When Acer CEO, Jason Chen, stood on stage in New York at the company's annual press conference, the introduction of ConceptD - a new brand for creatives seeking high-end power from their devices - really resonated as a great idea. Not a new idea that's never been touch upon before, of course, but a sensible direction for Acer.
Within the ConceptD range - which has studio-grade desktops and more accessible laptop models - is the baby of the lot, the Acer ConceptD 5, which is akin to a MacBook Pro competitor. Well, it is on paper. Having seen and tinkered with one at the New York launch event, however, it's a machine with some A grade ideas that falls down in terms of design. Here's why.
Design: Grade D
- Metal chassis with white finish
- 16.9mm thick, 1.5kgs
The press release for the ConceptD 5 describes it as having "a premium metal chassis with a magnesium-aluminum alloy on top and a palm rest area and a magnesium-lithium alloy on the bottom." While this may be true in terms of the materials used - it's a real struggle to feel it in the finished product.
Ultimately the ConceptD 5's exterior looks and feels plastic. The white looks tacky and picks up markings too easily - we had to rub various marks off to take these pictures. The screen bezels are raised and look overly pronounced. The screen itself has an awful lot of flex in its plastic panel.
From afar it looks like an interesting laptop; that white is alluring - but up close and personal and this D just doesn't deliver. It's not even in the same ballpark as what it's trying to compete against. So from a design point of view it's a disappointing result - and we think creative professionals will take one look and think exactly the same.
Connections, keyboard and trackpad
- Orange backlight for keyboard
- Built-in fingerprint scanner
- 3x USB, 1x USB-C
- 1x SD card slot
- 1x DisplayPort
- 3.5mm jack
- 1x HDMI
However, that's not to say the ConceptD 5 isn't without its merits. There's a lot of ports on board, with a mixture of full-size USB and a single USB-C port, alongside a full-size HDMI, DisplayPort, 3.5mm headphones jack, and even a full size SD card slot - something that so many manufacturers forego and we're glad to see here (although, oddly, it's absent in the ConceptD 7, which is meant to be a step above).
There are some downsides, though, such as the USB-C being Gen 1, thus not of Thunderbolt speeds. Plus there's only the one of these ports, when a future-proofed laptop ought to have at least a pair.
The keyboard offers perfectly competent typing, with proper key travel - none of the butterfly nonsense of the latest MacBook Air - but the orange backlight (Acer calls it an "amber glow") isn't very uniform and looks slightly strange against the white finish.
The trackpad isn't large, which is a shame, but its left-side alignment feels very natural in use, and its smooth topping is equally responsive to finger gestures and presses.
Screen: 4K and Pantone approved
- 15.6-inch 4K IPS LCD (3840 x 2160 resolution)
- Pantone validated for colour accuracy
- 80 per cent screen-to-body ratio
- 400 nits max brightness
- 6.2mm left/right bezels
While the ConceptD 5 has clear shortcomings, it's keen to show off just how special it can be in the screen department. This 15.6-inch panel is not only 4K resolution, it's Pantone validated for colour accuracy (to within less than 2 Delta E, we're told, which makes it close to pro spec - and similar to that of Apple's MacBook Pro screens).
It's a really good looking screen, rich in colour, deep in contrast and good at avoiding reflections from what we've seen.
But, again, it's got issues based around the design. It's not a very stiff screen, so it wobbles about a fair bit. The panel also has a lot of flex - even a gentle touch sees it bend, which isn't especially reassuring.
Spec: Plenty of power
- 8th Gen Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB DDR4 RAM
- AMD Radeon RX Vega M GL graphics
- Up to 1TB NVMe PCIe SSD storage
- Less than 40dB fan noise
In terms of core spec the ConceptD 5 isn't mucking about. Although we've not put it through its paces at the brief hands-on session at the launch event, the mixture of 8th Gen Intel Core i7, 16GB RAM and AMD graphics ought to make it cut through creative tasks and the odd bit of gaming on reasonable settings too.
Acer also touts the fan noise as being extremely low, a benefit of its 4th Gen AeroBlade 3D fan cooling technology. Again, within the noisy demo room and with several hundred people around, it wasn't possible to verify. But "library quiet" fan noise is a great goal for any laptop with specs such as these, that's for sure.
As we said up top, the Acer ConceptD 5 is a great idea. Maybe having the word 'concept' in the name was a mistake, though, as this laptop indeed feels like a working idea rather than one that delivers in every regard.
Ultimately, the ConceptD 5 has a lovely screen and loads of power, while promising quiet operation - which will certainly appeal to many. Even we were taken in by its potential MacBook Pro-beating headlines. But its inherent problem is a design that's so distanced from the creative market that it seeks to lure that this range will struggle to get off the ground.