After several months of waiting we are now starting to see the first Haswell-powered Ultrabooks hit the market, bringing with them the increased power and battery life that has been the major focus of Intel’s latest architecture
As you can see with our review of Dell’s XPS 12 on page 37, Haswell is capable of great things in the Ultrabook space. When used properly the CPU delivers a great experience, combining excellent mobility with good enough performance for day to day computing tasks.
However, it seems that some manufacturers still haven’t learned the lessons that have seen companies like Sony and Dell really up their game in recent months. If the V7 is anything to go by, it appears that Acer falls into this category, for it has delivered a competent enough laptop, but one with a few glaring flaws that make it hard to recommend.
At first blush Acer’s V7 Ultrabook looks tempting, but once power is applied and the 1366 x 768 resolution screen comes to life the lustre fades. It may seem a strange thing to be fixated upon, but no matter how nice the screen looks, the low resolution is a deal breaker in this day and age, especially when talking about a laptop that will set you back a cool $1500.
It isn’t just the screen that we disliked about the V7, we were also somewhat stunned by the generally sluggish feel of the laptop, due largely to the use of a 500GB hard drive and 20GB caching SSD, a noticeable step down in performance from the SSD-powered Ultrabooks that we have been testing of late. There is of course a major tradeoff between capacity and performance being made here, but the mechanical hard drive feels like it is doing the Core i7-4500U CPU and 8GB of RAM in the V7 a major disservice.
This is manifested in our benchmark results, where the V7 only manages a meagre 0.59 overall score. This can be largely attributed to the choice of storage – while a caching solution like that implemented on the V7 will make the laptop feel more responsive over time, it is never going to be as snappy as something with a dedicated SSD inside. It was also uncomfortably noisy under load – the fans aren’t the worst we have heard, but they are definitely noticeable over the ambient noise in the PC&TA editorial room when the CPU is working hard
The one area where the V7 shone was battery life, lasting eight and a half hours in our light use tests. Again this is down to Haswell rather than anything done by Acer, and well below the new yardsticks set by the more battery conscious Ultrabook designs.
At 2.23 kg, the V7 is also on the heavy side compared to the competition. We could forgive the weight premium if there was some sort of interesting tradeoff, like a discreet GPU or optical drive, but apart from the inclusion of an Ethernet port there is little to differentiate it from the competition. It doesn’t even make use of Intel’s new 802.11ac wireless chipset, as seen in the XPS 12.
In many ways the major selling point of the V7 is that it is one of the few 15in Ultrabooks on the market, but when you factor in the woefully low resolution screen… If we were talking about a cheaper model then this wouldn’t be much of an issue, but again we come back to the price point and the fact that we expect more than what Acer has delivered.
Ultimately this isn’t an awful product, just an awfully average one, released at a time when the competition is starting to get things right. When you consider that you can likely get a non-Ultrabook that weighs a smidge more and delivers much more power for less money the V7 really becomes a hard sell.