Meet the Acer V7-482PG-9884

There’s a careful balancing act that needs to be maintained when putting together any system. Cooling requirements need to be kept in check by size constraints, performance ties into both of those as well, and let’s never forget the almighty dollar. Various other elements are also at play like build quality, aesthetics, and other extras. Generally speaking, it’s impossible to build a single product that will get every area right for every person out there, and so we end up with the usual give and take. Acer’s Aspire V7 laptop is an interesting mainstream offering that won’t be the fastest system out there, and it’s not the lightest laptop you’ll find either; in fact, the list of what it’s not is almost as long as the list of what it is. The sum however ends up being greater than the value of the parts, and overall it’s a good laptop.

Acer spent a couple decades chasing the budget sector, with every new release appearing—at least to me—to go ever more after cutting BoM costs with little to no regard for quality. We've complained about this, sometimes vigorously, and we’re happy to report that it seems like finally we're starting to get something new out of the company. Sometimes the results are good and sometimes not, but at the very least we won't fault the company for trying.

Look at the Acer S7 Ultrabook and their R7 hybrid to get an idea of what we're talking about. The keyboard on the S7 didn't win me over, but damn was that a thin laptop, and overall quality was quite good as well. As for the R7, the Ezel hinge and 15.6" quality 1080p display are something new and different, and though battery life was on the low side the concept of sliding the keyboard forward and moving the touchpad back in order to bring the touchscreen into the limelight is something at least a few people really liked (and others despised). But not all of Acer’s laptops have been quite so revolutionary; to discuss the V7-482PG we really need to go back a couple generations to the Acer M3.

The Acer Timeline U M3 was the first chance we had to play with an NVIDIA Kepler GPU, which launched first on a mobile device. It delivered reasonable graphics performance and was a decent looking laptop overall, but there was a problem: the display was YAGTNP: Yet Another Garbage TN Panel. Seriously, the situation has become so dire over the past ten years that we need an acronym to describe the problem! And Acer's not alone in using these displays—ASUS, Dell, HP, Samsung, Sony, Toshiba, and pretty much every other laptop vendor has done the same thing at one time or another. And it’s not just the low quality TN panels. Shipping 1366x768 resolution displays might not be too bad on an 11.6” laptop, even though I’d really prefer to ditch the 16:9 aspect ratio and go back to 16:10; I might even excuse 1366x768 on a 12.1” screen. But at 13.3” and 14” I really think we need to at least have more options for something slightly higher resolution, and by the time we’re looking at 15.6” displays we absolutely should see 1600x900 at a minimum.

Acer followed the M3 that combined a ULV Sandy Bridge Core i5 processor with GT 640M DDR3 with the M5, which upgraded the CPU to Ivy Bridge Core i5 and changed the GPU to the GT 640M LE GDDR5. In practice, performance went up a bit and battery life improved slightly more, but the display remained a glossy 1366x768 TN panel. Acer had several other variations on this theme with their V3/V5/V7 value lines, where you got differing levels of CPU and GPU performance but most of the time continued to get mediocre (at best) LCDs. Today, we’ve got the high water mark for the new V series, the Aspire V7-482PG. What’s special about this laptop becomes pretty obvious as soon as we look at the spec sheet:

Acer Aspire V7-482PG-9884 Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-4500U
(Dual-core 1.8-3.0GHz, 4MB L3, 22nm, 15W)
Chipset Haswell ULT
Memory 12GB (4GB onboard, 8GB SO-DIMM, 12GB Max)
(DDR3-1600 11-11-11-28 timings)
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M 4GB DDR3
(384 CUDA Cores at 967+ MHz, 1800MHz DDR3)

Intel HD Graphics 4400
(20 EUs at 200-1100MHz)
Display 14" Glossy AHVA 1080p Touchscreen
(AUO B140HAN01.1)
Storage 1TB 5400RPM HDD (WD WD10SPCX-22HWST0)
24GB SSD Cache (Kingston SMS151S324G)
Optical Drive N/A
Networking Gigabit Ethernet (Realtek RTL8111/8168/8411)
802.11n WiFi (Intel Wireless-N 7260)
(Dual-band 2x2:2 300Mbps capable)
Bluetooth 4.0 + HS (Intel)
Audio Realtek HD
Stereo Speakers
Headset combo jack
Battery/Power 4-cell, ~15.1V, 3560mAh, 53.6Wh
90W Max AC Adapter
Front Side N/A
Left Side 1 x USB 2.0
Power Button
AC Power Connection
Right Side Headset jack
Flash Reader (SD)
1 x USB 2.0
Back Side 2 x Exhaust Vent
Gigabit Ethernet
1 x USB 3.0 (Powered)
1 x mini-VGA
1 x HDMI
Kensington Lock
Operating System Windows 8 64-bit
Dimensions 13.31" x 9.33" x 0.84-0.92" (WxDxH)
(338mm x 237mm x 21.4-23.4mm)
Weight 4.3 lbs (1.95kg)
Extras HD Webcam
86-Key Keyboard
Pricing MSRP: $1300

