the Acer Aspire V7 configuration given to TechRadar:
- CPU: 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-4200U (dual-core, 3MB cache, up to 2.60 GHz with Turbo Boost)
- Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GT 750M (4GB DDR3 RAM); Intel HD Graphics 4400
- RAM: 8GB DDR3L RAM (2x 8GB, 1,600MHz)
- Screen: 14-inch, 1920 x 1080 Glossy IPS Touchscreen
- Storage: 500GB (5400 rpm with a 16GB SSD cache)
- Ports: HDMI, 2 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0, RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet, mini-VGA, SD card reader, combination mic/headphone jack
- Connectivity: Intel Wireless-N 7260 802.11n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 + HS
- Camera: 720p HD webcam
- Weight: 4.41 pounds (2,000 grams)
- Size: 13.4 x 9.4 x 0.9 inches (W x D x H)
The Aspire V7 isn't decked out with the latest components, but what the notebook lacks in bleeding edge hardware, it makes up for in value. For $899, users will get a gorgeous 1080p touchscreen and sizable 500GB hard drive with a SSD cache speed boost in addition to the aforementioned parts.
Sadly, the V7 as specced above isn't available to other parts of the world. If you live in the UK, you will only be able to pick up the Aspire V7 with a lower-spec Intel Core i3 chip and a 1366 x 768 resolution screen for £469. Australian folk, meanwhile, can only chose the larger 15.6-inch version of the notebook, which also comes with a disappointingly low resolution 1366 x 768 screen for AU$1,299.
The Lenovo Y40 follows the Aspire V7 very closely, with better specs and a marginally lower $849 (about £526, AU$921) price. The Y40 is also equipped with a very similar 1080p 14-inch – albeit non-touch – display, plus the same amount of RAM. The bonuses of picking the Lenovo Y40 include a faster 2GHz Intel Core i7 processor, 1TB of storage and an AMD Radeon R9 M275X GPU (fairly equivalent to Nvidia's GT 770M).
If a fully decked out Ultrabook is what you desire, and you have the cash to burn, the $1,789 (£1,095, AU$1,907) Asus Zenbook UX301LA might be perfect for you. Between the 2560 x 1440 quad-HD 13.3- inch display and dual 128GB SSDs paired together in Raid 0, the Asus is a high-end machine. The only thing it lacks compared to the Y50 and Aspire V7 is a dedicated graphics chip for serious gaming.
Despite running with average internals, the Aspire V7 had plenty of power handle my daily work load. It did not hitch at all, whether I was browsing through the web across 20 tabs or tweaking images in Lightroom for this review. It even held its own playing modern games like Wolfenstein and Grid Autosport. Although the Aspire V7 can just barely be considered a gaming machine, I was impressed with its performance.
- 3DMark: Ice Storm: 45,720; Cloud Gate: 5,865; Fire Strike: 1,465
- Cinebench CPU: 227 points, Graphics: 55 fps
- PCMark 8 (Home Test): 2,306 points
- PCMark 8 Battery Life: 3 hours and 36 minutes
- BioShock Infinite (1080p, Ultra): 16 fps ; (1080p, Low): 50 fps
- Metro: Last Light (1080p, Ultra): 6 fps; (1080p, Low): 22 fps
The Aspire V7 put up some surprisingly good scores that more than kept in step with the better equipped Lenovo Y40. In the GPU stressing 3DMark test, the Aspire V7 completed the Ice Storm run with 45,720 points, crushing the Lenovo Y40's marks of 22,839 points. The Acer only trailed the Lenovo in the most taxing Fire Strike test, with scores of 1,465 and 1,533 points, respectively.
While playing an actual game, the Acer was able to render BioShock Infinite at 1080p – with all the settings turned up – at 16 fps, beating out the Y40's 14 fps showing. The Lenovo and Acer were neck-and-neck in the Metro: Last Light benchmark, albeit for a terrible score of 6 fps on average.
The Aspire's Intel Core i5 processor also did surprisingly well in the Cinebench CPU test with marks of 227 points. Comparatively, the i7 chips in the respective Lenovo Y40 scored 191 points and the Asus Zenbook UX301LA trounced everyone else, with 240 points.
Bigger isn't better for battery life
While the Acer put on an impressive show of gaming and computing power, it has the shortest battery life of all. The Aspire V7 only lasted for 3 hours and 36 minutes on the PCMark 8 battery test, falling short of the Lenovo Y40's 3 hour and 54 minute performance. The Asus Zenbook UX301LA' battery life lasts well past the two 14-inch machines at 5 hour and 32 minutes, likely thanks to its lack of a dedicated graphics chip.
While the battery test revealed some disappointing results, the Acer does a bit better running real world applications. Over the course of 4 hours and 49 minutes, I managed to stream Judge Dredd on Netflix and write up a portion of this review, while dabbling in some fact checking across 15 tabs split between Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. For my real-world battery test, I also had Google Music playing in the background with the speakers set to 15 and turned the screen brightness up to 35%.
The Aspire V7 will never meet the 6 hour and 45 minute time set by the Zenbook UX301LA. But you will have enough battery power to make it through a long business meeting or work on projects during a long commute.
