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Acer Aspire V5-552G Review: cheap light gaming machine

Table of Contents (in short):

++ Main reason to consider:

Best gaming performance for $500-$550 (for a new machine) combined with added value: low weight, slim measures, good sound and good thermals.

– Main reason to avoid:

The low quality display (which I think is replaceable) and if you are not careful the build quality of this machine might fail you.
Availability

Currently not available. The V5-552G-X852 (or Amazon) is probably the same, only with 8GB DDR3 RAM and 1TB HDD instead of 4GB / 500GB.

Pro:
+ Rather cheap at $500-$550.
+ Good gaming performance for such a price
+ Weight is only 2kg
+ Battery performance is not too bad (4-6 hours of light use)
+ Nice finish / looks
+ Rather good sound quality for a laptop
+ Display connected through the standard eDP connection (unlike LVDS)

Con:
- Build quaity is so-so
- Display quality is average at best with low viewing angles and contrast
- Only one USB 3.0 (although there is also a general connection port)
- Keyboard feedback could be better, though it is not a bad keyboard overall

Introduction

Component
Description
Price$500-$550
CPUA8-5557M quad core, 2.1GHZ-3.1GHZ
GPURadeon 8750M DDR3, core@825MHZ, mem@900MHZ
RAMAData 1x4GB DDR3 1600MHZ
HDDSeagate ST500LT012-9WS142
LCD Panel720p, CMN N156BGE-EB1
Weight / Dimensions2.0kg / 4.41lbs,  38.2cm (w) x 25.6cm (d) x 2.1cm (h, max)
Keyboardstandard, full numpad
Connection Portsright side: card reader, 1xUSB 2.0, headphones connection port
left side: 1xUSB 2.0, power connection port
rear: 1xUSB 3.0 powered, 1xHDMI, 1x Acer Converter port, 1xLAN
More
Camera2.0 Megapixels; 720p; 30fps
WiFiWireless: Atheros AR5BWB222 adapter
Ethernet: Network Card: Qualcomm/Atheros AR8171/8175 PCI-E Gigabit Controller
Speakers / Audio4 speakers. Dolby® Home Theater® v4 audio enhancement
Battery4 cell built in (repleable though), 3560 mAh
The Acer V5-552G is Acer’s low midrange offering. The V5-552G-8632 is the more gaming equipped variant with Radeon 8750M and AMD A8-5557M at around $500-$550: a low budget AMD gaming machine. I’ll start by saying that shortly after I got the V5-552G it became practically unavialable, but such things sometimes happen and we might see it or another at least as cheap variant of the V5-552G (maybe a V5-553G or whatever). The V5-552G is an interesting gaming laptop thanks to several qualities. First, it has a relatively good gaming performance with quad core AMD APU and a Radeon 8750M which is equivalent roughly to the GT 730M and the widely used GT 740M 64-bit like in the HP 15t and the new Sony Vaio 15E. Secondly, it is relatively low weight at only 2kg for a 15.6″ form factor laptop – quite nice. Third, it has good battery and looks good. Now, I believe that the V5-552G performance will be an indication for all the similar models with Radeon 8750M. In this review we’ll find out what is the actual behaviour of the V5-552G.

In the box

The V5-552G-8632, PSU and some discs. The battery is integrated.

Build quality, Case, Design and Looks

Build quality and inner parts. Well, the build quality can be described as “OK”. It doesn’t feel flimsy, but you’ll notice it is not rigid. The case yields under high pressure, but although undesireable, it is not a problem really as the laptop won’t have to stand such a pressure. Hinges could be more rigid. The display outer lid is rather ‘soft’ and proned to flex under light pressure which is a bad thing. This is quite common to such budget gaming laptops. The keyboard surface has some flexibility, but it is not that bad and I didn’t feel it has an effect over the keyboard use experience. Uncovering the bottom plate reveals an HDD that is not fastened well and will fall off if the bottom plate is not there. It is not a problem by itself since the bottom case is closed, but it might cause problems if the HDD shakes inside the case. The layout of the connection ports could be more convenient. Like in Acer’s V7-482PG, the power button is located in the left side, near the USB port and you might mistakenly press it. The V5-552G comes with only two USB ports, with only one port being a USB 3.0. However, the V5-552G comes with the “Acer coverter port” and I’ll add what I’ve wrote on the V7-482PG review: according to Acer, : “The Acer Connector Port” uses the same physical port as a Mini DisplayPort, but is designed to connect to an Acer proprietary cable. If you connect a DisplayPort monitor, Acer cannot guarantee the functionality of the monitor.”  Though it is not totally clear how to get each cable, it seems that some had success with using a generic converter utilizing a displayport functionality, so I guess it should be ok in some way and you could use it as another HDMI / displayport port. So, I’d say you should be careful with the V5-552G if you put it under pressure, like putting it in your backpack – use some protecting bag or something. Acer V5-552G (8632)  Review: inner components Acer V5-552G (8632)  Review: above The looks. The Acer V5-552G resembles a lot the V7-482PG (and I guess the V7-582PG) with a lot of brushed metal finish and some ‘valleys’ style design with little slopes here and there and it looks elegant and professional. The color combination of black and a bit less black looks good as well.  

