A well-specified budget laptop with mild gaming capability that’s simply great value for money
- Discrete RTX 2050 GPU
- Upgradeable RAM and SSD
- High-quality keyboard
- Drab display
- Quiet speakers
The Acer Aspire 7 falls into the category of general-purpose 15.6in laptops that won’t break the bank and it goes head-to-head with a host of similar machines from Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Asus, that cost between £550 and £750.
Most of these machines have very similar specifications: a Full HD 60Hz display, Intel or AMD processors with integrated Radeon or Iris Xe graphics, a 512GB SSD and 8GB RAM with limited upgrade options.
The Aspire offers something different. Not only does it come with a discrete GPU, which is a rarity at this price, but it also has a 144Hz display, plus the ability to upgrade both the RAM and storage.
Acer Aspire 7 review: What you need to know
The Acer Aspire 7 is a rather odd fish because it comes with some features that are typical of lower price 15.6in laptops, like a rather dreary and lacklustre display, but others that are entirely atypical, like a 144Hz refresh rate, a discrete GPU, space for two SSDs and Thunderbolt 4 connectivity.
If Acer has fitted it with an RTX 4050 GPU, we’d classify it as a gaming laptop, but that GPU would probably add a couple of hundred quid to the price. The RTX 2050 can’t match the RTX 4050 or even the RTX 3050, but it can run modern games and it supports ray tracing and DLSS2 upscaling.
In a nutshell, then, the Aspire 7 is an affordable general-purpose laptop with some pretty serious gaming chops, and there are very few laptops on the market that you can say that about.
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Acer Aspire 7 review: Price and competition
Configuration tested: Intel Core i5-1245H CPU, Nvidia RTX 2050 (55W) GPU, 8GB RAM, 4GB vRAM, 512GB SSD, 15.6in 1,920 x 1,080 IPS non-touchscreen; Price: £799 inc VAT
The list price for the Acer Aspire 7 (A715-76G) is £749 but it has been on sale as low as £549. That’s ludicrously good value, but even at the higher price this laptop delivers plenty for the money. Argos seems to be the only UK retailer carrying this version of the Aspire 7, though, so getting the best deal is dependent on the whim of said catalogue retailer.
Alternatives start with the Medion Erazer Crawler E40, which is the best cheap gaming laptop we’ve seen. For just under £800, you get the same CPU as the Aspire 7 but a significantly more capable GPU in the form of a 100W Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050 GPU. The screen is good, too, but the battery life is shocking and you can’t add a second SSD.
The Asus Vivobook S15 OLED can be picked up for £799 at the time of writing, and for that, you get a superb Full HD OLED screen and an excellent speaker system. General performance is good, too, thanks to the Intel Core i7-13700H CPU. However, the accompanying 28W Intel Arc A350M discrete GPU isn’t great. Most graphics jobs run barely any faster than an Iris Xe integrated GPU.
Dell’s 16in Inspiron Plus is a safe choice for a general-purpose laptop with a discrete GPU, and the cheapest option is the model that comes with an Intel Core i7-13620H CPU and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 GPU for £949, although that is marked as a £180 discount. In addition to that configuration, you get 16GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD and an excellent 2,560 x 1,600 16:10 display.
Acer Aspire 7 review: Design and build quality
There’s much to like about the Aspire 7, considering it’s a budget machine. It weighs 2.1kg and is relatively slim at 19.9mm when closed. The lid is stiff and made of aluminium, and although the rest is plastic, the body is rigid and doesn’t creak or groan when twisted.
The overall design is crisp and modern with minimal branding, making it look like it should cost more than it does. And I like that, as the lid is folded back, the back of the body lifts up; this improves both airflow and the keyboard angle.
I’ve no arguments with the selection of I/O ports, which run to three USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 and a Thunderbolt 4 port, an HDMI 2.1 video output, a gigabit Ethernet jack, and a 3.5mm audio socket. Wireless connectivity isn’t quite as impressive, though – the MediaTek MT7921 card only supports Wi-Fi 6, not the newer Wi-Fi 6E standard.
I do, however, like the ease with which this machine can be upgraded. Remove the base panel, and you’ll find you can easily access the two SODIMM RAM slots and the two 2280 SSD mounts, one PCIe Gen 4 and one Gen 3. I can’t think of many other laptops in this price bracket that you buy with 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage and then increase that to 32GB and 2TB once you’ve got it home.
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Acer Aspire 7 review: Keyboard, touchpad, and webcam
The keyboard is fairly run-of-the-mill, and comes with a numeric keypad and a two-level white backlight. The only minor issue I have with it is the half-height up and down arrow keys, but that’s hardly a failing unique to the Aspire 7.
The keys themselves have a clean and positive action with a firm stop at the end. Key travel is a standard 1.5mm and the keyboard action is entirely silent. There is some give in the middle of the keyboard deck, but it isn’t excessive and doesn’t detract from the typing experience.
The plastic-topped touchpad is 130 x 80mm in size, feels smooth under the finger and has a precise click-action. A fingerprint scanner is in the top left corner for biometric security. I prefer my fingerprint scanner not to be on the power button, even if this does rule out a one-press power and log-in, so Acer gets a thumbs up for this layout.
