Acer Aspire V 15 Nitro VN7-571G review with Broadwell hardware

If you’re in the market for a thin and light multimedia laptop with a full-size 15.6 inch screen, the Acer Aspire V 15 Nitro models should be on your list.

In this article we’re having a detailed look at the V 15 Nitro VN7-571G model built on the recently launched Intel Broadwell hardware platform, a device you’ll find in stores for the most part of 2015 (in a slightly upgraded configuration though, as you’ll see in the Prices and Availability chapter).

We are however talking about Broadwell U low-power CPUs powering this notebook and not full-voltage processors like on most other multimedia laptops (including Acer’s VN7-591G series), which means that this particular model is meant to strike a fine balance between solid everyday performance, an affordable price tag and long battery life, when needed.

Does it succeed? Well, stick with me till the end of this review and you’ll find out.

Keep in mind: This test unit is a media sample received from Acer and NOT the final release unit, that should hit the stores around March. Hence, there are a few configuration differences between this review model and what’s going to be available on shelves. Also, with Broadwell fresh on the market and immature drivers right now, expect somewhat better performance from those final units.

The specs sheet for the Acer V 15 Nitro

Asus V 15 Nitro VN70-571G-70MR Screen 15.6 inch, 1920 x 1080 px resolution, IPS, matte Processor Intel Broadwell Core i7-5500U CPU Video integrated Intel 5500 HD + Nvidia GeForce GTX 850M 4GB GDDR5 Memory 12 GB DDR3 Storage 256 GB SSD (M.2) and 1 TB HDD (2.5″ 7 mm bay) Connectivity Wireless N, Bluetooth 4.0, Gigabit Lan Ports 3xUSB 3.0, SD card reader, HDMI, RJ45, Kensington Lock, Optical Drive Battery 52.5 Wh 4605 mAh Operating system Windows 8.1 Size 390 mm or 15.31 in (L) x 257 mm or 10.12 in (W) x 24 mm or 0.94 in (H) Weight about 2.2 kg (4.85 pounds) Extras red backlit keyboard, 4 speakers, Blu-Ray combo

Retail units will ship in several different configurations. The top model (which is also the closest to the one reviewed here) will come with 16 GB of RAM, Nvidia GTX 950M graphics and a Wi-Fi AC capable wireless module. All the other specs will rest the same.

Design and exterior

I’m a big fan of simple and clean laptops and this Acer V 15 Nitro is to the most part, one of them. Its case is almost entirely made from matte, rubbery, black plastic, with a strip of chromed plastic used for the rear, around the screen’s hinges and the exhaust grill. There’s also an Aspire V Nitro engraving on this element, but that’s pretty much the only flashy part you’ll find on the laptop. That and the chrome Acer Logo on the hood.

On the other hand, some might say this laptop does not rise to its competitors when it comes to the choice in materials used for the outer shell. Well, there’s some truth in that, since most manufacturers rely heavily on metal these days. But really, that did not bother me at all, because Acer actually went for some good quality plastic on their machine, coupled with proper craftsmanship. As a result, the V 15 Nitro feels strong (there’s still some squeaking when grabbing the laptop a bit firmer though), grippy (especially the textured lid-cover) and is nicely polished, with no rough edges or sharp corners. And there are at least a few advantages to choosing plastic over aluminum: better heat management and reduced weight.

The black finishing does have one annoying gripe though: smudges and fingerprints are going to be a continuous pain, both on the belly and on the palm-rest, but that’s something you’ll just have to live with if you want a black machine.

Out of the box, the laptop’s overall beauty is somewhat hindered by all the stickers on the palm-rest and the display’s bezel. You can peel them off (carefully though, so you won’t scratch the smooth finishing), but I would have been happier if they weren’t there in the first place.

That aside, there’s little to complain here. There’s a full-size keyboard and trackpad, a spacious palm-rest and plenty of ports on the sides. In fact, there’s even an optical drive (a Blu-Ray combo in our case), which occupies most of the left edge, alongside a Kensington Lock, while all the other IO elements are on the right edge: the headphone/mic jack, 3 USB 3.0 slots, HDMI output, a Lan port and the PSU. There are also two discrete LEDs here, one showing the laptop’s current state (active, stand-by, etc) and one showing the battery’s charging state, when the power tip is connected.

There’s no type of DisplayPort, which means you’ll have problems driving a 4K monitor properly from this laptop, but that aside, you’ve got all the ports you’d need. Oh, there’s also a card-reader on the front lip, btw, covered by a protective plastic cap (doesn’t fit flush an SD card).

However, having all the ports on the right-edge can get annoying if you’re one of those users who connect multiple peripherals to their machine, as it will overcrowd this side where most of us usually keep our mouse (great for the lefties among you!). That’s not such a big deal, but it’s something Acer should have designed better imo.

