This article gathers our impressions on the updated Acer Aspire 7 2019 line, a computer designed to offer performance in a compact and light 15-inch envelope.
Unlike the previous Aspire 7 lineups, I feel that the A715-73G models target a completely different audience and aim to attract professional users in search of a powerful portable notebook for their on-the-go assignments. That’s suggested by the lightweight magnesium build, the clean aesthetics, the integrated Intel Kaby Lake-G hardware platform with Radeon RX graphics, the competent IO and, of course, a higher price tag that comes as a result of all these traits.
The competition is harsh in the $1200 to $1500 price-range segment though, and although the Aspire 7 has its fair share of strong-points and flaws, it is nonetheless a niche-product, mostly due to the hardware implementation. We’ll explain why in the rows below, which include our findings after spending the last two weeks with this Aspire 7 A715-73G.
Specs as reviewed
|Acer Aspire 7 A715-73G|
|Screen||15.6 inch, 1920 x 1080 px, IPS, non-touch, matte|
|Processor||Intel Kaby Lake Core i7-8705G CPU|
|Video||Intel HD 630 + AMD Radeon RX Vega M GL|
|Memory||8 GB DDR4 2600 MHz (soldered)|
|Storage||256 GB SSD (WDC PC SN720 – M.2 PCIe x2 80 mm)|
|Connectivity||Wireless AC (Intel AC 7265), Bluetooth 4.1|
|Ports||2x USB-A 3.1, 1x USB-A 2.0, 1x USB-C gen 1 (with charging), HDMI, SD card reader, mic/headphone, Kensington Lock|
|Battery||48 Wh, 90 Wh|
|Size||360 mm or 14.2” (w) x 241 mm or 9.5” (d) x 17.9 mm or 0.7” (h)|
|Weight||3.1 lbs (1.4 kg), .9 lbs (.42 kg) charger with cables, EU version|
|Extras||white backlit keyboard, VGA webcam, available in Utopia Blue|
Design and construction
The 2019 Aspire 7 A715-73G is not like the previous Aspire 7 lines and actually comes closer to Acer’s thin-and-light Swift 5 series.
Magnesium alloys are used for the entire outer construction, with a rough finishing that looks like it can take a beating and will age well. As a result, the laptop is very light for what it is, at only a little above 3 lbs, despite packing powerful hardware and a 15-inch screen. This Aspire is also fairly compact, although not as small as some of the other 15-inchers on the market, something you can tell from the size of the bezels around the screen: the side ones are slim, but the chin and forehead are only about average.
As far as the aesthetics go, Acer went with a simple, rather utilitarian design, for this update Aspire 7 lineup, which gets a clean dark-gray theme with little branding elements and absolutely no bling or annoying lights (even the status LEDs are on the side). I like the approach, but I can see how it might not appeal to everyone.
I also like that the gray finishing does an excellent job at hiding smudges and fingerprints, so you don’t constantly have to rub this clean, as you do with other dark-themed laptops. Just to make this more clear, normally I have to clean up the laptop before taking photos for the articles, but in this case that wasn’t required, that’s how the laptop looks after using it for about two weeks.
The build quality is alright, but there’s flex in the screen and keyboard-deck, something I’ve come to expect from magnesium built laptops. You’ll quickly notice it with daily use, both when typing or when opening the display.
That’s, in fact, something you will struggle with on this Aspire 7, as there’s no crease to grab the screen from, so you’ll have to somehow get your fingernail in between the two halves in order to lift up the screen. This aspect aside, though, this notebook is practical and comfortable to use. The hinges keep the screen well in place and allow it to lean back flat to 180 degrees, while at the same time you can adjust the inclination with a single hand. The rubber feet at the bottom keep the whole thing anchored on a desk, and the only sharp bits are underneath, where the bottom panel joins-in with the inner deck and your fingers will get in touch with these parts when grabbing the laptop.
