By Brady Betzel
This year, Nvidia announced a new line of drivers for its latest desktop and mobile RTX GPUs. Nvidia has seen the need for more speed and power from today’s multimedia creators who aren’t necessarily going to buy a high-end workstation.
The latest line of Nvidia RTX GPUs, built on the latest Turing architecture, is being used in game creation (for realtime raytracing), music creation, video creation and many more multimedia creation workspaces. That’s because there are plenty of people — even those who are using Adobe’s After Effects or Premiere Pro or even Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve Studio — who don’t need the enterprise-level guarantees that the Nvidia Quadro GPU line offers. Staying with the RTX line gives them all the power they need … and therefore they can save a few dollars.
Nvidia has always had a primary focus on video game users with its GTX and now RTX drivers, so in the past, multimedia creators sort of played second fiddle. But with the new Studio drivers being released into the wild, Nvidia has changed the dynamic and is showing us multimedia creators that they are serious about supporting our workflows.
In fact, one of the most coveted aspects of the Quadro line of GPUs was the ability to work in 10-bit color (or 30-bit color, 10 per channel), and with the Nvidia Studio drivers, the GeForce and Titan lines have 10-bit color processing enabled.
The Acer ConceptD 7 is one of the many RTX Studio-blessed laptops out there, and that’s the one I’m going to focus on with this review.
The ConceptD is not necessarily a “mobile workstation” — the term workstation denotes official blessings from the workstation creator, like ISV (Independent Software Vendor) verifications, 365/24/7 uptime promises and enterprise-level components inside the machines.
The RTX Studio Drivers were built with apps like Resolve and Premiere Pro in mind. That’s not to say they don’t perform well for video games (my kids loved playing Roblox on it!). In fact, from the Acer website, the name ConceptD derives from “Concept,” being an idea that is still forming, and “D,” reflecting dynamism, discovery, design or whatever else a creator wants or needs from his or her laptop.
I ran a bunch of tests on the ConceptD 7, including benchmarks and real-world testing in Premiere, After Effects, Red Cine X Pro and Resolve 16 Studio, which I will get to in a bit. First, let’s take a look under the hood of the Acer ConceptD 7.
Its OS is Windows 10 Home (64-bit); Intel Core i7-9750H (6-core) 2.6GHz (4.5GHz Turbo) processor; Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 GPU with 8GB of dedicated memory; and a 15.6-inch 4K (UHD) 16:9 IPS LED LCD. (Oddly enough, the display on the laptop seems to be only 8-bit color. With such a groundbreaking spec for the GeForce RTX GPUs running 10-bit color, I would think Nvidia would have used a 10-bit display, but maybe they shaved a few dollars off by making it 8-bit running off of the Intel GPU.) There’s also 32GB, DDR4 2666 memory; 1TB SSD; HDMI, three USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A ports, one USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C port, a headphone jack, a microphone jack, a USB Type-C port supporting up to 10Gb/s, DisplayPort over USB-C and Thunderbolt 3. Its size is 0.7” x 14.1” x 10” and it weighs 4.63 lbs. There is a one-year limited warranty.
The Acer ConceptD 7 with the RTX 2080 and 32GB of RAM retails for $2,999.99. The laptop is lightweight but feels sturdy. It is white. At first the white metal shroud is off-putting and feels like you might scratch or mark it up quickly, but I found the material resilient. The keyboard feels natural — meaning I didn’t fumble over the keys as I do on some laptops these days. The keys are high enough to have a nice tactile experience, and the keyboard has a natural amber glow that doesn’t feel distracting. The IPS UHD screen is bright and crisp. In fact, it was actually a little too bright for my tastes, so I bumped the brightness down about half.
When I turned the ConceptD on for the first time, Windows booted up quickly thanks to its NVMe SSD boot drive. On the desktop I noticed a PDF to read. It had the actual serial number of my particular ConceptD 7, along with the calibration results from the Konica Minolta CA-310 color analyzer. It made me feel like this laptop might be more focused toward multimedia creators even if the calibration results are from the Acer factory.