Keyboard and touchpad

Keyboard. The keyboard left me with mixed feelings. It is quite comfortable with the keys easily clickable and respond quickly. The keyboard is also quite quiet. Though the keyboard surface might yield under pressure, the flex degree was small enough to not bother me. I find the keys well spaced and hitting the wrong key is uncommon after you get used to the keyboard. However, feedback clearly lacks – the feeling of the keys are clocked is not implemented well and I find myself hitting harder than is needed. This is actually the opposite from the V7-482PG in my opinion. I would say the keyboard has good qualities and potential and will be comfortable for many people, but others will probably – like me – will feel something is strange. Touchpad. The touchpad is good but not great. It is sensitive and clicking the keys is rather precise with no artifacts of moving the pointer (Y510p). However, the surface texture requires some practicing and time to get used to it, because the finger might get ‘stuck’ a little. I would say it is a good touchpad, since after some time you’ll get used to it and operations will be quick, at least for me.

Sound & Speakers

A nice small surprise. The V5-552G has four speakers (shown in the pictures) which is probably helps the good impressions. These are not high quality audiophile speakers or anything like that, but you’ll get the highs, lows and mids. Music and voice sounds good and rich enough. The fact that the speakers output goes through the bottom of the laptop clearly disrupts the sounds and make a little bit interesting, but you might use a cheap cooling pad (for example) to lift the laptop up a bit so the sound will be less muffled. I would say that the speakers and audio quality is on the good side for a $500 gaming laptop.

General Subjective Performance Experience

The Acer V5-552G comes with a simple 500GB 5400RPM HDD and one RAM stick of 4GB. Both are not optimal components for performance and might get in the way of the laptop’s responsivness. However, after I removed a lot of the bloatware and updated to Windows 8.1, things seemed to become faster. Boot takes quite a short time and I actually had no complaints – I didn’t feel anything was especially slow and annoying for the common use. However, loading games was obviously slower than I had experienced with faster SSHD.

Gaming Performance

The test includes some synthetic benchmarks and a small amount of games and the point is to give a reference benchmarks compared to other machines. For more numbers are available over the web in sites like Notebookcheck.com, Anandtech and many other excellent over the web. There was some problem I couldn’t solve as of writing these lines. The A8-5557M CPU was limited to 2.1GHZ (base clocks) if I turned up the laptop unplugged to a power source. This is obviously some kind of bios / drivers problem, but I couldn’t locate the cause. When the V5 was turned on while plugged in, the CPU clocks were around 2.8GHZ for all cores, under load. Settings the ATI PowerPlay to maximum battery performance, the clocks went down to 2.1GHZ again – you need to set the PowerPlay power settings to maximum performance. Another issue is AMD’s ‘dual graphics’ which in this case is utilizing the integrated low performance GPU and the Radeon 8750M. That causes jumps in the game and I would advise disabling it.

Test Methods & Drivers

Drivers in use were the latest beta 331.58 drivers. Windows 8 fully updated as I write these lines. HWInfo to measure temperatures and GPU/CPU loads. The settings I used in each game differ from one to another and the reason is that I tried to find the highest settings which still let you play smoothly. All games are tested with 720p (1366×768) resolution. There are enough standard benchmarks over the web to compare performance of different GPUs. For each game, I also wrote how I felt playing, if it was smooth or not. Power mode was set to “High Performance”.

Synthetic 3D benchmarks

Acer V5-552G (8632)  Review: 8750M 3DMark Acer V5-552G (8632)  Review: CompuBench CLBenchmark

Games benchmarks!

Just to get some of the picture in an image. I’ve included both performance in highest or near highest settings and performance (average FPS) in some (at least) high settings to show a more complete picture.   Acer V5-552G (8632)  Review: gaming performance

World of Tanks (WoT)

All settings include FXAA

WoT, 720p
SettingsFPSFeel
‘Maximum’, AA on19-25Not totally smooth, but pretty playable, mainly due to the nature of the game
Medium , AA on26-31Quite smooth
Medium , AA on28-38Smooth

Due to the nature of the game, even maximum settings will be quite playable. However, high or medium settings will be better and I suggest you’ll try it and see if you really need the highest settings at all. WoT is quite playable with the 8750M @ 720p.

