As far as gaming laptops go, it seems like Alienware and Razer hold the market’s attention, with HP getting in there recently, but Acer is attempting to grab it back, taking one of its Aspire machines and kitting it for games. Does it succeed, or would you be better off sticking with the competition?
The gaming laptop world tends to be dominated by Dell’s Alienware and Razer’s… well… Razer, but Acer is a big enough manufacturer, and late last year made strides to get in on that market as well.
The result is called the “V Nitro”, a machine that still fits in with the Aspire line of computers, and yet packs in the specs to deliver what should be enough performance for the audience looking for a perfect all-in-one that can sit on the desk and be taken somewhere else at a moment’s notice.
To handle this, the Acer Aspire V Nitro (591G) is reliant on an Intel Core i7 processor from the fourth generation, also known as “Haswell”. This processor is clocked at 2.5GHz and is paired with 16GB RAM, as well as 1TB storage, just in case you were concerned that you would run out of space.
A proper graphics solution is a must have on a gaming computer, and rather than just go with whatever Intel uses for internal graphics, Acer has included the Nvidia GeForce GTX860M chip here, with 4GB graphics RAM included.
Wireless connectivity is handled through 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0, while wired is supported over Gigabit Ethernet, with ports for HDMI, and three USB 3.0 ports.
There is no optical drive in this computer, so don’t expect a Blu-ray or DVD burner, or even a reader.
All of this sits underneath a 15.6 inch screen delivering the Full HD resolution of 1920×1080, with In-Plane Switching (IPS) display technology used and a matte finish. Microsoft’s Windows 8.1 is ready on this computer out of the box, too, though we need to note that there is no touchscreen on this computer.
Fortunately, there’s a keyboard and touchpad, so that side of things is at the very least sorted.
Acer is certainly making itself known for a variety of products lately. Laptops and desktops we’re used to, mostly for the whole “general computing” world, but we’re seeing some real inventive ideas come out, too, notably in the R series and with the Revo range of its desktop computers made for TVs.
And then we have the gaming laptop series, or rather, a singular item.
That item is the Aspire V Nitro, a gaming laptop that appears to take one of Acer’s regular Aspires and ups the specs for the needs of a gamer.
Gone are the basic video chipset, and the screen that forced you to shift your viewing angle to something dead on to see anything, replaced with parts that would make people who like computers smile, and some red LEDs under the keyboard to boot.
This is the Nitro, and Acer is hoping it does the job to bring people who like to game over to Acer, instead of with rivals Alienware, MSI, Origin, Razer, and even Apple scraping in there with its Retina-equipped MacBook Pro 15.
So does it do the job, or could you find something better overall with one of those other companies?
From a spec point of view, Acer appears to have more or less gone with the design mould for a gaming computer these days.
What you’re looking at isn’t an Ultrabook by any stretch of the imagination, with an Intel Core i7 quad-core fourth-generation processor (Haswell) clocked at 2.5GHz and paired with 16GB RAM.
There’s also 1TB of space, but unlike other machines out there in this part of the market, the hard drive is one of the older types, with a conventional hard drive from WD (WD10JPVX-22JC3T0), a “Blue” drive from the company and running at a speed of 5400RPM.
Gaming rigs tend to prefer the speed of a solid-state drive, and we do too, but if you must include a hard drive, we are a little surprised to see Acer not going for something a little more high brow, such as a 7200RPM drive, or even something with some solid-state memory working along the side.
It is a gaming laptop, after all.
Also working here is Nvidia’s GeForce GTX860M with 4GB graphics memory, putting the machine right on par with some of the other gaming machines making their way out to stores this year, including the HP Omen 15, which we recently checked out.
As a result, tests with games like “Civilization V” showed the machine could handle Full HD 1920×1080 with all the graphical options turned up, letting you get the most out of your games with ease.
Our experience with “Portal 2” was very similar, once again with graphics up, producing an easily enjoyable experience, though we’d definitely plug in a mouse, as the trackpad is nowhere near as responsive as first-person gamers will want.
Adding to this, you’ll find a decent keyboard with backlighting underneath for when you play games, though you won’t find any programmable keys for macros or other gaming actions.
What you will find is a number-pad found on the very right of the keyboard, something we don’t see often on laptops, especially those in the 15 inch space.
Granted, this 15 inch machine is closer to a 17 inch in its design, and so we can see where Acer is getting it from, but as a note, the keypad is particularly small, and you can see where Acer has had to scrounge for space with this part.