Nonetheless, the ConceptD covers 100% of the Adobe RGB gamut, and it has the Pantone-validated color fidelity certification and the color accuracy of Delta E <2. I did notice that the screen had an orange tinge to it and could not be correct, so I fumbled my way to an app called Acer ConceptD Palette, which gives some tuning options for the display’s color profile. I changed from Adobe RGB to Native. Native was the winner, where whites were much crisper and cleaner than the Adobe RGB. Not sure what that is about, but it was my answer.
Next step: music. I need music to listen to while I work, so I installed the Spotify Music app and began playing music. (For those interested, while writing this review, I was playing Wolves At The Gate, Tool, Thrice, Architects and Underoath.) When playing music through Spotify, I noticed the webcam light turned on, and I was immediately a little frightened. I couldn’t figure out what was causing the webcam to turn on. I jumped into the device manager and cut all access to the webcam by disabling it. In addition, after some digging to put my mind at ease, I noticed the pre-installed Waves Maxx audio EQ suite had a “camera tracking” option for audio positioning, which requires a webcam to work. I think that was the culprit and turned it off just in case.
Overall, I think Nvidia might need to vet the laptop’s software install a little more thoroughly with things like this popping up, since a lot of creators are careful about who has access to what on their systems. Privacy is a big deal. Maybe a “light” OS software install could be an option in the future to keep it clean. After about 30 minutes of cleanup, I had the ConceptD 7 ready to install Resolve Studio 16, Premiere, After Effects, Red Cine X Pro and the Nvidia GeForce RTX Studio drivers. The Studio drivers were not installed on the ConceptD, which was a little disappointing. I really wish they had already been installed or at least on the system already so I didn’t have to hunt for it, but I found it here.
As a professional online editor and colorist, I use Resolve Studio, Premiere and many more multimedia apps heavily, constantly and sometimes simultaneously. Having the Nvidia RTX 2080 GPU with Max-Q design essentially means you get the same power as the desktop version of the 2080 but with some thermal throttling to keep the operating temperature down. This means you could see a performance hit. But from my testing, I was ecstatic at how fast this system worked and how well it handled really heavy 4K, 6K and even 8K media.
Red Cine X Pro
In Red Cine X Pro, I was able to play back 4K, 6K and 8K raw Red R3D files in real time. That was mind-blowing, to be honest. The only downside is that software manufacturers like Blackmagic and Adobe haven’t incorporated the latest Red SDK into their software to allow this realtime playback of high-resolution raw Red media. So once they do, you will be playing back 8K raw Red footage flawlessly! Hopefully, multiple streams at once.
Premiere and After Effects
Inside Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe After Effects, I ran my favorite benchmarks from Puget Systems, whose standard desktop system for benchmarking is a desktop class Intel i9 with 128GB of RAM and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080. So while this laptop is close, it is just that — a laptop with more thermal throttling issues, one quarter of the memory and a lower-end CPU. However, the ConceptD scores were not completely disheartening.
Puget’s standard overall score for the Intel i9 system in After Effects is a 990, while the ConceptD 7 scored a 718. In Premiere, the ConceptD 7 scored quite low, at an overall score of 469 (out of 1,000). I credit this to Premiere’s focus on single cores for processing and not much reliance on GPUs and/or hyperthreading. In my practical testing of Premiere using Media Encoder for exports and encoding, I created two one-minute UHD sequences: Sequence 1 (Export Test 1) for basic color correction only and Sequence 2 (Export Test 2) with a few effects, including 110% zoom, sharpening 100% inside of Lumetri and a Gaussian blur of 20. I disabled any caching or optimized media and checked off “Maximum Render Quality” inside of Media Encoder.
