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Acer Aspire VX 15 review: A budget gaming gem

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Acer may have an attention-grabbing gaming laptop with its $9,000 limited-edition Acer Predator 21 X, but it's the Aspire VX 15 that people are actually going to buy.

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Acer Aspire VX 15

The Good

The Acer Aspire VX 15 is an attractive budget-friendly gaming laptop that's well configured for the money. You can easily add more memory and storage. It has an ample port assortment, including USB 3.1 Type-C.

The Bad

The display is a little disappointing despite being an IPS panel. The base model has a smallish 256GB SSD that's filled with preinstalled software and apps.

The Bottom Line

With good specs at an even better price, the Acer Aspire VX 15 delivers respectable gaming performance that won't leave you feeling like you compromised.

Starting at $800 and topping out at $1,100, the VX 15 is just a really good deal for an entry-level gaming laptop with current-gen components. Straying from the typical Aspire streamlined designs, Acer gave the VX 15 body a "gaming system" look including two large stylized fan vents at the back to keep this system nice and cool (for the most part, anyway). If you appreciate a little splashiness -- but just a little -- this should do the trick. It's a lot like the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 in this respect as well as what's inside, but I like the Aspire a bit more.

The 15.6-inch laptop is available with either a 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 or 1050 Ti paired with either an Intel Core i5-7300HQ or Core i7-7700HQ processor. The GPUs aren't sufficient for VR, but provide enough muscle to run a modern game at 60 frames per second at full HD, which just so happens to be the max resolution for the VX 15's IPS display.

Acer Aspire VX 15

Price as reviewed $800 (£850 in UK; AU$1,600 in Australia)
Display size/resolution 15.6-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 display
PC CPU 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-7300HQ (Core i7-7700HQ in Australia)
PC memory 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz
Graphics 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050
Storage 256GB SSD (128GB SSD+1TB HDD in UK; 1TB HDD in Australia)
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0, Gigabit Ethernet
Ports USB 3.1 Type-C (Gen 1), Two USB 3.0, One USB 2.0, SD card slot, HDMI out and headphone/mic jack
Operating system Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

A little goes a long way

The words "budget" and "cheap" mean different things to different people. The fact is, while you can game on something that's $500, the experience isn't going to be great. But at $800 for the base model VX 15 I tested -- the VX5-591G-5652 -- you get an enjoyable experience playing old and new games and the laptop in general is solid. You can find similar though slightly better configurations in the UK and Australia for £850 and AU$1,600, respectively (differences are noted in the chart above).

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Like the insides, the outside is nicer than you might expect for the money. It looks like a gaming system with its red lid accents and pronounced fan ducts, but it stops shy of being over the top. The body is mostly plastic, but Acer did its best to make it look like metal, giving it a more premium appearance.

Another positive for the design: You can easily open it up and install up to 32GB of memory and put in a 2.5-inch HDD with a free mounting kit from Acer. That's good because the smallish 256GB SSD could fill up fast once you start installing games. (You might also consider removing the large amount of preinstalled software and apps from Acer and others to free up some storage space.)

Acer to gave the VX 15 a spacious keyboard along with a small number pad. The keys have a good amount of travel with a satisfying response. The entire keyboard is backlit in red with the WASD keys getting some extra illumination around the edges. The touchpad gets the job done, but there's room for it to be larger or have discrete left and right mouse buttons. It does support all of the multitouch Windows 10 gestures, though its palm rejection could be better.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The single biggest issue

The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 gaming laptop is an all-around excellent deal except for one key component: the display. The VX 15's wins here, but not by much. The Dell is horrible off-angle, so you have to find a sweet spot and stay in it and even then it's still washed-out-looking. The Acer's IPS panel is much better for off-angle viewing, though it too looks washed out. It's also not very bright. Still, I'd take this over the Dell. (Note: Some regions use a TN panel on the VX 15 instead of the IPS panel on the US version.)

