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Hands On With Acer’s ConceptD 9, a Power Mega-Convertible for Pro Creators

Need a content-creation, pen-ready powerhouse that’s at least marginally mobile? This giant 2-in-1, refashioned from an Acer gaming-laptop prototype, will help you soothe your muse. (Your shoulders, not so much.)
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Hands On With Acer's ConceptD 9, a Power Mega-Convertible for Pro Creators

With the launch of its ConceptD line of laptops, monitors, and workstations, Acer is pushing full force into the creative space. The laptop line in particular, represented by the ConceptD 5, 7, and 9, are a first for the company and a first for the industry. (The 9 model, which I’ll look at below in detail, almost shouldn’t be lumped in with the first two due to its radical design.)

Sure, the world’s seen monitors tailor-made for designers, and workstations with creator-centric CPUs and GPUs packed in. But have you ever seen a laptop screen that can claim color accuracy within <1 of Delta E that also covers 100 percent of the Adobe RGB color space? We know you haven’t, because this is the first time any company has been daring enough to try and make one.

The ConceptD 5 and 7 laptops are conventional clamshells, and they will fall on the more affordable end of the pricing spectrum—$ 1,699 and $ 2,299, respectively—when they launch this month. The crazy-innovative ConceptD 9, though, bumps things up considerably, to an eye-watering $ 4,999. You can expect the ConceptD 9 to be on shelves sometime in June.

  • Small Fry: Acer’s ConceptD 5 and 7

    You wouldn’t be faulted for thinking that on the surface, you’ve already seen laptops like the ones in the new ConceptD 5 and 7 lines before. The clamshell designs, the chassis traits, and the essential specs of these two laptops don’t diverge a whole lot from the rest of Acer’s stable of mainstream and commercial laptops. But there’s one key difference: the screens.

    A 4K Pantone-validated display with 100 percent Adobe RGB and color accuracy of Delta E <2 guarantee that no matter what kind of project you’re working on (or where you’re working on it), you’ll have a screen that faithfully reproduces colors unlike any other laptop in the market today. (Delta E is a measure of color difference that pro content creators can use to define how perceptible a distinction can be made between hues.)

  • The Beast of the Line: ConceptD 9

    The ConceptD 9 was the one of the main pulls of Acer’s event, and for good reason. This laptop is a punchy, weighty powerhouse of a machine that also goes way beyond the typical clamshell form factor.

    You might be asking, though, “Hey, haven’t I seen you somewhere before?” The ConceptD 9 is based on a prototype that Acer has exhibited at recent trade shows: the Predator Triton 900, a giant, screen-flipping gaming laptop. The ConceptD 9 is a pro version of that, allowing creators to comfortably draw on the 17.3-inch 4K (3,840-by-2,160-pixel) screen at an angle appropriate to them, using a Wacom EMR stylus.

    The screen-flipping aspect also enables them to share their content with ease, by rotating the screen a full 180 degrees in the opposite direction for colleagues to see.

  • Professional Accuracy on the Go

    Now, the screen gymnastics are great and all, but convertible laptops, even big-screen convertible laptops, exist already. What truly separates the ConceptD 9 from every other laptop out there (aside from its radical design that uses side arms instead of a 360-degree hinge) is its screen. The Pantone-validated, 100 percent Adobe RGB display is color-accurate to within <1 of Delta E, a feat that’s impressive enough on a full-size panel oriented to this market.
  • Swivel and Sway

    Two pictures above, you can see the ConceptD 9 in a tent mode and here in a midway swiveling position. Inside the chassis, the laptop will come stocked with full-power (that is, non-Max-Q) GeForce RTX 2080 graphics, as well as one of Intel’s latest line of 9th Gen Core i9 processors (the mobile versions of which had not yet been announced at the time of this event, but were acknowledged by an Intel rep at the rollout). Also inside: up to 32GB of DDR4 RAM, and up to 1TB of NVMe SSD storage (in the maxed-out case, arranged as two 512GB modules in RAID).
  • Draw to Your Heart’s Content

    As I noted above, the ConceptD 9 is compatible with Wacom’s EMR stylus, which will come bundled. The pen is sensitive enough to detect 4,096 separate levels of pressure.

    The pen functionality makes the laptop a strong contender as a potential full replacement for the Wacom tablets you already use. And that is likely right in line with what Acer was going for when the company first hit the drawing board with its full ConceptD line. It’s also an intriguing option for creatives tempted by the luxe screen and pen/touch capabilities of the Microsoft Surface Studio 2, but perhaps put off by its immobility.

  • Now, This Isn’t Going to Be Light…

    With so much power under the hood, it’s no surprise that the ConceptD 9 will be something of a workout to carry around much. At a muscle-straining 9 pounds, this laptop is technically mobile. But you might be more comfortable keeping it at the office and only taking it out for treks when you’re looking for a little sunshine to spark your creative inspiration.
  • One Side of the Connectivity…

    Lean laptops these days consolidate their port profiles and move everything into a USB Type-C port or two. That is not what is happening here.

    Acer has gone the other way with the ConceptD 9 to make sure you’re able to share your content to an even larger screen no matter where you go. On this side of the chassis you get one USB Type-C port with Thunderbolt 3 support, another with DisplayPort video-out piggybacking off of it, a Killer Networking Ethernet E3000 port, and an ordinary (Type-A) USB 3.1 port. Also here are the power button and a security-cable locking notch.

  • …and the Other

    On the other edge is a pair of additional Type-A USB ports, as well as discrete mic-in and headset jacks. (You’ll note as we tour around the sides of this laptop the abundance of ventilation.)
  • The Rear Edge: Yet More Ports

    The connections on the back edge are all about display output and power. The AC adapter jack is in the center, with HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 2.1 ports to the left of it.
  • Graphics Power to Spare

    Unlike the ConceptD 7 laptop, which makes use of a Max-Q-limited Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070, the ConceptD 9 will come with a fully powered GeForce RTX 2080. While perhaps not the ideal choice for some 3D-rendering tasks that would be better served by a Quadro or Radeon Pro solution, it is still plenty powerful enough (paired with the presumptively heavily threaded Core i9) to hold its own for heavy-duty, real-time 8K RAW RED video editing, most lower-end design tasks, and basically anything you can throw at Photoshop. The RTX 2080 would also serve as one serious gaming chip if your off-hours tend in that direction.
  • Keepin’ It Cool

    We’ve seen funky keyboard designs like the one on the ConceptD 9 before: namely, on the Asus Zephyrus laptops and on at least one other Predator. In both cases (no pun intended), the added space between the keyboard and the screen is there to help keep the graphical horsepower on board cool without relying on side fans alone.

    But this works to the ConceptD 9’s favor, because it also gives users the room to put their screen into the angled hand-drawing mode without sacrificing the keyboard in the process. This does mean the (very skinny) touchpad gets shunted off to the side, but if you’re more of a tap-and-touch, stylus-heavy user, or rely on a mouse for precision graphics work, you likely won’t mind the difference.

  • The Side Touchpad

    Here’s a closer look at the side touchpad. (It’s also on the Triton 900 prototype.)
  • In Sum, a Pricey Powerhouse for Digital Content Maestros

    If you want a machine that will handle nearly any creative task on the go (and let you sneak in some gaming, if that is your thing), the ConceptD 9 is going to be worth a look. It’s both powerful and versatile, giving creatives a whole new way to interact with their mobile machines. Expect the ConceptD 9 to hit shelves this June, starting at…wait for it…$ 4,999.
  • More From Acer’s Big Event:

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