Acer’s V3-571G Value Proposition

While there have been a few reasonably impressive Acer laptops over the years, most target a familiar refrain: deliver better performance at a lower price than the competition. Acer manages this quite thanks to their size (e.g. large buying power) and their willingness to compromise on certain aspects of the laptop experience. Their latest Aspire V3 series does come with several noteworthy updates compared to previous value offerings, however, and the price might just scare a few of their competitors into making some much-needed improvements.

Starting with the exterior overview, we find a throwback to some of the older style Acer laptops with a preponderance of glossy black plastic. Let’s be frank: I like glossy black plastic on a laptop about as much as I like letting my kids borrow my tablet after they’ve been eating chicken wings. I’m not sure if Acer actually did some research study that determined their customers actually like glossy plastic shells, but this one is about as bad as it gets on the lid and palm rest, and if you’re a bit OCD on such things you’ll find yourself constantly wiping away the inevitable fingerprints and smudges. The keyboard area at least gets a matte silver finish, which makes me wonder why they couldn’t have done the same for the rest of the laptop. (Probably because it didn’t photograph/render as well in the early design stages, and if so the people who made this decision need to clue in to the difference between marketing photos and actually using a laptop!)

Naturally, the display is also glossy, but just about the only laptops delivering matte displays these days are business models—oh, and the ASUS N56VM/N56VZ that we really liked when we previewed Ivy Bridge. The casing of the laptop in general just feels a bit cheap, which is what you’d expect from plastic, but if you’re not the type that abuses their laptop by stuffing it into a backpack with some heavy textbooks, or occasionally dropping it, the V3-571G should hold up okay.

The one thing that Acer gets right is something near and dear to my heart, however: the keyboard. Gone are the horrible floating island keys, replaced instead by a conventional chiclet keyboard. It may not be the absolute best laptop keyboard in the world, but there’s little flex, key travel is decent, the spacing is right, and what’s more Acer seems to be one of the few companies that understands what a laptop 10-key is supposed to look like. There’s no silly half-size zero key, the plus, minus, etc. keys are all in the correct places, and for accountants or others that routinely input a lot of numbers the 10-key is exactly what it should be.

The only complaint I have is a minor one: the “merged” Enter and Backslash keys. We’ve seen this on a few Acer laptops in the past year, and I don’t know what purpose the non-gap layout serves, but for the most part it’s more of an aesthetic oddity than something that actually bothered me. I did a fair amount of typing on the V3 during the course of this review, and while I still prefer the key action on older ThinkPad and Latitude laptops, there's a lot of personal preference in what makes for a comfortable keyboard. At least the new key style doesn't make me want to cry.

For those interested in some shots of the internals, we did completely disassemble the V3-571G during testing (more on this later). Mostly, users might want to upgrade the RAM or storage, and that’s thankfully much easier than getting at the other components. Before continuing the discussion, let’s check out the full spec sheet to see exactly what hardware Acer delivers with the V3-571G-9435.

Acer Aspire V3-571G-9435 Specifications
Processor Intel i7-3610QM
(Quad-core 2.30-3.30GHz, 6MB L3, 22nm, 45W)
Chipset HM77
Memory 6GB (1x4GB + 1x2GB) DDR3-1333 (Hyundai 9-9-9-24 Timings)
Graphics Intel HD 4000
(16 EUs, up to 1100MHz)

NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M 2GB DDR3 (Optimus)
(384 cores at 624MHz/709MHz Boost, 128-bit DDR3-1800)
Display 15.6" WLED Glossy 16:9 768p (1366x768)
(LG Display LP156WH4-TL-A1)
Storage 500GB 5400RPM 8MB Cache (Toshiba MK5059GSXP)
Optical Drive DVDRW (Slimtype DVD A DS8A8SH)
Networking 802.11n dual-band 300Mb WiFi (Atheros AR9462/AR5BWB222)
Bluetooth 4.0 (Atheros/Foxconn/Hon Hai)
Gigabit Ethernet (Broadcom BCM57785)
Audio Realtek ALC269
Stereo Speakers
Headphone/Microphone jacks
Capable of 5.1 digital output (HDMI)
Battery/Power 6-cell, 10.8V, 4400mAh, ~48Wh
90W Max AC Adapter (19V, 4.74A)
Front Side Memory Card Reader
Left Side Headphone and Microphone jacks
1 x USB 3.0
Exhaust Vent
Gigabit Ethernet
AC Power Connection
Right Side 2 x USB 2.0
Kensington Lock
Back Side N/A
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 15" x 9.96" x 0.99"-1.3" (WxDxH)
(381mm x 253mm x 25.1-33mm)
Weight 5.74 lbs (2.61kg)
Extras HD Webcam
103-key Keyboard with Standard 10-key
Memory Card Reader (MMC/MS Pro/SD/xD)
Price $850 MSRP; Online starting at $780 (7/02/12)