I should also add that this laptop is fairly compact and light for a full-size machine with a 15 incher. It does not play in the same league as the premium 15 incher, like the Dell XPS 15 or the Asus Zenbook NX500, but it’s almost there, as it weighs just under 5 lbs and is less than an inch thick.

Now, flipping the laptop upside down, you’ll spot the air intake and exhaust grills, the proper sized rubber feet and the speaker cuts. Unfortunately Acer did not include a service bay on this laptop, which means that accessing the internals is a bit difficult. For that you’ll need to take care of a dozen of Philips screws on the belly, so again, not a big deal, just something that could have been easier. I didn’t have enough time to pry this open myself, but this post shows you how it’s done (that’s a dissemble guide of the 591G series, but the 571G can be opened in a similar way). Keep in mind that once you’ll unscrew the screws, you’ll have to open the laptop from the inside, lifting the keyboard and palm-rest area, unlike most other ultrabooks that are opened by removing the bottom shell.

Once in, you’ll find that the two storage drives are upgradeable. There’s the M.2 stick on the left, as you’re looking at the machine, and the 2.5 inch bay on the bottom right (careful on how you’ll remove that ribbon that goes over it). The 571G model relies on a single fan for cooling and the memory modules (there are two of them) are hidden behind the motherboard, so you’ll need to unscrew and take it out it in order to get to them.

Keyboard and trackpad

With all those out of the way, let’s get back to the keyboard.

You probably noticed by now that Acer went for a full set of keys, including a NumPad area. The layout is pretty standard, with proper sized keys (15 x 15 mm), big Shift, Enter and Backspace keys, slightly smaller Function and NumPad keys at the top and right side and a slightly taller row of keys on the bottom. This particular layout does opt for somewhat cramped directional keys though, which will take some time to get used to.

The typing experience is alright. Not great, just alright, and that’s mostly because the keys’ travel is short. Despite that, once I got used to the shallow stroke, I was able to type in this review easily, with very few typos.

The keyboard is also backlit with red LEDs and there’s no intensity setting, you can just activate and deactivate the illumination by hitting FN + F9.

The clickpad sits below the Space key and is both spacious and properly separated from the palm-rest around, slightly deepened into the frame. Its surface is a little rough and it seems to me like it’s made of plastic, and not glass like on most modern laptops. I might be wrong though. Despite that, the trackpad is fairly accurate and supports gestures, but it’s not always as precise as I wanted. It handled daily swipes and taps fine, but it somewhat struggled with very fine swipes and actions that require precision, like positioning the cursor on top of a small radio box or button. So you might end up using a mouse most of the time. I for one did.

Screen

The screen on the other hand is one of the laptop’s strong selling points, with two minor exceptions though.

First, the good parts: Acer went for a 15.6 inch IPS panel with a matte finishing and 1920 x 1080 px resolution. That means this is not a touchscreen, but also won’t have to deal with any glare or reflections in strong light. The panel offers solid contrast, decent brightness for indoor use and nice looking colors. The resolution is imo good enough for a mid-range 15 incher. Yes, you won’t get the increased sharpness of higher density displays, but you won’t have to live with their shortcomings either.

However, once you put a colorimeter on this screen (I’m using a Spyder4Elite), you’ll notice that the colors are a bit skewed. That’s hardly visible with the bare eye, but a calibration will really make a difference if you need an accurate panel, as you can see from the numbers below.

  • Panel HardwareID: LG Philips LGD0443;
  • Coverage: 91% sRGB, 68% NTSC, 71% Adobe RGB;
  • measured gamma: 2.2 ;
  • max brightness in the middle of the screen: 189 cd/m2;
  • contrast at max brightness: 720:1;
  • white point: 6200 K;
  • black on max brightness: 0.26 cd/m2;
  • average DeltaE: 6.09 uncalibrated, 1.58 calibrated .

screen-brightness

They also prove something you can actually notice yourself if you take the laptop in a bright room: this display is rather dim, with a max brightness of just around 200 nits. As long as you keep it inside with no direct light coming onto the screen, that’s going to be enough, but if you need to take it outside, expect to struggle.

As a final note, the screen leans back to 160-170 degrees, which is great, especially since colors and contrast degradation is noticeable when you’re not looking at it straight-on, despite it packing an IPS panel. The screen-ensemble is hold in place by two hinges, which seem sturdy enough, although a bit undersized for my liking. Hopefully they’ll handle the test of time well.

To wrap it up, I believe most of you will be more than happy with the display on this Aspire V Nitro. Just keep in mind these shortcomings mentioned above and make sure you’re OK with them before buying the laptop.

Hardware, performance and upgrade options

We have the Acer Aspire V 15 Nitro VN7-571G-70MR version here for this review, a model sold in Europe that might have a slightly different code name elsewhere.

