Acer’s Predator lineup caters to gamers looking for considerable gaming horsepower in a portable package. The Predator 17, which we recently reviewed, fulfills that promise with aplomb. But some of us are on a tighter budget, and even mid-tier gaming laptops can be pricey. A slew of gaming laptops featuring Nvidia's GeForce GTX 1050 GPU solves the budget issue, and Acer's Aspire VX 15 is one of the company's offerings in this class. We'll put it through our laptop gauntlet to see if the compromise in graphical performance justifies the Aspire VX 15’s lower price tag.
The Acer Aspire VX 15's simple packaging reflects this laptop's value-oriented nature. The box is black with Aspire VX 15 logos in brown. Inside the VX 15 is buffered in closed-cell foam. A separate box compartment holds the 135W power adapter and AC cord. The packaging isn’t outstanding, but it’s no-nonsense and serves its purpose well.
The Acer Aspire VX 15’s lid is constructed out of black plastic with a brushed finish. The brushed texture attracts smudges rather easily, but we found the blemishes easier to clean than the predominantly metal laptops we’ve tested. Front and center is Acer’s logo stamped in chrome. There are red accents on both sides of the lid, clearly inspired by the accents on Acer’s Predator laptops. Unfortunately, the accents don’t light up the same way the Predator's do, but fancy lighting is probably a bit much to ask at this price. The lid flexes a bit with minimal pressure, which is worrisome because it protects the VX 15’s display.
Opening the lid reveals the inner surface around the input devices, and here the surface is a smooth, black plastic. Like the brushed plastic lid, the interior attracts fingerprints, but they’re wiped away just as easily. Additionally, there are subtle beveled edges that give the inner surface an aggressive flare. The construction of the chassis surrounding the input devices is a bit flimsy. Moderate pressure will flex the plastic, which doesn’t instill much confidence in the Aspire VX 15’s build quality. In fact, swinging the lid open will flex the plastic outward.
The Aspire VX 15’s speakers are located on the front lip of the chassis. However, we've always thought the best place for the speakers is above the keyboard, right next to the hinge. Placing them on the front lip makes them easy to block while using the keyboard or trackpad.
The edges are constructed a little differently, featuring a rougher texture than the lid or the interior surface. The VX 15’s overall thickness isn’t consistent, with the front lip measuring about 1.1" thick, while the rear lip is 1.14" thick because of the rear exhaust. Speaking of which, the exhaust adopts a traditional gamer aesthetic, meaning it looks like the rear of a supercar. It consists of large red borders with a matte surface, but the border of the exhaust wraps around to the two side edges, and the border surfaces here are glossy. Each vent grille also has five black slanted spokes.
The two exhaust vents surround the display hinge, which provides about 140° of movement. The hinge consists of a thick bar of silver plastic, and has the words “ASPIRE VX” engraved in the middle. The hinge feels a bit jerky, and a slight bump against the laptop will make the display shake a bit.
The bottom panel shares the same textured surface as the side edges. There are several air intake cutouts, two of which are directly below the GPU and CPU exhaust fans. There are five feet to keep the Aspire VX 15 sturdy — four large rubber feet at each corner and one small plastic foot near the front lip. The bottom panel isn’t flat, but rather has a subtle inward bevel on the middle of the panel and more aggressive bevels that curve inward to the laptop’s edges. Unlike the lid and area surrounding the input devices, the bottom panel is incredibly sturdy.
Starting from the left, the Acer laptop’s I/O ports consist of a combination headphone/microphone jack, an SD card reader, a USB 2.0 port, the DC power input, and a Kensington lock. On the opposite side, you’ll find a USB 3.1 Type-C port, two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI port, and an RJ-45 LAN port.
At $799, we were surprised to find a gorgeous Full HD (1920x1080) IPS display. The display features Acer’s ComfyView, which is basically an anti-glare matte surface. You can connect an additional display via HDMI, but the port is only HDMI 1.4b compliant.
The Aspire VX 15 features a keyboard complete with a number pad. The scissor switches are crisp and responsive, and the keys have a comfortable amount of space between each other. The keyboard emits red LED-lit back-lighting, which is a nice touch for a sub-$1,000 laptop. Back-lighting can be switched between on and off using Fn + F9. The keycaps have a plain black surface with white font, which looks pink when the back-lighting is on. The WASD keys feature red-bordered keycaps with a red font. The power button is located at the top right of the keyboard.
The trackpad works with decent accuracy. The trackpad’s coating lets your fingers glide with minimal surface drag, which is something we don’t find often on gaming laptops. It’s not as smooth as Apple’s glass trackpads, for example, but it still feels more comfortable than most. Unfortunately, the trackpad’s bottom-out distance is uneven. Clicking the bottom half of the trackpad pushes it incredibly low, whereas the top half bottoms out much more shallow. Regardless, you’re better off using a dedicated mouse, but for everyday use the trackpad will serve you adequately.
There are 14 screws securing the bottom panel to the laptop; once those are unscrewed, the bottom panel snaps right off. The XV 15’s cooling solution is composed of a fairly traditional heatsink and connected heat pipe configuration, with a fan on each side of the laptop to keep the CPU and GPU cool. The heatsinks are rather small, but the i5-7300HQ and the GTX 1050 aren’t exactly the most powerful components, so heat generation shouldn’t be a big concern.
Above the CPU heatsink, you’ll find the DDR4 memory slots, one of which is unoccupied. To the far right, just above the GPU fan, you’ll find the XV 15’s M.2 SSD slot. On the far left, you’ll find a Qualcomm Atheros QCA6174A wireless card, which handles the XV 15’s Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities. At the top you’ll find the 52.5Wh 3-cell lithium ion battery. Next to the battery is an empty space for a separate 2.5" SATA slot. Acer will offer a complimentary drive mounting kit if you contact its support team, but you’ll need to purchase your own 2.5" drive.
The Aspire VX 15 is a budget gaming laptop, so don’t expect fancy centralized utilities. When we fired up the VX 15 for the first time, we found shortcut links to eBay and Spotify on the desktop, and Priceline and Netflix on the taskbar, which don't seem fitting for a gaming laptop.
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