- Build quality, Case and design and looks
- Keyboard and Trackpad
- Sound and Speakers
- General subjective performance experience
- Gaming Performance
- Thermals, Throttling & Noise handling
- Screen / Screen quality
- Overlocking GTX 860M
- Competing gaming laptops / alternatives
++ Main reason to consider:
The Acer V15 Nitro (VN7-591G) should be the most cost effective 15.6″ gaming laptop for around $1000 with GTX 860M GPU, I7 CPU and 1080p IPS display and at least 8GB RAM and 0.5TB of SSHD. The combination of the 3D performance and extra qualities (Keyboard, display, M.2 port) alongside with a not-so-warm chassis, makes it hard competitor, surpassing the other gaming laptops around $1000 in at least one aspect.
-- Main reason to avoid:
The battery performance is disappointing at that point (could be improved in the future) but other than that, hard to say. I think the main question now is whether will see much better 900M series midrange GPUs soon, replacing the 860M GPU.
- Screen max brightness is not very high for such a premium laptop - New VN7-591G versions have brighter display
|Price||Basic version: ~$850 (Czech, no VAT)|
Test unit with 120GB SSD, I7, 16GB RAM: $1150-$1200 (Czech, no VAT)
|CPU||I7-4710HQ (2.5GHZ-3.5GHZ, 47W)|
|GPU||Nvidia Geforce GTX 860M 2GB GDDR5, core@1097MHZ, GDDR5@1250MHZ (5GHZ effective)|
|RAM||Kingston 2x8GB DDR3@800MHZ|
|Storage||SSD (OS) : KINGSTON RBU-SNS8100S3128GD 128GB SSD (M.2)|
HDD : WDC WD10JPVX-22JC3T0 1TB 5400RPM HDD (non-SSHD)
|LCD Panel||In review: 1080p 15.6", LG Display LP156WF4-SPK1. IPS, 30-pin eDP, 80/80/80/80 viewing angles. |
|Weight / Dimensions||~2.4kg / 5.3 lbs|
389.6mm x 257.5mm x 21.9-23.9mm
15.34" x 10.14" x 0.86-0.94"
(w x d x h)
|Keyboard||red backlit, on/off (no levels)|
|Connection Ports||right side: 3xUSB 3.0, power connection, microphone/headphones, ethernet, HDMI (1.3)|
Front: card reader
Left: Kensington lock
|WiFi / Ethernet||WiFi: Atheros Communications AR5BWB222 Wireless Network Adapter (AR9462), 300Mbps, 2-stream|
Ethernet: RealTek Semiconductor RTL8168/8111 PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet NIC
|Speakers||4.0 speakers at the bottom|
|Battery||3 cell, 52Wh|
|Bios / EC version (test unit)||1.06 / 1.10|
So, Acer released their new VN7 Nitro “black edition” gaming laptops series. The series includes currently the 15.6″ (VN7-591G) and 17.3″ (VN7-791G). This is a review of the Acer Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition model (VN-591G-76L9). The new 15.6″ V15 Nitro gaming laptop is no question battling the Lenovo Y50 for the $1000 15.6″ gaming laptop crown in both 3D performance specs, looks and qualities. All models come with a GTX 860M GPU, at least 8GB RAM and 0.5TB SSHD. The I7 equipped version should cost in the US around $1000 judging by Czech prices. Remember that my model comes with a 120GB M.2 SSD and 16GB RAM – there should be cheaper models.
I wanted to test the I7 model this time, unlike many of the other reviews (MSI GE40, Y50 I5, Y510p) because the price for the specs seems very good and also I wanted to check if Acer did anything different in the thermal department with this machine or is it diseased by the thermal issues of some other $900-$1000 gaming laptops like the Y50. The Acer VN7 Black edition mainly follows the Lenovo Y50 and tried to occupy its niche : a 15.6″ high performance gaming laptop with some premium features (speakers, display), good looks and for around the same price – it actually seems to me like it should have been called the Acer Y50. We’ll see in the review what Acer could make out of it.
This specific model comes with an I7-4710HQ CPU, GTX 860M 2GB GDDR5 GPU, 16GB DDR3, 1080p IPS display and 120GB Kingston SSD + 1TB HDD and costs around $1400/$1160 (VAT/no VAT) in Czech which should translate to around the same price without VAT in the US – see Y50 I5/N550JK I5 for $950 w/o VAT in Czech. This makes this model a very interesting offering as an I7 model with an SSHD and 8GB RAM (vs 16GB) should cost less than that (around $1000-$1050?), like the Y50 I7 model, only it comes with a built-in IPS display which is a big advantage.