The reviewed configuration includes an Intel Core i7-5500U Broadwell processor (2.4 GHz, 3.0 GHz TurboBoost), 12 GB of RAM (one 4 GB DIMM, one 8 GB DIMM), Nvidia GTX 850M graphics with 4 GB of video memory and a dual-storage solution (one M.2 80mm LiteON L8T-256L9G stick and one 2.5″ 9.5 mm Western Digital WD10JPVX-22JC3T0 1 TB 5400 rpm HDD).

This bundle is more than capable of handling everyday activities and all sorts of multimedia content. It boots from cold in under 10 seconds, thanks to the fast SSD inside, and resumes from sleep in under 2 seconds. It also loads programs and apps fast and can handle games fairly well.

However, there are two important things you must understand if you plan to buy this laptop.

There’s only a 15W Broadwell U processor powering it, so if you do need solid performance in demanding applications (like Photoshop, Premiere, Eclipse, VMWare, etc), don’t expect this to perform as fast as a laptop with a full-voltage hardware platform would. The 45W Broadwell line hasn’t been released yet at the time of this review, but will be available later this year. So if you do like this laptop but need more processing power, you should either wait for that update or go for one of the Haswell models available right now (the Acer V 15 Nitro Black Edition VN7-591G models).

The Intel Core i7-5500U is still a capable CPU, but as part of a low-power platform it can only do that much, so make sure you get that and adjust your expectations accordingly.

On the other hand, opting for such a platform allows this Acer laptop to run fairly cool and quiet in everyday use, while lasting longer on a charge than a laptop with full-voltage processors would. But more about those in a sec.

The second aspect you should consider regards the Nvidia graphics: the GTX 850M chip is only a mainstream solution and not a high-end performer. That means it can handle most games, even the latest titles, but not on the highest detail levels. And that’s proven by the results I got in several different titles, listed below.

19 x 10 Medium 19 x 10 Medium on battery 19 x 10 Ultra / Very High Dirt 3 67 fps – 33 fps Grid 2 76 fps – 34 fps Tomb Raider 66 fps 45 fps 20 fps NFS Most Wanted 44 fps – 30 fps Bioshock Infinite 49 fps 46 fps 25 fps Metro Last Light 36 fps 30 fps 13 fps Farcry 4 32 fps – 18 fps

I also ran a couple of benchmarks on this Acer V 15 Nitro laptop and the numbers are below.

  • 3DMark 11: P3988;
  • 3DMark 13: Ice Storm – 44042, Cloud Gate -9515, Sky Driver – 8486, Fire Strike – 2608;
  • PCMark 08: Home Conventional – 2659;
  • CineBench 11.5: OpenGL 51.25 fps, CPU 3.07 pts, CPU Single Core 1.41 pts;
  • CineBench R15: OpenGL 78.69 fps, CPU 278 cb, CPU Single Core 122 cb.

These are about 10% lower than those recorded in my previous test of the i7-5500U processor and I’m not exactly sure why this happens, but I have a few things in mind: immature drivers, an early implementation (don’t forget this is a sample, not a final retail unit) or the amount of bloatware onboard.

The inner components do tend to reach rather high temperatures under load, but even so, minor throttling only occurs when playing very demanding games, and even in that case, it doesn’t lead to frame drops or any noticeable effects whatsoever.

I did notice there’s a fair amount of bloatware installed on the computer and that might take its toll. So if you do decide to buy this Acer laptop, make sure to clean up all that nonsense (the Acer apps should go, the CyberLink programs, and the McAfee and Office trials as well).

Last but not least, I’ve stressed the computer with Prime95 and Furmark as well, just to see how the hardware handles extreme loads, and I’ve noticed no throttling at all, corroborated with correct inner temperatures, as illustrated by the following images.

Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers and others

However, the laptop does get hotter when playing games for hours, especially demanding titles like FarCry 4 or Metro Last Light, which leads to both higher inner and outer temperatures, but also some throttling, like I already mentioned above. Check out the case temperatures measured in several different conditions.

temperature-dailyuse temperature-load temperature-gaming

*Daily Use – 1080p Youtube video in IE for 30 minutes; *Gaming – Need For Speed: Most Wanted on High for 30 minutes *Load – Prime 95 + Furmark for 30 minutes

The fan inside spins fast under load and can get a bit noisy as well (47-48dB at 50 cm from the laptop, with my iPhone app). But as long as you don’t push the laptop too much, nor the noise or the temperatures are going to pose any problems. In fact, with light load the fan will turn OFF completely and the only thing you’ll hear is the mechanical hard-drive’s occasional rumbling.

