The ConceptD series is Acer’s lineup of performance computers for professional users, based on a few critical verticals: a clean design, modern hardware and the performance to match, as well as an excellent quality display with wide-gamut color coverage and preloaded factory-calibration.
We’ve covered the entire ConceptD line in a previous article, and in this one, we’ll take a closer look at the mid-range ConceptD 5 Pro 15-inch model (code name CN515-71P). We’ve also covered the 17-inch variant in a separate review.
In few words, this is a compact and neat looking laptop with matte-black aesthetics, mid-range hardware specs for late 2019 and a matte 100% AdobeRGB screen. It’s based on the same design as the Acer Nitro 7, but unlike that gaming variant, it gets the different screen, different hardware options and the clean looks that would better cater to professionals.
We’ve spent the last two weeks with the ConceptD 5 Pro, and gathered our impressions down below, with the solid traits and the quirks you should be aware of before jumping on one of these.
Specs as reviewed – Acer ConceptD 5 Pro CN515-71
|Acer ConceptD 5 Pro CN515-71P|
|Display||15.6-inch, 3840 x 2060 px IPS 60 Hz, non-touch, matte, AU Optronics B156ZAN03.1 panel|
|Processor||Intel Coffee Lake Core i7-8750H CPU|
|Video||Intel HD 630 + Nivida T1000 4 GB GDDR5 (GeForce 431.70), with Optimus|
|Memory||32 GB DDR4 2666 MHz (2x DIMMs)|
|Storage||2x M.2 PCI x4 slots, with RAID 0 support (1x 512 GB WDC PC SN720 SDAPNTW-512G)|
+ 2.5″ bay (empty)
|Connectivity||Gigabit LAN (Realtek RTL8168/8111), Wireless 6 (Intel AX200), Bluetooth 5.0|
|Ports||2 x USB-A 3.1, 1x USB-A 2.0, 1x USB-C, HDMI 2.0, LAN, mic/headphone, Kensington Lock|
|Battery||58 Wh, 135 W charger|
|Size||362 mm or 14.25” (w) x 263 mm or 10.45” (d) x 19.9 mm or 0.8” (h)|
|Weight||4.9 lbs (2.22 kg), 1.06 lbs (.48 kg ) for charger and cables, EU version|
|Extras||amber backlit keyboard, 720p webcam, stereo speakers|
This is a base level configuration of the ConceptD 5 Pro, but the higher tier will only get higher-level GPUs from Nvidia, namely the T2000 and the RTX Quadro 3000 at the top. Of course, RAM and storage will also vary between models, but everything else is shared between the multiple variants.
Acer also offers a 17-inch variant of the ConceptD 7 Pro, with an excellent display and improved thermals. You’ll find more about it from our review.
Design and construction
I already mentioned that the ConceptD 5 Pro is built on the same chassis we’ve previously seen on the Nitro 7, but with cleaner aesthetics.
That great news, as it’s one of the better builds Acer ever offered on one of their devices. That means the notebook is compact and fairly slim, but also entirely made out of metal. And Acer didn’t’ skimp on the quality here, they actually used thick sheets of metal for the entire outer case, including the lid cover and the underside, which give the product both a premium feel, but also the kind of sturdiness you’d normally only get with premium devices like the Blade or the ROG Zephyrus lines.
And then there’s the aesthetics part: the ConceptD 5 Pro is completely matte black, with just two accents of a different color: a ConceptD logo above the keyboard, and a bare-aluminum framing around the clickpad. This choice makes the ConceptD 5 Pro one of the nicer options for strict business or school environments.
However, there are also two drawbacks to this kind of build and choice of materials. Number one, the laptop is fairly heavy at around 4.9 lbs, at least by today’s standards, and number two, the dark metal smudges easily, so you’ll have to constantly give this a rub to keep it nice and tidy. I didn’t clean the review unit before taking the picture, so you’ll understand how it will look after a few days of use. And keep in mind I don’t have oily or sweaty hands.
While I’m nitpicking, I’ll also add that this still gets a very sharp front-lip and pointy front-corner that will dig into your wrists with daily use. It might not seem like much as long as you keep the laptop on a spacious desk, but try using it in more cramped spaces without that kind of arm-support and trust me, it’s going to hurt.