Moreover, the cheaper $900 (w/o VAT, Czech) I5-4200H model comes with a 1TB SSHD which is great too and otherwise it’s all the same, which makes it a very competitive gaming laptop too, even compared to US prices where you can get the Y50 I5 version, but with a lousy screen and that’s before coupons / deals.
However, the release is a bit strange to me due to the fact there isn’t a lot of information on Acer site and also, these models come rather late to the Maxwell GPU gaming laptops party with new Nvidia mobile GPUs in the horizon with new Maxwell II architecture, with some already available (GTX 970M / 980M). It just might be that Acer knows something that we don’t which will alien well with the fact that Asus also released some new models with GTX 860M.
Let’s see how’s the Acer V15 Nitro fares as a $1000 gaming laptop.
The build quality of the Acer V15 Nitro is mixed. The V15 is all plastic (not there is anything bad with it). The lid cover has a strips finish. The base itself and the palm rest are firm, but the keyboard surface yields a bit – nothing to be alarmed of, though. The screen hinges do give some “cricking” sounds, but it’s only the hinges plastic cover and the hinges themselves are not easily flexed and do not feel weak to me. The bezel around the screen panel rigidity is above average, but the outer lid itself will yield under light pressure, like in many other laptops, but unlike the Lenovo Y50. The touchpad has some space on the edges, allowing dust to settle and do stuff, that’s not good.
Overall, I would say that the Acer V15 build quality is average for gaming laptops in this price range – nothing to be thrilled about or be afraid of. It has no major drawbacks, except the hinges plastic quality which I think it more for visuals.
The Acer V15 Nitro Black Edition has a solid clean but modern looks. It’s all plastic, with a nice smooth non-shining texture. It’s not the plastic time that catches finger steins. Most of the V15 is black (at least this model) with the back ventilation holes and hinges covered by silver plastic. The screen outer lid has a nice stripes finish.
Maintenance and inner parts
Well, maintenance is a minus of the V15 Nitro. There is no maintenance back panel you could remove and see the inner parts, instead, you would need to pull up the upper surface (you’ll need something like a credit card to separate the bottom and upper parts) and then you can raise the keyboard surface to around 30 degrees and see some what’s going on inside, but it’s not over. Now, you’ll have to fit your hands in the space between the motherboard and keyboard surface and disconnect some cable (touchpad, keyboard and some other thing), raise it a little bit and disconnect some more cable. Finally, you could access the whole motherboard, M.2 drive and WiFi card, only you’ll need the other side of it if you want to access the RAM and that includes removing some screws and more cable. You see, it’s not too easy (though not impossible).
The CPU and GPU are not replaceable, leading me to wonder what will Acer do with all these models when the new Nvidia GPUs pop up (hopefully soon).
Keyboard. It took me time to get used to it and at first I thought it’s not that good, but after getting used to it it feels pretty good, especially the subtle keys tactile feedback which is quite good for my taste, though again – you’ll have to get used to this keyboard and some might feel the feedback should higher. Many thought the Y50 keyboard was good (though I didn’t think so, but it might be a problem of my test unit as it seems that many people thought differently, see Y50 update) and I find the V15 keyboard to be better. Moreover, keys are well spaced and for those who want the full numpad, it’s there.
One thing that may annoy some is that the keys does not firmly held and if you click a key on its edge it might not result in an input. The Lenovo Y40 keyboard, for example, is much better in this aspect. However, as I said, after you get used to it, it’s pretty nice.
Noise is low. The keyboard surface, as mentioned before, can yield a bit under pressure, but it didn’t happen to me while typing, so it’s not that of problem. I would say that the keyboard is definitely above average and very nice to use.
Touchpad. It’s a Synaptics touchpad. Until I’ve updated the drivers, the touchpad acted strangely, with delays and cursor jumps. It became much better after the update. There still seem to be some annoying delay from the moment you touch it till it start responding and it seems to me like some kind of driver configuration, but the V15 did not come with the Synaptics touchpad control panel and I can’t easily change the behavior too much.
Anyway, the touchpad is currently only average. It’s large enough, but the hitting precise point on the screen is a bit of a mission as your finger would get “stack” when trying to do gentle movements – the touchpad surface is too rough or something and/or the drivers are not well set to handle this problem (I guess they could identify such cases and prevent them to some high degree).
So, for now don’t expect a lot from the touchpad. It’s ok for general use like clicking on icons and stuff, but don’t try make a surgery with it.
