Acer V7-482PG: Subjective Evaluation

As you might guess from the introduction, I’m quite enamored with the overall experience on the Acer V7-482PG-9884 (which I’m just going to refer to as the V7 going forward, though as always Acer has many slightly different V7 models). I really hate seeing a laptop that gets most things right and then falls flat on its face when you get to an important element like the display, keyboard, or even the touchpad. Performance can be excellent but subjectively you may end up hating a laptop if it really misses in one of these areas; conversely, moderate performance coupled with a great display and at least a good keyboard and touchpad will generally keep me happy. There are other potential “gotchas” as well, like WiFi performance, battery life, sound quality, or just general aesthetics and build quality. I’m happy to report that Acer gets just about everything right, with my only complaint being more personal preference than serious problem (though some people might feel strongly enough that they would shy away). Let’s take everything in turn.

Starting with the build quality and aesthetics, I’m actually getting more than a little tired of the black brushed aluminum laptops. Black isn’t necessarily a bad color choice, but it does show oily fingerprint marks a lot more than other colors. Acer uses a gun metal color instead (silver/grey if you prefer), and while you can still see fingerprints on the palm rest and cover, they’re not nearly as obtrusive as what you get with black laptops. It’s a nice color choice I think, though maybe “too boring” for some. The bottom of the chassis has a soft-touch coating that gives you a better grip when holding or carrying the laptop. Build quality is very good overall—not at the level of a unibody aluminum chassis like the Razer Blade or MacBook Air/Pro, but the V7 feels reasonably rigid and the only real complaint is that the seams are visible all around the borders of the chassis. The display doesn’t bend or twist much, probably in part thanks to the thicker construction for the touchscreen. The V7 is simply a really good build from Acer, a company not always associated with such things.

The screen is probably one of the best and most surprising aspects, and I suppose it has more to do with this being the V7 model (as opposed to the V3 or V5), so keep that in mind. Acer uses an AU Optronics B140HAN01.1 panel, with AUO’s AHVA technology (Advanced Hyper Viewing Angle), which is basically a variation on the IPS/PLS technology seen in other LCDs. As the name implies, AHVA gives you wider viewing angles than TN, though colors and overall quality still depend on the backlighting used. AUO uses standard WLED backlighting in this case, which results in merely average color quality, but the contrast ratio and viewing angles at least are what they should be. For a higher end laptop, this is a good fit, and while touchscreens aren’t going to be everyone’s favorite way of interacting with a laptop, I’d say it’s better to have one and not use it than to not have one and need it. I do wonder how much having a touchscreen really adds to the BoM, though; if it’s a significant expense, I’d love to see a lower cost V7 without the touchscreen and with a good quality matte panel instead…but that’s just me being greedy. Overall, I have no complaints with the display quality.

Sound quality is actually surprisingly good, far better than I was expecting. The Acer R7 also has good audio quality for a laptop, but that’s a 15.6” screen chassis, so getting the same quality from a 14” screen laptop is far from my normal expectations. If you’re the type of person that uses your laptop’s speakers regularly to listen to music or watch a movie, the V7 is better than any other 14” or smaller laptop that I can think of—other similar sized laptops might match its audio quality, but I can’t come up with any that clearly sound better.

The one area where I start to have some complaints is with the input devices – and locating the power button on the side of the laptop just doesn’t work for me; I hit it once when trying to insert a USB stick, and that was one time too many! Back to the input devices, Acer uses a Synaptics ClickPad v8.1 touchpad, and they’re basically the best option in my experience. However, there’s still variation in how the touchpad feels even with the same core hardware—the size of the touchpad as well as the surface material and design of the laptop can have an impact. In the case of the V7, I get periodic accidental activation of the touchpad while typing, even with all of the usual features to mitigate such things cranked to maximum. It’s not unusable, and some of this may just be my personal style of typing, but it can be a bit annoying at times. When I’m sitting down and actually typing on the V7 (like right now), it’s often easier to simply disable the touchpad with the Fn+F7 shortcut—and the touchscreen remains active, so if you don’t mind the occasional screen smudges you can get the “best” of both worlds.

The keyboard is a slightly more difficult item to judge. I like the layout a lot—it’s basically the same layout as on MSI’s GE40. In that review I noted, “Opinions on what makes for a good keyboard vary from user to user; personally, I really like having dedicated document navigation keys. Several years ago, the most common layout placed the document navigation keys in a column on the right of the keyboard, but for some reason we’ve moved away from that standard. Sometimes progress doesn’t actually move us forward, and I’m happy to see that MSI uses the tried-and-true layout.” Acer’s layout is the same, give or take minor differences, so I don’t have any issues there. The problem is that where the MSI GE40 had reasonable key travel, the travel on the V7 is definitely shallow—bordering on “too shallow” for some, I’m sure.

