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
HDMI
Exhaust Vent
Gigabit Ethernet
AC Power Connection
Right Side 2 x USB 2.0
DVDRW
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
newsXpresso
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
Evernote
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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  • JarredWalton - Saturday, July 07, 2012 - link

    It's not an "assumption" that chiclet is better, but I can't think of one thing about the old style "floating island" keyboard that is better to this new "floating chiclet". That's not to say that this keyboard is perfect, but as I note in the review, I did a fair amount of typing on the V3 and the keyboard is certainly usable without severe complaints by me -- someone that writes 5000 word articles for a living. Is it equal to some of the older ThinkPad keyboards? Not really, but I'm not sure ThinkPad has ever done a perfect keyboard layout with a 10-key either, outside of the W700 line. For a 15.6" keyboard with a 10-key, the layout is just about perfect, even if the key action could be improved. Reply
  • pullmyfoot - Saturday, July 07, 2012 - link

    You guys should do a review of the Samsung Chronos 7 700Z5C. I just got one and its the perfect laptop IMO without breaking the bank.

    70% aluminum construction
    A above average screen at 1600x900
    1TB 7200RPM with 8GB SSD express cache
    Rest of the specs are the same if not slightly better than this Acer.
    Reply
  • apmon2 - Saturday, July 07, 2012 - link

    Given that so many Laptops still seem to be sold with crappy screens and that good replacement screens can be got for less than $100, it would be great if AnandTech could write more about this.

    If you could write a separate article on how to switch laptop screens and what you need to consider, as well as review the different available after market LCD screens, perhaps more people would choose to switch their screens and not suffer from their crappy display.

    This could even benefit those buying high-end laptops, if it becomes common to order the laptop with the cheapest display and then replace it with a high quality on later on, just as it is common to order the cheapest HDD and then replace it with an SSD.

    E.g. Lenovo charge $250 for the full HD screen upgrade on the Thinkpad T530, whereas the screen costs less than $100 if bought separably. One also then has a better choice, be it matt vs glossy, IPS vs TN, high colour gamut or not, rather than the one choice offered by the manufacturer.
    Reply
  • jabber - Saturday, July 07, 2012 - link

    I'd like to see an article on what the costs are to the manufacturer for screens.

    Basically what does a standard 15" TN glossy 1366x768 screen cost compared to -

    15" TN 1600x900 (glossy/non glossy)
    15" TN 1920x1080 (glossy/non glossy)
    15" IPS 1600x900
    15" IPS 1920x1080

    I havent included 16:10 as I don't wish to hope for too much.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, July 07, 2012 - link

    The manufacturers don't disclose their costs for individual components, so it's impossible to say what they pay. I've had one manufacturer insist that what we pay for an LCD on, e.g. LaptopScreens.com, is less than they would pay. That seems unlikely to me (if you're ordering 10,000 LCDs, you're not going to pay more than if you're ordering 1 screen, are you?) but they do note that there's also difficulty at times in procuring the required number of displays. My hunch is that LaptopScreens probably marks up the LCDs they sell by 10% over what they pay, and large manufacturers pay a bit less than them. But I could be wrong. Reply
  • chromatix - Saturday, July 07, 2012 - link

    I have a 14" display from *1994* that can manage 115 dpi without much trouble. Bear in mind that 14" is the tube diagonal, not the display area, and that this is a fairly bog-standard "fishbowl" monitor. Driving it at 1152x870 results in the aforementioned 115dpi.

    Coincidentally, this is also approximately the density of both of my much newer flatscreen monitors, which are of course meant for viewing at a greater distance than a laptop. It is also the density of the roughly 2000-vintage ThinkPad that I rescued from the office scrap pile recently - with 1400x1050, the screen is excellently configured for coding, even if the viewing angles and colour reproduction are awful by modern standards. (It's very useful to have lots of *lines* of code on screen at once.)

    My 2006 17" MBP pushes the density up to 130 dpi with 1920x1200. I have to go back to my 2000-vintage PowerBook G3 to get down to 100 dpi.

    Meanwhile, a 15.6" laptop display with less than 1400 pixels across is going to be 100 dpi maximum. At laptop viewing distances, that's like putting standard definition up on a 50" TV - you can see the pixels without even trying. Antialiasing is a wonderful thing, but it has limits to what it can hide. On an old PowerBook it was forgivable because it was the best thing available (and the panel was decent) - but today, and with contrast numbers that make flip-up sunglasses look good...

    Surely someone out there knows how to make a laptop with good build quality, good ergonomics, a big battery and a good screen, and doesn't mind reducing the performance a bit to suit the price? I don't even care if it's two inches thick, as long as the screen and the body aren't shiny - I would prefer to see my code and my game rather than my own ugly mug.

    That's another point - thinness is vastly overrated. Comparing my PowerBook G3 to my MBP, they are the same depth, the MBP is 21% wider (15.4" vs 12.7") and the G3 is 70% thicker (0.98" vs. 1.7"). They're not much different in weight - the G3 is 2.8kg, the MBP is 3.1kg. But it's the MBP that feels "bigger". It also feels considerably more fragile to pick up - I feel the need to grab it by both sides, rather than levering it up by one side, even though intellectually I realise it's probably strong enough to withstand such treatment, and my other hand might be otherwise occupied.

    Meanwhile, I still have a lot more difficulty putting both the MBP and my 15" AlBook - a total of 2.1" thickness - in the same bag, than I do just putting the G3 in. Part of that is, I think, because the G3 is more rounded at the edges, so it doesn't catch on things so easily. Little details like that - and thermal performance - matter a lot more than being thin. It's even worse when important functionality (such as recording dual-layer DVDs, or being able to replace the battery, RAM and hard disk without risking ruining the whole machine) are sacrificed in the name of the holy measurement.
    Reply
  • Iketh - Sunday, July 08, 2012 - link

    YEA SILVA!!!!! Reply
  • QuantumPion - Monday, July 09, 2012 - link

    I got an Acer laptop last year with sandy bridge core i5 and nvidia GT 540M for $450 after instant rebate. The display sucks but $450 for a laptop fully capable of playing Skyrim and Battlefield 3 is hard to beat. Reply
  • DotNetGuru - Monday, July 09, 2012 - link

    Just wanted to drop a comment to show my appreciation for this great review.
    Very well done. Thanks!!
    Reply
  • rudolphna - Monday, July 09, 2012 - link

    I actually just picked up the Trinity A8-4500M version of this laptop for $529 on newegg, and I have to say, though the screen isn't that great, overall it's a great deal for the price. I'm certainly not going to complain about the amount of horsepower I managed to get for $530. I also did order a Momentus XT 500GB, and 8GB of Corsair DDR3-1600 that should arrive tomorrow to hep up the performance a bit more. Once that's done, I doubt there are any other laptops on the market with this kind of value. Reply

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