When Acer Malaysia delivered the Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition to our HQ for review, the first question that popped in our minds were…this is a gaming laptop, right? It’s got a couple of feisty words in its name, looks rather intimidating with a jet black exterior…and it’s got powerful hardware.
Oddly enough, Acer Malaysia didn’t really market this laptop as a gaming machine. But with an NVIDIA GTX GPU, one thing is clear: the Acer Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition is a performance-oriented laptop, whether it is classified as a gaming laptop or a multimedia laptop.
Hence, the real question is: what is the level of performance that the Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition is able to deliver? The answer is actually pretty surprising.
REVIEW UNIT SPECIFICATIONS
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DESIGN and EXPERIENCE
Weighing in at 2.4kg, one of the very first things you notice about the 23.9mm thick Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition is the vertical stripes on its lid. Made from a soft-touch material, the design provides a premium look to the laptop and have certainly made the laptop distinctively different from the other laptops in the Acer Aspire series.
Unfortunately, Acer decided to pair the beautifully designed lid together with a rather cheap looking silver-coloured plastic hinge. Don’t get us wrong though: the hinge works perfectly fine; we are not fans of the paintjob.
Built with a 15.6-inch full HD display, the IPS panel that Acer equipped into the laptop has adequate amount of brightness with wide viewing angles. There is certainly no doubt that the display is a fitting match to the Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition’s upper-mid range GPU, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 860M.
Meanwhile, Acer has also extended the usage of soft-touch material to the palm rest of the Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition as well. While the surface feels nice on the hand, the material is naturally prone to fingerprints and smudges which means that it needs to be cleaned every now and then.
The Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition is also equipped with a full keyboard complete with numeric keys and red backlight which further cement its look and status as a performance oriented laptop. However, users are not able to customize the colour of the backlight and it only has two settings: on and off.
While the red backlight gives the keyboard a rather fierce aura, the experience is nowhere near a proper gaming keyboard as its keys don’t have much tactile feedback and might even feel slightly soft to some users; touch typists will have seen much better keyboards than this. Nevertheless, it is still good enough for those who aren’t particular about their keyboards. Same goes for the touchpad on the V15 Nitro, which is substantially sized and works without any issues outside of the box although there is nothing specifically unique about it.
Just like plenty of other laptops in the market, the Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition does not come with an optical drive but the amount of I/O ports surrounding its chassis should be sufficient for all but the most demanding of users. These ports include three USB 3.0 ports, a full-sized HDMI port, Gigabit LAN port, and an audio/mic combo jack. Curiously, all of these ports are located on the right side of the laptop. In addition to these ports, there is also a SD card reader on the front side of the laptop.
At a glance, one might thought that the V15 Nitro comes with a common two-speaker audio setup, but it turns out Acer has actually equipped the laptop with four speakers. With the help of the Dolby Digital Plus Home Theatre software that comes pre-installed with the laptop, audio output from the speakers proved to be quite loud even at just 50% of the maximum volume level.
Under the right EQ settings in the Dolby software, the 4-speaker setup within V15 Nitro also delivers crisp audio although the bass response is still quite underwhelming – most probably due to the lack of sub-woofer. As promising as these two traits might sound like, both of them would be completely gone once users deactivated the Dolby Digital Plus Home Theatre software.
In terms of system noise, we noticed that the Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition is barely audible during idle state and low intensity tasks despite the fact that it comes with powerful hardware and two thermal fans. While the noise becomes much more obvious once the laptop runs at higher capacity, it is still considerably quieter than many gaming-grade laptops out there.
Similarly, the level of heat produced by the V15 Nitro is also surprisingly lower than what we usually encounter on a gaming laptop. Even during high intensity operation, the heat from beneath keyboard and palm rest is still quite tolerable although the laptop is still a bit hot to position on one’s lap – not that you should be gaming in that position anyway. Higher levels of heat still can be felt at the area surrounding the laptop’s hinge, since its thermal fans dissipate heat towards the back of the laptop.
As per our previous laptop review, we utilised a number of benchmarks to determine the level of performance that the Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition is able to churn out for users. These benchmarks include PCMark 8 by Futuremark for system performances and 3DMark for graphical performances.
All the scores from our benchmarks test are uploaded to Futuremark’s database to be verified and compared with other systems over there. The comparison* are done using the database’s Advanced search function with Intel Core i7-4710HQ processor and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 860M GPU used as the search terms.
We also put the laptop through its paces using five different game titles, namely Battlefield 4, Bioshock Infinite, Crysis 3, GRID 2, and Tomb Raider to further test V15 Nitro’s graphical abilities. This is a gaming-grade laptop after all.
Based on Futuremark’s database, our review unit is ranked 35th out of 72 systems for the PCMark 8 Home v3 test while in Work v2 rankings, it managed to achieve 4th out of 23 systems. In the Creative v3 test rankings, the unit is ranked 5th out of 25 systems in the list.
All these ranks are rather expected given the fact that the Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition is a mid-range gaming-grade laptop. We also didn’t notice anything abnormal from the results of the individual segments within the PCMark 8 scenarios that we used for this review.
Moving on to 3DMark results, our review unit once again ranked somewhere near the middle of the charts on Futuremark’s database. This holds true for all level of the 3DMark tests, from the entry-level Ice Cloud and Cloud Gate sets to the Sky Diver test which is designed for gaming laptops as well as the intense Fire Strike set of tests.
