NEW YORK: ACER HAS DECIDED it wants to cosy up to skinny soy latte-chugging creative types with the reveal of its ConceptD brand.
At its annual 'Next' event in New York, the Taiwanese hardware firm unveiled a whole host of laptops and PCs, most which were evolutions and refreshes of its kit from last year. But as CEO Jason Chen started to wrap up his keynote speech, he pulled an Apple-esque 'one more thing'.
And that was the reveal of a line of PC and laptops that are geared towards so-called creators; video editors, photographers, digital designers, and types of people with names like Conrad Obelisk and rock waxed moustaches.
First out of the blocks and arguably the mobile flagship of the ConceptD range is the ConceptD 9. This is a pseudo 2-in-1 laptop that has its display on an easel-like hinge to allow the 17.3in touchscreen to be orientated on top or in front of the keyboard and scribbled upon by digital artists with an included stylus.
That screen is pretty high-spec as well, with a 3,840x2,160 panel with 400 nits of brightness. More importantly for creatives, it's Pantone accredited and covers 100 per cent of the Adobe RGB colour gamut and has a DeltaE below one - which is pretty good.
Under the hood, there's a ninth-gen Intel Core i9 and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 for crunching through things like 4K video rendering. RAM comes in the form of DDR4 and can be specced up to 32GB is soDIMM modules are used. Storage can hit 1TB of NVMe.
For ports, you're looking at a USB-C with Thunderbolt 3, an HDMI 2.0 connection, DisplayPort 1.4, and a brace of USB 3.1 ports. There's offer good stuff like Killer Ethernet E3000.
All this means the ConceptD 9 is a hefty 4.1kg, but then it's slotting in a gaming-grade spec with professional chops and an easel screen. The ConceptD 9 will also be heavy on the wallet at €4,999 (around £4,302) when the Concept9 range makes its debut in the summer.
For creatives that want more portable power, the ConceptD 7 and ConceptD 5 offer more traditional laptop designs. Both sport 15.6in ultra high-definition displays with Pantone validation, but things start to vary on spec.
The ConceptD 7 comes with a ninth-gen Core i7, up to 32GB of RAM, and 1TB of NVMe storage. Taking care of graphics is a Max-Q version of the GeForce RTX 2080. There's a decent port selection of the usual USB-C, USB 3.1, HDMI 2.0 and mini DisplayPort 1.4. Prices start at 2,299 Euros, around £1,982.
The ConceptD 5 makes use of either the Core i7-8705G or Core i5-8305G; those are Intel and AMD love-in chips so come with an AMD Radeon RX Vega M GL GPU. This means the ConceptD 5 weighs in a 1.5kg while its bigger brother hits 2.1kg.
Memory comes in 8GB or 16GB of DDR4, while storage goes up to 1TB of NVMe. There's a similar port selection, though the ConceptD 5 has an SD-card reader, which is something photographers and video editors on the go will appreciate. It'll set you back at least €1,699 (approx £1,465).
Giving desktops some wood
ConceptD also extends to desktops, and pretty high-end ones at that. At the top end is the ConceptD 900, a black unassuming monolith of a desktop that hides dual Xeon Gold 6140 processors under the hood.
With such a CPU setup, there's then support for 12 RAM slots, allowing for the desktop to be stuffed with a frankly vast 192GB of DDR4-2666MHz ECC memory.
To go alongside that processor and memory grunt is Nvidia's professional-grade Quadro RTX 6000. That means this PC is one destined for handling say ray-tracing rendering in high-end video work and other jobs that require some very gutsy compute power. Expect to pay €17,999 (£15,519); yeah it's definitely for pros.
The ConceptD 500 is a step or two below and aimed more at the everyday creative professional. Sporting a case that has a wooden top - yes really - that supports wireless charging, the ConceptD 5 is a decent looking PC.
Yet it also has the electronics guts to match its design. Up to an Intel Core i9-9900K can be specced, along with up to 64GB DDR4-2666Mhz and 2TB of storage; there's also an option of 512GB of PCIe M.2 in SSD format, or 16GB if Intel Optane memory mixed with 32GB of PCIe M.2 space. It's more affordable than the flagship desktop with prices starting at €2,799 Euros (roughly £2,413).
To go with the desktops, Acer is also offering two pro-grade displays; the CM7321K is a 32in monster with a 4K resolution and HDR support, while the CP7271K P has a more manageable 27in and 4K resolution with a 144Hz refresh rate.
Both screens cover 99 per cent of the Adobe RGB gamut, so should tickle the fancy of people who need high colour accuracy. Pricing is €3,199 and €2,099 respectively; some £2,758 and £1,809.
The whole range isn't exactly cheap, but then again, one could argue that Acer is looking to compete with devices like the MacBook Pro on the laptops side and the Mac Pro on the desktop side, albeit with a different take on design that might appeal to some and put others off.
And the rest
Acer also showed off refreshed laptops across its rather long line-up that have received CPU refreshes, but there wasn't a great deal to write home about.
A Chromebook for professionals in the guise of the Chromebook 715 was a more notable new laptop. Sporting the latest Intel U-series mobile processors, Acer touted the 715 as having the first dedicated number pad on a Chromebook.
It also comes with some solid specs, like up to 16GB of RAM and a 15.6in Full HD IPS display. A fingerprint reader and a 100 per cent aluminium design help add that professional feel. Pricing starts at €599 (£516), which makes it much cheaper than a Pixelbook.
Given how Chromebooks are growing in popularity outside of the education world, Acer might have an ace up its sleeve with a pro-grade Chromebook.
Gaming also got some Acer love, in the form of refreshed machines and two new laptops. The Nitro 7 is Acer's latest attempt at making an affordable thin-and-light gaming machine.
Offering a 15.6 Full HD, 144Hz IPS display with a narrow bezel, the Nitro 7 is off to a good start.
And with ninth-gen Core processors, up to 32GB of DDR4 RAM in SoDIMM modules, and Nvidia's 16-series mobile GPUs on offer, the laptop could be a pretty decent performer for portable 1080p gaming.
Pricing starts at €1,119 (around £964), which is pretty decent for a gaming laptop.
Then there's the Predator Helios 700, a new flagship gaming laptop from Acer. It sports the usual high-end suspects of a ninth-gen Core i9 CPU, a GeForce RTX 2080 or RTX 2070 to drive a 17.3 Full HD display with a 144Hz refresh rate, and up to 64GB of DDR4 RAM.
But the stand out feature is a keyboard deck that can be pulled out from the traditional laptop position to expose a cooling array to boost thermal performance when the machine is running in a max-performance mode.
The keyboard also has what Acer calls "Magforce" keys, which use linear switches that increase actuation the further and harder they're pressed. This supposedly allows for more finesse and control in games, say modulating acceleration in racing games.
The retractable keyboard is arguably a bit of a gimmick, but a more tactile keyboard could be a boon for keen laptop gamers. Be prepared to part with €2,699 (£2,327) for the pleasure though.
And that's about it. Acer's hardware line up is even more comprehensive than ever and that'll likely work wonders for it in the markets where it enjoys the most success.
Whether its new ConceptD range can compete with machines from heavy-hitters like Dell and Apple has yet to be seen. But it has a strong Chromebook line-up and its gaming hardware seems to be improving each year, so Asus, MSI and others could do with watching their backs. µ
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