That aside, there’s not much else to complain about. The ergonomics are pretty good, with most ports lined on the left edge, grippy rubber feet on the bottom and solid hinges that keep the screen anchored as set-up. They also allow to lift-it open and adjust it with the use of a single hand, and to lean-back to about 165 degrees, which should cover most user requirements.
Back to that IO, though, this hasn’t changed from the Nitro, and that means there’s no Thunderbolt 3 support and no card-reader, something professionals might not be so keen on looking-over on a work computer. It’s up to you.
Keyboard and trackpad
The keyboard is an iteration of what Acer has been using on Nitro laptops of the past few years, but again, cleaner in design. Gone are the red accents and illumination, in are completely black keys with what looks like amber lighting.
The layout is otherwise pretty standard, with the main set of properly spaced and sized 15 x 15 mm keys and a smaller NumPad Section at the right side.
The illumination system is alright, with four different brightness settings to choose from. Due to the key’s fairly deep travel, though, light creeps out from some of the keys, and the illumination still cannot be activated by swiping your fingers over the clickpad, you have to hit a key to do it. That aside, it’s also important to add that this implementation lacks CapsLock and NumLock LED indicators, which can get frustrating at times.
As for the typing experience, it’s pretty good and I’d reckon most of you will like it, especially if you’re perhaps coming from an older laptop or a desktop keyboard. And that’s because the keys are a bit stiff and require a firm press than what I’m normally used to from my XPS.
Down below there’s an averagely sized plastic-made clickpad, with a nice framing around, Elan hardware and Precision drivers. That makes it smooth and reliable with everyday use. The surface is solid and doesn’t rattle with taps and gestures, and even the physical clicks are pretty quiet, but a little stiff to press.
As for biometrics, there aren’t any on this ConceptD 5 Pro.
The screen is this laptop’s main selling point and the number one reason you’d want to go with this sort of a Studio laptop in the first place, regardless of brand and type.
And that’s because of the actual panel: bright, punchy and color accurate. Not only this is a UHD panel with a resolution of 3840 x 2160 px, it also covers a wide gamut of colors and comes factory-calibrated for a DeltaE of less than 2, with a Pantone associated certification.
These make the ConcepD 5 Pro an excellent choice for those that need an accurate display for their line of work. Of course, daily content and movies are going to look nicer on this as well, but I doubt you’d be willing to pay the premium just for that, especially when that’s of around $300+ compared to a standard FHD display.
- Panel HardwareID: AU Optronics AUO31EB (B156ZAN03.1);
- Coverage: 100% sRGB, 100% NTSC, 100% AdobeRGB;
- Measured gamma: 2.2;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 321 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 830:1;
- White point: 6500 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.39 cd/m2;
- PWM: No;
- Response time: ~23 ms BTW.
My only knit here is with the overall brightness uniformity and the slight bleeding in the lower corners. It’s not awful, but it’s enough to notice when watching a movie in the dark.
That aside, it’s also worth adding that this is a fairly slow panel by today’s standards, with a BTW response time of about 23 ms, and a refresh rate of 60Hz, thus not ideal for playing games, where ghosting and tearing are visible in the fast-paced titles. PWM, on the other hand, is not used for brightness adjustment.
Hardware, performance and upgrade options
Our test version is a mid-tier configuration of the Acer ConceptD 5 Pro CN515-71, with the Core i7-9750H Coffee Lake-R processor, 32 GB of dual-channel 2666 MHz RAM, dual graphics and an NVMe drive for storage.
The laptop gets two M.2 SSDs with support for RAID0, as well as an HDD slot for storage, while in the graphics department, the Intel HD 630 iGPU integrated within the Core i7 processor is supplemented by an Nvidia Quadro T1000 4GB dGPU on our configuration. Higher tier variants will also be offered, with options for Quadro T2000 or Quadro RTX 3000 graphics.
The CPU and GPU are soldered onto the motherboard, but the RAM, storage and the WiFi module are accessible inside. To get to them you’ll have to remove the back panel, hold in place by a handful of Philips screws, which is a fairly simple task and gives unobstructed access to all those components, as well as the cooling solution, battery, and speakers. It’s nice that Acer put radiators on top of the SSDs and included the connector for the HDD even on this variant that doesn’t come with a preinstalled HDD.