In Ice Storm, our review unit ranked 183rd out of 567 systems in the database, while it is ranked 10th from 17 systems in Ice Storm Extreme test, and 4th out of 10 systems for Ice Storm Unlimited. The laptop also managed to position itself at rank 191 out of 596 systems in the Cloud Gate test.
As for the Sky Diver test, the laptop ranked 243 from 637 systems that are listed in our search result. In Fire Strike, it is ranked at 437th position from 796 systems as well as 112th from 796 systems in Fire Strike Extreme and 5th out of 9 systems in Fire Strike Ultra.
Futuremark’s ranking aside, the Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition certainly has no problem churning out fantastic frame rates in 3DMark’s entry-level and mid-level tests. Only Fire Strike tests are able to push the laptop to its limit which is rather expected though since these tests are made for high-end gaming devices.
Among the five games that we roped in to test the Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition, three of them (Bioshock Infinite, GRID 2, and Tomb Raider) are equipped with their own built-in benchmarks. For Battlefield 4 and Crysis 3, we used FRAPS to help us determine the frame rate.
In Battlefield 4, the frame rate measurement is done in the early part of the Singapore mission which started from the boat drop up till before the tank starts to clear the path on the blocked highway. Similarly with Crysis 3, the measurement is done in the early portion of the first mission; beginning from the moment Prophet meets Psycho until the moment that the first door in the game is opened by Psycho.
Apart from graphic-intense titles such as Crysis 3, the laptop is generally able to deliver more than 30fps at full HD resolution with high or even max graphics settings for most games out there. All in all, the Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition certainly has no problem flexing its muscles when it comes to video games.
Even though the Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition features a very pleasant slim and lightweight design as well as offering a good level performance for users, the laptop does have one big weakness: its battery life. Just take a look at the results of the battery drain test that we conducted on the laptop:
Our battery drain tests are done using High Performance power setting together with maximum display brightness, Wi-Fi enabled, 50% volume level and backlight for the keyboard disabled. Other battery-friendly power settings would most probably able to prolong the laptop’s battery life but we don’t think that they will be able to extend it much further anyway.
Hence, using the Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition on the go without having its charger around even for less intensive non-gaming purposes is not advisable, as its battery disappointing even when compared to other gaming laptops in its class.
As a comparison, we pit the Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition against other 15.6-inch gaming-grade laptop in our market that are priced between RM3,000 to RM4,000.
All retail prices are based on search done on 28 November. While all the system above come with Windows 8.1, laptops marked * are also available with DOS for a lower price.
From the table, it seems like Acer’s offering generally edges other laptops in its class especially in terms of thickness, weight and RAM. We reckon that the closest competition that the V15 Nitro has in the group above would be the Lenovo IdeaPad Y50-70 which also features a slim and lightweight design as well as the same Core i7 processor and GeForce GTX 860M GPU.
However, don’t be fooled by the bigger VRAM on the GTX 860M GPU on the Y50-70. This GPU is actually based on the older Kepler architecture. As it turns out, the Maxwell version of the GTX 860M – which is the very GPU that is inside the V15 Nitro –has better performance than Kepler-based GTX 860M despite having only half the VRAM. [We have learned that the Y50-70 that is sold in Malaysia is indeed powered by Maxwell-based GTX 860M, hence we have updated our observations below based on this fact. Thank you Reuben and ytlay for pointing this out.]
The Y50-70 might be little bit behind the Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition in terms of system memory since it only has 8GB of RAM but it carries twice the amount of GDDR5 memory for its GPU. Hence, the Y50-70 might have an upper hand for certain games or applications that have a recommended GPU memory requirement that goes beyond 2GB such as the recently released Assassin’s Creed Unity.
That being said, the Y50-70 is not built with IPS display unlike Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition. Not to forget, there is also a RM600 difference in price between the both of them.
Back to the original question that we asked at the start of this review: what is the level of performance that the Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition is able to deliver to users? From what have seen through our tests, benchmarks and our brief time using the laptop, it is certainly a high performance laptop despite being positioned in mid-range class.
Not only that, its slim and lightweight chassis as well as low system noise certainly made the laptop a pleasant one to use. Furthermore, it also features one of the best speaker setups that we have heard on a laptop at this price in terms of both quality and volume.
Of course, there is still a flaw on the Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition: its battery life which is way shorter that what we expected. It is rather disappointing to see that the laptop would run out of juice so quickly even for less intensive tasks such as movie playback. It is something that we hope that Acer is able to address using future BIOS updates or a software patch.
Nevertheless, what we’re seeing here with the Acer Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition is a mid-range gaming laptop that offers arguably the best value for money package in its class. It is also the most affordable GTX 860M-equipped laptop currently in Malaysia, which makes this a very attractive proposition for gamers not looking to splurge on a high-end machine.
– Slim and lightweight physique.
– Very faint system noise unless under heavy load.
– 12GB RAM, more than many other laptops in the same class.
– NVIDIA GTX 860M with Maxwell architecture.
– Impressive audio quality, thanks to its 4-speakers setup and Dolby software.
– RM 3,399 price tag.
– Fingerprint magnet.
– Plastic looking hinge.
– Exceptionally short battery life.