Acer Aspire VN7-591G 4k laptop review

Acer Aspire VN7-591G

Acer joined the Ultra HD club with one particular model of its Aspire VN7-591G laptop. The series of 15.6-inch laptops includes various configurations, from a low-res 1366 x 768 pixel, to full-HD, to this model with a 3840 x 2160-pixel display.

Also known as the Aspire V 15 Nitro Black Edition, this is an entertainment-focused notebook with a decent graphics processor from nVidia for playing Windows games, along with better than typical internal speakers.

You could view the VN7-591G as a desktop replacement for home users. At 2.1 kg and around 24 mm thick, it's still reasonably portable, although we found its poor battery life recommends it more to a life tied to a mains adaptor. (See also: best laptops of 2015.)

Acer Aspire VN7-591G review: Build and design

The case is all black plastic, finished with a ribbed and  slightly rubber lid back, while the sculpted underside is satin black and also with a rubbery texture. It's the kind of soft-touch plastic that allows a little more finger grip and also means the case will be covered in unattractive oily fingerprints. There are no hatches or doors below for removing the battery or changing memory or storage.

The left edge of the chassis is entirely blank, excepting a lock slot Kensington style toward the hinge. On the right side are three USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, an ethernet port with spring-loaded flap, and DC power inlet. The back edge is also free of any ports, just showing air inlet and outlet grilles. An SD card slot is embedded into the front edge.

Acer Aspire VN7-591G

The keyboard takes the familiar Scrabble-tile form, with matching satin black keys, joined by the usual number keypad on the right. The keyboard has a rudimentary light option with a red glow that shows through the cracks around the keys, rather than the keys themselves glowing. This crack-lit keyboard was found to be good for actual typing, with an extremely short-travel action but firm and quiet keys.

Below the keys and offset in order to try to be centred with the main Qwerty keyboard, the trackpad is of the modern buttonless design. At 106 x 77 mm its matt-textured top is usefully large to allow some multi-touch control. We found its two-finger scrolling was set up to follow Apple's lead, with a 'natural' direction of motion where finger direction is mirrored by content movement.

Inside the laptop is an older Wi-Fi adaptor only capable of a two-stream 802.11n connection, which seems rather backward on a 2014 laptop with claims to the ultimate entertainment experience.

This Acer Aspire laptop has been subsidised by Amazon, Booking.com, Dropbox, eBay and Foxit, companies which have software or desktop shortcuts pre-installed and their icons littering the desktop. For Windows anti-virus, McAfee is pre-installed and frequently annoyed us with regular pleas to subscribe that kept popping up and intefering with testing. (See also: MacBook Pro vs MacBook Air comparison.)

Acer Aspire VN7-591G review: Pay and display

The screen will be the main attraction for some potential buyers here, with an ultra-high definition LCD crammed into a 15.6-inch frame to give a very high pixel density of 283 pixels per inch (ppi). Acer set up this display in the factory so that Windows enlarges the interface to 250 percent ('Extra Extra Large'), with the result that the basic Windows desktop becomes usable again and looks more like a 1600 x 900-pixel native resolution panel. Where it works, the interface looks pin-sharp.

But as with other very high-resolution displays we've tested, usability in Windows is rather patchy. While parts of Microsoft OS interface looks clean and precise, some programs are rendered as fuzzy and with furry text – Windows Computer Management is a single, extended example where you're confronted with blurred typography. Meanwhile various third-party programs were found not to observe scaling rules at all and were made unreadably small.

The TFT display uses IPS technology which enables reasonably accurate colour reproduction and wide viewing angles, and its matt anti-glare finish works effectively at removing annoying reflections.

Acer Aspire VN7-591G

In our lab test, the display could reproduce 95 percent of the basic sRGB colour gamut, and 71 percent of Adobe RGB, figures which are typical for a modern IPS panel.

Luminance uniformity was very good, mostly within 5 percent variation at different brightness settings, bar a 13 percent drift in the centre-right. Overall colour accuracy from a 48-tone test was a very respectable average of just 0.72 Delta E. And contrast ratio was measured as a decent 700:1, even if maximum brightness was on the low side at just 256 cd/m^2.

Most computer displays can now exceed 300 cd/m^2 although to be fair you rarely need that kind of very high brightness unless working under particularly bright ambient light conditions.

Acer Aspire VN7-591G review: Processors

Our sample of the VN7-351G was running an Intel Core i5 processor with Hyper Threading Technology. This Core i5-4210H – not to be confused with the 1.7 GHz Intel Core i5-4210U used in other variants – is a 2.9 GHz dual-core chip that can dynamically overclock up to 3.5 GHz.