Here are my results:
– H.264 – UHD, no audio, 10Mb/s, max render quality (standard Media Encoder H.264 setting)
Export Test 1: 3:37
Export Test 2: 3:50
– H.265 – UHD, no audio, 7Mb/s, max render quality (standard Adobe Media Encoder H.265 setting)
Export Test 1: 2:43
Export Test 2: 2:48
– DPX testing: 10-bit video levels, UHD
Export 1: 3:45
Export 2: 3:53
In terms of timeline playback performance inside of Premiere Pro, all clips would play back at half quality. 4K would play back at full quality; 6K 3:1 would play at half quality, but at full quality, it dropped 58 frames, while 8K dropped 48 frames. I tried to use Blackmagic’s new Blackmagic Raw plugin to test encoding and playback power in Premiere, but it wouldn’t work for me.
While editing still felt good in Premiere Pro, you still might want to use an offline/online workflow or transcode to a mezzanine format of ProRes and/or DNxHR to get a more fluid experience — at least until Adobe incorporates Red’s new SDK framework.
Resolve Studio 16
In Resolve Studio 16, the Acer ConceptD 7 with Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 really shined when playing back Blackmagic raw (BRAW) files. It showed off how powerful a laptop can be with the right technology behind it. Similar to my Premiere testing, I created two one-minute-long UHD sequences with raw Red R3D media (which can be found here and in separate one-minute-long UHD sequences with BRAW clips (which can be found here). Boy, oh boy, the BRAW took full advantage of the CUDA cores in the 2080! Here are the tests:
When playing back the raw R3D Red files inside of Resolve 16 Studio, I was able to play back 4K, 29.97fps footage in real time at full resolution, premium debayer quality; 6K 23.98fps in real time at quarter resolution, good debayer quality; and 8K, 23.98 fps in real time at one-eighth resolution, good debayer quality. Each of these clips had only basic color correction.
When exporting, my results varied, but the speed really kicked in with resizes and effects, which jumpstarted the RTX 2080 GPU (the fans even began to take off). Make sure to check out the BRAW H.264 Nvidia export below:
– Export Test 1: Basic color corrections
– Export Test 2: one minute of 4K, 2x 6K (RedCode 3:1), 8K (Redcode 7:1) Red media in UHD sequence without audio — 110% zoom; spatial NR Faster, Small, 25; Resolve OFX Gaussian blur (default). No cached or optimized media. Force resize and debayer to highest quality.
– Custom export H.264 as a QuickTime movie full-quality resize and debayer (essentially the YouTube UHD preset, but with forcing resize and debayer to highest quality): Native H.264 encoding — about 36 minutes.
Export Test 1: 4:11
Export Test 2: 5:15
– Same export but changing “Native” to “Nvidia”
Export Test 1: 4:41
Export Test 2: 5:08
– Same Export but changing “Nvidia” to “Intel Quick Sync”
Export Test 1: 4:45
Export Test 2: 5:04
-Same export but H.265
Export Test 1: 3:03
Export Test 2: 4:47
– Intel QuickSync
Export Test 1: 3:15
Export Test 2: 4:43
– DPX testing:
Export 1: 3:13
Export 2: 4:46
– BMD raw – one minute of 4608×2592 BMD raw media in UHD sequence without audio
Export Test 1: Basic color corrections.Export Test 2: 110% zoom; spatial NR Faster, Small, 25; Resolve OFX Gaussian blur (default). No using cached or optimized media. Force resize and debayer to highest quality.
– Custom export H.264 as a QuickTime movie full-quality resize and debayer (essentially the YouTube UHD preset but with forcing resize and debayer to highest quality). Native H.264 encoding — about 36 minutes
Export Test 1: 2:53
Export Test 2: 1:05
– Same Export but changing “Native” to “Nvidia”
Export Test 1: :24 (Holy moly!)