On the belly, you’ll also notice the speaker grills and ample air-intake grills, supplemented by output grills on the rear-edge, which suggest that this packs some firepower. We’ll get to that in a further section.
Acer did a fairly good job with the IO, given the size of this laptop. The Aspire 7 A715-73G gets three USB-A slots, HDMI, a full-size SD card reader, and a USB-C port that support video-output and charging. There’s no Thunderbolt 3 compatibility though, which might be limiting this for some professional users.
All in all, the Aspire 7 is a nice little-fuss 15-inch laptop. I feel that its finishing is one of its main strong points, with the way it feels and resists smudges and scratches, alongside the compact footprint and lightweight, but at the same time, I wish the chassis would have felt stronger and not flex as much. That’s a culprit of magnesium builds, though.
Keyboard and trackpad
The 2019 Aspire 7 gets a keyboard we’ve previously seen on other Acer laptops, like the Swift 5, and it’s an implementation that requires time to get used to.
The layout is fine, with a set of 15×15 mm main keys, smaller function keys at the top and small up/down arrow keys. There’s also an extra column of keys at the right end of the layout, which some of you will find useful, but you’ll have to adjust to them when looking for Backspace and Enter. The Power button is also integrated within the keyboard, as the top right key, and it’s automatically disabled from Windows so the laptop doesn’t go to sleep when pressed, as on other implementations.
Just like on the Swift 5 though, my knits are with the keyboard’s feedback. As expected on such a thin and light laptop, this Aspire 7 gets a short-travel keyboard, and while I’m usually a fan of short keyboards, this one is very unforgiving. The keys put little resistance and depress way too easily, which translated in poor typing accuracy, even after typing several thousand words on it. On top of that, this is also fairly chattery and might distract those around you in a library or other very quiet places.
The keys are backlit, of course, but there are no illumination levels to choose from, it’s either On or Off. As a side note, you can’t activate the illumination by swiping your fingers over the clickpad, you actually have to press a key to do it, and light creeps out from under the Space key. On top of that, there are also no indicator LEDs to let you know when CapsLock or NumLock are active.
The clickpad sits just beneath the keyboard, and it’s rather oddly placed towards the left side of the laptop, not centered under the Space key like with other laptops. It’s large enough though, and the plastic surface is a Synaptics implementation with Precision drivers, thus handles everyday use smoothly and reliably.
Physical clicks are fairly good as well, albeit a bit clunky, but I do have to add that the surface rattles when tapped a little firmer in its lower bottom half.
There’s also a finger-sensor on this laptop, placed beneath the arrow keys, which works fine for logging into Windows.
This notebook gets a 15.6-inch matte screen with narrow bezels and a fairly good IPS panel.
While the brightness is only sufficient for indoor-use, at a maximum of around 280 nits, the black, the contrast, colors, and viewing angles will satisfy most users for daily use. More details below, taken with a Spyder4 sensor:
- Panel HardwareID: – (LM156LF9L02);
- Coverage: 98% sRGB, 73% NTSC, 76% AdobeRGB;
- Measured gamma: 2.3;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 276 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 810:1;
- White point: 6800 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.34 cd/m2;
- PWM: N/A
The panel is well calibrated out of the box, but you can use this calibrated profile to further correct some of the slight imbalances.
Our sample also didn’t get any visible light-bleeding around the edges, at any brightness level. However, our tests did measure a fairly significant color and luminance variation between the various parts of the panel, with the corners being up to 15% dimmer than the middle at 50% brightness.
All in all, this is not a bad screen, but at the same time also not spectacular in any way. Like mentioned before, it will suffice for daily use, but those who use their laptop outdoors or need professional-grade color accuracy will be better off looking into other products.
Hardware, performance and upgrade options
Our test model is a mid-range configuration of the Aspire 7 A713-75G, with an Intel KabyLake-G Core i7-8705G processor, 8 GB of 2400 MHz DDR4 RAM, a 256 GB WDC PC SN720 SSD and the AMD Radeon RX Vega M GL.