Back to the hardware, the i7 CPU is standard for a mid-range performance laptop, but the Quadtro T1000 chip is new and part of what sets this laptop apart from most others. This is the entry-level option in the Turing Quadro series, based on the TU117 chip. That puts it on the same level as the consumer-grade GTX 1650, however, there are some differences between them. On one hand, there are fewer CUDA cores on the T1000, but as a Quadro, the chip is better optimized for compute-heavy workloads, offering both performance and especially improved stability and reliability. The T1000 lacks Tensor and Ray-Tracing cores, which start from the Quadro RTX 3000 chip.
That being said, we’re going to take a deeper look at how this laptop performs with demanding loads. Before we proceed, though, you should know that our review unit is a pre-production model with mature drivers from Nvidia (version 431.70), so it did much as you should expect from the retail units.
We’ll start by testing the CPU’s performance in 100% loads, and we do that by running Cinebench R15 for 10+ times in a loop, with 2-3 seconds delay between each run, with the laptop on the Maximum Performance Power profile in Windows and out-of-the-box settings. Most implementations of the i7-8750H CPU return high-scores for the first Cinebench runs, and then settle a little lower as the CPU heats-up and can no longer maintain its maximum Turbo speeds for more than a few seconds.
This one performed just as expected and settled for speeds of 2.8 – 2.9 GHz, a TDP of 45 W and temperatures of around 82 degrees Celsius, as well as scores of around 950-970 points. Details below.
Those are a bit low frequencies for a stock i7-8750H implementation, and that’s because Power Limit Throttling kicks in fast, according to XTU. That’s something we’ve also experienced on the Nitro 7, which is built on the same chassis and internal design.
Next, we moved to improve the behavior by undervolting the CPU, with either Intel XTU or Throttlestop (explained here). Our sample was stable at -125 mV in real use and benchmarks, and in this case, the CPU settled for scores of around 1030-1040 points, fluctuating Turbo Boost speeds of 3.0 – 3.4 GHz, a TDP of 45 W and temperatures of 86 degrees Celsius. Details above.
Power limit throttling is still the limiting factor here, and even undervolted, the CPU still performs at 10-15% beneath its maximum potential in this test. Further undervolting might be possible but could lead to instability in certain tasks, and that’s not something you can jeopardize on such a computer.
I should also add that this laptop ran hotter than the Nitro 7 in this test, and that’s because the fans are set to spin a little slower until the CPU reaches temperatures in the 90s, and then it kicks in faster.
I’ll also add that our sample performed well on battery, averaging around 880 points in Cinebench, with a TDP of 25 W and frequencies of around 2.7 GHz, as you can see below. It’s worth noting that while on battery, the CPU runs at a constant TDP of 25W, and does not reach higher frequencies in the first part of each loop, as it does when plugged in.
Next, we’ve included a set of benchmarks, for those of you interested in numbers. We ran some of them on the Standard profile first, with out-of-the-box settings and Maximum Performance mode in Windows. Here’s what we got:
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 7737 (Graphics – 8677, Physics – 13495);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 3482 (Graphics – 3273, CPU – 5458);
- GeekBench 4.3.2 64-bit: Single-Core: 5234, Multi-core: 20623;
- GeekBench 5.0.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 1183, Multi-core: 5249;
- CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 1015 cb, CPU Single Core 181 cb;
- CineBench R20 (best run): CPU 2195 cb;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 – 194.45 fps, Pass 2 – 62.46 fps.
We also ran a few more tests on the -125 mV undervolted CPU profile, without takilign the GPU in any way. Here’s what we got:
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 7782 (Graphics – 8707, Physics – 14146);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 3484 (Graphics – 3266, CPU – 5612);
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 1723;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 6344;
- PCMark 10: 4848 (Essentials – 8644 , Productivity – 6645 , Digital Content Creation – 5385);;
- PassMark: Rating: 5153, CPU mark: 14444, 3D Graphics Mark: 7571;
- GeekBench 4.3.2 64-bit: Single-Core: 5462, Multi-core: 22392;
- GeekBench 5.0.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 1190, Multi-core: 5618;
- CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 1127 cb, CPU Single Core 181 cb;
- CineBench R20 (best run): CPU 2449 cb;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 – 208.36 fps, Pass 2 – 77.12 fps;
- x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 61.02 s.