The Acer V15 comes with four speakers facing the bottom of the laptop. The sound quality itself is actually rather good with good mids and lows for a laptop and good bass. I could really enjoy music with it. It’s not great, though. First, it feels like the sound lacks some depth in the high tones, but I’m not sure about it, but more than that, the fact that the speakers are facing downwards and the audio comes from the bottom make it muffled and it sounds like the speakers are closed in a box. That’s unfortunate since the speakers quality is not bad. Also, there is some kind of hiss from one of the speakers in my specific laptop – I don’t know if it’s a general problem of the model. Anyway, you could really enjoy it.
With the M.2 Kingston SSD ensures responsiveness of the V15 (though it’s not a high performance SSD, mind you). Booting is very fast and takes only few second. Otherwise, the feeling with this machine is very good even when using “Power Saver” power mode.
OS is Windows 8.1 fully updated and drivers in use are the Nvidia 344.11. This model comes with the Nvidia 333.17 drivers, but with a modded inf file you can install the newer 344.11 drivers. Haven’t test the differences in performance nor stability, though.
All the games I’ve tested have been tested on 1080p resolution only. Currently no higher resolution devices are available to me and frankly, I don’t think that there is need for more than 1080p for 15.6″ or maybe a little more than that, like 2560×1440 or 2560×1600 should be perfect for gaming, at most.
Finally, some games are removed from the benchmarks for this kind of laptops, games like LoL, Dota2, Team Fortress 2 as they are all run on more than enough FPSs and more interesting as benchmarks for lower 3D power laptops.
Borderlands 2 runs smoothly on highest settings with Physx on highest settings at 1080p resolution. Minimal FPSs is 31 and it’s under the most pressing scene, with a lot of stuff exploding and flying in the air, usually you’ll get much higher FPSs.
Crysis 3 runs well on high settings @ 1080p with SMAAx2. Furthermore, from my experience, it’s pretty smooth even on “very high” settings, but I see no reason to use these settings over “high” really.
Skyrim is no problem for the I7 + GTX 860M at 1080p. Setting Ambient Occlusion on “quality” via the Nvidia control center makes the game jittery even on simple scenes with high FPS, so it probably doesn’t work well together and better not use it.
You can see that the highest performance hit in Thief comes from SSAA and setting it on low or “off” results in much higher FPSs and smoother gameplay.
These are the same results we’ve seen before with other GTX 860M equipped laptops. Better use “Ultra settings” or “high” instead of “Extreme”
Very high settings are a bit too much for a GTX 860M in BF4 Campaign, though the gameplay itself was rather ok. I would try “High” settings which result in a very smooth gameplay and climb up from there (add MSAA for example)
Stress tests and throttling behavior
Thermals are pretty good with the Acer V15, given the noise levels. Acer chose more or less the same path of the Lenovo Y50 – keep it cool just enough for most heavy work to get done without throttle, so the noise levels are kept low. This is a reasonable default approach for my taste and as the graphs show, while gaming (Crysis 3), the V15 Nitro is kept cool enough and CPU not get throttled. However, I do think that it is essential that there was some fan control.
1. Idle, power saver mode
2. Crysis 3 gameplay, “very high” settings with SMAAx2 at 1080p resolution. “High performance” power mode.
3. Prime95 torture test. “High performance” power mode.
4. Prime95 + Furmark on 1280×720 test. “High performance” power mode.
Throttling takes place, but only under full load of Prime95 torture test and Furmark. While gaming, even long one, the V15 CPU gets hot, and clocks are kept around 3GHZ and up. If needed, a deliberate throttling with ThrottleStop 6.00 could prevent some overheating, but it should also take place automatically.
Most of the case itself remains rather cool even under high load situation (Prime95), with only the ventilation holes and narrow surface around the “F” keys and number keys on the upper part of the keyboard are lightly warm, but nothing you would consider as annoying and you’d probably barely notice it at all. Acer did a good job with managing the heat out of the laptop without warming the whole machine.
Noise is very low. Under light load the laptop’s is virtually close to silent. Even at night when it’s quiet, you could barely hear it from close distance.
Under full load or heavy gaming load, the V15 is very quiet also, to a point where you could easily listen to quiet music with it. You could barely consider it as a noise. Acer did a very good job at that, though I wish there was some fans control anyway, as said before.
The Acer V15 Nitro comes with an LG LP156WF4-SPK1 IPS 1080p display. This is a high(er) quality display and an advantage of the Acer V15 which comes with an IPS display even in the cheapest models. My subjective experience is that it is a very good display, but not the highest quality of the IPS level displays. The viewing angles are pretty good and although they are only 80 degrees, officially, it seems to me that the main thing that changes when you tilt the screen is the brightness / light emissions, but colors remain good. Contrast looks good too me too and brightness high enough for mild lighting – you’ll probably have some difficulty seeing stuff in sunlight.
