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The skateboarding hipsters and gaming gear on the home page of Acer's website suggest that the company has its sights firmly set on the consumer market. However, Acer launched its new ConceptD range earlier this year, which includes a number of desktop PCs, monitors and laptops that are specifically aimed at creative users.
It's taken a few months for the ConceptD devices to reach the UK, and the first to arrive at ZDNet for review is the ConceptD 3 Pro laptop, which Acer describes as 'the creator's companion'.
There are two ConceptD 3 models, plus a third called the ConceptD 3 Pro, which is reviewed here. All three share the same basic design and 15.6-inch display, differing only in the specification for CPU, GPU, RAM and storage.
Price & options
In the UK, the standard ConceptD 3 laptops start at £1083.32 (ex. VAT; £1,299.99 inc. VAT) with a quad-core Core i5-9300H processor, 8GB of RAM, a 512GB solid-state drive and discrete Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 graphics. You can step up to a six-core Core i7-9750H running at 2.6-4.5GHz and 16GB of RAM for £1,249.99 (ex. VAT; £1,499.99 inc. VAT). We reviewed the the ConceptD 3 Pro, which provides a more powerful Nvidia Quadro T1000 GPU with 4GB of dedicated video RAM, bringing the total cost to £1,333.32 (ex. VAT; £1,599.99 inc. VAT).
The situation in the US is a little more complicated, as the entry-level ConceptD 3 with a Core i5 processor doesn't seem to be available, so prices for the US start at $1,700 for the six-core Core i7 model with GTX 1650 graphics. The ConceptD 3 Pro reviewed here is listed on Acer's US website, but no price information was available at the time of this review.
All three ConceptD 3 models share the same 15.6-inch display with modest FHD (1920x1080) resolution (141.2dpi), with no additional upgrade or customisation options options available. However, Acer also offers more capable ConceptD 5, 7 and 9 laptops with a range of specs and designs.
Design & features
Given Acer's target audience of design-conscious creative users (and the eye-catching wood paneling of the ConceptD 500 desktop system), the ConceptD 3 Pro has a rather conventional design. The admirably bright and colourful 15.6-inch IPS display is Pantone validated, supports the DCI-P3 colour space, and will be suitable for high-end graphics, design and video-editing work. However, the modest 1920-by-1080 resolution seems like a false economy for a laptop that's clearly designed for professional-level graphics and design work.
And while the sturdy aluminium casing -- available in either matte black or white -- looks quite smart and businesslike, its 2.35kg weight and thickness of 20.85mm (front) to 23.36mm (rear) means that the ConceptD 3 Pro can't match the slimline design of 15-inch rivals such as Apple's more expensive MacBook Pro at 1.83kg and 15.5mm thick. Even so, it gets the basics right, with a full-size keyboard that includes a numeric keypad, and feels firm and responsive enough to cope with some heavy-duty typing when you're facing a deadline. The amber backlight looks rather classy too, and the large trackpad feels comfortable to use, responding with a satisfying click when you press down on it. There's also a fingerprint reader just below the keyboard, on the right-hand side, for extra security.
This laptop's size means there's room for a good selection of ports and connectors, including HDMI 2.0 for connecting to an external monitor, one USB-C port, two USB 3.1 ports and a single USB 2.0 port. The ConceptD 3 Pro includes WiFi 6 (802.11ax), and there's an RJ-45 Ethernet port for wired networks. It's a shame, though, that Acer didn't update the USB-C port to Thunderbolt 3, for high-speed AV storage devices. You can't charge the laptop via USB-C either, which means that you have to use an external power adapter that increases the overall weight to 2.6kg when you're travelling.
The design of the ConceptD 3 Pro isn't particularly innovative or stylish, but we can't fault its performance and value for money. The six-core Core i7 processor records very respectable Geekbench 4.1 scores of 5,420 (single core) and 20,650 (multi-core), but it's the Quadro T1000 graphics card that really allows it to shine. The Cinebench R15 graphics benchmark recorded a score of 185fps, outgunning the 145fps of Apple's 15-inch MacBook Pro. It performs equally well with the more demanding Unigine Valley test, achieving 42fps compared to 34.5fps for the 15-inch MacBook Pro (although the recently released 16-inch MacBook Pro delivers stronger graphics performance with no price increase). That sort of performance will allow the ConceptD 3 Pro to tackle even high-end video-editing and 3D graphics work at a far more competitive price than its Apple rival -- although it yet again raises questions about the wisdom of limiting this laptop to an FHD display.
We were also quite impressed to see -- and hear -- that the ConceptD 3 Pro runs cool and quiet, even when tackling the most demanding graphics tests. Battery life proved a little disappointing, though. The ConceptD 3 Pro can switch between the discrete T1000 GPU and the integrated UHD Graphics 630 on the Core i7 processor, but even using integrated graphics and lowering the screen brightness to (a still perfectly visible) 40%, the ConceptD 3 Pro's 4-cell battery only lasted for 6.5 hours when streaming video from the BBC iPlayer.
The ConceptD 3 Pro's strong performance represents very good value for money, allowing it to tackle high-end graphics work for well under £2,000. However, its weight, modest display resolution and battery life suggest that it's best suited for use as a desktop replacement system, perhaps paired with an external monitor, rather than as a regular travelling companion for business or creative users who spend a lot of time on the road.