If you’re in the market for a multimedia laptop that can also tackle games, Acer’s Nitro Black Edition series should be on your list.
We already reviewed the 15-inch model a while ago and this time we’re going to address the larger variant, the VN7-792G model, which gets a 17-inch display, an internal optical drive and more space inside, which translates in reduced overheating and overall better performance under load.
Our test unit is a top-tier configuration of the Aspire V17 Black Edition model, with a 4K wide-gamut panel, 16 GB of RAM, a Blu-Ray optical drive and 256 Gigs of SSD storage, which sells for $1700 at the time of this post. The 4K version is not available worldwide though, and it’s not for everyone either, due to its high price.
So if you’re OK with a FHD screen and a regular HDD, you can get this notebook for as low as $1000 and probably less in the future, which I believe is a solid price for what you’ll be getting. Stick around to find out more.
The specs sheet
||Acer Aspire V17 Nitro Black Edition VN7-792G
||17.3 inch, 3840 x 2160 px resolution, matte, IPS, non-touch
||Intel Skylake Core i7-6700HQ CPU, quad-core 2.6 GHz (3.5 GHz TBoost)
||Intel HD 530 + Nvidia GTX 960M 4GB
||16 GB DDR4 2133Mhz (2xDIMMs)
||256 GB SSD (M.2 SATA, NVMe supported) + 1 TB 2.5″ HDD
||Wireless AC Atheros QCA6174 , Gigabit LAN, Intel Bluetooth 4.0
||2x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0, 1x USB 3.1(Thunderbolt 3), HDMI, mic, earphone, SD card reader, LAN
||424 mm or 16.7” (w) x 297 mm or 11.7” (d) x 23mm or 0.98” (h)
||3.06 kg or 6.75 lbs
||backlit keyboard, 4 speakers, Blu-ray Combo
Design and exterior
I’ll tell you from the start that I’m a fan of this series’s simple and sober aesthetics, black being the dominant color here, with a silver strap on the back, silver hinges and a shinny Acer logo on the hood.
A soft rubber plastic is used for the entire case, which feels great to the touch and I don’t think it would scratch as easily as metal does. On the other hand, this soft finishing does show smudges extremely easily, especially on the palm-rest, which is smooth and not textured as the lid-cover. So you’ll actually struggle to keep this laptop in pristine shape and you’ll need to wipe it clean very often, using water or some sort of cleaning substance.
Update: I noticed that the soft-coating on our review unit has started to wear off on one of the edges, revealing the plastic below. This is a test-sample and it’s probably seen some beating, but I did a bit of research on the older Aspire Nitros and it looks like both the soft-black coating and the silver coating on the back-edge start to wear off after a while. That’s something to keep in mind and something to consider if you’re not one of those persons who pamper their devices.
Looks aside, this laptop is also well built. There’s little flex in the screen and the keyboard frame, and in fact this 17-inch model actually feels a bit sturdier built than the 15-inch variant. That’s good. The hinges are smartly designed as well and allow users to easily lift the screen with a single hand, but also keep the screen firmly in place when needed.
On to more practical aspects, the laptop’s interior is roomy, with a large palm-rest, as expected from a 17-inch laptop. The ports are lined on the sides, but most of them are squeezed on the right edge unfortunately, where you’ll find the PSU, the LAN adapter, HDMI video output, two USB 3.0s, one USB 3.1 port with Thunderbolt 3 support and separate headphone and microphone jacks. The card-reader is on the front lip, next to the status LEDs, while on the left edge there’s the optical unit, a Blu-ray Combo in our case, and another USB 2.0 slot.
The rear edge houses two separate air-exhausts for the CPU and GPU, with the intake grills present on the underbelly, where you’ll also find two cuts for the speakers.
Keyboard and trackpad
On the interior you’ll also notice that this 17 inch Nitro gets the same keyboard and trackpad as the smaller unit, which means that the NumPad area is squished and the up and arrow keys are grouped together and somewhat difficult to hit.