I admit that having done some serious scrambling of my typing brain over the past six months with the TECK, Kinesis Advantage, and ErgoDox has resulted in me being more forgiving of keyboard oddities, but at the same time I still like more key travel than what you get on the V7. I’ve also noticed that on laptops where the display comes into contact with the keyboard when closed, you can get some smudges/residue on the LCD over time, and while I don’t see that on the V7 right now I expect it will happen eventually—a slightly higher lip around the display or a recessed LCD could alleviate this, but the V7 has neither of those. Anyway, shallow key travel is something we’ve noticed on numerous Ultrabooks since they first started showing up, and while it’s not a personal showstopper, this is a keyboard that some users may not like.

Rounding things out, battery life is excellent, considering Acer equips the V7 with a 4-cell 53Wh Lithium-polymer battery (which is actually a pretty high capacity for a 4-cell battery). In our Light testing (moderate surfing of the Internet), we came in just shy of seven hours with the LCD set to 200 nits, and while I’ve been typing in Word for the past several hours I’ve only used 28% of the battery charge, with an estimated 6 hours and 10 minutes remaining, so light word processing and such at lower LCD brightness could easily get you into the 8-9 hour range. The wireless solution in the V7 is decent in my experience, though I’m saddened that Acer chose to go with Intel’s Wireless-N 7260 instead of the Wireless-AC 7260. I don’t know how much Acer saved by omitting 802.11ac support, but having now tasted of the 802.11ac goodness it’s hard for me to go from real-world transfer rates of 30-50MBps down to 10-20MBps. Thankfully, Acer still manages to include Gigabit Ethernet, so for LAN parties you shouldn’t have to worry about the all-too-common WiFi issues.

In terms of performance, obviously we’re not expecting something that can handle anything and everything without batting an eye. The ULT processors are plenty fast for most home and office tasks, but demanding video editing or computational task can be a bit slow. Video transcoding with any application that uses Intel’s Quick Sync technology will thankfully not be a problem. I’ve already mentioned the hybrid storage as being a bit of a downer, but you can open the chassis and upgrade the mSATA and/or 2.5” HDD if you’re so inclined. Last but not least, there’s the GPU, and this is one other area where I just want to scream, “WHY!?”

The GT 750M should be reasonably fast, and past experience with other 384 CUDA core Kepler GPUs suggests it will handle 1366x768 without a problem, but 1600x900 with higher quality settings might be asking too much. The real issue however is that instead of higher bandwidth 4GHz GDDR5 memory, Acer opted for 1.8GHz DDR3 RAM—less than half the bandwidth, all told. The kicker is that Acer gives you 4GB of DDR3 for a GPU that has no business using more than 2GB – it’s simply not powerful enough to warrant having that much RAM.

Basically, the combination of a good 1080p display with a midrange mobile GPU and DDR3 RAM isn’t ideal for gaming; you’ll either need to run at Low/Medium 1080p or else drop the resolution to 900p or even 768p and run at Medium/High. While neither option is ideal, personally I’d rather have a laptop that gets everything else right and comes with a quality LCD then to get a faster GPU with a lower resolution/lower quality display. Granted, 2GB GDDR5 might only be 10-15% faster in most cases, but it’s a far more sensible configuration for the GT 750M than 4GB DDR3. Despite my complaints, however, with the V7 it’s important to remember that there’s always the option to run at lower settings/resolutions to be playable. A “good fit for the GPU” 1366x768 LCD that ruins the experience outside of games would be worse overall (in my opinion at least); this was one of our major complaints with the earlier M3 and M5. Laptops like the MSI GE40 and Razer Blade 14 are going to be much faster gaming systems, but the displays make them less desirable for just about any other use.

For those of you who you prefer a more concise subjective evaluation, here you go. The Acer V7 delivers the goods when it comes to the LCD, build quality, aesthetics, keyboard layout, performance, and battery life. The WiFi and touchpad are okay, though I had periodic accidental activations of the touchpad (which is easy to disable for longer typing sessions if necessary). My biggest complaint is with the keyboard key travel, and I’m sure some will also raise an eyebrow or two at the price. Overall, however, this is a very solid offering from Acer. Now let’s see how it actually performs.

Meet the Acer V7-482PG-9884 Acer V7-482PG General Performance
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  • tackle70 - Saturday, August 24, 2013 - link

    I guess I'm just a computing dinosaur... I do almost all my work on desktops, and while I love a laptop as a backup portable work/netflix/whatever box, I just can't stomach the thought of spending $1k+ on one.

    My 2.5 year old $450 HP Probook 4430s may have a fugly screen and not be the thinnest or fastest thing out there, but I can't see replacing it anytime soon for how I need to use a laptop.
    Reply
  • Impulses - Sunday, August 25, 2013 - link

    Guess that makes me a bit of a dinosaur too... Or just a geek and a gamer, I've been thinking of getting a laptop for a while to replace an aging netbook but between my desktop and my tablet I tend to use the netbook a whole lot less than I used to...

    And I wouldn't be happy with a budget laptop (let alone another netbook) if it weighed half a dozen pounds or had a crap screen (not after getting 3x24" IPS displays for the desktop and looking at the new Nexus 7 display...). Work needs might eventually force my hand tho, and while I'd like a system like this Acer I'd probably opt for something slightly cheaper/lighter without a dGPU.
    Reply
  • et20 - Sunday, August 25, 2013 - link

    Good review. Thank you.
    Please stop saying "the only company that can get away with charging Apple prices is Apple".

