NEW YORK—Acer’s big press conference last year brought new Chromebooks for work, a new Aspire laptop, and a tablet for the elderly. This year, the company focused on machines that appeal to every level of gamer as well as those of us who want a laptop that won’t break the bank. Acer announced additions to the Swift and Switch laptop families, all of which are more budget-friendly than their predecessors. The company also unveiled a whole new line of gaming laptops geared toward casual gamers plus a few new devices for the hardcore gamer that require portability as well as power.
A swift gear switch
A big theme of this year’s event was building: Acer debuted a few high-end notebooks last year including the Swift 7 ultrabook and the Aspire Switch 12. This year, the company built on those laptop families with more accessible models—the Swift 7 now has siblings with the Swift 1 and 3 notebooks. The Swift 1 models will likely be good options for the back to school season with their all-metal design, 14.95mm profile, and 13.3-inch FHD displays. Acer estimates the Swift 1 notebooks will get up to 10 hours of battery life, and considering they don’t have many bells and whistles (no high-end GPUs, no biometrics), the devices should last at least all day.
Unlike the Swift 1, the Switch 3 models support the latest Intel processors, Intel HD or Nvidia graphics, up to 512GB SSDs or 1TB HDDs, and up to 8GB of RAM. The Swift 3 is certainly the more versatile of the two affordable laptops, but both models keep a budget price tag. Both can be upgraded to include a Windows Hello-ready fingerprint sensor, and they both come with Skype for Business certifications and Acer’s Blue Light Shield which helps prevent eye-strain during long periods of PC use.
The Alpha Switch 12 came out last year, and now Acer is expanding the Switch convertible line as well. First we have the Switch 3 two-in-ones, featuring Acer’s U-hinge design and magnetic detachable keyboard, a 12-inch FHD display, and active pen support for Windows Ink. The more expensive convertible, the Switch 5, has an auto-retracting kickstand that will move backward and adjust automatically when you press on the 12-inch display. It’s supposed to make it easier to adjust the display without needing to touch the kickstand itself. We demoed this, and it’s impossible to move the Switch 3 unless you bend the kickstand—the Switch 5’s auto-retracting kickstand smoothly moved back on the tablet as we put pressure on the display.
The Switch 5 has a Windows Hello-equipped fingerprint sensor on the power button (which should make logging in a one-press process) and active pen support. The Switch 5 also features Acer’s fanless liquid cooling system that makes the entire system quieter than others and doesn’t allow as much dust to get into the machine to disrupt its performance.
Gaming for all
Acer wants to capitalize on all types of gamers, including the growing number of casual gamers who don’t want to spend thousands on a machine they’ll only use sporadically. So on that front, the company introduced the new Nitro line of affordable gaming laptops with the Nitro 5 notebook. This notebook wasn’t available for us to demo, but the model Acer showed off during the press conference looked much like Dell’s Inspiron gaming laptops (which are also geared toward casual gamers).
The Nitro 5 will support Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050/1050ti GPUs and 7th generation Intel processors, and it will feature Acer’s “cool boost” technology, which gives the user control over RPM speeds rather than leaving it up to the machine itself. Acer estimated the Nitro 5 would be available in July, but we don’t have pricing information for it yet.
However, we do know more details about new Predator laptops: the Helios 300 notebook appears to be a higher-end version of the Nitro 5, coming in 15- and 17-inch sizes, supporting Core i5 and i7 processors, up to 16GB of DDR4 RAM (and it’s upgradeable to 32GB), Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050ti and 1060, and a 1TB HDD or up to 512GB SSD. Each model will also have one USB 3.1 Type-C port, one USB 3.0 port, two USB 2.0 ports, and an HDMI port for multiple connectivity options.
But the standout Predator device at this year’s Acer event is the Triton 700, a not-so-mammoth gaming notebook with a unique keyboard deck layout. Acer managed to make the Triton 700 just 18.9mm thick, much thinner than most gaming laptops, by using its second-generation Aero Blades inside the device. The company’s first-generation, all-metal blades increased airflow through its devices by 15 percent, and now Acer has made them thinner and better, allowing for 35-percent increased airflow. These Aero Blades are inside the Helios 300 laptop as well.
The Triton 700 has these inside its chassis, and you can actually see them: Acer placed the laptop’s see-through trackpad on top of its keys, positioning it near the hinge of the laptop. Underneath the trackpad inside the chassis are the Aero Blades that you can see moving while you’re using the device. It’s unclear if this design trick will be as ergonomic as it is intriguing, but it does give the Triton 700 a unique design that other gaming laptops don’t have.
The 15-inch Triton 700 comes with an FHD IPS display and supports 7th-generation Intel processors, Nvidia GeForce 10-series graphics, two NVMe PCIe SSDs in RAID 0 configuration, and up to 32GB of DDR4 RAM. It’ll also have a Thunderbolt 3 port that provides speeds up to 40 Gbps and support for dual 4K output, two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port, an HDMI port, a DisplayPort, and an Ethernet port.
Somewhat unexpected, Acer also announced a wearable today. For the past couple of years, the company developed a few Leap wristbands, and this year it debuted a full-featured fitness watch: the $139 Leap Ware. It looks quite standard with a circular case using scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass covering the 1.1-inch LCD display. There’s a built-in heart rate monitor, smartphone notifications, music controls, and about five days of battery life.
Acer emphasized a feature called “stamina monitoring” on the Leap Ware, which it describes as a measurement of “how hard you’re working” during exercise. It sounds like a proprietary score that uses your heart rate and other fitness metrics to estimate how much effort you’ve put into a workout. The Leap Ware syncs to Acer’s Liquid Life app, where you can analyze exercise data and connect with friends. While its $139 price tag is promising (particularly since it has a built-in heart rate monitor), we’ll have to fully test it to see if it offers anything special compared to the Fitbits of the world.
Now for the pricing: Acer’s new Swift laptops will be available in June starting at $329, while the Switch convertibles will also be available in June starting at $399. The Acer Predator Helios 300 will be available in July starting at $1,199, and the Predator Triton 700 will be available in August starting at $2,999. The Leap Ware fitness watch will be available in July starting at $139.
Listing image by Valentina Palladino