Hands-On with the Acer Aspire Vero

Posted on August 25, 2022 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Mobile, Windows 11 with 4 Comments

The Acer Aspire Vero hits at the exciting intersection of repairability and recycling and it offers a hopeful view of the future of the PC.

As I’m sure you know, I review a lot of PCs, and I’ve always been interested in how certain trends come and go. The recent shift to 16:10 displays, for example, is a change for which I’ve been begging for years, and so that one is particularly gratifying. And the adoption of Full HD and 5 MP webcams is another recent shift, aimed at addressing the needs of today’s hybrid work world.

But there are two other major changes in the PC space that I’ve struggled to address adequately. From time to time, I reevaluate the topics I explicitly discuss in each review—the design, the display, the expansion ports, and so on—and these two changes both need to make their way into the template, so that they’re covered each time I write about a laptop or other PC. Those changes both fall under what I’ll call a sustainability umbrella: right-to-repair and recyclability.

And neither is as simple as it seems.

On the right-to-repair front, we’re starting to see PCs that can, to some degree, be opened so that the user can replace or upgrade certain components. Most PC makers are starting small, so you’ll see soldered, non-upgradeable RAM modules in many PCs but a replaceable SSD stick, and the ease with which you can even open the case varies by model. Most notably, one small player, Framework, offers fully upgradeable PCs where almost literally every single component can be replaced and upgraded over time. The hope here is that this company will inspire the big players to do even more as well.

Recycling, on the other hand, always includes the use of repurposed, recycled parts to varying degrees throughout a PC, But it can also include the packaging—which in many cases is now pretty easily recycled—and the device’s end-of-life, when it is hopefully taken apart and recycled so that its components can be used elsewhere rather than end up, dangerously, in a landfill.

When I attend PC maker briefings about new models, or am offered a PC for review with an accompanying reviewer’s guide of some kind, recycling is often a big part of the story they’re trying to tell, and it’s gotten a lot more prominent in the last year alone. But the repairability/upgradeability angle is often ignored or is, at least, not as big of a story. And I’ve never really seen a big push from any PC maker involving both initiatives.

Until now.

Acer launched its Vero line of eco-friendly PCs in October 2021, starting with the Aspire Vero and TravelMate Vero laptops, the Veriton Vero Mini mini-PC, and peripherals like the Acer Vero BR277 display, the Vero Macaron Mouse, the Vero Eco Sleeve, and the Vero Eco Mousepad. These devices were all made from recycled materials and the PCs featured user-serviceable chassis and a VeroSense control panel for lowering their carbon output. Acer followed that up with an Aspire Vero National Geographic Edition at CES 2022 and, more recently, the first-ever Vero Chromebook, which I’ll be reviewing soon.

And now we have the second-generation Aspire Vero, which amps up everything that’s right with this line of eco-friendly laptops and moves to more efficient 12th Gen Intel Core processors and a new range of color choices. I’m excited to finally get the chance to explore Vero thoroughly, and as is the case with the Acer Chromebook Vero 514, I’m quite taken with this product’s unique look and feel. It’s different from what other PC makers offer, obviously. But it’s not just that: there’s something really special about the design.

There’s the look, of course: with its unique natural color flecked with yellow and dark gray bits, the Aspire Vero—like other Vero devices—stands alone in a market of materials and color conformity. This reminds me, in some ways, of the Pixel 6 series smartphones, which manage to look unique and different from the competition, and have also immediately established themselves as offering an equally compelling look.

But there’s also the feel, which is equally important. Most premium laptops are built from aluminum, and for good reason, but that creates that conformity issue. Some use magnesium or some magnesium blend, which can lead to lighter weights but makes it even harder to introduce different colors. But with the Vero, here again, I will make a comparison to the Pixel smartphones, in this case Google’s A-series designs, which typically used some form of polycarbonate or plastic. To many this is a sign of cheapness or low quality, but that’s crazy: these phones feel great in the hand and are very durable; when you scratch one, it doesn’t reveal a silver color underneath.

The Vero is like that. In addition to being flecked with color, which I think looks great, the laptop has a very subtle pebbled texture, and it feels great in the hand, whether you’re carrying it about or just resting your hands on the wrist rests. It’s unique, and different. But in a good way. It feels solid and durable. More to the point, it feels nice.

Even more to the point, it will appeal to those who care about the environment, the types of people who consider electric and hybrid vehicles, investigate whether getting solar panels on their homes make sense, and are deeply serious about recycling and sustainability. They’re looking to do the right thing, obviously, but also to do so in a way that doesn’t compromise their day-to-day experience.

And when it comes to sustainability, the Aspire Vero has got to be at or near the top of the heap in the PC market. It arrives in packaging that is 100 percent recyclable and made with up to 90 percent recycled paper. The top and bottom cover, screen bezel, and operating surface are 30 percent post-consumer recycled (PCR) materials. The plastic keycaps are 50 percent PCR. The OceanGlass touchpad, as its name suggests, is made entirely from ocean-bound plastics. And because it is not painted, the device actually lowers the negative impact of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). There’s even a VeroSense app that helps you run the PC in the most environmentally friendly way possible, if you want to turn it up a notch.