The biggest highlight of the Acer Aspire V7 is its perfect IPS screen. After a few seconds of looking at it, the screen proves to be vibrant with saturated colors – but not too much so. Excellent viewing angles produce a very clear picture even if you view the display from an oddly skewed angle.
The screen's accurate colors and wide dynamic range make the Acer an excellent machine for working with photos. Meanwhile, those who are less photography-oriented will enjoy the screen for viewing everything from webpages to movies. The laptop's multimedia experience is further bolstered by the tonally rich speakers designed with the help of Dolby.
The only gripe I have with the Aspire V7's display is it suffers the same glaring issue that prevents glossy screens from being viewed in sunlight. The problem isn't too prominent when indoors and can be somewhat amended by turning up the screen brightness, but this sacrifices battery life. The sad truth is glossy screens help produce richer colors, but at the cost of usability in more lighting scenarios
Acer falls into the guilty party of laptop manufacturers that gorge on an abhorrent amount of bloatware, and it's unforgivable with the Aspire V7. Below are just a few of 13 pieces of "bundled" software that come preloaded on the laptop. While most are simply chaff, these are the highlights – everything else should be just uninstalled.
- AcerCloud - Acer has developed it's own cloud service allowing users to store access their PC files remotely from a mobile device.
- Acer clear.fi Photo - A client to upload your photos to Acer's Cloud. While it's a bit obsolete thanks to Flickr, Facebook, Google+, Dropbox and the myriad ways of sharing photos, the silver lining here is Acer's cloud photo app has no limit on file size.
- AcerCloud Docs - Potentially one of the more useful apps giving users an alternative option to buying Microsoft Office, but in reality this docs app only syncs Microsoft Office files to the user's personal cloud.
- Cyberlink MediaEspresso - A free video, music and photo converting app with a slight hint of annoying advertisements.
- Acer Power Management - A power management tool that combines a battery life meter with an activity monitor.
- Acer Recovery Management - Just in case you run into a bad patch or install some faulty drivers, Acer Recovery Management will help you restore the Aspire V7 to factory settings. A useful tool to keep around.
- Acer Crystal Eye - Take selfies with the Aspire V7's webcam adding special effects and other modifications.
- Acer Theft Shield - An useful little application that will help prevent the theft of your notebook through detection with either your Wi-FI network or Android phone.
- Acer USB Charge USB Charge Manager - Setup the Acer Aspire V7 to charge your USB connected devices when sleeping, plus the option to set limits when the laptop's battery level is low.
Acer set out to split the difference between a 14-inch gaming machine with a portable Ultrabook machine, and it's struck a good balance with the Aspire V7. It's one of the slimmest 14-inch laptops around, thanks to its Ultrabook-inspired styling. As just barely a gaming laptop rig, the Acer will play games far better than most ultraportable machines that lack dedicated graphics processing.
The Acer Aspire V7's screen was really love at first sight. After spending some more time with it I was continuously impressed with the display's visual fidelity. I was stunned by the panels sharp resolution and great colors working in Photoshop.
While streaming movies, I was amazed again with the screen's deep blacks, but more importantly, was able to discern details whereas most laptop screens would just produce giant blotches of darkness. Acer has put one of the best laptop screens I've ever seen into the Acer Aspire V7, and photographers as well as media junkies will love it.
An even bigger surprise was the amount of gaming power the Aspire V7 has behind it despite its rather middling components. The machine was able to play a handful of modern games including Wolfenstein at 30 fps, and then at 58 fps with some visual tweaks. Meanwhile, gamers will have an easy time playing the less strenuous gameslike Transistor and The Walking Dead Season 2 at 40fps with their settings turned all the way up.
The Acer Aspire V7 might tip towards the Ultrabook size and weight, but it does not inherit the same long battery life as many small notebooks. With a battery life that maxes out around 5 hours, the Aspire V7 will only last though part of the day, and you will have to make doubly sure to stow the power adapter in their bag.
The amount of bloatware that comes preloaded is also another major issue with the laptop. Users will have to do a lot of application pruning in the Add and Remove Programs tool. It's a small annoyance that can be corrected but ultimately users want a system that they can get instantly comfortable with and not spend time removing adware posing as a computer application.
Anyway you slice it the Acer Aspire V7 is an odd duck in the notebook world. It strikes an interesting compromise giving Ultrabook users a more capable machine while adding a smaller, lighter option for 14-inch laptop lovers. At the same time the Acer has an identity of its own offering users a lot without breaking the bank. WIth a stunning screen and great speakers, it a perfect media viewing device.
The Lenovo Y40 might offer very similar performance for a minor discount. But having handled both laptops, I would pick the Aspire V7 on aesthetics alone. Not to mention that the Lenovo's screen pales in comparison.
Compared to the Asus Zenbook UX301LA, the Acer lags behind in screen resolution, battery life and a few choice parts. However, as benchmark results revealed, the Acer laptop does not actually lag behind too far – and even surpasses the Asus – in games. At the end of the day, the Zenbook UX301LA might last longer, but the Aspire V7 is the more capable mobile machine for your mula.