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Acer Aspire V Nitro review: This laptop's got (mid-range) game with 4K bragging rights

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The Acer Aspire V Nitro Black Edition is basically a desktop replacement squeezed into the body of a stylish thin-and-light notebook. And a fairly powerful one at that.

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8.0

Acer Aspire V Nitro

Pricing Not Available

The Good

The Acer Aspire V Nitro Black Edition packs quality components including a high-end quad-core processor, discrete graphics and dual storage drives into an understated body. It has a great 4K-resolution display and sweet-sounding speakers.

The Bad

The mid-range graphics processor will keep you from playing many games at full 4K resolution. Lack of a touchscreen might disappoint some. Though somewhat expected, battery life is short.

The Bottom Line

A thinner, lighter gaming laptop, the Acer Aspire V Nitro Black Edition satisfies with an excellent screen and performance and understated good looks.

It's available in various configurations in the US, UK and Australia in 15.6- and 17.3-inch versions starting around $1,000 in the US, AU$2,000 in Australia and £777 in the UK. The exact 15.6-inch configuration reviewed here is currently only available through the Microsoft Store for $1,399, which is kind of a steal; it's less appealing at its original $1,800 price. But what will be the same regardless of what's inside is its design.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Design and features

The Aspire V Nitro's looks likely won't get a lot of ooohs and aaahs. It probably wouldn't get a second glance from most people. It's an attractive laptop, but it is understated and subdued -- especially compared to your average gaming laptop.

Not everyone wants to have their electronics scream "look at me," though. The lid, screen bezel and keyboard deck are covered in a soft-touch material that looks and feels good and the metal hinge adds just the right accent. Measuring 15.3 inches wide by 10.1 inches deep by 0.94 inches thick (about 390x258x24mm) and weighing 4.8 pounds (2.2kg), the laptop borders on thin and light.

Whether you want it for future-proofing purposes or just bragging rights, the 4K UHD 3,840x2,160-pixel resolution IPS screen is nice to have. The 4K content I viewed on it looked great and the matte finish will be appreciated so you're not constantly fighting glare. The display gets pretty bright too, though you may have to go into the power options advanced settings menu to disable the adaptive brightness feature to get it to full strength.

It's not a touchscreen, which may not bother you if you've never used a Windows 8 laptop with one. For me, it's definitely something I missed while testing. The clickpad is textured like the rest of the body providing just enough drag to make cursor smooth. I did end up adjusting sensitivity and travel from the defaults however, to make getting from one side of the display to the other faster.

Sarah Tew/CNET

There are no left and right buttons, but you can press on the pad with one finger to left click, or two fingers to right click. The pad's lower right can also be used for right clicks. Overall, it's a fine clickpad and I didn't experience any cursor jumpiness while typing. Still, if you're sitting down for a work day, you'll probably want to use a mouse.

The keyboard, on the other hand, is good enough to use all day. It has a fair amount of travel given the shallow deck below. The keys are well spaced and none are oddly sized and the screen size allows for a full number pad, too. The red backlight is the only thing about the design that hints at this being a gaming system. It can be turned on and off and, when on, comes alive when you start typing. However, the strength isn't adjustable.

All of the ports and connections are lined up along the right side with the exception of an SD card slot in front. From back to front this includes the power input, Gigabit Ethernet, full-size HDMI output, three USB 3.0 ports and a combo headphone and mic jack. For wireless connections you get Miracast-enabled 802.11a/g/n (unfortunately not 802.11ac) and Bluetooth.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Having all the ports on one side makes things nice and tidy if you plan to use this as a desktop replacement. There's just enough space between ports that you shouldn't have a problem, but that really all depends on what you're connecting. There is no optical drive on the 15.6-inch V Nitro, but you can get a Blu-ray drive on the 17.3-inch.

To match the high-resolution screen, you get a strong set of speakers. They fire down, so you'll want to have it on a solid surface for the best results. Otherwise they get loud without distorting or sounding too thin. You'll probably still want to have a good headset or external speakers for maximum enjoyment of games, music and video, but the built-in speakers aren't disappointing.