Viewing angles :
Sorry for the low image quality, but you can that colors barely changed when tilting.
The Spyder4Elite readings I got show lower values than the official stated values which are 300cd/m^2 for brightness and 1:700 for contrast. The readings say 1:700 contrast levels and not more than 200cd/m^2 brightness level. It might be something with my measurements or variance in the panel itself, but I saw 300cd/m^2 brightness displays and they are brighter than this one. Anyway, subjectively, the brightness is sufficient for a non-direct sunlight use as I’m using it outdoors in such conditions. Contrast is very good at 1:700 with very low black levels even at 100% brightness and it shows – black 1080p image looks black even at 100% brightness.
Color accuracy is not great actually, even after calibration, but not that bad either.
The Acer V15 Nitro GPU does not really get throttled even if the CPU does, so this is a good idea to try and overclock it in case you want to squeeze a little more 3D juice out of it.
I’ve used MSI AfterBurner (version 4.0 currently) to do that and these are the settings:
1. 860M core@1232MHZ (+135MHZ overclock) which is around 12.3% overclock
2. 860M GDDR5@1375MHZ or 5.5GHZ effective, which is 10% overclock over the stock speed.
Let’s see the results:
You can see that although that at least 10% CPU/GPU overclocking was performed, some games do not see any difference in the specific settings which were very high and games were GPU bound. This is due to the fact that there are more parameters that influence the performance in GPU and out of it, like the software efficiency (the game in this case , and the OS).
Battlefield 4 actually does see around 12% performance advantage (tested several times to make sure) which corresponds almost completely to the 12.3% core overclocking. So, it is a good idea to try overclocking the GPU in BF4 or similar games and actually, whenever you feel you want a little more. Just make sure you’re not over-overclocking. I would stay with 10-15% overclocking if you don’t want to play with it too much.
- It seems to me that running Prime95 and Furmark alltogether resulted time after time in the WiFi disconnecting. It didn’t occured while gaming, though
- As mentioned before, the fans are bit limited in their maximal spinning speed.
Well, the new Acer V15 Nitro / VN7-591G gaming laptop deliver quite a blow. For around $1000, the V15 I7 version [probably] comes with an I7-4710HQ, GTX 860M GPU, 8GB RAM, 1TB SSHD and an 1080p IPS.
This price is a projection of Czech prices, but I think it’s a reasonable speculation (starting price: $1100 for the I7 + SSHD version, see availability above). So, for this price you get the same performance as other 15.6″ gaming laptops, but also an IPS display.
The V15 have some extra qualities : It remains quiet under load, the chasis barely gets hot even under load, the speakers are above average and the keyboard is rather good. Moreover, the V15 has an M.2 port for SSDs, which many other gaming laptops lack, like the Y50, Asus N550 or GL551 and more. All these qualities give a good advantage for the V15 over all of the other $1000 gaming laptops in one aspect or another, without being slower in the 3D front.
Although this is the I7 version review, the I5 model should be very interesting too and even more cost effective in terms of gaming performance, again judging by the starting prices and Czech prices, you should be able to see it for around $850-$900 which is a very good price for such a machine.
However, the v15 has at least one downside which is significant – the battery performance. Unclear to me why, but under light load, the power consumption can get a little too high, resulting in 3-4 hours tops of battery running times. That’s not too bad, but with some youtube running and “balanced” power mode for higher responsiveness in some application (like photoshop), you could easily go down to 2.5-3 hours of battery running times. I think it’s fixable somehow, at least from the part of Acer which could release some updates as it seems to me that as soon as I open some web browser or doing some minor activity, the power consumption goes up from 8 to 13-14W just like that, with CPU nearly on the lowest power consumption, according to HWInfo. It might be a WiFi thing too. Also, the VN7-791G (17.3″ model) got better battery running times (though not a lot better) of 3.5 hours web browsing.
But what bugs me more is that the new Nvidia mobile GPU series should be here soon. The higher performance GTX 970M and 980M GPUs are already listed in some countries outside the US (Europe and Asia), and I wonder what will be the place of the GTX 860M in such a place, unless Acer knows something we don’t or simply don’t care. It just might be that the new midrange mobile GPUs are a mere rebrand of the 860M and in this case, the performance will stay more or less the same, but it’s hard to believe it’s the case. We’ll probably see some updated version and I’d say that currently, it’s better to avoid getting new gaming laptop with a 860M – wait until the end of 2014 to see what happens.
Bottom line, for an $1000 15.6″ gaming laptop, the Acer V15 would probably be my first recommendation simply because of the performance/price ratio, the default IPS display and the M.2 port, both of them are not apparent in the Lenovo Y50, currently.