Acer has been stepping up their game by entering a slew of options for digital creators to their line of gaming laptops. The ConceptD 7 is one of their 15″ variants that boasts some screaming hardware and a 4K screen geared toward accurate color. At a price point that’s competitive with a 15″ MacBook Pro, perhaps you’ll find yourself comfortable in this new ConceptD 7.
In terms of raw specs, the ConceptD 7 15″ model in its base from is quite impressive and shares core hardware specs with many of its competitors.
The difference lies in the 4K panel that runs in the AdobeRGB color space and is Pantone Validated. At the current moment, it look like only Acer and Asus are the two brands that have laptop models being validated by Pantone in this color space, so that helps set this laptop apart for all of us in the photo/video/graphic design side of the computer user spectrum.
There are two configurations to be had with the ConceptD 7, and the one I’ve got with me was sent from the wonderful people at B and H. You can get yours too for $2299.
It’s outfitted with the following hardware specs and selection of I/O:
- 2.6 GHz Intel Core i7-9750H Six-Core Processor
- 16GB DDR4
- 1TB NVMe PCIe M. 2 SSD (WD SN750 OEM)
- Pantone validated 100% AdobeRGB/100% sRGB 15.6″ 3840 x 2160 4K IPS Display
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 (6GB GDDR6)
- 1x HDMI 2.0 Port
- 1x Thunderbolt 3 port
- 3x USB-A ports
- 1x Mini DisplayPort 1.4
- Killer E3000 Ethernet Controller
- Killer Wireless-AC 1550
- Waves MaxxAudio sound processor and speakers
- Microphone, Speakers and line in and out jacks.
If you need something more powerful, you can opt for the higher end option that comes with the same processor, same assortment of ports but is equipped with 32GB of RAM and a RTX 2080 Max-Q with 8GB of RAM. If you’re feeling the need for greater speed, you can opt for the ConceptD 7 Pro which includes the same processor and ports, but includes 32GB of RAM, 2x1TB SSD and a Quadro RTX 5000 with 16GB of RAM, all in the same slim chassis.
The chassis and exterior
Acer’s ConceptD 7 shares its chassis with Acer’s own Predator Triton 500 found in the their gaming line, with the differences being found in the color of the shell and some specifics of the hardware. The Triton 500 has a more calm black shell that I favor more than the ConceptD 7’s white shell, but also has obnoxious logos that the ConceptD 7 forgoes.
I don’t know if it is just the unit that I got or not, but the ConceptD logo looks ever so slightly crooked above the vent. It’s only sort of bothering me.
The white shell definitely gets a little dingy with some use, and the keyboard keys get a little darker and shiner a bit easier than I’d personally expect from laptops.
The keys have a bit of texture, which is often times welcomed, but every now and then, it clashes with a fingernail or thumbnail and feels like it could be scratched pretty easily.
Typing on the keyboard is quite enjoyable. If you’re not a big fan of the shallow MacBook Pro keyboards, you’ll probably favor this quite a bit.
While I’m rather used to the keyboard of the “flawed” MacBook and am one of the few that enjoy it without any issues (I tend not to eat over my keys and have a cloth that goes over the keyboard when not in use), I don’t find anything that I can complain about when actually typing on the keyboard.
The layout of the keyboard is something I’m particularly not used to on a laptop — specifically referring to the extra row of keys on the right side of the laptop.
I find myself jabbing the Home key in place of the Backspace key pretty often, but that’s just me and I’m just special, so I think most people would be OK with the keys. The layout of this keyboard is still preferred over the keyboard of the current generation Razer Blade 15″ though — the Up key is between the right shift key and the ? key.
The keyboard lights up with a nice amber backlight. I find it quite calming, but also strangely alarming and slightly reminiscent of the old amber backlight for some LED clocks and watches or even side-markers of a car.
It is evenly lit for the most part, with only the space bar and the right control key having blacked out areas — super-nitpicky, but some really enjoy looking at keys that are uniformly lit.
Compare this type of light-bleed to the individual LEDS found in the Razer Blade and Apple’s MacBook Pro and you’ll see the difference. Even Acer’s own keyboard in the Triton 500 outshines and is more even than this one.
In the dark, the wonderful 4K screen can get overly bright, but of course, that becomes well needed and appreciated in bright environments.
It’s easy to open, but the lid itself is a bit flexible. The display twists a little and can be pushed in from the outside. I’d always recommend facing the display away from your body when placing laptops into backpacks and shoulder bags to prevent screen damage and keyboard imprinting, and I’d believe this unit is no exception to that kind of damage.
Besides that, it is clear and super sharp. Viewing angles are pretty good as well. The matte screen does a great job reducing glare, making it so much clearer to see what you’re working on.