The speakers are able to cover all this noise easily. Acer went for 4 speakers on this laptop, placed on the belly, and they produce loud and fairly good quality sound. Don’t expect anything sensational, but for movies and gaming, the audio system will do fine. If you want more though, you’ll have to rely on some proper headphones.

Connectivity wise, there’s Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and Gigabit Lan on this V 15 Nitro. Not much to comment on the latter two, but I do have to add a few words on the first. Acer went for an Atheros module that only supports up to 802.11N speeds and as long as you’re close to your router, you’ll have nothing to complain about signal strength and download speeds. However, once I got a bit further away from the router (about 30 feet – 10 m with 2 walls in between, the place where I test all the laptops), the signal dropped to only 2 bars in Windows and I could only get transfer speeds of up to 40 mbps. That wasn’t bad enough to influence my browsing experience in any noticeable way, but if you have dodgy Wireless signal in your home, this is something you must be aware of.

Last but not least, the laptop comes with a 720p webcam, placed on top of the screen, which produces very muddy pics. Will do for an occasional Skype call, but that’s about it.

Battery life

Acer went for a 52.5 Wh battery on this machine, which is of course encased, but can be easily removed and replaced once you gain access to the internals. On the other hand, if you’re one of those persons who disconnects the battery when having the device plugged in, you won’t be able to do it in this case.

Regardless, this Broadwell powered V 15 Nitro is able to last for quite a long while on a charge. Check out some numbers below (the screen’s 60% brightness equals about 120 nits):

  • 3.6 W (~14 h of use) – idle, Power Saving Mode, screen at 0%, Wi-Fi OFF;
  • 7 W (~7 h 30 minutes of use) – light browsing and text editing in Google Drive, Balanced Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
  • 7.5 W (~7 h of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Internet Explorer, Balanced Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
  • 9 W (~5 h 40 min of use) – 1080p fullscreen .mkv video in VLC Player, Balanced Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
  • 10 W (~5 h 15 minutes of use) – medium-heavy browsing in Internet Explorer, Balanced Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
  • 37 W (~1 h 30 minutes of use) – running the Metro Last Light benchmark, scene D3 on a loop, High Performance Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON.

Battery life while gaming can be further tweaked by activating Battery Boost from the Nvidia GeForce Experience application.

Overall the V 15 Nitro with this Broadwell i7 processor will last for between 5 to 7-8 hours on daily use, but this greatly depends on how and what you’re running on it. Even so, that’s definitely not bad.

Acer bundles the laptop with a 90W power brick that charges the battery completely in just under 3 hours. The brick is paired with very long cables, so you shouldn’t have any problem getting the needed juice even if you’re a bit further away from the wall.

Price and availability

The Broadwell U versions of the Acer V 15 Nitro will be available in stores around the world by late February – early March and the configurations will range from 800 to 1300 euro over here. That should translate in somewhere between $800 to $1300 in the US.

The top configuration is going to be slightly different that the version tested here from what I’ve been told by Acer’s officials, as it will come with Nvidia’s newer GTX 950M graphics (better performance, lower temperatures, more efficient), 16 GB of RAM and a Wi-Fi AC capable wireless module.

I’ll update this section as soon as the final release models will become available. In the meantime you can follow this link for updated configurations and prices at the time you’re reading this post.

Update: Acer has the VN7-571G-769P model listed on their US site, with the i7-5500U processor, 16 GB of RAM, Nvidia 840M graphics and 1 TB HDD for $1099. That’s a fair price, but I for one would rather wait for that 950M model, which hopefully will be available by the end of this month, as initially announced.

Wrap-up

There are very few laptops similar to this Aspire V 15 Nitro VN7-571G out there these days, as most manufacturers chose not to pair an ULV processor with Mid-range dedicated graphics, but instead went for full-voltage CPUs. Acer covers that segment with the V Nitro Black Edition models, but also pushed this model tested here, which is, at the end of the day, an interesting device.

You should have it on your list if you’re in the market for a a device with a 15 inch IPS screen, a compact and light body, able to handle your everyday activities well-enough, which can include some occasional gaming. On top of that comes the solid battery life. However, if you do need a powerful multimedia 15 incher, this particular model won’t be cut it.

Long story short, with the Acer Aspire V 15 Nitro VN7-571G you tend to somewhat sacrifice performance for the increased battery life. It’s up to you if that’s what you want from your machine or not. But the price will make or break it, cause unless Acer manages to get this in stores slightly cheaper than the Full-voltage CPUs – Mid level graphics laptops already available out there, they might have a hard time convincing us it’s worth our hard earned buck. With the right price though, this has the potential to become a bestseller. Time will tell.

Anyway, that’s about it for now. Let me know what you think about this Broadwell update of the Acer Aspire V 15 Nitro VN7-571G and get in touch if you have any comments, questions or anything to add to this article.