The core idea is the same is the Acer Timeline U M3 (which was later updated to the M5-481TG-6814): use a ULV/ULT processor with a midrange NVIDIA GPU to deliver a nicely balanced Ultrabook that can handle games while at the same time delivering good battery life, and package all of this into a thin and light chassis. We’ve looked at a few other laptops that try to do something like this; the Razer Blade 14 is all about the design and build quality, and Razer stuffs a 35W quad-core processor and a GTX 765M into a chassis that flirts with Ultrabook specifications. MSI’s GE40 has lower build quality and a slightly slower GTX 760M GPU in a thicker chassis, but it shaves about $600 off the price of the Razer Blade 14 in the process. Both laptops unfortunately have a major flaw: they have low contrast, low quality TN panels. That might be permissible on a budget laptop, but on premium devices we demand more.

Acer’s V7 isn’t going to be as fast as the Blade 14 or GE40, what with the dual-core i7 ULT processor and GT 750M DDR3 GPU, but the display trumps the other options in a big way—and it’s even a touchscreen, though that still comes with the usual caveat that if you use the touchscreen you’re going to have to deal with lots of fingerprints. Basically, it’s a refined M5, with a Haswell upgrade, and the build quality is far better than you might expect from Acer. Or alternately, it’s a smaller, sleeker version of the Aspire R7 without the Ezel hinge and with the keyboard and touchpad in their proper locations, which means while I had issues with the R7, the V7 ends up being far better. And like the R7, it’s possible to open the chassis and upgrade the RAM and storage if you want – this time without any Torx screws hiding under the rubber pads silliness.

The biggest drawback? The price is no longer even remotely budget; the M3 and M5 could be had for around $900, while the V7 is going to set you back $1300 – and that doesn’t even get you pure SSD storage, instead going with a slow 1TB 5400RPM HDD and a 24GB SSD cache using ExpressCache from Condusiv (which in our opinion continues to be not as good as Intel’s Smart Response Technology SSD caching). Right now, the only place I can find the V7-482PG is at Acer, and even that can be a bit tricky (it’s not directly accessible without searching the web in my experience); hopefully when we start seeing retail outlets carrying the laptop, the price will come down.

If you’re after Ultrabook portability but want the option to handle games at moderate detail settings, there really aren’t too many viable alternatives. ASUS might update the UX32VD with a Haswell variant, but I’d be surprised to see anyone manage to put something faster than the GT 750M into a current generation Ultrabook, and the i7-4500U is about as fast as you’re likely to see as well (with the i7-4550U offering HD 5000 Graphics as an alternative for around $50 more). Let’s also not forget the 12GB of RAM this time—Acer went from 4GB soldered onto the M3/M5 generation and got dinged for it, so this time they’ve skipped 8GB and gone straight to 12GB, which thanks to Intel’s Flex Memory should provide the same performance as matched 4GB DIMMs while being better equipped for memory intensive workloads.

Acer V7-482PG: Subjective Evaluation
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  • tackle70 - Saturday, August 24, 2013 - link

    I guess I'm just a computing dinosaur... I do almost all my work on desktops, and while I love a laptop as a backup portable work/netflix/whatever box, I just can't stomach the thought of spending $1k+ on one.

    My 2.5 year old $450 HP Probook 4430s may have a fugly screen and not be the thinnest or fastest thing out there, but I can't see replacing it anytime soon for how I need to use a laptop.
  • Impulses - Sunday, August 25, 2013 - link

    Guess that makes me a bit of a dinosaur too... Or just a geek and a gamer, I've been thinking of getting a laptop for a while to replace an aging netbook but between my desktop and my tablet I tend to use the netbook a whole lot less than I used to...

    And I wouldn't be happy with a budget laptop (let alone another netbook) if it weighed half a dozen pounds or had a crap screen (not after getting 3x24" IPS displays for the desktop and looking at the new Nexus 7 display...). Work needs might eventually force my hand tho, and while I'd like a system like this Acer I'd probably opt for something slightly cheaper/lighter without a dGPU.
  • et20 - Sunday, August 25, 2013 - link

    Good review. Thank you.
    Please stop saying "the only company that can get away with charging Apple prices is Apple".