The trackpad is loud-clicky, which some prefer. It’s a springboard type, which I find frustrating after being spoiled by Apple for so long, but it’s smooth and responsive when sliding your fingers across or when tapping to click.
A two finger click or tap invokes the right click menu as easily as clicking on the bottom right of the trackpad, so the drivers in this are pretty good.
The laptop’s base is quite rigid and solid with a weight of 4.6 pounds. There are thinner, but there are sacrifices in performance when it comes to that.
Charging is done via a right-angled connector that is plugged into the left side of the computer next to the Ethernet, USB ports, HDMI and headphones/mic ports. What perplexes me is why Acer chose to design this port and cable layout so that the that the right-angled cable blocks one of the computer’s exhaust ports when run toward the rear of the computer.
I’m not sure if this has any performance impact, but it sure doesn’t sit well in my mind, and I’m not sure if the alternative of running the cable to the front is any better, since the Ethernet ports and other i/o would be blocked.
One could always move the cable to the side, but you’re introducing strain onto the cable and possibly onto the jack itself.
The other side of the computer houses the rest of the i/o — 2xUSB 3.1, Thunderbolt 3 (no Power Delivery) and Mini DisplayPort — next to the status LEDs.
The speakers do the job and full blast isn’t ear piercingly loud, but at least what does come from the computer is clear, which is not what I’d say about the built-in microphone.
I guess that’s fine though, I’m personally not creating YouTube videos on this machine, but if anyone else is, I’d recommend using this mic as a last resort.
The fans on this machine are meant to be quiet, and under everyday normal web surfing and writing use, I don’t hear the fans at all. When editing and exporting, they are comparatively are quiet when they’re spinning at full blast.
This ConceptD 7 has three fans and thankfully haven’t got close to roasting my legs while typing this. The computer does heat up under load though, but my leg-thermometer says that it’s cooler than my 2018 15″ MacBook Pro, which is less toasty than the Razer Blade 15,” so it seems like multiple exhaust ports manage the heat effectively.
When the power profile is switched to High Performance, the fans kick on for active cooling, but I’ve noticed that the fans only spin up periodically when under Battery Saver. When plugged in and running some tasks, the fans ramp up and slow down as needed and do emit some noise.
Upgradability and performance
Opening up the machine revealed that nothing is extremely easy to upgrade. The RAM is underneath the keyboard and requires the motherboard to be removed in order to be upgraded. The same applies to the M.2 Western Digital SN750 1TB drive that is in the computer.
I personally did not disassemble the computer to the point of motherboard removal, but I did find out that there are two M. 2 slots that are capable of RAID 0, much like the Triton 500 cousin.
So yeah, upgrades can be done to the RAM and the solid state drive, they’re just a pain in the butt.
The single solid state drive performs well in this machine. The M.2 port is NVME with 4 PCIe lanes allowing the following speedy numbers in CrystalDiskMark and in Blackmagic Design Speed Test.
Disk performance is also quite good for basically everyone except those who are pushing specifically for synthetic benchmarks. Real-world use with the Western Digital SN750 that the ConceptD 7 has is on par with other devices that have the SN750, which is still on the top 5 of M.2 NVME solid state drives. If one wanted to get really into it, they could swap in a Samsung 970 Pro and get some good benchmarks.
The layout of this machine has done pretty well to keep things cool. It’s got four heatsinks and four pipes to draw the heat away from all the heat-generating chips. They to be doing a good job keeping things under control when the fan spools up.
To try things out and give you an idea as to how this machine works, I put this machine through a few tasks and compared it to a few of my machines:
Apple 2018 15″ MacBook Pro — $2800
- 2.6 GHz Intel Core i7-8850H Six-Core processor
- 16GB of RAM
- 512GB solid state drive
- Radeon Pro Vega 20 graphics card with 4GB of RAM
- macOS Mojave 10.14.6
Apple 2018 Mac Mini — $2300
- 3.2Ghz Intel Core i7-8700B Six-Core processor
- 16GB of RAM
- 2TB solid state drive
- Gigabyte Gaming Box — RX580 eGPU
- macOS Mojave 10.14.6
Microsoft Surface Pro 5th gen., a business model with LTE — $1149
- 2.6Ghz Intel Core i5-7300U Dual-Core processor
- 8GB of RAM
- 256GB solid state drive
- Intel HD Graphics 620
- Windows 10
I’ve included the variety of machines just to show how much of an improvement one might expect doing simple tasks by upgrading from a recent machine or perhaps something older and on a machine that isn’t usually meant for photo editing.