LoL (League of Legends)

LoL, 720p
SettingsFPSFeel
Highest, AA on23-31, AVG: 27-28Not totally smooth, but pretty playable
High, AA ona little higherSame
Lowest27-35Smooth

I don’t really know why, but setting the graphics settings to LOW doesn’t add much in the FPS front, which is strange. Even on highest settings, monitoring the CPU and GPU usage shows that the CPU is not even close to being fully utilized and the GPU load is only around 85%.

Crysis 3

Crysis 3, 720p
SettingsFPSFeel
Medium / Medium, MSAAx217Not smooth
Medium / Medium20-21Not smooth
Medium / Low22-23A bit better than above but generally the same
Low / Low25-30Not smooth but quite playable (though graphic quality is low)

Crysis 3 is barely playable even on medium settings@720p and even on low settings it is a problem. It will be playable on low settings, but the graphics settings are really low.

Battlefield 4

Battlefield 4, 720p
SettingsFPSFeel
Ultra11-16Not smooth
High22-26Playable, but not smooth and not really fun
Medium32-40Rather smooth, playable
Medium + HBAO25-32a bit jittery but playable

BF4 will run ok on medium settings@720p and maybe higher than that if you’ll turn off HBAO

Bioshock Infinite

Now, the Bioshock Infinite benchmark tool:

Bioshock Infinite Benchmark, 720p
SettingsAVG
UltraDX11_DDOFSettings (option 1)19.5
All settings on ‘ultra’, AO = low35
All settings on ‘ultra’, AO = off42
UltraDX11 Settings (option 2)27
‘Very High’ Settings (option 3) – this is a DX10 benchmark30
‘High’ Settings (option 4) -34

You can see that Bioshock will run on some very high settings. Disabling ambient occlusion or setting it to “low” will help a lot and I suggest that you’ll set it to low or medium as it has a good and visible impact on the graphics

Skyrim

Skyrim: Elders Scrolls V, 720p
SettingsFPSFeel
Highest, FXAA, AAx422-30, AVG: 25-27Almost smooth
‘High’ settingsAVG: 37Smooth

Something between very high settings and highest will be very playable. Even though the FPSs are low at highest settings, it didn’t feel that bad.

Tomb Raider

FXAA in all settings.

Tomb raider (2013), 1080p
SettingsFPSFeel
‘Ultimate’11-22, AVG: 17Very jittery
‘Ultra’ (same as notebookcheck)19-27, AVG: 24Very jittery
‘Ultra’, SSAO off, PP off, Tesselation off26-42, AVG: 33Not smooth, but highly playable
‘High’,25-36, AVG: 31Rather smooth, but jittery
‘High’, no AO32-45, AVG: 41Rather smooth
ThrottlingNo

The V7-482PG-6629 with its GT 750M DDR3 is able to run TombRaider on some high settings. I would suggest satating from ‘Ultra’ with SSAO on(AO = Ambient Occlusion) and trying to disable/lower some settings while keeping SSAO, which really adds to the graphics. Note the GT 750M DDR3 is seriously outperformed by the GDDR5 version.

Borderlands 2

Physx are off since it doesn’t work on current AMD GPUs

Borderlands2, 720p
SettingsFPSFeel
Highest, 8xAF, FXAA, all on including Ambient Occlusion, Physx off22-36, AVG: 28Not smooth
Medium, 8xAF, FXAA, all on including Ambient Occlusion 22-36, AVG: 29Not smooth

Again, there is this strange phenomenon in which lowering the graphics settings doesn’t really improve nothing. I’ve checked the HWInfo monitors again and both the GPU and CPU are not fully utilized. Anyway, BL2@720p is quite playable with the V5-552G: I’ve played several hours and had no problems of jumps in performance, jittering, stuttering, and playing felt smooth and fun.

Starcraft II

4 players, District II map, a lot of units

Starcraft II, 720p
SettingsFPSFeel
HighestMin: 24-26, AVG: probably something around 30-40Relatively smooth

Starcraft II performance is rather good with 24-26FPS on highest settings and usually higher. Lowering the settings didn’t really help when there were a lot of units. Gameplay experience was rather good, though it wasn’t totally smooth – you could feel like some frames are missing, but it is not an acute problem and generally I didn’t have any problem playing.

