Acer Aspire V3 review: big boned - TechCentral

Acer Aspire V3 review: big boned

While other manufacturers focus much of their effort on creating the most compact and lightweight laptops possible, Taiwan’s Acer has released the Aspire V3: a 3,3kg monster with a 17,3-inch screen. The question is, with its lack of monstrous innards, just who is it aimed at?

That’s not to say you can’t get the V3 in a great configuration, but the review unit we received was the entry-level offering in the 17-inch screen range, with a 2,5GHz Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive. For a fee you can upgrade that to a Core i7, double the RAM and opt for a bigger hard drive.

The V3 comes standard with a 17,3-inch, 1 600×900-pixel backlit LED display. It’s a crisp display that’s ideally suited to video consumption, though it is a little light on contrast. Acer has gone out of its way to remind you that this is a media device by including a keyboard-wide speaker beneath the display.

Despite the words “Dolby Home Theater” appearing above the speaker, sound output is a little disappointing. There’s very little bass to speak of and the midrange and treble sound tinny and flat. Compared to most laptops, the V3’s sound is really good. But it’s still not nearly as good as the hoopla on the box would have you believe.

Still, there’s a great deal to like about the enormous V3. Because it’s so big, it offers all sorts of connectivity options. There are four USB ports — two USB 2.0 and a pair of USB 3.0 ports — as well as HDMI, 3,5mm microphone and speaker/headphone jacks, Ethernet, VGA-out and a card-reader.

With the exception of the card reader on the front, all the ports are on the left- or right-hand side of the device and towards the front of the machine. This makes for a cluttered workspace when using a large number of peripherals.

Being so large, it’s not surprising Acer has opted for a full keyboard that includes a numeric keypad and an enormous multi-touch trackpad. The keyboard is not the quietest we’ve used — particularly noisy are the larger keys like spacebar, enter, backspace and the two shift keys — but the matt black finish on the keys and the spacing between keys largely make up for this.

The trackpad is the largest we’ve seen on a laptop in a long time and supports multi-touch gestures such as pinch to zoom and two-finger scrolling. It also includes a pair of physical buttons beneath the trackpad that sound slightly different from one another when clicked.

Less inspiring is the black glossy exterior. It’s a dirt, fingerprint and scratch magnet. The bezel and wrist rest are also made of the same material, while the keyboard area and space above it are a far more sensible and less glossy shade of grey. Acer calls the whole package “Nightfall Gray”.

Of course, in a package this size, the V3 also includes an optical drive. On high-end models it’s a Blu-ray drive, but our review unit had a rewritable DVD drive — a pity on a device so well suited to high-definition video content.

Thankfully, Acer exercised restraint in preinstalling “bloatware”, and, apart from an antivirus software trial, there’s very little that’s not needed.

Despite its heft and its six-cell battery, the V3 doesn’t fare particularly well when unplugged. Normal use will get you between two or three hours, but heavy use will drop that figure substantially.

Considering the power supply alones weighs 600g, the whole V3 portable package tips the scale at just under 4kg. This may go some way to explaining the device’s target market: those looking for a desktop replacement that will occasionally go on the road, and gamers who value performance over portability.

Apart from the poor placement of its ports, the V3 does a decent job as a desktop replacement. However, it’s less impressive as a multimedia or gaming machine, despite looking the part at first glance. In fact, it’s hard to work out who it’s aimed at outside of those wanting a desktop substitute.

Our review model didn’t even come with a dedicated graphics card, relying instead on the integrated Intel chipset. Sure, you can automatically overclock the processor to 3,1GHz, but without a dedicated graphics card and a screen that isn’t quite full high definition, it’s hard to see how this laptop would attract gamers, at least in its base configuration. If gamers aren’t buying it, it’s even harder to figure out just what Acer’s target market really is.  — (c) 2012 NewsCentral Media

  • Core i5 versions of the Aspire V3 start at R5 999; Core i7 versions cost from R9 999

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