Most helpful positive review
61 of 63 people found the following review helpful
If you are looking for a budget PC that can play games, stop looking.
on July 21, 2013
Most people have covered the important stuff, so I will use this space to cover some misconceptions and add some general thoughts:
- Acer is great. If you google online, you will find a lot of hate towards the company. And, I imagine this comes from the fact that they didn't make great PCs 5-10 years ago, so they have a lot of old customers that will speak out against them. Fair enough. But, Acers are great now, yet remain very inexpensive. This laptop is very stylish and very well-built. It's solid. If you are concerned about going Acer, don't be.
-Acer is great with support and driver-support. In the past, I have owned Sony and Lenovo laptops. At some point, something would annoy the hell out of me. Sony "locks down" their operating system in terms of drivers. You want a new graphics card driver? You have to wait until Sony gets it from intel/AMD and re-releases it for your laptop. Often, the graphics card drivers that Sony offers are several YEARS old, which is bad bad news for gaming. The other option is to get hacked drivers, which can cause issues (for example, HDMI never worked on my sony laptop, because I preferred to lose HDMI with a hacked driver rather than use a 3 year old driver). Huge headache. Lenovo has awful support, and the Lenovo laptop I bought had a severe wifi problem, which Lenovo ignored and hid for several years, while still selling the laptop. This Acer laptop? As soon as it came in the mail, I updated ALL of my drivers FROM THE MANUFACTURER. I installed AMD catalyst installer, which automatically updated graphics/cpu/HDMI/USB/etc drivers to the latest version, and Acer didn't block ANY of it. Acer lets you use your computer how you want to use it, and I love it. This laptop runs a pretty "pure" version of Windows 8, without Acer trying to get in your way. More companies need to follow Acer's ideology on this one. I own this laptop, and Acer treats me as such. Additionally, Acer's support is great. Their driver/software update page for this laptop is well-organized and updated. I noticed there was a bios update for this laptop, which I wasn't sure if I should download due to the inherently sketchy nature of bios upgrades. I contacted Acer's chat support, which was available in seconds. They went through the changelog of the bios update with me, and recommended that I did not install it at this time. Very polite, very quick, very knowledgeable. With Sony/Lenovo, it was always a "let me check that for you" while they left for 10 minutes, coming back with a canned non-answer. And, you have to realize I am comparing a $600 Acer and a $1,800 Sony here, and I'll take the Acer customer support every single time.
-AMD is fine. People are completely right that Intel significantly out-classes AMD in the CPU category. But, that DOES NOT matter in this range. Yes, Intel makes high-end laptop CPUs that AMD cannot even touch. If you are buying a high-end laptop, you need to go with Intel. But, in this range, both Intel and AMD make CPUs with identical benchmarks, and AMD is cheaper. In mid-range gaming laptops, there is no good reason to go with Intel. This AMD A10-4600m is similar to several intel i3/i5s on the ivy bridge architecture, both of which would be significantly more expensive than this AMD. Same exact performance in benchmarks, less expensive. This AMD competes with the Ivy Bridge intel processors (which were the newest Intel processors until very recently), and they have similar power consumption and heat production. So, anyone that says that AMDs "run hotter" or "kill battery" are misinformed and simply spewing out untruths.
- I looked for ages, and you will not find a better gaming laptop in this price range. I play Just Cause 2, Civilization 5, Counter Strike: GO, Left 4 Dead 2, and a few other games at ultra/max settings at 40-70 FPS. That is absurd for a $600 laptop. I even tried playing very intensive games like Metro 2033, and it could actually handle ultra (though I bumped it down to medium/high for a better FPS). It is true that this is not a MONSTER of a gaming machine, and you will have trouble running some new games on ultra. But, I have yet to find a game that it can't handle on medium, and it handles MOST games on high or ultra.
That is what I wanted to focus on in this review, as most people have covered the build quality/design/keyboard/etc. Overall, this is the best laptop I have ever owned. It looks nice, everything "just works," there is absolutely nothing you need to do to get this thing running, and it is snappy as hell. That said, Acer had to "cut corners" at some points to get this thing to be $600. In my opinion, they cut all of the right corners, and put the cash where it needed to be to make this the best possible laptop for $600. That said, I will go over some cons to end this review (but, I want to be clear that these are just cons for the curious. They are not huge complaints in my mind, and I love the laptop overall).