Alas, the webcam is not nearly as good. It’s a basic 720p affair that produces dull and colourless images, even in good light. It’s precisely what I expected for this price, not a jot more.
Acer Aspire 7 review: Display and audio
It’s unusual to find a 144Hz display on a laptop of this price so it’s not surprising to discover that image quality seems to have been sacrificed as a result.
The Aspire 7’s 15.6in Full HD panel can only reproduce 58.1% of the sRGB colour space, leading to dull, dreary, imagery. Maximum brightness is a low 202cd/m2, while the Delta E colour accuracy is a disappointing 5.27, indicating this is not a laptop you want to be relying on for colour-critical photo or video editing.
In the positive column, the refresh rate is very high for a budget laptop at 144Hz and being an IPS rather than a TNT affair, the viewing angles are nice and wide. The matte finish also does an excellent job of keeping reflections at bay, which is just as well, given the lack of brightness. Needless to say, the screen does not support HDR playback.
The stereo speakers are a little more impressive. They’re on the quiet side, never pumping out more than 71dB(A) as measured against a pink noise source at a 1m distance, and a little more bass wouldn’t go amiss, but the sound they produce is detailed and balanced and altogether easy on the ear.
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Acer Aspire 7 Review: Performance and Battery Life
The Acer Aspire 7 scored 182 in our 4K multi-media benchmark, which is a solid if unexceptional result and reflects the fact that you can only demand so much from an 8-core Intel Core i5-1245H CPU with 8GB of RAM. The Cinebench R23 multi-core score of 10,452 told the same story. Generally, this is a usefully powerful laptop rather than a powerhouse.
Matters improve, however, when it comes to graphics performance, thanks to that discrete Nvidia GPU.
The GeForce RTX 2050 GPU was launched in December 2021. It is based on the same Ampere GA107 chip as the RTX 3050 and supports ray tracing and DLSS. Compared to the RTX 3050, the 2050 has fewer CUDA cores (2,048 vs 2,304 minimum) and a reduced 64-bit (vs 128-bit) memory bus. It comes with just 4GB of video RAM and, in this case, a 55W TGP.
A lack of vRAM meant the Wolfenstein: Youngblood Riverside benchmark wouldn’t run on the highest and usual Mein Leben! detail settings. However, on High, it returned an average of 67fps with Ray Tracing enabled (but no DLSS) and 72fps with DLSS set to Balanced. Turning off Ray Tracing pushed that figure up to 96fps.
Serious Sam 4, our default title for testing iGPU performance, returned an average frame rate of 79.1fps at 1080p. Shadow of the Tomb Raider benchmarked at 55fps at 1080p with medium details and Ray Tracing enabled, and with DLSS set to Balanced.
Turning to some more demanding titles, the Hitman 2 Mumbai benchmark ran at only 28.7fps, although that rose to 48.5fps once I’d knocked the SuperSampling down from 2 to 1. Metro Exodus hit 44fps, albeit at 1,600 x 900 and low detail settings, but remember, Ray Tracing is always on in that game. Using similar settings but with Ray Tracing off, Cyberpunk 2077 benchmarked at 50.1fps.
For some genuine gaming experience, I played Jusant, an Unreal Engine 5 title with very dense geometry using Nanite and the Lumen global illumination system. It’s not easy on the GPU but the Aspire 7 managed to run it at a reliable 50fps.
The takeaway from all this is that while the most demanding Triple-A games take the Aspire 7 out of its comfort zone, it’s more than capable of running most other titles, even with medium detail levels and Ray Tracing effects, at a high enough frame rate to make that 144Hz panel worthwhile. For the price, you really can’t ask for more than that.
Away from gaming, the SPECviewperf 3dsmax 3D modelling benchmark ran at 32fps, half the speed of an RTX 3050, but twice the speed of an Iris Xe integrated GPU, even when that GPU is coupled with a potent CPU like the Intel Core i9-13900H.
When you open up the Acer Quick Access control panel, you’ll see that you can switch between Silent, Normal and Performance modes. I could detect no difference between the Normal and Performance modes in either performance or fan noise. Incidentally, the cooling system isn’t overly noisy and it does a good job of keeping things cool. I was able to run both the CPU and GPU at 100% for long periods with no sign of throttling.
The SSD deserves a shout-out, too, for recording sequential read and write speeds of 3,823MB/sec and 3,198MB/sec, respectively – both excellent scores for a laptop with a price tag well south of £1,000.
Lastly, battery life is impressive for a machine with only a 54.6Wh battery inside. In our standard playback test, which involves looping an SD video in VLC with the screen set to 170cd/m2 and in Airplane mode, the Aspire 7 lasted 8hrs 28mins, which isn’t a bad effort.
Acer Aspire 7 review: Verdict
As a general-purpose laptop, the Aspire 7 is a nicely balanced package. It isn’t a dedicated gaming laptop but it is far more capable of playing demanding games than most other “not gaming” laptops.
The only serious issue I have is the dull and colourless display. Still, if you plan on using the Aspire 7 indoors and primarily just for gaming and non-creative work, then it is something you can probably live with and, to be fair, it’s no worse than many laptop screens in this price range.
The Aspire 7 is a very good-value laptop even at the regular price of £749, but when it falls to a more affordable level, as it already has done twice, it’s almost unmissable good.