My typing experience with this keyboard was alright, but far from excellent. I found the keys’ feedback shallow for my liking, which results in having to press each key firmer in order to make sure it actually takes the hit, which took its toll on accuracy and typing speed. Now, the keyboard on the V15 Nitro I reviewed earlier felt much better, so I’m pretty sure there was something wrong with this test sample. In fact, I’ve went out and read other reviews of this V17 Nitro and nobody complains about a shallow stroke, so I expect this keyboard to be half-decent on the final units available in stores.
The keyboard is also backlit, with red LEDs, an aspect not everyone is going to appreciate, but the keys are visible in most conditions, as the writing on each of them is white, not red as on some other laptops I’ve tested in the past (caugh, caugh, Asus’s ROG multimedia lines). You can’t choose between multiple illumination levels, there’s just an ON and OFF position.
The trackpad is large and its plastic surface has a nice texture, not as smooth as a glass unit, but not very rough either. It’s mostly accurate and responsive in everyday use, and my only complain is the fact that the physical clicks are clunky.
However, there’s one more thing I’d want to add: I noticed a slight delay in recognizing my inputs on this particular test unit, something I haven’t encountered on the 15-inch model, so I’d reckon it was an isolated issue. Rather annoying though, as this is a ElanPad Precision trackpad with limited customization options and there was no way to properly adjust the cursor’s sensitivity.
Now, onto the screen. Our test unit comes with a splendid 4K panel, matte and with no support for touch. It’s great for watching videos, reading text , browsing or performing tasks that require a color accurate panel and it’s also bright and with decent blacks. Thus, the image quality in daily activities is top notch, although some of the older third party apps still don’t scale well.
Here are the hard numbers recorded with the Spyder4 Elite sensor and software package:
- Panel HardwareID: AU Optronics AUO109B (B173ZAN01);
- Coverage: 100% sRGB, 98% NTSC, 100% AdobeRGB;
- Measured gamma: 2.1;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 322 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 670:1;
- White point: 7700 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.48 cd/m2;
- Average DeltaE: 1.86 uncalibrated, 1.73 calibrated .
The screen is well calibrated out of the box, but it has a pronounced blue tint, with the white point far from the desired 6500K. So if you want my calibrated profile, you can find it here.
However, this screen is not going to be the best pick for most of you. First of all, it’s expensive, second, it requires a hefty amount of power to run and third, it doesn’t match well with the Nvidia GTX 960M graphics chip on this laptop, which is unable to run games smoothly in 4K, even when lowering details all the way down.
I’ve tried a couple of titles on this test laptop and in most of them I couldn’t even get an average of 30 fps at 4K, so I had to lower the resolution to 1080p. So yes, that’s a possibility, but the content is not going to look as sharp as on the native resolution. That’s why if you plan to spend many hours running games on this computer, I’d advise for the 1080p panel, which is pretty good as well, according to this and this review.
Hardware, performance and upgrade options
Hardware wise, the Nvidia 960M graphics chip with 4 GB of video memory is paired with a quad-core Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor on our review unit, 16 GB of DDR4 RAM (up to 32 GB of RAM supported in the two available slots) and dual storage, with a 2.5-inch hard drive and an M.2 SATA SSD.
NVMe or even PCIe SSDs are not supported on this laptop, from what I can tell.
Update: As of early March 2016, NVMe and PCie drives work perfectly fine on this laptop, after Acer released a BIOS update addressing this issue. Thanks Theo for mentioning this in the comments and see this link for extra proof.
There’s no way to quickly access the hardware on this thing, which is in fact a fairly complicated procedure.
First you have to unscrew the screws on the belly, which is the easy part. Then you need to pop-open the silver plastic frame engraved with Aspire V Nitro and take care of the extra two screws hidden beneath. Then, with the help of a plastic card or some priers, lift up the keyboard and palm-rest frame, but be very careful about the three ribbon-cables connecting the keyboard/trackpad and the extra cable on the upper part, which connects the red light bar placed here. Disconnect them with care and then you’ll get access to the physical 2.5″ storage bay, the Wi-Fi module and the motherboard. For the RAM slots and the M.2 slot you’ll have to take out the motherboard, as they are placed underneath it. Make sure you disconnect the battery before proceeding further!