-The screen could be better. It's a budget TN panel (which is 100% expected in this price range). As a result, the viewing angle isn't great and you will find yourself adjusting the angle so that games/movies don't look dark. Not a huge issue, but worth noting. The resolution is 1366x786, which is somewhat low for a 15.6" screen (though somewhat standard these days). The trade off is that it can run games better. Like I said, this game can run new games on medium/high/ultra. If it was running these games at a higher resolution, it would likely struggle to play them. So, I am okay with the trade off. Somewhat lower resolution, but significantly better gaming. Additionally, the colors are a bit washed out. I recommend playing with the color settings in AMD's catalyst control center (right click desktop -> Graphics Settings). I upped the color saturation a good bit, and it really brings out the color. This will all be personal preference, though, so I recommend messing around with the saturation/gamma/contrast/brightness to get it where you want it. In my opinion, with standard settings, the screen is pretty lackluster. The physical brightness of the screen is very good. It gets very dark for dark/night situations, yet very very bright for outside/gaming/media usage. If I were to crank up the brightness to the max right now, this white amazon background would probably make my eyes bleed. This is a good thing.
-The keyboard layout is great (full number keys, convenient FN functions), but the overall quality isn't anything to write home about. The keys are somewhat loud, and some of the larger keys have slight issues. For example, the shift key is a large key, but the actual part of the key that is recognized is in the center of the key. I want to be 100% clear that this is not an issue for normal usage. You will never be typing, hit shift, and not have it register. But I have noticed that in gaming, where you might reach down with your pinky, tapping the very edge of the key lightly with a pink provides mixed results.
Again, this is not a common issue or a very large issue, but it is worth noting.
-The layout of the overall computer is somewhat silly. Most of the hot components (CPU/GPU/etc) seem to be positioned on the left side of the computer. This is sort of silly for a gaming PC (apparently the "g" in 551g signals that acer markets this as a gaming PC). As gamers know, you are generally holding your left hand on the WASD keys, and this is where the computer gets hot when gaming intensely. The right side remains completely cool. Seems like they should have done the entire internal layout in the opposite direction so that the left side remains cool. The reason the DIDN'T, I assume, is because the fan blows out of the left side of the computer. If it were turned around, it would blow out of the right side, right onto your mouse hand. If you use your left hand for the mouse, KNOW THAT THIS PC WILL BLOW HEAT RIGHT ONTO YOUR HAND. The ideal solution would be to have the hot components on the right side of the PC, then have the fans blow out of the BACK of the laptop, away from you completely. Not sure why they picked this layout, but it is my biggest gripe with the computer. All of that said, this laptop only gets particularly hot when playing intense games for long periods of time, and even then it's not as if it gets hot enough to burn you or anything. But, it is an annoyance and a complaint with the overall design of the PC.
-The ram and HDD do leave some to be desired, as others have noted. It's a very basic, 5400 RPM hard drive, and 2 GB of the ram aren't as powerful as the other 4. That said, unlike other reviewers, I don't think it is a huge deal. Some reviewers make it sound as if though the hard drive forces this laptop to a slow crawl, which isn't true. This laptop still cold boots in 30 seconds, awakes from sleep almost instantly, and opens apps very faster. Yes, a solid state hard drive will make all of this even FASTER, but it isn't as if it is slow out of the box. It's just not as fast as it could be. And, if you choose to replace the hard drive, Acer was nice enough to leave an extra, empty hard drive bay for a secondary drive. So, you can replace the hard drive, yet keep the stock hard drive as a secondary, 750GB drive. For a budget laptop that had to cut some costs, this is a pretty ideal solution. As for the ram, the standard ram actually is fine for gaming and pretty much everything else. If it really bothers you, though, you can completely replace the ram and install 8GB of top-of-the line ram for $45 or so, so I don't think that should even factor into your decision to buy or pass on this laptop. I am a pretty heavy PC user/gamer, and I am still using the stock ram/HDD. It doesn't really bother me. If it bothers you, it can be remedied very cheaply and conveniently, with the extra HDD bay and convenient location.
That about sums up my overall satisfaction (yet minor complaints) with this laptop. At the end of the day, I completely recommend this laptop for anyone who wants to play PC games but wants to stay under $700. Even if you don't game, the components make overall computing, using programs like photoshop, doing video editing, etc very snappy and smooth. Now, you CAN buy a more powerful laptop for more cash, but that is a decision you have to make for yourself. To buy another laptop that plays games as well as this one, you'll be looking at spending at least $800-900. For a laptop that is MORE powerful than this one, you'll be paying over $1,000. To me, this laptop is at a very acceptable level of power for its price, and I wouldn't shell out another $500 just to play SOME games on ultra rather than high. But, if you are asking yourself, "should I buy this PC?" That is the question you are asking yourself. Because, at this price range, this laptop is a no-brainer.