Hardware Laptops Reviews

Acer ConceptD 7 SpatialLabs Edition hands-on review: have 3D screens finally found a use?

A year ago, Acer showed off a crazy concept design of a laptop: one with a 3D screen where you could manipulate models on-screen and examine them from all angles. It was a nice idea, but felt years away from reality. And now here we we are with the Acer ConceptD 7 SpatialLabs Edition laptop, which you’ll be able to buy as of December 2021.

I got my hands on the device at an early briefing, and I’m impressed. As the headline above suggests, 3D screens might finally have found a use.

What’s the big idea?

Really, the idea here is built on the same principles as watching a 3D film when wearing a pair of glasses with red and green lenses. We fool our eyes into seeing 3D when looking at a flat image by manipulating what’s beamed into our eyes.

The Acer ConceptD 7 SpatialLabs Edition laptop in action at the preview event: note the trio of cameras at the top

Here, the screen shows two different images, with one refracted to hit the left eye and the other the right. Together with eye-tracking technology built into the top of the bezel, our brain interprets this as a 3D image. It’s clever and it genuinely works.

Unlike those puzzles where you stare at a bunch of dots to see the hidden image, there’s no squinting necessary. Your eyes do feel a slight strain, so I wouldn’t want to stare at a 3D image for hours, but it’s fine for a few minutes at a time.

What’s the point?

So, if you aren’t going to watch football matches in 3D, what is the point of this stereoscopic 3D technology?

Primarily, it’s for designers who work in 3D. Think car designers, architects, anyone who uses CAD software. There are add-ons available for eight programs: Autodesk Fusion 360, Autodesk Inventor, Autodesk 3Ds Max, Rhinoceros, Cura, Blender, SketchUp and Zbrush.

But there are other uses. For instance, Acer talks about interior designers sharing “design walkthroughs”, car configuration in a dealership, even “geospatial earth observation” based on data from satellites to “create true 3D landscapes”.

In other words, it’s all a bit niche. Especially as you will be limited by the confines of the 15.6in screen. If this could be part of a 50in screen on a wall, it would be even more spectacular.

What else do you need to know about the Acer ConceptD 7 SpatialLabs Edition laptop?

The biggie is the price: it will be available in the UK (and the rest of Europe) in December, starting at £3,299. We’re still not totally clear on what that base specification it will be, but along with a 4K display it fill feature:

  • 11th gen Intel Core processors (up to Core i7)
  • Nvidia GeForce RTX graphics (up to RTX 3080)
  • Up to 64GB DDR4 memory
  • Up to 2TB NVMe SSD storage
  • Windows 11 Pro

In terms of connectivity, there are two USB-C 3.2 ports that support Thunderbolt 3, an HDMI 2.1 output, a DisplayPort 1.4, three old-style USB-A ports and Wi-Fi 6.

Official photos

Early verdict on the Acer ConceptD 7 SpatialLabs laptop

As I mention above, this is a niche product. But if I was a designer who wanted to instantly see my creations in 3D, I would be desperate to get my hands on this laptop. I would even consider replacing my main workstation with it, and then plug in a main monitor for day-to-day use before turning to the laptop screen to see my output magically appear on-screen. Or, rather, off-screen.

Even if it’s totally irrelevant to you, Acer deserves recognition for a true industry first. It really is like nothing else out there.

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About the author

Tim Danton

Tim Danton is editor-in-chief of PC Pro magazine and has written about technology since 1999. He enjoys playing with gadgets, playing with words and playing tennis. Email tim@bigtechquestion.com

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