Bottom point, the HDD, RAM, Wi-Fi and SSD are all upgradeable on this laptop, but the task is fairly complicated and will void warranty, so do it at your own risk. This is something to keep in mind if you plan to get one of the lower end versions of this laptop and then upgrade it yourself. It’s doable, but you must know what you’re doing!
That aside, this device is fast and can deal with all sorts of tasks, from casual daily activities to running programming software or editing photos and videos. In fact, I expect those who get the configuration with the 4K panel to run such types of software on this computer.
There’s no throttling in everyday use or when running games, and this 17-inch model doesn’t get extremely hot either, not even when pushed for hours. What’s weird is that the hottest part is not on the underbelly, but on the interior, on the area on top of the keyboard. That means you won’t be able to use this computer for heavy tasks with the lid closed, in case that’s something you might want to do.
I’ve ran a couple of benchmarks on this Aspire V17 Nitro and the results are listed below.
- 3Dmark 11: P5658;
- 3Dmark 13: Cloud Gate – 16572, Sky Diver – 12530, Fire Strike – 3995;
- PCMark 08: Home Conventional – 2826;
- CineBench 11.5: OpenGL 62.74 fps, CPU 7.47 pts, CPU Single Core 1.65 pts;
- CineBench R15: OpenGL 96.28 fps, CPU 675 pts, CPU Single Core 146 pts.
- GeekBench 3: Single Core – 3541 , Multi Core – 12626;
- x264 Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 – 154.34 fps, Pass 2 – 41.28 fps;
- x264 Benchmark 5.0.1 64-bit: Pass 1 – 70.21 fps, Pass 2 – 15.13 fps.
I also tried a couple of games, and as you can see, the 4K screen is not a proper match for the Nvidia 960M graphics, unless you aim for older titles.
|NFS Most Wanted
|Shadow of Mordor
Last but not least, I’ve took this notebook through our stress tests.
For the first one, I’ve stressed the CPU with Prime95. The processor runs at Turbo Boost frequencies for a few minutes and then stabilizes at 2.6 GHz, which is its default frequency. Occasional drops to 0.8 GHz are can be noticed in the rapport, but nothing that suggests serious throttling.
For the second test I’ve stressed the CPU with Prime95 and the GPU with Furmark simultaneously. The CPU immediately drops to 2.6 GHz, with periodical, but longer drops to 0.8 GHz when temperatures of around 96-97 Celsius are reached. The CPU’s frequency drop is also corroborated with a GPU drop. That suggests that the laptop reaches its thermal limits in this stress test and has to throttle for a few seconds to cool down, then it jumps back top its nominal frequency.
Again, in daily use I haven’t encountered the same high temperatures (although the CPU does go beyond 90 Celsius in games) or the throttling noticed in these stress scenarios, so if you want one of Acer V17 Nitros for demanding loads, you shouldn’t worry about performance drops.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers and others
Noise wise, keep in mind there are two fans inside the laptop and a mechanical hard drive, so although the fans do not kick in with very light activities, the HDD’s humm prevents this computer from running silent in most conditions. Under load, the fans will of course ramp up and the laptop will become loud (around 48 dB at ear level with my iPhone app), but nothing the speakers can’t cover.
You can observe the internal temperatures in various use scenarios in some of the pictures in the previous chapter, while the outer-case temperatures in our two test-conditions are mentioned below.
*Daily Use – 1080p Youtube clip in Edge for 30 minutes
*Load – playing Need for Speed Most Wanted for 30 minutes
There are four speakers on this laptop, grouped in two pairs on the belly. They are loud and can push good quality sound, with a decent amount of bass, considering there’s actually no subwoofer. My only complain is that they cause slight vibrations through the frame at maximum volumes, but that’s not really a concern, since they are too load to keep at max when actually sitting at the computer anyway.