    It's stupid and insulting.
    It's insulting to Acer and the other manufacturers to imply that they don't deserve proper margins for developing good products.
    It's insulting to consumers to imply that most of them are not discerning enough to pay what a good product is worth.
    It's insulting to Apple to imply that they somehow "get away" with making more than subsistence profits for building good products.
    It's insulting to Apple product users to imply that they're been fooled into paying more than rock bottom prices for good products.

    So just stop with this BS and admit that Mac and PC hardware offer largely the same value for money.
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, August 25, 2013 - link

    You can say "it's insulting" all you want, but that doesn't make it true. The reasons for why Apple can charge more are numerous, but just to cover a few:

    1) Brand recognition
    2) Good products
    3) Unique OS
    4) An ecosystem that many users like

    I don't personally like Apple products enough to own them, other than an iPod Touch I got from work, but they do get plenty of things right. There is however no question that Apple charges a significant premium on their products; the old joke is "everyone buys two, so if you have a problem the first replacement is free, no questions asked." To suggest that they're "largely the same value for money" is stupid and insulting to anyone that can do math. Let me go over it again:

    MacBook Air 13: $1300, Acer V7-482PG-9884: $1300

    On the Apple side:
    Build quality: minor win for Apple; let's be generous and call it $100
    256GB SSD: $100 more than 24GB + 1TB HDD
    Thunderbolt: $50 (again, being more than generous)
    +$250 relative value

    On the Acer side:
    Better 1080p AHVA LCD: $75 more than 1400x900 TN
    Touchscreen: $100 extra
    Faster i7 CPU: $150 more than i5-4250U
    GT 750M: $100 add on
    +$425 in relative value (BoM costs)

    So right there, with some math that's very kind to Apple, we have at least a $175 additional profit margin for the MacBook Air 13 (upgraded model). If we were to go through all of the components for both laptops and figure out a realistic BoM, I figure Apple's total profit margin on the upgraded MBA13 is roughly twice what Acer makes off the V7-482PG. And yet, Apple will sell 10X or maybe even 100X MBA13 as Acer will of the V7-482PG.

    Oh, but to suggest that Apple can charge more because they're Apple is stupid and insulting. I forgot.
  • teiglin - Sunday, August 25, 2013 - link

    It's a bit silly to add after Jarred's clear (and snarky) response, but any discussion of "value" has to bear in mind that many factors that influence value are subjective. On the Apple front in particular, I was in the market for a 13" laptop recently and strongly considered the MBA, thanks largely to touchpad quality, plus the unique availability of HD5000 vs. HD4400 in all the available ultrabooks. However, for me, shipping OSX is mostly a downside--it adds the cost of a Windows license to my purchase, not to mention a nonstandard keyboard layout under Windows.

    So value is in the eye of the beholder. The fact that Macs have higher profit margins than most Windows boxes is not an insult to Mac users; it just means that Mac users are willing to pay more money for less hardware, in order to get the other benefits of owning a Mac. Life would be simpler if Apple fanboys (really, fanboys of all stripes) would be a little less touchy about perceived attacks on themselves or their company.
  • Impulses - Wednesday, August 28, 2013 - link

    To me, the only strong value proposition involved with a Macbook is the fact that after 2-3 years of use someone's likely to pay me 2-3x for it what an equivalent Windows laptop PC would be worth at that point... Resale value's not enough of a reason for me to deal with bootcamp etc tho. They're nice systems and all, just not for me.

    I'm not sure when companies started deserving higher margins or not or howthis somehow became a moral issue... Brand recognition and PR (backed up by solid build quality) sells and can easily inflate a product's worth, don't be naive and try to pretend otherwise.
  • ananduser - Sunday, August 25, 2013 - link

    There is no shame in charging extra for the brand. If you truly believe that your company makes premium products, then you must price accordingly. You may buy macs for their technical nuances and exclusivities, but I'm afraid you're in the minority. So, unless you need OSX, you're relatively paying more for less; Jarred above me is right.
  • joe_dude - Monday, August 26, 2013 - link

    The Canadian model of the V7 is far better in terms of price point. As for Apple, they will always be "pay more for less". Also, battery life would last longer if the extra diagnostics were turned off, since Windows continually writes that info to disk. It's for enterprise/network use (which is something Apple doesn't have to worry about).
  • dareo - Monday, August 26, 2013 - link

    Is it possible to easily swap out the 24GB SSD Cache on this model with a Samsung 840 EVO 256GB SSD, using it as the primary drive for the OS and apps, and reserving the HDD for documents?
  • JarredWalton - Monday, August 26, 2013 - link

    From the hardware side, it's easy. On the software side, you'll basically want to do a clean install of the OS and you wouldn't want ExpressCache running as you would have no need for it. For most of our readers, I'd guess doing a clean Win8 install is simple enough, particularly if they're willing to open up the laptop and replace the mSATA drive in the first place. :-)

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