Dota 2

Running a replay from some tournament (Match ID: 271145478)

Dota 2, 720p
SettingsFPSFeel
Highest, Rendering level set to 100%AVG: 30Quite smooth
ThrottlingNo

 

Thermals, Throttling & Noise handling

Generally, the V5-552G handles temperatures well. The CPU temperatures was around 85C under full stress test, which is good and GPU around 75. The bottom got a little hot but it wasn’t an interference to me, though it is cold here right now. The upper face of the V5 and the keyboard surface didn’t get hot, so you can keep playing / working as usual even under full load. Under light load, the GPU and GPU temps were around 40C. There is one problem which I had no success solving as of writing these lines – the clocks are set at around 2.0-2.1GHZ when all four cores are fully activated. It is not clear to me why as the temperatures are kept relatively low (not more than 78C-80C). AMD OverDrive only effect was to lock the clocks at 900MHZ which is ofcourse, far from desired in this case. Playing with the power options has no effect too and either I’m missing something or the bios is stupid or both. I’ll contact Acer to see what’s going on. The fans are located at the back of the laptop and the air is inhaled through the bottom, just below the exhale holes, which means that you can put the laptop easily in a way that the exhaust fans ventilation holes are not blocked. I’m not sure that the fans are of high quality and I don’t know if they will be OK in the future, but they are replaceable, which is good.   Tests: 1. Idle. “Balanced” power mode. 2. Borderlands 2 on highest settings 3. Prime95 only. 4 thread, ‘torture’ test. 4. Prime95 (max heat settings) + Furmark (1280×720). This is compatible with notebookcheck tests of their ‘stress tests, in order to create comparable results.   Test conditions: The results are the maximal temperature attained after long period of activity. Room temperature: 23 C – 25 C. Acer V5-552G (8632)  Review: temperatures Now, the Prime95 temperatures are not really credible as the CPU is throttled automatically and the difference in clocks is big (+33% without throttle). There is probably some bios bad programming going on and if I’ll have some updates I’ll let you know.   Throttling. The good news are that I saw no throttling while gaming in almost no game and I saw no relation to heat. However, the clocks are not optimal in cases that four cores are loaded to high degree – as I said, I don’t think it is a must in the V5-552G because the temperatures are low enough, but the problem exists nonetheless.   Noise. Under light use the V5-552G is quite quiet – I couldn’t hear it. Under full load you’ll hear the fans, but it’s not that bad and in cases like watching a movie, the fans might speed up a little for a short period which is annoying, but not that bad.

Screen & Screen quality

ModelChi Mei N156BGE-EB1
Resolution720p (1366x768)
Touch0 points
MatteNo
Color coverage66% sRGB
It works. No much to say really. We are talking about an average low quality 720p display. Colors obviously do not cover all the visible spectrum (and not sRGB, adobeRGB or NTSC ofcourse), viewing angles are not the worst I’ve seen, but pretty much close to that. Black colors are not the black and brightness isn’t high : low quality. That’s about what you should currently expect from a $500 gaming laptop. HOWEVER, the V5-552G uses the standard eDP connection for the display and I’ve already ordered some nice panel to test and see how easy it is to replace the default panel to a good one. If it works well, I bet it will be good for related models, current or not. I’ll add an sRGB graph just to show what I mean:

Acer V5-552G (8632)  Review: sRGB coverage

Viewing angles. As I said, the viewing angles are not the worst I’ve seen but they are the usual for a low quality display – colors and light distort quickly. Finding a point where the image is good won’t be an easy task.

Bottom line - a low point of the V5-552G and the most important one. I didn’t expect more than that however. We’ll see soon how much it is easy to replace it with a good display.

WiFi Performance

Without any thorough testing, from 10 meters the speed was maximal a 1.3MB/s download speed.

Battery Performance

With a heavy flashed site opened and refreshed, the V5-552G ran for almost 4 hours. Under light load of some mainly textual webpages, the battery holds for around 5-6 hours.

Competing gaming laptops / Alternatives

Mainly $500 and $600 gaming laptops, with the best of them being refurbished, like the Dell 15R SE.

Conclusion

So, what we’ve got here? well, a cheap laptop (currently unavailable) with good gaming capabilities in many games with slim measures, relatively low weight (~2kg), no problems with heat, ok keyboard and a good sound. That’s actually a good deal if you can find this model or its sisters for around $500-$530 as it was just few weeks ago for a short time. This is a good deal since there is no other better option, unless you are going with a refurbished or used laptops (which I would recommend thinking of). One problem, however, is the low quality display. It is not worse than other low quality 720p models, but it is simply on the bad side – colors, viewing angles, black levels, all out of the line. A bright point is the fact that the panel is connected through an eDP connection which means it is probably replaceable with many other panels – I’ll test it soon. The build quality of this machine is not great. HDD is not well fastened to its place and I also suspect that dust will easily go inside the laptop. Bottom plastic cover is not rigid. If you have this machine than it is better to use some beg. Finally, the most important problem is that it became unavailable after I got it, so you can’t really get it currently (maybe here and there, used). But you can get one of its sisters, like the V5-552G-X852 (or Amazon) with 8GB DDR3 and 1TB HDD – basically the same laptop. This is the base performance level you should look for in a $550 laptop, not less, anyway.