Acer Aspire V3 review
Blistering application pace, but this giant laptop can't compete on any other front
Next to the latest crop of high-power laptops, the Acer Aspire V3 (part code: NX.M9VEK.001) looks dated. It's a beefy laptop, with a huge 17.3in display and a cheap-feeling champagne-and-black plastic chassis – it isn't a patch on the svelte Apple MacBook Pro or the excellent Samsung Series 7 Chronos.
However, there's no doubt this 17.3in desktop replacement is a machine from 2013: it includes one of Intel's factory-fresh Haswell processors. In fact, it's the first big laptop we've seen with a Haswell chip, and the Core i7-4702QM packs a punch. It's a quad-core chip with Hyper-Threading, so it appears to the operating system as eight virtual cores, and its 2.2GHz stock speed rises dynamically to 3.2GHz with Turbo Boost.
This particular Core i7 CPU is one of Intel's weakest quad-core Haswell parts, but that wasn't obvious in our performance tests. The Acer's application benchmark score of 0.94 is exemplary: it's slightly quicker than the Samsung Series 7 Chronos, which scored 0.9 in the same tests.
The Haswell processor is partnered by a discrete graphics core – an Nvidia GeForce GT 750M. This returned an excellent score of 63fps in our 1,600 x 900 Medium quality Crysis test, and at the Acer's native resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 it returned a just-about-playable 28fps – enough gaming power for anyone.
The rest of the specification is suitably high-end. Twelve gigabytes of RAM is more than we see in most desktops, let alone laptops, and there's a Blu-ray drive – an increasingly rare commodity in laptops. Connectivity is handled by dual-band 802.11n wireless, Bluetooth 4 and Gigabit Ethernet, and the 1TB hard disk provides ample storage. There's only one downside – it isn't an SSD. The drive's sequential read and write speeds of 95MB/sec and 93MB/sec are sluggish compared to the MacBook's 256GB SSD.
We expect powerful laptops to suffer away from the mains, but Haswell processors are designed for efficiency as well as power, and the Acer put in a surprisingly good showing in our tests. You probably won't want to lug the 3.2kg V3 around much, but when you do, you'll get reasonable battery life. Despite its high-power components, the Acer lasted for 5hrs 54mins in our light-use test.
The 17.3in, 1,920 x 1,080 panel isn't as impressive. There's no touch support, and quality is mixed. It's bright, at 392cd/m2, but despite decent contrast of 712:1, the overall impression isn't great. The biggest problem is poor colour accuracy: the Acer's average Delta E of 7.5 is way off, and makes images look flat and insipid.
The Acer's ergonomics are equally mixed. The Scrabble-tile keyboard has a solid base, and there's plenty of consistent travel on each key. The keys are full-sized, too, and there's room for a number pad. The touchpad is average, however, lacking the premium feel of the Samsung's, and Windows 8's edge-swipe gestures worked inconsistently.
On the positive side, there's plenty of connectivity, with pairs of USB 2 and headphone connectors on the right-hand side, two USB 3 sockets on the left-hand edge and both D-SUB and HDMI display outputs. The front edge houses an SD card slot, and there's enough upgrade potential to keep tinkerers happy.
The battery can be removed and replaced, and removing the large panel on the Aspire's underside reveals two SODIMM memory modules, the Wi-Fi adapter and a 2.5in hard disk. All of these can be replaced, and there's even room to expand, with a second 2.5in hard disk bay and one free mini PCI Express slot.
That's one reason you might consider the Acer Aspire V3 over the Samsung Series 7 Chronos. The other is the price, which at £799 is reasonable for such a powerful laptop. On every other count, though, it lags behind, with poorer display quality, shorter battery life and a cheaper design.
|Price ex VAT||£666|
|Price inc VAT||£799|
|Features & Design||3|
|Value for Money||4|
|Warranty||1 yr return to base|
|Dimensions||415 x 275 x 41mm (WDH)|
Processor and memory
|Processor||Intel Core i7-4702QM|
|SODIMM sockets free||0|
|SODIMM sockets total||2|
Screen and video
|Resolution screen horizontal||1,920|
|Resolution screen vertical||1,080|
|Resolution||1920 x 1080|
|Graphics chipset||Nvidia GeForce GT 750M|
|VGA (D-SUB) outputs||1|
|Optical drive||Blu-ray reader|
|Replacement battery price inc VAT||£0|
|Wired adapter speed||1,000Mbits/sec|
|802.11 draft-n support||yes|
|Integrated 3G adapter||no|
|USB ports (downstream)||2|
|3.5mm audio jacks||2|
|SD card reader||yes|
Battery and performance tests
|Battery life, light use||5hr 54min|
|Battery life, heavy use||51min|
|3D performance (crysis) low settings||115fps|
|3D performance setting||Low|
|Overall Real World Benchmark score||0.94|
Operating system and software
|Operating system||Windows 8 64-bit|
|OS family||Windows 8|