    It's stupid and insulting.
    It's insulting to Acer and the other manufacturers to imply that they don't deserve proper margins for developing good products.
    It's insulting to consumers to imply that most of them are not discerning enough to pay what a good product is worth.
    It's insulting to Apple to imply that they somehow "get away" with making more than subsistence profits for building good products.
    It's insulting to Apple product users to imply that they're been fooled into paying more than rock bottom prices for good products.

    So just stop with this BS and admit that Mac and PC hardware offer largely the same value for money.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, August 25, 2013 - link

    You can say "it's insulting" all you want, but that doesn't make it true. The reasons for why Apple can charge more are numerous, but just to cover a few:

    1) Brand recognition
    2) Good products
    3) Unique OS
    4) An ecosystem that many users like

    I don't personally like Apple products enough to own them, other than an iPod Touch I got from work, but they do get plenty of things right. There is however no question that Apple charges a significant premium on their products; the old joke is "everyone buys two, so if you have a problem the first replacement is free, no questions asked." To suggest that they're "largely the same value for money" is stupid and insulting to anyone that can do math. Let me go over it again:

    MacBook Air 13: $1300, Acer V7-482PG-9884: $1300

    On the Apple side:
    Build quality: minor win for Apple; let's be generous and call it $100
    256GB SSD: $100 more than 24GB + 1TB HDD
    Thunderbolt: $50 (again, being more than generous)
    +$250 relative value

    On the Acer side:
    Better 1080p AHVA LCD: $75 more than 1400x900 TN
    Touchscreen: $100 extra
    Faster i7 CPU: $150 more than i5-4250U
    GT 750M: $100 add on
    +$425 in relative value (BoM costs)

    So right there, with some math that's very kind to Apple, we have at least a $175 additional profit margin for the MacBook Air 13 (upgraded model). If we were to go through all of the components for both laptops and figure out a realistic BoM, I figure Apple's total profit margin on the upgraded MBA13 is roughly twice what Acer makes off the V7-482PG. And yet, Apple will sell 10X or maybe even 100X MBA13 as Acer will of the V7-482PG.

    Oh, but to suggest that Apple can charge more because they're Apple is stupid and insulting. I forgot.
    Reply
  • teiglin - Sunday, August 25, 2013 - link

    It's a bit silly to add after Jarred's clear (and snarky) response, but any discussion of "value" has to bear in mind that many factors that influence value are subjective. On the Apple front in particular, I was in the market for a 13" laptop recently and strongly considered the MBA, thanks largely to touchpad quality, plus the unique availability of HD5000 vs. HD4400 in all the available ultrabooks. However, for me, shipping OSX is mostly a downside--it adds the cost of a Windows license to my purchase, not to mention a nonstandard keyboard layout under Windows.

    So value is in the eye of the beholder. The fact that Macs have higher profit margins than most Windows boxes is not an insult to Mac users; it just means that Mac users are willing to pay more money for less hardware, in order to get the other benefits of owning a Mac. Life would be simpler if Apple fanboys (really, fanboys of all stripes) would be a little less touchy about perceived attacks on themselves or their company.
    Reply
  • Impulses - Wednesday, August 28, 2013 - link

    To me, the only strong value proposition involved with a Macbook is the fact that after 2-3 years of use someone's likely to pay me 2-3x for it what an equivalent Windows laptop PC would be worth at that point... Resale value's not enough of a reason for me to deal with bootcamp etc tho. They're nice systems and all, just not for me.

    I'm not sure when companies started deserving higher margins or not or howthis somehow became a moral issue... Brand recognition and PR (backed up by solid build quality) sells and can easily inflate a product's worth, don't be naive and try to pretend otherwise.
    Reply
  • ananduser - Sunday, August 25, 2013 - link

    There is no shame in charging extra for the brand. If you truly believe that your company makes premium products, then you must price accordingly. You may buy macs for their technical nuances and exclusivities, but I'm afraid you're in the minority. So, unless you need OSX, you're relatively paying more for less; Jarred above me is right. Reply
  • joe_dude - Monday, August 26, 2013 - link

    The Canadian model of the V7 is far better in terms of price point. As for Apple, they will always be "pay more for less". Also, battery life would last longer if the extra diagnostics were turned off, since Windows continually writes that info to disk. It's for enterprise/network use (which is something Apple doesn't have to worry about). Reply
  • dareo - Monday, August 26, 2013 - link

    Is it possible to easily swap out the 24GB SSD Cache on this model with a Samsung 840 EVO 256GB SSD, using it as the primary drive for the OS and apps, and reserving the HDD for documents? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, August 26, 2013 - link

    From the hardware side, it's easy. On the software side, you'll basically want to do a clean install of the OS and you wouldn't want ExpressCache running as you would have no need for it. For most of our readers, I'd guess doing a clean Win8 install is simple enough, particularly if they're willing to open up the laptop and replace the mSATA drive in the first place. :-) Reply

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