Review: Acer Aspire V 15 (2015)

Ultrabooks aren’t for everyone, and if you feel you still need a big screen and an optical drive, Acer hopes it has something in the form of the Aspire V15. Is it right, or could you go better with something else?

Features

Inside the Aspire V15, you’ll find one of Intel’s fairly recent chips, with the fifth-generation “Broadwell” processor, the 2.2GHz Core i5 5200U, only recently gone out of date now that the sixth generation “Skylake” has been announced.

This processor has been paired with 8GB RAM, as well as a 1TB conventional hard disk drive, with Windows 8.1 setup on the computer out of the box, though this can be upgraded to Windows 10 free of charge out of the box. There’s even a sticker attesting to this under the screen.

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That screen, by the way, is a 15.6 inch HD display, offering 1366×768, which it gets through an Nvidia graphics chipset, the GeForce 940M which the computer alternates between that and the Intel HD5500 graphics chipset.

Connection options are fairly standard, with one USB 2.0, two USB 3.0, Gigabit Ethernet, one HDMI, and one VGA working for wired ports, as well as an SD card slot for checking memory cards from cameras and the like, while wireless is handled through 802.11a/b/g/n/ac WiFi and Bluetooth.

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An optical drive is included in the package, something we don’t see often in laptops anymore, with this one not only reading DVDs, but also writing to them as well.

A full-size keyboard is also provided, complete with a keypad on the right, while the trackpad is fairly spacious and offers support for gestures, too.

The battery is built into the Aspire V15 and is not removable.

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Performance

When it comes to picking a laptop, we are all spoiled for choice.

It’s not as if this is a bad thing, mind you, because more choice is better overall, and if you don’t like the same white, silver, or black laptop that one company has, you can switch it out for something else.

Acer has never really had a consistent style throughout its range, and in its Aspire V15 for 2015, it is keeping that lack of consistency, moving forward with a slick and yet professional black aluminium lid, and yet keeping the inside of the machine all about the plastic, both with a brushed steel look and a basic matte black plastic along the bottom.

It’s not a bad looking machine, though it’s certainly not the best built computer we’ve seen, even for the $1199 price Acer is charging, and the only area that feels like it has substance and strength is the lid, which is a touch surprising.

To Acer’s credit, you’ll find a relatively capable productivity handler, especially for a 15 inch Windows machine.

Granted, you’re not talking about the gruntiest of Windows computers here, though its Broadwell generation Intel Core i5 (5200) should be able to handle most of the office work you care to throw its way, as well as a little more if need be.

There’s even a discrete graphics card, with NVidia’s GeForce 940M built into the specification here, handy if you intend to get a little bit of gaming done on the 15 inch display, which we can see some people doing.

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This combination of parts helps lead the Aspire V15 to a good five hours of performance with the built-in battery which isn’t removable, and you’ll see a little more — maybe an hour — if you decide to keep the machine doing the basics, such as web surfing, writing, and anything else that doesn’t take the specs too much.

Push the computer a little more and you’ll see that life drop, so don’t expect this 15 incher to be used for multimedia or gaming for very long on the battery, as it just won’t put up with that sort of life.

One area worth talking about is the keyboard, and we’re delighted to see that Acer is really improving in leaps and bounds in this department.

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In the 2015 V15, the keyboard is comfortable, well spaced, and generally performs as well as some of the island-key style keyboards we’re used to seeing from other companies, with a decent amount of travel and a comfort level that is unusual for Acer.

All computer reviews are typed on the computer being reviewed, and in the case of the V15, we had no complaints, except to say that we generally hit the Caps Lock too often, and that likely came from us being unfamiliar with the keyboard in the first few minutes of us.

After adjusting, we quickly gained the speed we were used to, and found the V15’s keyboard to be one of the surprising features, and a good one at that.

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Granted, there is only one level of keyboard backlighting on offer — it’s either “on” or “off” — but that’s a tiny quibble with an otherwise solid set of keys.

The mouse isn’t bad either, though not up to the same calibre that the keyboard reaches.

For the trackpad being offered on the V15, Acer has kept it pretty flat and simple, with a spacious plastic squircle for your fingers and thumb, a large button underneath, and support for gestures built in.

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It won’t be the best touchpad you’ve seen, mind you — not by a long shot — but Acer could certainly do worse, and you’ll find you can pinch, pull, and scroll, all with two fingers, while the typical two finger touch also works as a right click, as does clicking down the right half of the trackpad.

All up, it’s a fairly generic trackpad, but again, we’ve seen worse, so won’t take points off for being generic.

But then there’s the screen, an area Acer’s V15 is still stuck in the past with.

*sigh*

*sigh*

Oh sure, Acer points out the patterned aluminium cover on the sticker, the fast 802.11ac access, and the backlit keyboard, and it surprisingly doesn’t point out the excellent keyboard, which is — as we’ve previously said — unusual for the company.

What it doesn’t want to point out is unsurprising: the display is a shocker, and one of those things you just hope Acer would have fixed by now.

We’ve argued this for a long time, and we’re sick of going on the offensive against companies, but it seems we’re going to need to do it again, because there is no reason why a 15 inch computer should still be sporting a high definition only panel, not when Full HD has kind of become the norm, and higher is definitely possible.

And yet here on the V15, that is exactly what you get: a 1366×768 display barely capable of a little more than high definition, and yet also reliant on one of the older and weaker display technologies for laptops meant to be taken out and about.

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Take a gander into the V15’s 15 inch screen and you’ll find glare and lots of it, with pixilation easy to spot thanks to that low resolution and disastrous viewing angles that force you to shift in your seat or change the angle of the display ever… so… slightly… to find what works best.

No touch support doesn’t help this, and what you’re left with is decidedly old school, and not in a positive way.

And there are good reasons to be retro. You might be going after an older demographic, or one that prefers the look and feel of something old.

But make no mistake, the Acer Aspire V15 display isn’t retro for the sake of being retro.

Rather, it’s just old technology packaged in for what feels like a reason of keeping costs down, except it doesn’t really do that.

In fact, at a cost of $1199, it feels like Acer’s V15 is reaching a little too high for what is being offered, with ok specs, but a screen that impedes on your ability to use the computer.

Yes, this is one of those screens where you have to shift your position to match the woeful angles.

Yes, this is one of those screens where you have to shift your position to match the woeful angles.

Conclusion

Sometimes we’re not quite sure what companies are doing, and with the V15, we’re a little confused.

Sure, it has a decent mid-range spec, and updated wireless making it a little more useful for high-speed networks at work and home. And sure, there’s even a very decent keyboard here, one of the best Acer has shown us in years.

But then there’s that screen, and while we rave about the displays offered by the likes of Apple, Samsung, and Lenovo, the screen on the Acer Aspire V15 is the very thing that stops us in our tracks.

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Seriously, this is 2015 — near the end of it, even — and we’re still seeing displays that look like they came out of 2011 or 2012.

No, Acer. Just say no, and next time throw in something decent, because until the Acer Aspire V15 drops below a grand, it’s hard to recommend, even though the rest of its parts aren’t bad performers, because the way of using the laptop — that whole screen thing — kind of dents the entire experience.