Acer Aspire V17 Nitro review-in-brief: powerful but uninspiring

Choosing a gaming laptop is a very personal affair, even more so than building a gaming rig. When drawing up specs for a built machine there’s room to breathe with specifications and options. Manufacturers dictate what goes into a gaming laptop, so there’s ultimately more sacrifice involved.

Alienware, MSI, and Asus are all big names in the space, but Acer has been crafting some interesting gaming-inspired products recently, especially with the Predator range. We’re looking at a slightly toned down device from the Taiwanese company though — the Acer Aspire V17 Nitro — which could easily pass as an office monster.

But is this 17.3-inch Nvidia-powered behemoth worth all the fuss?

For one, it certainly looks the part with its clean lines and slick finishes. It’s enormous, it’s heavy and it runs pretty hot — everything you’d expect from a desktop replacement/gaming machine, but that’s not to say it’s unattractive either.

Acer Aspire V17 Nitro

The Aspire is also seriously thin for all the heat-crazed hardware packed into its shell, which itself slopes down from the higher hinge section to the end of the keyboard. The hinge is of the polished metal persuasion, and looks damn fine alongside the dimpled black lid cover and the general dark demeanour of the unit.

Build quality is generally solid, apart from a few flexing portions on the body work itself — that’s to be expected though from a predominantly plastic machine. Aspire’s also printed along the rear ridge of the machine too. It’s all in the details.

Opening the machine reveals the business district, fit with a full-sized keyboard which hilariously doesn’t cover much of the 17-inch frame at all. The touchpad is where everything really falls apart, or at least begins to.

The touchpad forms the base of the left- and right-click units, which is possibly the most annoying thing a manufacturer could do on a gaming laptop, or hell, any laptop. Sure, it results in a neater package but it’s terrible to use. The clicks aren’t defined, the taps are even less so. If you do plan to game with this thing, use a dedicated gaming mouse.

Acer Aspire V17 Nitro

Acer did well with the keyboard — for typing at least. The keys are too far apart for effective gameplay. Again, we’re not sure if Acer intended the Aspire V17 Nitro as a desktop workhorse for all purposes, or a general gaming machine.

Of course, if you’re gaming you’ll need a kickass GPU, and Acer delivers with that.

There’s an Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M alongside a Intel Core i7-4710HQ Haswell CPU topping out at 2.5GHz, which provides plenty of horsepower for gaming, video editing or, well, Facebooking at a frantic pace.

There’s also 6GB of RAM and a 60GB SSD and 1TB mechanical drive option. We would’ve loved to see a larger SSD strapped in, but 60GB is just enough for the OS and around two games.

The 1080p screen is perhaps a little ordinary compared to the 4K unit fitted to the V15 Nitro, but it’ll do, and probably helps the battery out a little bit too (which needs all the help it can get).

Speaking of battery, it doesn’t last very long on this machine and even when the Intel GPU is activated. The best time I could archive is just below 3 hours of office usage, which equates to about 40 minutes of game time. It’s really not meant to run on it’s battery, and in effect, it doesn’t do it justice to choose a power mode that doesn’t take advantage of the Nvidia GPU.

Acer Aspire V17 Nitro Black Edition
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Acer Aspire V17 Nitro

Acer Aspire V17 Nitro

Acer Aspire V17 Nitro

Acer Aspire V17 Nitro

The V17 Nitro's lid finish is that of rippled plastic and feels particularly good to the touch.

Samsung Csc

It's not the thinnest machine, but it does pack a DVD/BluRay combo drive and two USB ports on one side.

Samsung Csc

HDMI, and another USB port alongside Ethernet and a Kensinton lock slot features on the other.

Samsung Csc

The hinge has an ASPIRE V17 NITRO imprint which looks great, contrasting with the hard black exterior.

Samsung Csc

It's a seriously large machine, and probably won't be lugged around in a hurry. It's better as a desktop replacement -- and that's it's biggest flaw.

Samsung Csc

They keyboard looks nice, but I didn't enjoy gaming or typing on it.

Samsung Csc

The duo that makes gaming on this 1080p beast possible.

Samsung Csc

The beauty of the underside of the machine helps keep it cool. It has its work cut out.

With that said, gaming is a relatively pleasant graphical experience.

We didn’t take any FPS readings, but all games played — from The Expendabros to the GPU intensive Tomb Raider — didn’t really drop below visibly bad levels. All games were playable at High to Maximum settings. The 860M is a reasonable mobile GPU, but it’s nowhere near the 880M in terms of performance.

Is it worth the price though?

This thing bounces between the R20 000 bracket, so it’s firmly in the same price range as its rivals. What it doesn’t offer is a face full of attitude and workable native input options. We’re not too sure if you can actually find such a well-rounded spec sheet though on any other device. It’s also cheaper than the Dell XPS range, if you’re interested in using the Aspire V17 Nitro as a desktop replacement.

Of course, it all comes down to personal preference in the end, and personally I don’t fancy the V17 Nitro at all, at least not as a gaming machine on the go.

Verdict: It’s large, it’s heavy and it hums through battery. The keyboard is average for gaming and the touchpad is terrible for all purposes, but the beauty of this machine lies in the inside. The i7/860M combo is ideal for gaming above 30 fps, but that can’t quite outshine the other faults with this laptop. It would be a great desktop replacement, but it’s a rubbish portable gaming machine.

Score: 5.5/10

Andy Walker
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