Of course, it’s also a PC. And if I put on my reviewer’s hat and examine this computer as I would any other, I can see lots to like. And a few nits to pick.

The Aspire Vero is available in two main configurations, with 14- and 15.6-inch display panel options. The review unit is of the larger variety, which I like, but Acer has chosen to expand the keyboard with a number pad, which I don’t like because it makes hitting keys like Delete, which are normally on the far right of the keyboard, less accurate. I know. Some people do prefer this configuration.

Regardless of which display size you choose, you’re looking at a Full HD (1920 x 1080) IPS panel that outputs 300 nits of light and delivers 100 percent of the sRGB color gamut.

And here, I’d prefer to see 16:10 options that would better fill the display lid—the bezels are on the large side for 2022—and, as important, some higher resolution options, especially in the 15.6-inch models.

Internally, Acer has gone with 12th Gen Intel Core processors, as expected: the review unit includes a Core i7-1255U processor with Intel’s new hybrid core architecture and Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics, 16 GB of LPDDR4 RAM, and 1 TB of SSD storage. Interestingly, and in keeping with Vero’s upgradeability pledges, you can upgrade the RAM to 24 GB using a single module.

Each of these is a step down from what I’d call top-of-the-line—P series processors deliver better performance at the expense of better battery life, and newer LPDDR5 RAM offers a performance boost—but they’re perfectly acceptable in this class of laptop. Either way, I’ve been using the Vero for several days and have had no performance, heat, or noise complaints so far.

Connectivity is modern: the Aspire Vero ships with Intel Wi-Fi 6E, the most modern Wi-Fi standard, and Bluetooth 5.2. And while I haven’t taken the PC apart, Acer notes these are available on an M.2 card, suggesting they are upgradeable.

Expansion is mostly good, with a good range of ports, though most are clustered on the left. There, you will find a full-sized Ethernet port (a rarity these days), a full-sized HDMI 2.1 port with HDCP support, two full-sized USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 ports, and a single Thunderbolt 4/USB4/USB-C port.

On the right, there’s just a lone USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 port, a combo headphone/microphone jack, and some indicator lights (another rarity these days).

So … right. For some reason, there’s only one USB-C port, and since the bundled 65-watt power supply uses USB-C, it will be occupied much of the time. And three full-sized USB-A ports. For some reason. Curious.

The AV story is decent: the Vero ships with a Full HD webcam, in keeping with that industry shift I mentioned earlier, and it even offers HDR capabilities, but it’s a bit on the grainy side. There are dual microphones with all the right hybrid work technologies—far-field, dynamic AI noise reduction, and adaptive beam capabilities—and that should prove useful for those stuck in endless Zoom or Teams meetings.

But the speakers don’t get very loud even at 100 percent volume, and the RealTek audio system offers none of the spatial audio capabilities that you see with Dolby-based systems. You can at least manually tune the sound for content types like music and movies, which does help a bit with the volume, especially for movies.

I’m still feeling my way around the expansion keyboard and numpad, but it’s full-sized and, in an odd twist—unless you’re familiar with Acer products, that is—it comes in an international layout with EU and UK keys here and there. Even odder, the E and R keys feature reverse letters. Key travel is about average and is reasonably quiet.

The glass precision touchpad is just about the right size for this PC, which I appreciate, and it’s been accurate in my limited usage so far.

More intriguing, perhaps, is the fingerprint reader that’s embedded in the touchpad. I don’t believe I’ve seen such a design before, but if so, it was many, many years ago. It stands out nicely and has been easy to use with fast performance and excellent accuracy. Still, it’s kind of strange.

From a portability perspective, the Aspire Vero is a laptop, not an Ultrabook. But it weighs about 3.88 pounds, which isn’t bad for a 15.6-inch laptop, and it is 0.7-inches thin at its thickest. I haven’t used it long enough yet to have an accurate handle on battery life, but Acer reports that the review unit should deliver up to 11 hours of battery while doing productivity work. We’ll see, but it does at least support fast charging capabilities

The software picture is decidedly mixed: Acer bundles an unfortunately long list of crapware on this laptop in addition to a reasonable collection of first- and third-party utilities. Chief offenders include Norton Security, several superfluous games, a few hard-to-remove website links (Booking.com, etc.), and a Dropbox promotion. But I’m curious about a few bundled apps, like PhotoDirector for Acer and PowerDirector for Acer.

Here’s the good news: the Acer Aspire Vero is not expensive. The review model will cost $899.99 when it becomes available in early September, and if the pricing on the previous-generation version is any indication, there will be even cheaper (and, I assume, more expensive) models as well.

More soon.

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