For the first of my simple tests, I used a first generation SanDisk Extreme Pro 32GB UHS-II card with a Lexar UHS-II card reader to import a shoot consisting of 528 RAW images from my Fujifilm X-T2 into Lightroom. All the settings were the same across all platforms — GPU acceleration was on Auto, Embedded and Sidecar previews were created, with no smart previews, saved to the internal disk. Laptops were all plugged in, and had the Best Performance power profile selected if they could be. Timing commenced when the Import button was clicked and stopped when all progress bars disappeared. Tests were done on a brand-new catalog.
For the second of my simple tests, I applied a batch simple adjustment and synced changes of exposure of +1.5 and set sharpness to +66 on all images.
For the third, I exported all images as JPEGs to the desktop as fill sized images at 100% quality and 240ppi.
The last test is a Cinebench R20 multicore benchmark. This stresses the CPU to do some computational rendering and work. It’s a pretty mild stress test, but provides a good baseline to illustrate how well multicore processors perform.
As you can see from the results of these little tests, the ConceptD 7 holds itself quite well against these more expensive models in Lightroom and in Cinebench. The Surface definitely falls behind, but it does show that one can still do some basic editing and processing on a machine that isn’t built for editing photos, like the Acer.
This 4K screen is absolutely wonderful to look at. I wish this existed on other devices as well. The matte screen gets pretty bright at 400nits and is really uniform. I don’t see any bleeding at the edges or any light leaks anywhere. The viewing angle is wonderful and doesn’t distort colors much at all from moderate angles.
Performance of the screen in terms of color calibration is quite on point, it matches my ViewSonic 2785-4K that’s been calibrated for AdobeRGB extremely well. Acer was even nice enough to print out a specific calibration testing report specific to this panel and its serial number.
I’m normally not a big fan of having a 4K screen since that the computer has to work harder to display those pixels, and it shows in certain apps. That definitely is true for Adobe Lightroom and zooming into pixels then dragging the picture around in the Library module. It smooths out in the Develop module though … toss it up to Adobe programming I guess. There’s trade-offs for so many things, and this is one of those things that I’m willing to work with. The screen is just that pretty.
Also, the battery life on this computer has been surprising. I’ve been able to tweak out a good 10.5 hours with just surfing the web and article writing. While editing, that time dropped a to about five hours on the High Performance profile, still quite good while running a 4K display. I’d imagine that most people would be seriously editing photos with a power supply attached, and of course that’ll help performance.
Acer could’ve found a way to make the charger look a little better be more functional in terms of storage — it doesn’t even have a strap to hold the cables or tie the cables together!
Thoughts about software
Like many of the retail boxed laptops, there’s going to be a suite of software installed — much of which is junk.
This computer is no exception. Most of which isn’t bad and seems to be the usual junk that is installed with Windows 10, with the exception of Norton bugging the living heck out of me to re-up my subscription. It’s quite painfully annoying.
The Killer suite of tools for networking is quite convenient. This is something I haven’t had a chance to play with prior to receiving this machine, but I do know that many gaming laptops are equipped with this chipset, and they perform well. Being able to see which apps have network activity is quite helpful in diagnosing issues and figuring out ways to increase performance overall. This is personally welcomed since there are simple addons for the Mac to do the same thing.
Acer included their own set of software that is multipurpose and allows for monitoring CPU usage, GPU usage and RAM usage along with the ability to view some system temperatures, current data speeds for hard drive use and wired/wireless transmission. Most importantly, the software has a little button that toggles the preset AdobeRGB calibration on and off for recalibration, or just to see what it’d look like without the calibration.
Speaking of screens and how things look on screen — There is one major quirk that I have with 4K screens and it isn’t the screen’s fault at all. Windows 10’s scaling is absolutely horrible in my opinion. For things to look really good, the developer has to build the app with the scaling in mind. Some third party or slowly/no longer developed apps may look a bit blurry since Windows has to upscale the smaller user interface to keep things somewhat legible.
For instance, the tests I ran in Adobe’s Lightroom Classic had progress bars on the top left corner, but some imagery was cut off.
Summary and Conclusion
The Acer ConceptD 7 is pretty well equipped, constructed decently well and has a great feature set for the money. It starts at $2299.99.
The few qualms I have — power plug location/charger style, the white shell, the flexible lid, the amber lights, the keyboard layout and springboard trackpad — can be overlooked since the rest of the laptop is worth it.
The PC users who would reject the ConceptD 7 due to the lack of a SD card slot, are probably the same people who also reject the MacBook for the same reason and are probably the same people who were Samsung fans for not getting rid of the headphone jack– until they did.
If you can get past all that, Norton bugging you every hour to renew your subscription, and Windows 10 scaling issues, then you’ve got yourself a pretty sweet laptop that performs quite well for the sub-MacBook Pro pricepoint.