We’ll start with the good news: quad-core Ivy Bridge i7-3610QM comes standard, along with NVIDIA’s GT 640M Kepler GPU. That’s an awful lot of performance potential right there, especially considering the sub-$800 price. Back when AMD’s Trinity launched, I expressed concern about the target pricing we were hearing from AMD. At $700+ for laptops sporting the top-end A10-4600M APU, that left an awfully big gap in CPU performance compared to Intel’s Ivy Bridge. Acer has now successfully managed to put together a laptop with a significantly faster CPU and GPU for a price that’s not much higher than we’re seeing from many A10-4600M laptops. Thankfully for AMD, there are also companies like Toshiba selling 15.6” A10-4600M notebooks for under $700 ($660 at Amazon at the time of writing). Make no mistake, however: the i7-3610QM will run circles around the A10-4600M, and the GT 640M DDR3 will easily trounce the HD 7660G (though battery life is a different matter); we’ll have the full results in our benchmarks.

There are a few other nice hardware updates this round, including a dual-band 300Mb WiFi solution instead of the all-too-common 2.4GHz only 150Mb adapters. Bluetooth 4.0 is also present, along with Gigabit Ethernet, so at least Acer has everything covered on the networking front. And last but not least, like nearly all modern NVIDIA-equipped laptops, Acer supports NVIDIA’s Optimus Technology to enable dynamic switching between the Intel IGP and the discrete GPU. We finished our benchmarking with the original 295-series NVIDIA drivers, but the latest 304.48 beta drivers installed without a hitch (though spot-testing several games didn’t show any notable improvements in performance).

If that’s the good news, what’s the bad? For starters, there’s the LCD. Glossy isn’t the end of the world—some people actually like glossy panels—but the 1366x768 resolution for a 15.6” panel continues to be woefully inadequate. When companies like Apple are pushing the boundaries of what is possible with their Retina displays, and ASUS has 11.6” and 13.3” Ultrabooks with 1080p displays, 1366x768 needs to simply go away. Not surprisingly, the color quality and contrast on the LG panel are also mediocre at best. There are two other pretty significant shortcomings, but both are again a factor of the pricing. The Toshiba 500GB 5400RPM hard drive is pretty much bottom of the barrel as far as storage performance goes, and there’s no option for SSD caching available to lend a hand. The final complaint isn’t quite as egregious, but the 48Wh battery capacity is decidedly out of date compared to other 6-cell batteries. Couple all of this with the moderately large chassis size and we can’t help but feel disappointed.

I should also take a moment to discuss the softare loadout of the laptop. Like many OEMs, Acer stuffs all sorts of junk onto their machines. Some of it provides real value (e.g. a fully functional copy of CyberLink's Media Espresso video transcoding utility with support for Quick Sync), but much of the software is useless junk. It's not the hard drive space that's a problem with all these unwanted extras, but rather it's the toll they take on machine responsiveness and boot times--and I received an email from one user complaining about how the auto-update functionality for much of the software comes enabled by default and how it can hog a lot of bandwidth on an office network. Here's the list of software I uninstalled before I even bothered with starting testing:

Acer Games
Bing Bar
eBay Worldwide
Fooz Kids (and Fooz Kids Platform)
McAfee Internet Security Suite
MyWinLocker Suite
Nook for PC
Norton Online Backup

Besides the above items that I felt were completely useless and had the potential to interfere with using the laptop, there are some other software packages that you might want to uninstall as well:

Acer Backup Manager
Acer Instant Update
Acer Registration
Acer Screen Saver
Identity Card

One hour or so later, with a few reboots, and we're finally at a Windows desktop without a bunch of other extras loading in the background. Don't forget to defrag the hard drive at this point, of course! And some people might like a few of the items in the above list (Evernote isn't all bad, some of the Acer utilities could prove useful, etc.)

Ah, but there’s still that price, isn’t there? If you’re not a stickler on such things as display quality, hard drive performance (you can always upgrade to an SSD on your own dime), greater than six hours of moderate use battery life, and you don’t mind a less durable/rigid plastic chassis, Acer’s performance is going to be tough—actually nearly impossible—to beat at this price point, at least until we see the next generation CPUs and GPUs come out. That’s still a ways off considering Ivy Bridge and Kepler just came out within the last couple of months. And with that out of the way, let’s see what Acer’s V3 value offering delivers in our performance metrics.