The two pairs of two speakers each push punchy sound
Connectivity wise, there’s Gigabit LAN, Bluetooth and Wireless AC on this laptop. The WiFi is a true performer, able to easily max out my connection and maintain a strong signal even far away from the router, in places many other laptops struggle. That’s good news, since the previous Nitro Black laptops had some issues with wireless performance and it looks like Acer solved them with these new models. The V15 Nitro tested before actually performed much worse, but was equipped with a different Wi-Fi chip.
As for battery life, this 17-inch model gets the same 52 Wh battery as the 15-inch version, but lasts less on a charge, since the larger screen requires more energy. You should expect up to 3 hours of video playing and around 2 hours of daily use on a charge. The configurations with the 1080p screen will last longer.
- 12 W (~4 h 20 min of use) – idle, Power Saving Mode, screen at 0%, Wi-Fi OFF;
- 19.5 W (~2 h 40 min of use) – very light browsing and text editing in Google Drive, Balanced Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 19.5 W (~2 h 40 min of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Internet Explorer, Balanced Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 16 W (~3 h 10 min of use) – 1080p fullscreen .mkv video in the Movie app, Balanced Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 24 W (~2 h of use) – heavy browsing in Edge, Balanced Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON.
I’ve set the screen at 30% brightness for these tests, which is about 120 nits.
The laptops is paired with a 135 Wh power brick and a full-recharge takes around 2 hours.
Price and availability
The Acer Aspire V17 Nitro VN7-792G is available in stores around the world in various configurations.
The most affordable version sells for $999 in the US and includes the Core i7-6700HQ processor, 8 GB of RAM, a 1 TB HDD and the FHD display. You should get this one if you plan to upgrade it later and you’re comfortable with the whole process, or you’re willing to pay an Acer authorized service to perform the upgrades for you. This way you’re not going to void warranty.
Configurations with 16 GB of RAM and SSD storage are available for between $1200 and $1400. The higher-end models get the 4K panel, a Blu-ray Combo, 16 GB of RAM and either a 256 GB SSD (for $1699) or a 512 GB SSD (for $1899).
You should follow this link for up-to-date prices and potential discounts at the time you’re reading this post.
The Aspire Nitro V17 goes for between $999 and $1899
In conclusion, the Acer Aspire V17 Nitro VN7-792G checks many of the right boxes. It’s built well and looks really good, sleeker than most of its rivals. It also gets a splendid display, it offers the performance expected from such a device and runs fairly cool, even under load. On the other hand, its hardware is difficult to upgrade and the small battery is only enough for a few hours of use on a charge, but these are not deal breaking issues imo.
Now, let’s not forget this high end configuration is expensive. The laptop is not overpriced for what you’re getting, but unless you really need that 4K wide-gamut screen, $1700 can actually buy you more powerful configurations, with Nvidia 970M and even 980M graphics, albeit not with Skylake hardware (like the Asus G751JY).
In other words, the top-tier version of this laptop is not for everyone, but is a very good choice for professionals that would benefit from an excellent display on their notebooks.
Update: The Asus N752VX is an alternative to consider, a laptop that matches the V17 Nitro in terms of prices and comes with a similar UHD wide-gamut panel, an aluminum build and support for NVMe storage. It’s thicker and heavier though.
Aside from the short battery life and the rather difficult upgrades, the Acer Aspire VN7-792G is one of the better 17-inch multimedia notebooks out there
The 1080p models are the ones most of you will probably be interested in though, and they are solid options with a fair price, as long as you’re fine with their shortcomings mentioned before. The Asus GL752VW, the MSI GE72 Apache Pro or the Lenovo Y700 are some of the alternatives and each has pros and cons, just like this 17-inch Aspire V17 Nitro tested here.
So if you want my advice, do you research well and pick the device that offers the best value for your buck at the time you’re reading this post. And if you have any questions or need help deciding, get in touch in the comments section and I’ll give you a hand.
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