The CPU/GPU hardware platform is this laptop’s main selling point and, at the same time, the main potential deal-breaker. Back in early 2018 when launched, KabyLake-G was announced as a competent platform for thin-and-light performance ultraportables, with a powerful CPU and a GPU that could rival the performance of a dedicated GTX 1050 Ti chip, all on the same die and with improved efficiency. One year later, this hasn’t changed, but alternatives with distinct CPUs and GPUs have improved.
KabyLake-G includes a quad-core eight-thread processor, with each core clocked at 3.1 GHz and the ability to turbo up to 4.1 GHz, alongside dual graphics: an Intel HD 630 chip and a Radeon RX Vega M GL graphics chip, with 20 compute units and 4 GB of HBM2 memory. The idea is to use the AMD graphics when performance is required, and switch to the Intel alternative when efficiency is demanded, in order to preserve battery life. This article better explains the particularities of the KabyLake-G platform, and this one dives into more details on why AMD uses HBM memory on the Vega platforms.
Before we get to talk about performance, we should once more iterate that this Aspire 7 is primarily an all-around laptop suited for demanding tasks that require combined CPU and GPU power, so it can handle photo/video editing, programming software, and the likes. For that, Acer also puts two M.2 PCIe x4 storage slots on the Aspire 7, but the memory is soldered on the motherboard. Our test unit came with just 8 GB of DDR4 memory, and I would absolutely advise going with a 16 GB configuration on this computer.
Of course, the hardware can easily handle everyday use, in which case the Aspire 7 actually runs perfectly silent and cool. Here’s what to expect in terms of performance and CPU/GPU temperatures with daily chores.
We test the CPU’s behavior in demanding loads by running Cinebench R15 for 10+ times in a loop, with 2-3 sec delay between each run, which simulates a 100% load on all the cores. For our tests, we used the High-Performance mode in Windows.
Out of the box, the CPU settles for around 3.2 GHz after several Cinebench runs, scores of around 690 points, a TDP of 31-32 W and high temperatures of around 95-96 degrees Celsius. In other words, the CPU is thermally limited in this kind of loads, and Thermal Limit Throttling intervenes in order to lower the frequencies and keep temperatures at bay.
Undervolting can significantly improve this behavior. We used XTU and stably lowered the voltages to -150 mV, then reran the Cienbecnh loop test. In this case, the CPU runs stable at around 3.6-3.7 GHz, a TDP of 32+ W and temperatures of around 95-96 degrees Celsius, returning scores of around 770-780 points. Thermal limiting still occurs, but the CPU is able to run at 15% higher clocks and score 10-15% higher in benchmarks.
You should not forget that 3.7 GHz is, in fact, the i7-8705G CPU’s maximum Turbo Boost frequency in all-core loads, which means that with undervolting, the Aspire 7 delivers on the maximum performance you can accept from this platform in CPU intensive tasks.
Further undervolting might be also possible. Our sample completed the Cinebench loop test fine at as low as -180 mV, but occasionally crashed in combined CPU+GPU applications, that’s why we dialed back to -150 mV for our tests. At -180 mV, the CPU runs at 3.7 GHz all the time, temperatures of around 95 degrees Celsius and consistently returns scores of 800+ points.
Next, we’ve included a set of benchmarks, for those of you interested in numbers. First, we ran some of them on the High-Performance profile and default settings:
- 3DMark 11: P8949 (Physics – 7143, Graphics – 9969);
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 6004 (Graphics – 7181, Physics – 8464);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 2194 (Graphics – 2100, CPU – 2942);
- PCMark 10: 4831;
- GeekBench 4.1.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 4621, Multi-core: 15382;
- CineBench R15 (best run): OpenGL 102.37 fps, CPU 740 cb, CPU Single Core 161 cb;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 –175.41 fps, Pass 2 – 45.48 fps.
