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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  • weiran - Wednesday, July 4, 2012 - link

    Terrible display ruins a laptop.

    You should refuse to review 15" laptops with a resolution more suited for an 11".
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, July 4, 2012 - link

    If we refused to review any laptop with a marginal display, we'd be stuck with about 10 to 15 laptop reviews per year -- and that's assuming we could even get all the good display laptops in for review. We would also forego reviews of any laptop that doesn't cost at least $1000. Needless to say, the volume of laptops sold for under $800 is probably an order of magnitude more than the volume of over $1000 laptops sold, so it's an important market to at least look at.
  • duploxxx - Wednesday, July 4, 2012 - link

    no one in this budget needs that quad core horse power. Acer would be better of spending the wasted money on build quality or better screen.
  • Penti - Wednesday, July 4, 2012 - link

    On the other hand GT 640M wouldn't drive a high-res screen at native resolution. In games that is. But I'm quiet appalled that we can have chassis like this in the Ultrabook and starting configurations for business notebooks price range. Even if you don't have the best displays, or the budget to do all like a super nice case you should at least have a good touchpad and keyboard. Something like a Acer TimelineU M5 wouldn't be more expensive either. So I'm note sure what they are thinking it looks to be a much better notebook, you don't need quadcore notebooks for gaming, the trackpad looks to be better (if they don't fail at it, looks to be a cheap variant on the V3 though) at the M5 and it also comes in a 14" variant.

    A 2kg dualcore notebook for 800 with GT 640M should be well enough here, and does look better then this. But you loose 1GB of VRAM as well as that quadcore. Yet this doesn't look like a 800 dollar notebook from today and I think it's time to leave the plastic gamer ~800-1000 dollar notebooks behind and let compal and Clevo come up with better computers to fill that need for the OEM's or for them to take the market more seriously and design something decent themselves. Mobile gpus for mid-end performance for gaming obviously exist for half decent power and price range. I thought Acer was trying to clean up their act and please kill all the packard and gateway branding too. Those might have filled up a space in the early 90's, but it's not something you like to remember. Lots of similar stuff isn't the right thing here, if you still like to have budget lineups they will need to be more differentiated from high end models. They should still be decent enough for those that don't like to spend 800-1000 or more too.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, July 4, 2012 - link

    Statements like this are so arrogant. "No one in this budget needs that quad core CPU." Really? Who made you the determiner of what every person needs? I know a lot of poor college and high school students that would like to be able to have access to more than just basic dual-core processors. Following your logic, we end up back with the old "640K should be enough for anything" mentality of the DOS era. While most people don't need and won't use the processing power of a quad-core CPU, to say that no one needs it is very narrow minded.
  • bupkus - Wednesday, July 4, 2012 - link

    I know a lot of poor college and high school students that would like to be able to have access to more than just basic dual-core processors.

    Good, but the question is, "can they afford it"?

    We have promised to buy a nephew a notebook and had anticipated to pay no more than $500. Now I'm wondering what we can get that will allow this high school grad to do school work and just not even try to provide him gaming or media capabilities.

    For that purpose a good monitor seems more significant than an i7 processor. We hope we can find just such a notebook with perhaps a dual core Sandy Bridge processor and even a decent keyboard. Intel HD 3000 display will do just fine. Only the resolution needs a little upgrade.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, July 4, 2012 - link

    Obviously there's no single answer to what's most important, but For many of the components, whatever you buy with your laptop is going to be what you're stuck with until you buy a new laptop. If you buy a laptop that doesn't have a discrete GPU, it will generally be inadequate for gaming. You have a better chance of upgrading the display (see the LCD testing section where I discuss what's required) than you have of adding a discrete GPU to a laptop that doesn't come with one. Even swapping out CPUs can be a bit tricky, as you have the potential for locked down BIOS firmware that refuses to support anything besides a couple specific CPUs.

    Anyway, while I understand that many parents might find the lack of graphics hardware a benefit, if your son/daughter/nephew/niece/etc. ends up not liking the laptop and taking out a student loan to go buy a laptop that they do want, you've wasted money. This definitely happens, as I knew quite a few people back when I was in school that spent $1500+ from their student loans on a new PC that they "needed" for their studies. Of course, I was a CS major so they really did need a computer of some form, but I'm not so sure the 3dfx Voodoo cards were required hardware....
  • jabber - Wednesday, July 4, 2012 - link

    True, however, if you keep reviewing these inferior screens then they will still keep coming.

    If you said to the manufacturers "No sorry but we consider that spec to be obsolete/inferior to what our users want to buy!" then the message may get across that things have to change.

    If you only review 15 laptops a year so what? They are more likely to be ones your readers want to buy after all.

    Plenty of other stuff to review than crappy screened laptops after all.
  • retrospooty - Wednesday, July 4, 2012 - link

    "True, however, if you keep reviewing these inferior screens then they will still keep coming. If you said to the manufacturers "No sorry but we consider that spec to be obsolete/inferior to what our users want to buy!" then the message may get across that things have to change"

    I agree in theory, but the root cause is the issue. Having a site or two or several say that wont change anything. Manufacturers will keep making it as long as people keep buying it.

    At least today there are alot more 1600x900 and 1920x1080 options in 13,14 and 15 inch laptops than there has been for the past 3 years. It's starting to shift to higher res.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, July 4, 2012 - link

    Exactly. I love how I'm supposed to refuse to review laptops that 90% of people I know outside of AnandTech will buy, and in turn only review hardware that 10% or less of people I know will use. And AnandTech should apparently also only cater to the enthusiasts, rather than trying to build our audience.

    Articles like this can get noticed by the semi-technical readers that are researching a laptop, and they might end up saying, "Wow, there's a ton of information in that review that I can't find elsewhere. If they think this laptop is fast but cheap -- in price as well as quality -- what do they recommend as an alternative? Maybe I should read more...." We have the potential to increase knowledge as well as readership with mainstream articles like this.

    It's always important to see what's going on in the budget oriented market segment when evaluating higher end offerings. I should have a few higher quality (and higher price) laptops in for review shortly, some with good/great screens and some with more of this 1366x768 nonsense.

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