Acer V17 Nitro Black Edition: Quality entertainment
The model we tested was the most powerful configuration (VN7-791G-75J2) of the Acer V17 Nitro Black Edition family, which also includes cheaper models with a Core i3 CPU and HD displays. The presence of the Core i7-4710HQ, a full HD display, and a GeForce GTX 860M graphics card with 2GB GDDR5 in our machine, allows for a more acceptable level of performance, suitable for entertainment, games and other demanding applications. However, the Aspire V17 Nitro Black Edition is not a notebook that can compete with the high-end gaming machines from Alienware or RoG for instance, especially because the GTX 860M is fairly weaker than what those machine use normally.
That does not mean that the Acer V17 Nitro Black Edition is a bad machine. On the contrary, its chassis features thin lines and a great attention to details. The hardware specifications are well balanced and the price is very interesting for this level of performance. Finally, if you are looking for a desktop replacement with a very large screen, this is definitely worth a look.
Hence, it is difficult to compare the Acer V17 Nitro Black Edition with other notebooks. Gaming machines have more powerful configurations, but a much steeper price tag. Most similar notebooks at this price point have smaller screens and slower configurations. It is therefore hard to find a similar product that uses a 17" display, a discrete graphics card and is geared towards entertainment.
Acer has put a lot of thought in the design and the materials used. The top cover is made of a black metal alloy that doesn’t expose fingerprints and wear marks. Furthermore, it does not bend in the middle, which signifies that the screen is well protected. The rear of the base consists of a satin matte steel band that serves as an opening through which the ventilation pushes the hot air out. The metal hinges are sturdy and covered with a plastic casing that matches the chassis’ colour.
The palm rests feel comfortable thanks to a smooth velvety surface. However, the middle of the keyboard is too flexible. It easily bends by about 2 mm, which makes the whole base feel deceptively fragile. Acer has really tried to make this 17-inch notebook as thin as possible, and as a compromise it couldn’t make the RAM or storage easily accessible. It’s a pity because its target audience cherishes the idea of being able to upgrade those components themselves. The battery is also not removable.
An upgrade is still possible, but one must remove fifteen screws and take out the base by carefully removing the fragile cables that joins the touchpad and keyboard to the motherboard. It is even trickier to reconnect everything together once the upgrade is done. Hence, it is possible to access the internal components, but it is laborious and not recommended for the majority of users.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard has one of the best arrangements we have seen lately. The numeric keypad on the right is well separated from the rest, there’s ample spacing all around the directional arrows so it’s easy to know what to press without looking and the spacing between the keys helps prevent double keystrokes. It is overall a bit heavier than similar models, which means one could type a apply a little more pressure than normal and still wouldn’t perceive vibrations. However, pressing the keys feels a little dry and hard. It might be a problem if you end up typing for an entire day, but then again, this notebook is not designed for that kind of usage. Finally, the keyboard is equipped with a nice backlight that illuminates the keys in low-light conditions.
As for the touchpad, Acer has opted for a model that provides a pleasant tactile feedback. It is both responsive and precise. There aren’t any buttons, so the bottom corners act as right and left clicks.
The connections are fairly typical for this kind of machine. There are two USB 2.0 ports on the left, and two USB 3.0 ports on the right. There’s also an HDMI port, an Ethernet jack, and a slot for an SD card. Finally, there’s a Blu-ray player.
The V17 Nitro Black Edition comes with a 17.3” 1920 x 1080 IPS display, which is an adequate resolution for games and entertainment in general. The display’s brightness reaches 337 nits, which is higher than average and helps readability when using it in direct sunlight. Finally, the matte screen treatment means there are a lot less reflections on the display than what is typical for such a device.
Heat and Battery Life
One of the most important aspects of a notebook is the heat management, which if done properly protects the machine from malfunctions and catastrophic failures. Acer has done a good job. The maximum temperature we measured was 55°C, and it hardly exceeded 30°C under normal use. The rear panel is the hottest spot and since people seldom put their hands there, it won't be an inconvenience. To accomplish such good results, Acer uses fans that kick in when the heat spreaders are insufficient. The fans' speed increases as the machine gets hotter and it can be adjusted via software.
Although battery life is not the first thing people look at when they buy a 17.3-inch notebook, it is very good when compared to similar products. With a brightness set at 120 nits, we managed to surf the web using Wi-Fi for nearly five hours nonstop or play a DivX file continuously for about three hours. With games, we get about three and a half hours of battery life.
In its most powerful setup, the Acer V17 Nitro Black Edition includes an Intel Core i7-4710HQ Haswell at 2.5 GHz and an SSD Kingston RBU-SNS8100S3128GD. Our tests showed that this product is able to handle personal productivity and multimedia entertainment without major problems.
The V17 Nitro uses an Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M chip, based on a GM107 architecture. It's the same core as the GeForce GTX 750 Ti for Desktop, except that it runs at 1,020 MHz and uses 2 GB of GDDR5 memory.
In our benchmarks, the average framerate was above 30 frames per second and was enough to give a smooth experience in games. To thoroughly test this machine, we used games like Metro 2033, and The Witcher 2 for a few days. They aren't the newest game, but their demanding engines will help us make our minds.
With Metro 2033, it was possible to play in 1080p at maximum details. The screen revealed to be excellent thanks also to the absence of reflections. The fans were quiet and the base never got annoyingly hot. The speakers were powerful, and in most cases drowned the noise produced by the fans. The sound they produce is not great however, and it would be better to use a pair of headphones when playing.
With The Witcher 2, we started at the highest level of detail, but we had to go down a notch (high graphics settings) in order to have a smooth experience. The graphics were still good, but this benchmark shows you have make some compromises in order to play games released a few years back.
Basically, this notebook is recommended for those who want to use it for games but are willing to make concessions. A high-powered gamer might scoff at the fact that this notebook can't always smoothy play titles in Full HD at maximum details. However, one should see this notebook as a product primarily geared toward entertainment and made secondly for games, and not the other way around.
The Aspire V17 Nitro Black Edition is a great entertainment notebook. The matte Full HD display is very bright, protected from glare and it produces a good quality image. The keyboard, the touchpad and the ventilation grids on the rear panel are well built. The machine is thin and uses quality materials. Despite all this, a 17-inch notebook does remain a cumbersome machine and the V17 Nitro is no exception. Its components aren't easily accessible, which makes it almost impossible to upgrade it at home. An even greater flaw is the impossibility to remove the battery.
When it comes to real life situations, we found it was more than powerful enough to run applications and entertainment. One will have to compromise when it comes to the more demanding games by giving up details to ensure a higher frame rate. Essentially, this Nitro is a product meant for entertainment first and gaming second, if you are willing to make some small concessions. In any case, the GTX 860M graphics card provides solid computational power, which puts this notebook at the high end of the spectrum. It also benefits from a great cooling system and quiet fans, which maintain the base cool even while gaming. The battery life is not miraculous, but then again the expectations were low from the start given that we have a 17.3-inch display to power. Hence, this product is recommended for those who love entertainment and games, but who do not intend to use this notebook solely for for the latter.