Then we ran even more tests on the -150 mV undervolted profile:
- 3DMark 11: P9266 (Physics – 7959, Graphics – 9977);
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 6058 (Graphics – 7166, Physics – 9245);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 2221 (Graphics – 2095, CPU – 3382);
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 4030;
- PCMark 10: 4849;
- PassMark: Rating: 3807, CPU Mark: 9903, 3D Graphics Mark: 1140;
- CineBench R15 (best run): OpenGL 102.45 fps, CPU 784 cb, CPU Single Core 159 cb;
- GeekBench 3.4.2 32-bit: Single-Core: 4640, Multi-core: 15528;
- GeekBench 4.1.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 4652, Multi-core: 15548;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 –178.34 fps, Pass 2 – 48.78 fps.
Given the thermal limits of the default settings, I would recommend buyers to undervolt their unit, which translates in 5-15% performance gains in CPU related tasks, as well as small changes in GPU scores and lower internal temperatures, in some cases.
While the Aspire 7 is not a gaming laptop, we’ll also address its gaming abilities down below. We ran a couple of DX11 and DX12 games on our test-unit, on FHD resolution and Low/High/Ultra details, and compiled the results in the following table. We ran all our tests on the -150 mV undervolted profile.
|FHD Low Preset||FHD High Preset||FHD Ultra Preset|
|Bioshock Infinite||140 fps||100 fps||60 fps|
|Far Cry 5||47 fps||39 fps||– fps|
|Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor||66 fps||109 fps||50 fps|
|Rise of Tomb Raider||53 fps||40 fps||35 fps|
|Shadow of Tomb Raider||47 fps||35 fps||29 fps|
|The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt||60-75 fps||35-46 fps||– fps|
- The Witcher 3 – recorded with Fraps in campaign mode
- Bioshock, Far Cry 5, Middle Earth, Tomb Raider games – recorded with the included Benchmark utilities
This is what we got in terms of CPU and GPU speeds in Witcher 3 on the default High-Performance mode. The performance is alright, as the GPU runs at its maximum Turbo Clock speeds for most of the time, with some dips. The CPU, on the other hand, clocks down beneath its designed frequency of 3.1 GHz.
Both the CPU’s and GPU’s behavior improves on the -150 mV undervolted profile, as you can see in several different titles in the logs below.
Emissions (noise, heat), Connectivity and speakers
The 2019 Aspire 7 offers a competent cooling solution, with two fans, two heat pipes and heat-spread plates on top of the RAM and VRM modules, supplemented by a proper intake/output design, with fresh air being sucked in from the bottom and pushed out through the exhaust on the rear edge.
This allows the laptop to run coolly with daily use, and for the most part, totally quiet. The fans rest idle with basic use, and only kick in with multitasking, but are barely audible at head level in a quiet room. They do ramp up with more demanding tasks and games, but don’t go above 40-41 dB at head-level, and keep the outer shell within reasonable temperatures. The left side of the keyboard, around the WASD keys, does reach temperatures in the mid-40s though, which can get rather unpleasant in warmer environments.
I’ll also add that we haven’t noticed any coil whine with regular use, but some electronic creaking does occur from time to time when running more demanding loads.
For connectivity, there’s only an older generation Intel 7265 wireless module inside this laptop, with Bluetooth 4.1, but it proved reliable and fast-enough with our setup, both near the router and at 30+ feet, with obstacles in between.
As far as the speakers go, there’s a set of them firing through rather small cuts of the belly, and they’re alright, but not great. We measured maximum volumes of about 75-77 dB at head level, without any distortions or vibrations, but the sound quality lacks plenty at the lower end, with bass only noticeable from around 110 Hz. Peaking inside you’ll see that Acer went with some small speakers on this device, despite the fact that there was plenty of space inside to include bigger ones.
A 720p camera and several microphones are placed at the top of the screen, and both are fine for occasional use, but nothing to brag about.
There’s only a 48 Wh battery inside the Aspire 7 A715-73G, which is small for a premium 15-inch laptop in 2019. There is plenty of space inside for a bigger battery, but Acer decided to stick with a standard-sized one, perhaps in order to keep the weight down and save some costs.