The results are pretty good, but the CPU scores trail behind the average i7-9750H implementation, which confirms what we found in the Cinebench loop. Of course, don’t forget this sample is pre-production, so you should take out findings with a grain of salt. Based on what we’ve seen on the Nitro 7, this design is capable of better CPU performance. As for the GPU, it trails the consumer-grade GTX 1650 just as expected in this sort of 3DMark tests, given its fewer CUDA cores and otherwise similar specs.
However, let’s touch on the workstation-related matters that put this ConceptD 5 Pro on the map. First, there’s the stability aspect, which we test by running the 3Dmark stress test. Our sample did good both with both out-of-the-box and undervolted settings and ran cooly and quietly. Both the CPU and GPU average roughly 70 degrees Celsius in this test, which is not bad at all. However, don’t forget that this does not simulate a 100% continuous load on the CPU and GPU, which we’ll touch in a bit.
As for the performance in demanding work loads, we also an a couple or benchmarks that simulate workstation-grade tasks, and gathered the results below:
- Blender – BMW Car scene – GPU Compute (CUDA): Time – 2:29.29;
- Blender – Classroom scene – CPU Compute: Time – 17:25.47;
- Luxmark 3.1 – Luxball HDR – OpenCL GPUs score: 11864;
- Luxmark 3.1 – Luxball HDR – OpenCL CPUs + GPUs score: 12506;
- SPECviewerf 13 – 3DSMax: 99.61;
- SPECviewerf 13 – Catia: 134.25;
- SPECviewerf 13 – Creo: 114.27;
- SPECviewerf 13 – Energy: 13.94;
- SPECviewerf 13 – Maya: 111.85;
- SPECviewerf 13 – Medical: 41.38;
- SPECviewerf 13 – Showcase: 40.82;
- SPECviewerf 13 – SNX: 148.92;
- SPECviewerf 13 – SW: 95.73.
Now, back to those complex CPU+ GPU loads, we tested these in Luxmark, Blender, and games. In Luxmark the GPU works flawlessly, maintaining maximum Turbo Boost Speeds, while the CPU is both Thermal and Power limited to 2.6 – 3.4 GHz, much like in the Cinebench loop test. With Blender, the CPU and GPU run at more stable frequencies, but the processor is thermally limited according to XTU, and the GPU only runs at 20W.
Unplugging the laptop limits the CPU to 25 W and the GPU to only 15 W in Blender, while it Luxmark it limits the CPU to under 20W and the GPU at 30W, as you can see below.
As for games, the logs below show what to expect, both with default settings and with the undervolted CPU.
Of course, this is not a laptop you should primarily get for gaming, there are cheaper and faster options for that purpose instead. Still, the ConceptD 5 Pro will game as long as you’re willing to drop the resolution to 1080p and details to Medium-High. In our tests, Farcry 5 averaged 57 fps on FHD/High, and Witcher 3 averaged 58-78 fps with the same settings.
I did notice that actually lifting the laptop in order to allow better airflow underneath lowers the CPU and GPU temperatures by about 5 degrees (72 C down to 66 C for the GPU, 88 down to 83 for the CPU), with a slight impact on the performance and a noticeable impact on the outer shell-temperatures. This is something to keep in mind: raise the laptop when running demanding loads or even use a cooling pad, it will benefit both the performance and the longterm reliability.
Bottom point, the ConceptD 5 Pro runs fairly well in this base-level configuration, and I feel there’s some thermal headroom to accommodate a Quadro T2000 chip as well. However, as you’ve seen throughout our tests, the thermal module shows limitations on this unit, as the i7 CPU becomes thermally limited in demanding loads, once the heat builds up.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers, and others
Speaking of that, the ConceptD 5 Pro gets a fairly basic thermal implementation, with a design we’ve previously seen on other Acer laptops. Two high-cfm Aeroblade fans are used, as well as three thin heatpipes that cover both the CPU and the GPU.
The same design is used in the Nitro 7, but Acer allows the fans to spin faster in the Nitro and that helps keep the components cooler. On the ConceptD 5, whose fans run a little quieter, the CPU is not cooled as well as I’d want with this design, at least based on our findings on this review sample. However, as mentioned above, lifting the laptop or using an external cooling pad will greatly help.
And that’s because the ConceptD 5, just like the Nitro 7, gets a metal underside, and much of the components’ heat is transferred onto it. Metal builds up heat easily, and that creates an environment that further drives up temperatures. If allowed to vent properly, the surface cools easier and thus, the CPU and GPU temperatures drop.