Acer V3-571G General Performance
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  • 3dgeneralist - Thursday, July 5, 2012 - link

    Regarding the resolution. Its also dumb to think everyone uses higher than 1440x900 res on a 15inch laptop. Can barely read the text and icons higher than that on a small screen. Even on my 23inch monitor I am using 1440x900 because I'm on it for more than 10 hours a day working on graphic software. Eye fatigue is worse when reading small fonts and images.
  • seapeople - Thursday, July 5, 2012 - link

    This has always puzzled me. Does it really help your eyes to be looking at large, fuzzy text all day (LCD non native resolution) versus looking at smaller but perfectly sharp and clear text?

    This is of course assuming you are unable to increase DPI due to application incompatibilities, otherwise you're just being silly.
  • 3dgeneralist - Saturday, July 7, 2012 - link

    Its not really fuzzy looking at 1440x900 with text 110% dpi and adjusting cleartype settings on my 23inch monitor. The comfort gained is huge compared to setting it to 1920x1080 which in 8 hours looking at the monitor seems like my eyes would just drop and my head hurts.
    Remember the less effort you put into something that should be automatic, the less strain you experience.
  • antef - Thursday, July 5, 2012 - link

    Jarred, I will be in the market for an even cheaper laptop soon (~$600), and I'm not sure I like Dell's offerings. I hope you are able to review some even cheaper Acer machines in the near future (with Core i3/i5 CPUs, possibly no discrete graphics, etc.).
  • Meaker10 - Thursday, July 5, 2012 - link

    Much like the 5935G then, the cable connector looks like it could just support enough extra lines for a second LVDS channel but its not like the old connector where you could slot extra wires into place, it's an extremely fiddley connector and would require VERY VERY fine soldering skills. I killed a mobo trying.

    Thats assuming the extra spaces are for an LVDS channel and the chip on the motherboard supports two.
  • Kill16by9TN - Thursday, July 5, 2012 - link

    "The only complaint I have is a minor one: the “merged” Enter and Backslash keys. We’ve seen this on a few Acer laptops in the past year, and I don’t know what purpose the non-gap layout serves,"

    The answer is probably rather simple: globalisation.
    There are some keyboard layouts I know of, German for example, where 'Enter' occupies the additional space of the US KB's 'backslash', while the left-hand 'Shift' key in turn is shortened on its right side to make room for the now relocated key.
    Acer's design choice therefore accommodates for US-style and European-style keyboard layouts.

    BTW, I couldn't agree more with your criticism of those insane highly glossy 'piano' finish surfaces, no matter if with laptops/notebooks or monitors/TVs. It just majorly sucks. When will this nonsense finally face extinction?
  • Burticus - Thursday, July 5, 2012 - link

    My A8-3500 Gateway 17" was $550 with blu-ray 7 months ago. Spent $20 to get it up to 8gb 1333. Nothing in that price range can touch it. On the other hand, while it doesn't weigh a ton it is pretty big. Trinity is faster and the same price or cheaper. I think the display on it is pretty decent for 1600x900 but it does have some contrast issues. Those only come into play when watching dark movies though: which my wife does constantly and complains constantly. I told her to buy her own laptop if she didn't like mine :-)

    This is interesting for budget power with that i7 and the Kepler video, but it seems an odd compromise... you would think someone would go down $200 to get Trinity, or go up $200 to get something a little better build quality and better display. I don't think you can score an ultrabook for a grand though (and those don't have optical drives which slays me).
  • karasaj - Thursday, July 5, 2012 - link

    Assuming there aren't any major major compromises, you can get an Acer TimelineU M5 for a pretty nice 800$.

    Piss poor screen though, which might be the biggest compromise that is probably a dealbreaker for some. I would consider it though since it's so much less expensive than other ultrabooks (or thin form factor specs) like the Vaio S and Vizio. Or SS7. And build quality is hopefully more ultrabookish and less Aspire V3ish.
  • Ipatinga - Thursday, July 5, 2012 - link

    When you thought manufacturers couldn´t screw you more... you face a "chiclet" keyboard everywhere.

    Damn... do engineers really use what they make? (Yeah, dumb question...) :P
  • PubFiction - Friday, July 6, 2012 - link

    There seems to be some sort of stupid idea that chiclet keys are better.

    The form a key has nothing to do with its quality, in fact chiclet keys are most known for being implemented in cheap shit. The physical properties are what make a keyboard good or bad regardless of weather it is chiclet, island or anything.
    Most chiclet keys are not as good as the keyboards they replaced, they are mushy, unresponsive and are flat lacking qualities designed for accuracy.

    It is fine if you prefer chiclet, go ahead and state that but done gloss over all the other properties. The pictures clearly show that these keyboard is flat, lacking the concave nature or a real good keyboard.

    You can also see that this keyboard exposes the underside of the keys slightly meaning things can easily get in there such as crumbs dust and such, wholely defeating one of the biggest advantages of chiclet. The spacing appears to be close which means that you are likely to trigge another key if you miss.

    Finally there is not mention of the quality of key rollover.

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