Monday, June 25, 2012

Review : Acer Aspire V3 


Processor: Intel Core i5-2450M @ 2.5GHz, Turbo boost to 3.1GHz; RAM: 4GB; Display: 15.6-inch, 1366 x 768 pixel; Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GT 630M with 2GB RAM and Intel HD 3000; Storage: 500GB HDD; Optical Drive: Yes; Connectivity: 2 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0, HDMI, SD card slot, Ethernet and Wi-Fi


Simply put, the Aspire V3 is probably the laptop that comes closest to being a gaming laptop, from Acer’s lineup of products. They still do not classify it as that, but the specs suggest that it can work well for a gamer.
Build & Design
This is one of the glossiest laptops we have seen in a long time, and trust us when we say this, because we have seen a lot of glossy laptops. The piano black finish looks brilliant the moment the Aspire V3 is fished out of the box, but the maintenance hungry nature of a glossy finish becomes quite evident, quite quickly. The lid, the bezel and the palm-rest – shining away attracting dust, at first. Within minutes of being unpacked, the Aspire V3 will become a showcase for fingerprints and dust particles.
Thankfully though, there is some semblance of sensibility returning, or so you may feel when you see the metallic silver finish on the keyboard base and the area where the power key and the speakers sit. The keys themselves are matte black, but the differing colour theme does look very good. The touchpad has a matte finish, which is a huge relief.
Turn the laptop around, and you will see multiple cooling channels and vents. On the right side, assuming you are looking at the display head on, is the optical drive and two USB ports. On the left is the HDMI, USB – the 3.0 one, the headphone and mic jacks and a mighty cooling vent. We have been noticing a trend off late that certain ports are placed on the rear panel, particularly with some ultrabooks. However, no fancy placement stuff here, and the comfort level with ports on the sides is unparalleled. The memory card slot is on the front left corner, close to the notification LEDs.
No fancy build materials used here, but the humble plastic does very well in being classy. Solidly put together, with absolutely no creaks or loose ends to be heard or felt. Slightly on the thicker side, feels possibly more so because we have become used to looking at very slim notebooks. Ultrabooks, yes, we are pointing the finger at you! We have no qualms in saying his – the Aspire V3 has a very premium feel to the entire package. It is a bit disappointing that this premium feel doesn’t follow through, thanks to the maintenance needy build.
Features & Specifications
On paper, the Aspire V3 looks like a very powerful package. The spec sheet reads something like this – Intel Core i5-2450M clocking at 2.5GHz, 4GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive, Nvidia GeForce GT630M (2GB) graphics and a 15.6-inch display.
The Aspire V3 comes with a Core i5-2450M clocking at 2.5GHz, with the Turbo Boost mode taking it up to 3.1GHz. In this day and age, 4GB of RAM seems a bit too less! Powering the graphics bit is the Nvidia GeForce GT 630M with 2GB dedicated memory, and is from the Fermi series of chips. Graphics switching, with the Intel HD 3000 graphics kicking in when on battery, or a light load scenario.
The 15.6-inch display (1366 x 768 pixels) is walking a tightrope between reflective and not being reflective, so much so that while we can make out its reflective nature at certain angles, it completely mattes out at other times. Pretty good brightness and contrast levels ensure that the Aspire V3 will work well in most lighting conditions. But the 15.6-inch display means there is adequate real estate to enjoy movies and games, though.
USB 3.0 comes natively to the new 7- series chipsets, and among the three USB ports on the device, one of them is the USB 3.0 one. Competence doesn’t end here, with a 500GB hard drive thrown into the mix.
The Aspire V3 comes with Dolby application preloaded, but we really didn’t find any difference in the audio quality, with the same content playing back! Well, we can’t blame the Dolby system for not doing its job, but it is probably the small laptop speakers that cannot really punch out the difference.
There are a whole bunch of preloaded apps on the V3 – backup manager, webcam software and user guide, plus some third party utilities which include Cyberlink’s MediaEspresso and MyWin Locker. We prefer laptops with a clean Windows out of the box, and even for testing we remove all software or just re-install a clean copy of Windows.
Speaking of which, the Aspire V3 comes with Windows 7 Home Basic (64-bit) preloaded. That is a bit of a surprise, and we expected the Premium version to be shipped with the base model, if not Ultimate.
It really isn’t a surprise that the Aspire V3 blazed through the benchmark tests, with some pretty numbers in tow. PC Mark Vantage’s score of 7569 is probably setting the benchmark for future laptops on the Ivy Bridge platform. This was re-verified by the more taxing PC Mark 07, that threw up a score of 2055. Since we do not have the latest Ivy Bridge laptop scores from other manufacturers as yet, we will not be able to compare just yet. However, the Aspire V3’s sibling, the ultrabookish Aspire V5, scored significantly lesser. But it won’t be ideal to compare the two, considering the vastly different power package. The Core i5 – 2450M on the V3 clocking at 2.5GHz can be boosted to 3.1GHz when needed, and the CineBench CPU score of 2.7 is among the highest we have ever tested on a laptop. We wouldn’t be wrong to say that the Aspire V3 will surely be the benchmark among Ivy Bridge laptops, as more trickle into the market.
With the Nvidia Fermi family’s GT 630M around, with its 2GB graphics memory waiting to be unleashed, the graphics benchmarks were something we were looking forward to! The 3D Mark 06 score of 9944 clearly indicates a very powerful and capable GPU. The more taxing 3D Mark 11 threw up three scores – 2085 for Entry Mode, 1238 on the more taxing Performance Mode and 379 in the extremely taxing Extreme Mode.
However, battery life does take a bit of a beating. With screen brightness at 100% (screen timeout turned off as well), and system in High Performance mode, the Aspire V3 lasted 2 hours from full charge to full discharge. Translate this into real life usage, and this will easily last around 4 hours under medium system load. This isn’t an ultrabook, which makes this score quite an achievement.
The 15.6-inch display does seem very satisfactory. Well, we cannot really make up our mind about whether this display is reflective or not! Probably, Asus made a display what was essentially matte, and decided, come on; let us make it slightly reflective just to confuse reviewers! Jokes apart, the comfort level is immense. Brightness and contrast levels are quite high, making the task of viewing most content easier. Crispness is quite good as well, and really makes its presence felt when reading a chunk of text on a web page or a word document. Could have done with slightly better black levels, and most videos will testify to that fact.
The keyboard, with the black keys, sits on top of a metallic grey base. Thanks to the big display, there is space for dedicated number keys too. Very comfortable to type on, once you get used to the space between the keys. Visually, the key placement on the Aspire V3 and even a MacBook Air is largely the same, but on the Aspire, the keys just seem more spaced out. Annoyingly, the touchpad is placed closer to the left edge, which takes some orientation familiarization before you become totally comfortable. Decent response for the most part, but does get a little under-responsive at times.
For a price of around Rs. 40,000, the Acer Aspire V3’s very good performance just gets a bit amplified, for the better. What you are essentially getting is a powerhouse with very decent graphics capabilities without having to spend a lot of money for it. Does have its share of design and build shortcomings, but none of them affect the critical bit – usability and performance. It is worth considering, and we say this to anyone looking for a laptop on a budget.