Acer ConceptD 500 review: Worth every penny
A stylish and monstrously powerful PC for content creators
Acer hasn’t so much dipped a toe in professional editing and content creation hardware as it has leapt in boots-first. The ConceptD line is an entirely original range of premium PCs, laptops and monitors, including such bold products as the ConceptD 9 – a cross between a laptop and a Surface Studio, with its rotating touchscreen suspended on articulating arms – and this, the ConceptD 500 workstation.
True, at £3,200 it’s a major investment, but it has the specs to match. There’s the octa-core, 16-thread Intel Core i9-9900K, a dedicated Nvidia Quadro RTX 4000 graphics card, 64GB of RAM, Windows 10 Pro and not just a 1TB SSD but dual 2TB hard disks as well. This isn’t even the most kitted-out version, either: £3,500 nets you double the HDD storage, on top of everything else. There are also significantly cheaper specs, starting with the £2,100 version; this has an Intel Core i7-9700K, 16GB of RAM and GeForce RTX 2070, so is more of a gaming PC in smart-casual clothing.
That comes with an emphasis on smart. The ConceptD 500 looks, despite having a conventional mid-tower form factor, unlike any other PC on the market. A big part of this is the faux-wood panel on top, which looks and feels convincing enough to pass as the real thing, but the clean white case and distinctive triangle-pattern air vent further contribute to the suitably grown-up aesthetic.
It’s all nicely built, too. A lot of Acer products can feel plasticky next to more robust Asus or MSI alternatives, but the ConceptD 500 has a much sturdier constitution. It’s not exactly a silent runner, as the CPU cooler will noticeably whirr under load and the GPU occasionally produced some coil whine, but it’s no worse than the Asus ProArt PA90 in this regard. This compact, cylindrical PC could also make some considerable noise, in spite of its more advanced watercooling system.
The PA90 at least offers the same Core i9-9900K for less cash – the spec we tested was £2,779 – but then this also comes with half the RAM - 32GB - as well as less storage space and a slower Quadro P4000 GPU. However, it still came out slightly ahead in our CPU-reliant 4K benchmarks. The ConceptD 500 scored 182 in the image editing test, 286 in the video encoding test and 346 in the multitasking test, for 299 overall. These are all great scores, but the PA90 managed slightly better video and multitasking results, for 311 overall.
Since both systems scored 182 in the single-core image test, we reckon the PA90’s more aggressive cooling helps it engage higher boost clock speeds under load. Then again, it’s only a 4% difference, which isn’t the kind of gap you’d notice unless you were timing tasks with a stopwatch. The ConceptD 500 is inarguably a potent media editing and production PC, thanks to the massive RAM allocation and high core/thread count of the Intel processor.
The RTX 4000, despite its similar name to the P4000, is also the superior graphics card. It’s built for hardware acceleration in 2D and 3D graphics creation software rather than gaming, like Nvidia’s GeForce GPUs, but even in the latter the ConceptD 500 outperformed the PA90. At 1,920x1,080, it produced 153fps in Dirt: Showdown and 81fps in Metro: Last Light Redux, with both games running on their highest quality settings; the PA90 managed 139fps and 62fps respectively. It was the same story at 2,560x1,440, as the ConceptD 500 scored 140fps in Dirt and 47fps in Metro, to the PA90’s 121fps and 35fps.
For this kind of money you could still get a much more powerful PC just for gaming, but we also ran the Luxmark GPU-only test, in which the ConceptD 500 scored 5,647 – a brilliant result that shows how good the RTX 4000 is at serious rendering work.
The SSD, too, performs superbly. Even besides the fact that it’s a vast 1TB drive, we measured a sequential read speed of 3,004MB/s and a sequential write speed of 2,678MB/s. That’s absolutely among the top tier of storage speeds you can get from a PCI-E 3.0, M.2-mounted SSD like this one.
Having two large hard disks is also a boon, and not just for capacity. You could potentially set these up in a RAID array, so anything saved on one drive is automatically mirrored on the other – creating instant backups for any important work.
The only shame is that you can’t add more. There are only two 3.5in trays inside the chassis, and both are full. There are no spare M.2 slots or 2.5in bays, either. We can forgive this lack of upgrade space, though, as what you get out of the box should be sufficient for years.
We will say that the interior of the ConceptD 500 isn’t quite as modern as the exterior. The grey metal and top-mounted PSU are distinctly old-fashioned, and there is even what appears to be a 5.25in tray cage, even though there’s no gap for optical drives on the front. It’s also somewhat time-consuming, though not technically difficult, to open: you have to pull out two plastic covers at the back, undo the screws underneath, remove a large bracket, undo another pair of large screws fastening one of the side panels and then finally slide off the panel. Only the last two steps are necessary, frankly.
That said, it’s certainly a lot easier to get into and tinker with than the PA90, in the sense that it’s even possible without specialist screwdrivers. While looking a bit old hat, the layout is also at least conventional and familiar, so adding expansion cards is easy once you’ve got the side open.
For this purpose, there are two PCI-E x16 slots (one is occupied by the RTX 4000, but the other is spare), one PCI-E x1 slot and one legacy PCI slot. As with storage, it’s not a massive concern that all four RAM slots are filled – 64GB is an enormous amount of memory – and while an extra M.2 slot might have been nice, it’s worth remembering that one is filled by that extremely quick SSD while the other is home to a networking card that enables 802.11ac Wi-Fi connectivity.
That’s some very handy extra flexibility, should you be unable to connect via the Ethernet port at the back. This sits alongside two USB2, USB3 and USB3.1 ports apiece, plus a standard three 3.5mm audio jacks, a PS/2 connector and one USB3.1 connector, so it’s a reasonably varied I/O panel even if it’s not as drenched in USB ports as you might expect for the price. There is, however, a USB Type-C connector on the GPU, which can be used for outputting video instead of the three DisplayPort outputs alongside it.
Plus, there’s always the front panel, if you need a few more peripherals connected. This includes two USB2 ports, one USB3.1 port, microphone and headphone jacks, and an SD card reader. Photo editors will appreciate that last one in particular, as it’s possible to grab photos straight from a camera’s memory card. We’re not so keen on the little plastic cover that sits on top of this panel, though – it’s meant to keep the top panel attractively flush, but it just ends up getting in the way whenever you want to quickly connect a USB drive or pair of headphones.
That’s a minor annoyance, though, on a PC that’s much more likely to put a smile on your face. Acer has successfully identified what makes a great workstation – beefy CPU, high-spec storage, plenty of memory – and chosen the right components for the job. We’d sooner choose it than the PA90, too, for the ConceptD 500’s more muscular GPU and bigger, faster storage drives.
Acer ConceptD 500 specifications
Octa-core 3.6GHz Intel Core i9-9900K
FRONT USB PORTS
2x USB2, 1x USB3.1
REAR USB PORTS
2x USB2, 2x USB3, 2x USB3.1, 1x USB Type-C
8GB Nvidia Quadro RTX 4000
1TB SSD, 2x 2TB hard disk
Windows 10 Pro
Three years RTB including 30 days collect and return
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