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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  • StormyParis - Wednesday, July 4, 2012 - link

    It's an article of faith among tech reviewers that SSDs are where it's at nowadays. I have doubts:
    1- Size: especially on a laptop, I'd rather have a large HD on which I can stick a few games, 10+ hours of films for me and the kids. AN SSDs pretty much means you *have* to carry an external HD. Or read getting bored.
    2- Reliability: the only reliability survey I ever saw says SSDs fail on average almost twice as much as HDDs.
    3- limited use case: very few apps do a lot of disk I/O once launched, and 4GB systems mostly don't swap, so SSDs are mostly useful during boot and app launch. Also, many users now do sleep/hibernation with apps open, instead of a full reboot + apps relaunch. That makes for a scarce few seconds when the SSD will be felt.

    I'm fairly sure reviewers aren't needing hours of videos during their reviews (they're at work, not snowed in with the kids ^^), do full startups (and few of those), and are given somewhat pre-tested units. Isn't there a big disconnected between reviews and users ?
  • Omoronovo - Wednesday, July 4, 2012 - link

    1. For a laptop, you're unlikely to have many games installed that are dedicated, hardcore games that take up 25GB of space each. Diablo 3 et al are all relatively large games, certainly, but you will know which ones will be playable on a machine like this and you will be clever enough to plan accordingly. As for movies, having anything higher than 720p on a machine with this resolution is pointless; and even at maximum quality (again, ruined on a panel of this quality, but for arguments sake), you're talking about 40GB of movies for 10 hours of potential playback. A 128GB ssd would be enough to cater to both of these with space to spare.

    2. Unless you can cite your source for this survey, we can't really comment on its validity. Solid state drives have come a long way; I have no doubt that drives like my first generation Indilinx-based SSD have higher failure rates, but that's the price for early adoption. They are far, far more reliable now, with Sandforce being able to de-dupe and compress data so that only a fraction of nand is physically written to (whereas early Indilinx based drives had insane write amplification, wearing nand far faster than necessary for the sake of performance).

    3. SSD's make a tangible "snappiness" improvement to your machine. This is especially noticeable with Windows due to the way it prioritizes data in ram. Take a theoretical example: Opening control panel. On a standard disk based system, each and every file called needs to be accessed from disk; excluding those files already loaded (like the ui elements as those are shared with all standard explorer windows). If there are 30 files to access, with a standard disk you will have as much as 450ms latency to get all of those files loaded into ram and the panel opened, not to mention any processing time (ordering of icons and such). This is only half a second, that is true. Scale this up with all file and folder access on the machine (from all programs, devices, and services, bearing in mind that when multiple programs try to access the disk (HDD) at once, the latency is exacerbated), and you quickly realize why using an SSD makes such a huge improvement to the day to day usability of a machine.

    In my case, personally, I noticed far more of an upgrade in my day to day use of my machine when I upgraded to a SSD, than I did upgrading to a core i7-920 from a Core 2 duo E7200.

    One final point I'd like to make: Although this laptop doesn't, there is nothing preventing a manufacturer dropping optical storage and using the space for a hybrid disk drive and SSD setup. When Windows 8 ships and OEM's start tearing into the Storage Spaces feature, "normal" people won't even have to go out of their way to move bulk data onto the disk drive, as windows will do it automatically and merge the SSD and HDD space into one contiguous area. Just something to think about.
  • Rollo_Thomasi - Thursday, July 5, 2012 - link

    Even if the OEM:s usualy favors an ODD over a SSD HDD combo you can simply replace the ODD yourself.

    Here is an article on that:
  • Christopher29 - Wednesday, July 4, 2012 - link

    1. Agreed, size still is not enough ...
    2. Completely untrue - see forum xtremesystems thread: SSD-Write-Endurance-25nm-Vs-34nm/page195 - where users intentionally try to wear out SSDs, most of them hold from 600TB - 800TB, and 256GB Samsung 830 holds 2,500TB Host writes. Everyone died after stating correct S.M.A.R.T warnings.
    For your perspective, I have written 3,8TB of data on my SSD since 2009 and this is 1/200 (0,5%) of possible writes that this SSD will handle - in other words - this SSD will outlive two to three laptops in which it will be used.
    3. You tottaly don't know (and probably used) anything what You've just written in this point.
  • piroroadkill - Wednesday, July 4, 2012 - link

    What are you even talking about? You can get 256GB SSDs for a very reasonable price these days, job done.

    Less power use, less likely to die in the manner that is MOST caused by use in laptops - knocking the heads around...

    I would say maybe you can't afford an SSD, but really, very recently the prices have come right down to the point where there's no reason not to have one..
  • jabber - Wednesday, July 4, 2012 - link

    Yes I picked up a SATA2 120GB SSD for $100 a few weeks ago.

    Why SATA2 well as my laptop only runs SATA2 I felt it pointless to get a 500MBps capable SSD when it will only run at half that speed.

    Oh and its cheaper. Anyway instead of the WD Black 320GB drive giving me 85MBps I now have an SSD giving me around 275MBps. Big improvement especially in access times.
  • zorxd - Wednesday, July 4, 2012 - link

    $780 is a high end laptop. Most people by laptops cheaper than that. This review sounds like the review of a BMW by a Ferrari owner, saying that the BMW is OK if don't care about cheap build quality and bad performance.
  • zorxd - Wednesday, July 4, 2012 - link

    The average selling price of a windows laptop was $513 in the US in February 2012.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, July 4, 2012 - link

    Where exactly does that stat come from, and what happens if you remove netbook class hardware from the list? Netbooks (and ultraportables like the 11.6" stuff with Brazos) are very inexpensive, but if people want to complain about this Acer's quality they should be even more harsh on such laptops. Regardless, $780 is hardly high-end for a laptop; it's at most lower-midrange pricing.
  • zorxd - Wednesday, July 4, 2012 - link

    netbooks or not, $780 is still much more than the average price for a laptop.

    And this is only in the US, a rich country. The average of the world is probably much lower.

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