As you might expect, there's a decent webcam above the screen as well as a mic for Skype calls. All in all, the Aspire V Nitro offers a very nice setup for mobile and office use.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Performance and battery life

The Aspire V Nitro we tested was fitted with a Haswell-based quad-core 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-4710HQ; GeForce GTX 860M with 2GB of memory; 16GB of system memory; and a 256GB solid-state drive paired with a 1TB 5,400rpm hard drive.

This combination gives you solid performance for just about anything. Need to do general office tasks? No problem. Want to do some basic audio, photo and music editing? It can do that, too. It has you covered for entertainment as well -- and yes, that includes games. To a point anyway.

For gaming at 4K, the 860M really is underpowered. Basically, if you're going to play anything slightly demanding, you'll want to dial back the game's graphics settings and/or drop the resolution to 1,920x1,080. The good news is, the screen still look great at full HD, so you shouldn't feel like you're missing out. But just to give you an example, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor on high settings was playable at 1080 at 38.9 frames per second, but at 4K it dropped to 13.6fps. On low settings, it was 22fps set to 4K, but 61.1fps at 1080.

Sarah Tew/CNET

However, games that don't have a lot of fast action, such as Telltale Game's The Walking Dead, were playable at 4K. Worth noting too, was that while the fan noise wasn't horrible it could definitely be heard. That's sort of to be expected, though, given the size of the chassis and its components.

Also expected was shorter-than-average battery life. But the V Nitro was actually shorter than I expected on our video playback battery drain test, reaching just 2 hours and 34 minutes. Even at its best, Acer claims just a 4 hours of battery time. If you need a lot of time away from an outlet, this pretty much takes the V Nitro out of the running.

Conclusion

Though its mid-level Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M graphics will hold you back some and its battery life could be better, the Acer Aspire V Nitro Black Edition has a top-notch screen and a potent component combo for work and entertainment.

Handbrake Multimedia Multitasking test (in seconds)

Alienware Alpha 396Lenovo Y50 Touch 4K 210Acer Aspire V15 Nitro 175HP Omen 167Origin Eon17-S (GeForce 980M) 154
Notes: Shorter bars indicate better performance

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)

Alienware Alpha 321Acer Aspire V15 Nitro 207Origin Eon17-S (GeForce 980M) 181Lenovo Y50 Touch 4K 180HP Omen 164
Notes: Shorter bars indicate better performance

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)

Alienware Alpha 111Acer Aspire V15 Nitro 90Lenovo Y50 Touch 4K 90HP Omen 88Origin Eon17-S (GeForce 980M) 77
Notes: Shorter bars indicate better performance

BioShock Infinite gaming test (frames per second)

HP Omen 51.12Lenovo Y50 Touch 4K 49.73Acer Aspire V15 Nitro 50.44Alienware Alpha 54.97Origin Eon17-S (GeForce 980M) 111
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance

Metro: Last Light gaming test (frames per second)

Acer Aspire V15 Nitro 19Alienware Alpha 19Lenovo Y50 Touch 4K 19HP Omen 19.33Origin Eon17-S (GeForce 980M) 43.87
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)

Origin Eon17-S (GeForce 980M) 252Lenovo Y50 Touch 4K 246HP Omen 191Acer Aspire V15 Nitro 154
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance

System Configurations

Acer Apsire V15 Nitro
Windows 8.1 (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i7 4710HQ; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M; 256GB SSD + 1TB 5400 rpm HDD

Lenovo Y50 Touch
Windows 8.1 (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i7 4700HQ; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M; 1TB + 8GB SSHD

Alienware Alpha
Windows 8.1 (64.bit); 2.9GHz Intel Core i3-4130; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 2GB (dedicated) Nvidia GeForce GPU; 500GB 5,400rpm HDD

Origin Eon17-S (GeForce 980M)
Windows 8.1 (64.bit); 3.1GHz Intel Core i7-4940MX; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 8192MB Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M; RAID 0 (2) 120GB SSD, 1TB 5,400rpm HDD

HP Omen
Windows 8.1 (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i7 4710HQ; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M; 512GB SSD

acer-aspire-v15-nitro-black-edition-01.jpg
8.0

Acer Aspire V Nitro

Pricing Not Available

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8Battery 5Support 7