If the VX 15's screen is all you'll be using, i.e., you're not using its HDMI port to connect to an external display regularly, you might find the screen quality just too off-putting. And it's the same screen regardless of if you spend $800 or $1,100 on the laptop. For me, it isn't a deal breaker, but it is disappointing.

Oddly, the speakers in the VX 15 are particularly good. Maybe it's that I've come to expect the worse from speakers on budget laptops, but these don't sound thin or tinny. Gunshots and explosions sound full with a fair amount of bass and dialogue is clear.

Acer Aspire VX 15 has just the right amount of flair for a gaming PC

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Good gaming for budget conscious buyers

Acer offers multiple configurations of the VX 15. If your budget allows you to go up to $1,100, the top-end configuration includes a 1050 Ti GPU, a Core i7 processor, 16GB of memory and a 512GB SSD. The $800 configuration, however, performs very well and although it's behind systems we've tested with the 1050 Ti, it's not that far behind.

Set to its full 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution and settings on high, older games like BioShock Infinite and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided ran smoothly, though the latter was predictably more enjoyable dialed back to medium. The same goes for Battlefield 1, which taxed the system and its cooling capabilities. If you've got older games that you've never been able to play at high detail settings, it's worth revisiting them on the VX 15.

Good battery life is a rare find on a budget laptop, let alone one made for gaming. The Aspire VX 15 ran for 6 hours and 11 minutes on our streaming video test, which hits the 6-hour claim Acer makes for this system. Dell's Inspiron 15 7000 is the only 1050-based system to beat it in our recent tests, but it buries it with more than 9 hours of runtime.

It doesn't feel like you're settling

As entry-level gaming laptops go, the Acer Aspire VX 15 doesn't feel like a compromise. The body doesn't feel cheap and plasticky. The keyboard is large and comfortable. Even its biggest shortcoming, the display, isn't altogether bad.

Sure, if you have more money to spend, you can do better. And if you're looking to get into VR, you'll have to do better and step up to a system with a GeForce GTX 1060 card. But, as it stands, this is a really good deal for what you're getting.

Multimedia Multitasking test 3.0

Lenovo Legion Y520 172Asus ROG Strix GL753VE-DS74 200Acer Aspire VX 15 326Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (2017) 335Origin PC Eon15-S 355
Notes: Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)

Geekbench 4 (Multi-Core)

Lenovo Legion Y520 13987Asus ROG Strix GL753VE-DS74 12391Origin PC Eon15-S 11651Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (2017) 10247Acer Aspire VX 15 9714
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance

Streaming video playback battery drain test

Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (2017) 578Acer Aspire VX 15 371Lenovo Legion Y520 303Asus ROG Strix GL753VE-DS74 262Origin PC Eon15-S 259
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)

3DMark Fire Strike Ultra

Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (2017) 1871Origin PC Eon15-S 1861Lenovo Legion Y520 1855Asus ROG Strix GL753VE-DS74 1822Acer Aspire VX 15 1252
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance

Bioshock Infinite gaming test

Lenovo Legion Y520 95.6Origin PC Eon15-S 94.15Asus ROG Strix GL753VE-DS74 89.35Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (2017) 89.34Acer Aspire VX 15 77.58
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance (FPS)

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (fps)

Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (2017) 38.4Origin PC Eon15-S 38.1Lenovo Legion Y520 37.1Asus ROG Strix GL753VE-DS74 36.1Acer Aspire VX 15 31.8
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance

System Configurations

Acer Aspire VX 15 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-7300HQ; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050; 256GB SSD
Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (2017) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-7300HQ; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050Ti; 256GB SSD
Origin PC Eon15-S Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-7300HQ; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050Ti; 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD
Lenovo Legion Y520 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050Ti; 256GB SSD + 2TB HDD
Asus ROG Strix GL753VE-DS74 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050Ti; 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD

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Acer Aspire VX 15

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8Battery 6