It was backed with 12 GB of 1600 MHz memory, comprising 8 and 4 GB SODIMM modules. For storage it has a 128 GB solid-state drive from Kingston Memory to form the C:\ boot drive; and a 1 TB Seagate hard disk as D:\ drive.

Graphics processing is courtesy of one of the recent 800-series chips from nVidia, here a GeForce GTX 860M with 2 GB of memory. Also available for economy use is the integrated solution on the Intel CPU, HD Graphics 4600. (See also: Should I buy a Windows laptop or a Chromebook? Office apps on Chromebook explained.)

Acer Aspire VN7-591G review: Lab performance

In the Geekbench 3 test of raw processor and memory speed, the VN7-591G scored 3347 points with a single core, and 7009 points in multi-core mode.

In PCMark 7 it scored 5538 points overall, while in the accelerated sections of PCMark 8 it scored 2782 points (Home) and 3327 points (Work).

These are all good benchmark results that are in line with the results from premium notebooks.

Gaming performance measured very well, with high framerates from modern games at decent resolutions and details settings.

In Tomb Raider (2013) and set to 1920 x 1080 resolution with Normal details, the Acer averaged 94.5 frames per second. We kept the same display resolutions and gradually increased image quality until framerates dropped to unplayable levels. Fortunately we ran out of quality settings before running out of frames.

At High detail, average framerate was recorded at 65.7 fps, then 46.8 fps (Ultra) and 29.1 fps (Ultimate). Some combinations of games and hi-res laptops don't get along, but we could increase resolution right up to screen native 3840 x 2160, where the Acer averaged 6.0 fps at Ultimate detail, and 20.8 fps at High detail.

Acer Aspire VN7-591G

Turning to Metro: Last Light, the V 15 Nitro averaged 83.7 fps at half-HD 1280 x 720 (Medium detail), and 66 fps at 1600 x 900 (High). Ratcheting further to 1920 x 1080 (Very High) saw framerate plummet to an average of 28.3 fps.

Besides gaming tests, we also tried some sample '4K' video footage, and this did not play at all well. It was marred by intermittent MPEG artefacts and many dropped frames. Switching from Windows Media Player to VLC (hardware acceleration on and off) had no positive effect.

Battery life was especially disappointing, just 3 hour 5 min in our standard looped video over Wi-Fi test. This is  less than one-quarter the runtime available from leading laptops in 2014. (See also: best laptops of 2015.)

Acer Aspire VN7-591G: Specs

  • 15.6-inch (3840 x 2160, 283 ppi) matt IPS display
  • 2.9 GHz Intel Core i5-4210U dual-core (3.5 GHz max Turbo)
  • 128 GB Kingston RBU-SNS8100S3128GD SSD plus 1 TB Seagate 2.5in 5400 rpm SATA HDD
  • nVidia GeForce GTX 860M with 2 GB GDDR5 RAM plus Intel HD Graphics 4600
  • 12 GB 1600 MHz DDR3 RAM
  • 802.11a/b/g/n 2x2 MIMO
  • 53 Wh lithium battery, non-removable
  • 135 W mains adaptor (644 g)
  • 387 x 256 x 24.3 mm
  • 2163 g
  • 15.6-inch (3840 x 2160, 283 ppi) matt IPS display
  • 2.9 GHz Intel Core i5-4210U dual-core (3.5 GHz max Turbo)
  • 128 GB Kingston RBU-SNS8100S3128GD SSD plus 1 TB Seagate 2.5in 5400 rpm SATA HDD
  • nVidia GeForce GTX 860M with 2 GB GDDR5 RAM plus Intel HD Graphics 4600
  • 12 GB 1600 MHz DDR3 RAM
  • 802.11a/b/g/n 2x2 MIMO
  • 53 Wh lithium battery, non-removable
  • 135 W mains adaptor (644 g)
  • 387 x 256 x 24.3 mm
  • 2163 g

OUR VERDICT

Design and build quality are in line with expectations for a midrange laptop, while Intel and nVidia processors are also from the higher end of modern midrange laptops. At only around three hours, battery life was poor, suggesting this model will be mostly tethered to the mains. The display is the standout feature with great image quality, even if it doesn't lend itself to gaming at its 4K native resolution. Nor indeed would this laptop play our 4K sample video files properly, which makes it hard to recommend this 4K laptop for watching UHD 4K video or playing games at 4K resolution.