Acer makes a lot of laptops. So many that it's hard to pick a specific one out of a lineup. Some are amazing examples of top-notch design and engineering, such as the glass-clad Aspire S7, while others are well-intentioned experiments, such as the flip-and-fold R7 hybrid. But most are generic-looking gray boxes that look like they could cost any amount and contain any combination of components -- it's impossible to tell from the outside.
While the design of the Aspire V7 is the textbook definition of unexciting, inside I found a pleasant surprise. This 14-inch ultrabook-thin laptop contained an Intel Core i7 CPU, a game-ready Nvidia GeForce 750M graphics card, and a huge 1TB hybrid hard drive, with a 24GB SSD cache. That configuration (the V7-482PG-9884) goes for a reasonable $1,199, but you can knock the CPU and hard drive down and keep the Nvidia 750M for $899 in another of several preconfigured versions offered by Acer.
Sure, you could spend $50 more and get a 13-inch MacBook Air with a Core i7 CPU, but this model has more RAM, more storage, and that discrete GPU. Dell's XPS 15 is only a bit bigger, offers largely similar specs, including the GPU, but can cost $1,900, depending on the exact configuration.
The Acer Aspire V7 lacks the design polish of the competition, and the cheap-feeling keyboard is frustrating, but not a deal-breaker. For decent mainstream gaming in a slim ultrabook at full 1080p resolution, you can make a case that it's a smart, if not inspiring, buy.
|Acer Aspire V7||Lenov IdeaPad Yoga 2 Pro||Dell XPS 15|
|Display size/resolution||14-inch 1,920x1,080 touch screen||13.3-inch, 3,200x1,800 touch screen||15.6-inch, 3,200x1,800 touch screen|
|PC CPU||1.8GHz Intel Core i7-4500U||1.6GHz Intel Core i5-4200U||2.2GHz Intel Core i7-4702HQ|
|PC memory||12GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz||4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz||16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz|
|Graphics||4GB (dedicated) Nvidia GeForce GT 750M||1792MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 4400||2GB (dedicated) Nvidia GeForce GT 750M|
|Storage||1TB 5,400rpm hard drive, 24GB SSD||128GB SSD hard drive||1TB 5,400rpm hard drive, 32GB SSD|
|Networking||802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0||802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0||802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0|
|Operating system||Windows 8 (64-bit)||Windows 8.1 (64-bit)||Windows 8.1 (64-bit)|
Design and features
If you used one word to describe the Aspire V7, that word would be "gray." Both exterior and interior are done in gray aluminum with a subtle brushed-metal pattern.
Black plastic covers the bottom panel, and the screen bezel and keys are also black, giving you a clean two-tone look. Exciting, it's not. The design screams generic office PC, even though this is a clear mainstream multimedia/gaming system.
While the internal components are a high point, the human interface is a letdown. Acer's standard island-style keyboard is here, and while the keys are large and have a pleasing subtle backlight, they're also very shallow, giving you less tactile response when typing. The keys also wobble a bit under your fingers, which can be annoying, and the entire keyboard tray has some flex, especially in the center. I've certainly seen more flex and wobblier keys in other laptops, but it adds a non-premium feel to the system, which is not what you want for $1,200.
The large touch pad offers plenty of space for gestures and navigation, but response for the all-important two-finger scroll gesture is mixed. In highly optimized apps, such as IE10, it works smoothly, but in the Chrome browser, it can be jumpy. The pad uses a clickpad-style design, with no distinct left and right mouse buttons, so you get more surface area, and the Synaptics software controlling it offers plenty of options for tweaking the response and gestures.
The 14-inch touch screen has a native resolution of 1,920x1,080 pixels, although configurations with lower-res screens are also available. I wouldn't recommend that as a place to cut costs, however. The display here is crisp and bright, and offers wide viewing angles, although the edge-to-edge glass overlay is glossy enough to reflect a lot of light. As with any Windows 8 laptop, touch control is important, and this 10-input screen worked well for navigating Windows 8. With the higher screen resolution, you'll get more out of HD video and games, where 1080p should be your baseline spec.
|Acer Aspire V7|
|Audio||Quad speakers, combo headphone/microphone jack|
|Data||1 USB 3.0, 2 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
Connections, performance, and battery
The Acer Aspire V7 is not only reasonably equipped with useful ports, it also spreads them around to both side and the rear edges, a setup rarely seen any more. Each side edge has a USB 2.0 port, with an SD card slot and audio jack on the right side, while the rear edge has both HDMI and mini-DisplayPort, plus USB 3.0, and an Ethernet jack -- another rarity in the ultrabook age.