Export Test 2: 1:01
– Same Export but changing “Nvidia” to “Intel Quick Sync”
Export Test 1: :32
Export Test 2: :58
– Same but H.265
Export Test 1: :28
Export Test 2: 1:02
– Intel QuickSync
Export Test 1: :1:07
Export Test 2: 1:13
– DPX testing:
Export 1: :34
Export 2: 1:19
I was blown away by the BRAW playback and export timings, the smoothness felt like I was working with low-resolution files, but I was playing with the highest resolution raw files. It was, for lack of a better term, truly liberating — that feeling of not being held back by technology. In fact, I really wanted to see how good the BRAW playback was, so I piled on serial nodes of OFX Gaussian blur at the default settings until I got dropped frames on playback, and it took 15 nodes until I started to drop below realtime playback. Even then, on the 16th node, I was getting 22-23.98fps, but it wouldn’t lock onto realtime playback.
With the Windows version of the Blackmagic raw Speed Test being recently released, I obviously ran that. At 4K, it said I should get 93fps on CPU and 366 with the GPU using CUDA cores. The RTX 2080 has a whopping 2944 CUDA cores compared to the previous-generation GTX 1080’s 2560 CUDA cores. In the same test, 6K BRAW would play at 36fps on the CPU and 148fps via the CUDA cores; 8K at 25fps on the CPU and 95fps via CUDA cores.
According to the BRAW Speed Test, using 12:1 BRAW, you should get 1527fps on HD footage. Whoa! I ran one of the old standards, CineBench R20, which only runs CPU tests these days, and scored 2281 (eighth down on the list) for multiple cores and 445 for CPU single core, which is actually pretty good (around second on the list).
Finally, I went a little beyond the realm of testing for post production and ran the Unigine Superposition 4K optimized and 8K optimized benchmarks, which are reflective of video game playback. What is crazy is that, between the time I ran it the first time and the second time, there were Nvidia Studio Driver updates, and the performance actually decreased slightly. The first time, the 4K optimized score was 6112 with a minimum fps of 37.17, average fps of 45.72, and a max fps of 57.32, with a GPU utilization of 99%.
With the latest Nvidia Studio drivers, the 4K optimized Superposition benchmark went down to 5993 with a minimum fps of 36.69, average fps of 44.83 and a max fps of 55.07, with a GPU utilization of 99%. So it wasn’t a huge drop off, but still, the update decreased the overall frames per second. The first time, the 8K optimized score was 2473 with a minimum fps of 15.36, average fps of 18.50 and a max fps of 21.77, with a GPU utilization of 100%. With the latest Nvidia Studio Drivers, the 8K optimized Superposition benchmark went up to 2479 with a minimum fps of 15.44, average fps of 18.55 and a max fps of 21.76, with a GPU utilization of 100%. Overall, the results are similar, but the update did affect how many frames per second were achieved.
In the end, the Acer ConceptD 7 is a powerful editing and multimedia creation powerhouse. If Acer asked what I would improve, I would ask for a longer battery life, choice of colors (not just white) and a clean software installation option with Nvidia Studio Drivers ready to go. This battery seemed to last around four hours when using the laptop lightly and way less if I was hammering the Nvidia RTX 2080 in Resolve. Recharging was also slow; it took a few hours to fully charge (definitely not the fast charge I’ve seen on some laptops).
For software cleanliness, I would be willing to pay an extra fee, maybe $50, for a clean installation of Windows, Nvidia Studio drivers and any apps I select, like Resolve and Adobe Creative Cloud. That being said, the power the Nvidia Studio drivers combined with the RTX line of Nvidia GPU graphics cards is very promising. When working in multimedia creation apps like Premiere Pro and Resolve Studio 16, I rarely noticed the ConceptD 7 getting in my way.
I can see how freeing a system like this would be for people who work on the go but might want to plug in to a USB-C monitor at home to finish their UHD work. If you are thinking of converting from a MacBook Pro lifestyle to Windows-based, the Nvidia Studio line of laptops is where I would look first.
While this Acer ConceptD 7 is $2,999.99, there are other price options depending on whether you want a Quadro or an RTX 2060. Overall, for under $3,000, this laptop has really powerful components that will speed up your workflow and help get the technology out of your way to be creative in 3D modeling, editing and color correcting.
Brady Betzel is an Emmy-nominated online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on shows like Life Below Zero and The Shop. He is also a member of the Producer’s Guild of America. You can email Brady at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.