You also won’t find speakers on the top of the machine, with the grills for each located on both the left and right underside of the system. While the sound is relatively loud, it means it gets muffled for pretty much everything when sitting on a desk, a lap, and generally just being used.
If you’re playing games with a lot of bass punches — first-person shooters and the like — this won’t be a huge issue, but the moment you decide to play music, movies, or anything with talking, expect some muffled sounds.
Acer’s choice of screen surprises us too, and in both good and bad ways.
The good, sorry, great thing about the Acer Aspire V15 Nitro display is that you’ll find a screen with fantastic viewing angles offering excellent colours, minimal washout (if any at all), and a matte finish, making it highly resistant — damn near impervious, we’d say — to reflections.
And that’s one of those things gamers and anyone else will be thankful for, because if you’re in a particularly bright room, you’ll have no problems seeing what you’re doing on the Nitro’s display.
Where Acer misses the mark, however, is by using a screen that lacks touch, and yet pairing the computer with Windows 8.
That’s not to say that Microsoft’s most recent operating system needs a touchscreen to operate: it doesn’t, and you can get by with Windows and a great touchpad if you know the gestures, and Acer has been kind enough to include a pretty great touchpad.
But the rather long-named Aspire in question isn’t a cheap machine, coming in with a recommended retail starting price of $1999 (and we think the review model is closer to $2199 based on its larger than standard spec video card) and for that reason, we have trouble seeing it without a touchscreen, especially when other gaming machines are now including the feature as a standard, as it makes Windows 8 just that much easier to control.
It’s not a huge issue, mind you, and there’s a good chance that gamers will be sitting on the desktop more than the touchscreen, but it’s still something that would have been nice to have.
Also missing on the machine is some of that gamer lighting that acts as more of a bling thing for gamers.
It’s not necessary, sure, but the customers of these computers love it, and while you’ll find some pretty crazy combinations possible on the Alienware kit, and some colourful speakers and grills on the HP Omen, Acer has just figured that red keyboard back-lighting is all you’ll need or want, and so provided only that.
There’s no colour changing here, and not even an ounce of settings for the inclusion, with only on or off states offered for this red lighting.
If you’re not bothered by this, great, but if you like a little bit of brightness under your fingers, or even the option to change the LED colour, you’ll be disappointed here.
You’ll also be disappointed in the amount of bloatware the V15 Nitro ships with.
We don’t normally make it a habit of mentioning this because, frankly, there’s never enough to get on our nerves, but wow, Acer really just manages to go overboard here.
You might expect to find some hardcore games on a hardcore gaming laptop, and that would be fantastic, but none of the bloat caters to that. Rather, you’ll find a few of CyberLink’s unnecessary photo applications, a third-party PDF app, Amazon Kindle, shortcuts to a deal or two, some budget low-end games from WildTangent, and a bunch of Acer applications for office work and file maintenance that probably would have been better suited to be replaced with a copy of Microsoft Office 365, a piece of software which is not included in the bloat.
The battery also comes off feeling fairly sub-par, and that’s because when we weren’t doing much, the battery life managed to hit a little over two hours.
That’s not good by any stretch of the imagination, and regardless of how decent the full-size keyboard is, and how strong the screen or the touchpad is, we have trouble relying on a laptop that is barely portable for any stretch of time, especially one apparently focused on gaming.
If you don’t mind being tethered to a wall, great, and we could see this being an option for gamers keeping it on a desk. But these gamers could also build a rig, or even buy one, and really, the lack of battery life does undermine the V15 as a, you know, portable gaming machine.
Acer’s entry in the popular gaming space is an interesting offering that would be so much more compelling if the price was lower or Acer was bringing more to the table.
Spec-wise, it’s fine, but for this sort of money, you kind of want a solid-state drive, or 802.11ac wireless technology, or a bit more lighting control, or a set of speakers in locations that aren’t aimed at the desk or your lap.
But that’s what you get, and these sorts of things are missing from the package, pulling the Aspire V15 Nitro down a bit in class and making the package feel more like a repurposed Acer Aspire mid-range computer than a entertainment-focused gaming computer that the V15 Nitro purports to be.
We’d probably wait until Acer dropped the price on this one a little, because while it’s not a bad little box, the competition is definitely worth checking out on this one, as there’s more to a gaming computer than just a screen and a set of specs.