As mentioned, the fans spin quietly on this laptop, peaking at only 42-43 dB at head-level in games. There’s no fan control on our sample, and no way to take them out of Auto. The fans keep spinning with standard daily use (movies, browsing, text editing), but are pretty much inaudible even in a quiet room. It’s also worth adding that we haven’t noticed any sort of coil whine or electronic creaking on our sample.
*Daily Use – streaming Netflix on EDGE for 30 minutes
*Load – playing Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes
For connectivity, the ConceptD 5 Pro gets Intel’s latest Wifi 6 AX200 chip in a 2×2 implementation, as well as Gigabit Lan through a Realtek RTL8168/8111 module. We’ve mostly used our sample on wireless, and it performed flawlessly both near the router and at 30+ feet away, with obstacles in between. This is one of the fastest wireless we’ve tested so far with our setup.
As far as the speakers go, there’s a set of them firing through cuts on the lateral sides of the underbelly, but I can’t comment on their quality, as for some reason they were very muted on our system. Based on our experience with the Nitro 7, which gets the same tiny speakers, they should be about average in volume (76-78 dB at head level), but harsh and mediocre in quality.
There’s also a 720p webcam on the ConceptD 5 Pro, placed at the top of the screen and flanked by microphones. It’s still rather washed out, but a bit better than what most other OEMs put on their mid-tier laptops these days.
There’s only a 58 Wh battery inside the ConceptD 5 Pro, which translates in limited runtimes, especially when paired with the UHD screen and the demanding Core H hardware.
Here’s what we got on our review unit, with the screen’s brightness set at around 120 nits (~30 brightness).
- 15.5 W (~3h 45 min of use) – text editing in Google Drive, Better Battery Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 14.2 W (~4+ h of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Edge, Better Battery Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 12.8 W (~4 h 30 min of use) – Netflix fullscreen in Edge, Better Battery Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 18.5 W (~3 h of use) – browsing in Edge, Better Performance Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 52 W (~1 h of use) – Luxmark, Max Performance Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON.
Acer bundles the ConceptD 5 Pro with a compact 135 W power-brick, adequately sized for the hardware inside. There’s no quick charging, so the battery fills up in about 2 hours.
Price and availability
Pricing for the ConceptD 5 Pro is still unknown at this point. From the little I could find out, though, over here in Europe this should sell for between 1550 and 2600 EUR, based on the GPU of choice, and will be available in stores from Q4 2019.
The base version comes with merely a consumer GTX 1660Ti GPU, but at the same time is also one of the most-affordable 15-inch laptops with a wide-gamut UDH screen, and that could make it a very interesting choice in this niche.
We’ll update this section once we know more, and in the meantime, you can follow this link for updated configurations and prices in your region, at the time you’re reading the article.
Before we get to draw our conclusions, it’s important to clearly understand that this Acer ConceptD 5 Pro is primarily a work computer meant for those who greatly value a high-quality 4K display and the benefits of a Quadro GPU. And that’s because it doesn’t come cheap, and the ConceptD 5 is a much more expensive product than let’s say the Nitro 7 with whom it shares its design, keyboard and many of the other characteristics.
On the other hand, this ConceptD 5 Pro is an entry-level workstation, judging by its hardware specs and its fairly basic thermal module. And although Acer offers options with up to Quadro RTX 3000 graphics, I’m not convinced those will work that great on this chassis, that’s why my recommendation would rather go to the Quadro T1000 and especially the Quadro T2000 configurations. You should, however, make sure this is also competitively priced at the time you’re reading the article, as right now we don’t know much about pricing and there are few to none other similar notebooks available in stores, to compare it with.
These being said, I do think there’s plenty of potential in this ConceptD 5 Pro, with the right price. It gets the specs and the screen, the build quality, and the design, and should sell less than the premium tier performance ultraportables that will be unveiled in the months to come. You will have to compromise on aspects like battery life, performance on battery, connectivity, and even portability to some extent, as this is nor as light or as small as other options. Even so, it might end up being a good-value product in its particular niche. Time will tell…
This wraps up our review of the Acer ConceptD 5 Pro CN515-71, but the comments section below is open for your feedback and questions, so don’t hesitate to get in touch.
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