Here what we got in our tests, with the screen set at 30% brightness, which is around 120 nits:
- 8.5 W (~5 h 30 min of use) – text editing in Google Drive, Better Battery Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 6.5 W (~7+ h of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Edge, Better Battery Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 6.5 W (~7+ h min of use) – Netflix fullscreen in Edge, Better Battery Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 12 W (~4 h of use) – browsing in Edge, Better Performance Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON.
Acer bundles this notebook with a compact and light 90 W charger, adequately sized for the hardware inside. There’s no quick-charging, as far as I can tell, and a full recharge takes about 2 hours. The included charger uses a standard barrel plug, however, the laptop can also charge via the USB-C port, if needed.
Price and availability
The Aspire 7 A715-73G is listed in various stores around the globe at the time of this article.
In Europe, the Core i7-8705G configuration with 8 GB of RAM and 512 GB of SSD storage is listed at 1299 EUR, while in the US a similarly specced variant, but with 16 GB of RAM, has an MSRP of around $1400.
That’s definitely not cheap, and we’ll further touch on this matter in the next section. I do expect these prices to drop over the next months, though, and you should follow this link for updates at the time you’re reading the article.
This laptop is a mixed bag, and for several different reasons.
First of all, it’s compact and also one of the lightest 15-inch devices on the market, and its magnesium shell makes it perfect for those who need a computer that can take a beating and don’t have to be wiped clean often in order to look presentable. Then, it gets a pretty good IPS screen which can lean-back to 180 degrees, a good set of ports (for such a portable device), a full-size keyboard and clickpad, as well as a competent cooling implementation, quiet with both daily use and demanding chores.
And then there’s the performance aspect. This handles demanding loads a little better than a current Whiskey Lake Core U laptop, but with a quad-core CPU, it’s also significantly slower than the six-core Coffee Lake platforms other manufacturers put inside their performance ultraportables. As for GPU performance, the Radeon Vega M places the Aspire 7 somewhere between a GTX 1050 and a 1050 Ti laptop in terms of gaming abilities, with some extra benefits in professional software that can make use of the HBM2 memory, higher clocks and various software optimizations. The platform is also fairly efficient on battery, where the Intel chip takes over and allows the Aspire 7 to last for about 4-5 hours of daily use, despite the fact that it only packs a 48 Wh battery.
That means that the Aspire 7 A715-73G might have what it takes to compete with the alternative platforms. It’s faster than Core U + GTX options, and while slower than Core H + GTX/RTX options, it’s more compact, more efficient and for the most part, more affordable. This also performs well on battery, where some of the Core H implementations might struggle, and that’s important for creators, who might often find themselves away from a wall outlet.
Acer did cut some corners on this laptop though, and some I find hard to accept. You’re expected to pay a premium for the KabyLake-G implementation and lightweight form-factor, and while the platform’s balance between performance and efficiency might be worth $1400 to some of you, I would have wanted at least a bigger battery and a better-polished keyboard at this price-point, not to mention extras like Thunderbolt 3 or a brighter display. A sturdier build would have been appreciated as well, as I’m personally not a big fan of the flexibility of these magnesium alloys Acer use on their thin-and-light notebooks.
At the end of the day, I feel that the Aspire 7 needs to come down in price in order to compete with existing alternatives, and I’m pretty sure that’s going to happen in the next few months. At $1000 to $1200, this could be the right pick for those who need a compact and lightweight laptop that can handle more demanding workloads and games from time to time, but also run for a few hours on battery, when needed. Until that happens, I would also advise you to check out some of the other options with fairly similar traits and price-tags of around $1200 to $1500, like the Asus ZenBook UX533, the Lenovo ThinkPad P1 or the Dell XPS 15.
That wraps up our review of the Acer Aspire 7 A715-73G, and I’m looking forward to your opinions and questions in the comments section down below.
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