Acer ConceptD 5 Pro
I’m typing this review on the Acer ConceptD 5 Pro laptop with a Quadro RTX 3000 with 6GB of RAM inside. I don’t know. Is that overkill — for writing Google Docs? I don’t feel like I’m writing any faster. But fortunately, I’ve also installed pieces of the Adobe Creative Cloud, The Foundry’s Nuke and Mari, and Autodesk’s Maya 2019 and Max 2020; just to give me a healthy sampling of how they perform on this dual ninth gen Intel Core i7 proc running at 2.6 Ghz with 32 GB of RAM.
Despite the slim .7 inch physical profile and 4.6 lbs., no one could categorize the ConceptD as “slight.” The 15.6” monitor displays at 4K UHD, which is cool and all, but more important is the rated color accuracy reproducing the Pantone Matching System, and 100% of the Adobe RGB gamut. What that means is that if you are in color-sensitive stuff — specifically color grading in DaVinci, comping in After Effects or Nuke, or photography editing like Lightroom — you are confident that what you are seeing is an accurate representation.
The chassis looks and feels smooth and solid. It has a ceramic coating applied through a MAO (Micro-Arc Oxidation) process, which has to do with a lot of scientific things (which I encourage you to look into if you are into that). The result is a super hard shell that is pleasing to the touch, protective and resistant to the elements, retaining the pristine look of the laptop for longer.
The design is also meant to distribute heat and reduce sound, and for normal processes (like writing this review), the laptop is nearly silent, and I’m cradling it on my lap without any worry about it getting too hot. However, once I fire up 3ds Max and load up a scene with glossy reflections, motion blur, depth of field and rendering through V-Ray Next GPU, it didn’t take too long for the fans to spin up, the bottom to noticeably heat up, and my officemate to say, “Is that your laptop making that noise?” But to be fair, I haven’t run into a laptop (or desktop without liquid cooling) that I can’t get to heat up and scream. But it’s super quiet and cool the rest of the time.
The ConceptD 5 Pro is an absolutely valid mobile equivalent to a workstation. I can have it on set with me (like I do right this very moment), able to bring up shots for the director to look at, and be certain that my display is going to be darn close if not pixel accurate to the DIT. I can develop and audition 3D animation or camera moves — and with the RTX card and progressive rendering, I can be showing accurate (enough) renders interactively.
This review laptop is more robust than the baseline model, but even without the RTX display card or high-capacity 2TB solid state drives, you are still getting a powerful device with a 4K color accurate display and a sleek looking, low-profile mini-workstation for under $2,000. Plus, there is room to upgrade.
Price: $1,950 (amazon)
I’m going to go off the beaten track here to investigate a product that doesn’t provide faster render times, or better ways to sculpt in 3D, or plugins that create cool particle effects. It’s about something a little deeper and more ubiquitous than any specific art tool. It’s about productivity.
We who work in the visual effects, animation and video game worlds are no stranger to fatigue. We burn ourselves out by working too many hours to hit deadlines that are too short. We try and compensate with caffeine, sugar, energy drinks, microdosing or Adderall — or worse. These will keep you going, but there is a long term cost to your health.
There is a thing called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). It’s kind of all the rage in the neuroscience circles, and there are over 4,000 published studies about its benefits. What it boils down to is a mild electrical stimulation to the cerebral cortex, which primes the neurons (for lack of a more scientific term) to be more likely to fire. The result is increased focus, attention, productivity and memory.
RPW Technology is a New York based startup that has created a product called LIFTiD to tap into this research and deliver a product in the form of a lightweight headband that will provide tDCS through a couple of electrodes. The user wears the device for 20 minutes a day to give those neurons a boost and refocus and re-energize.
I’ve been working with the device for the past month, and while the impact isn’t a bolt of energy like you’d get chugging a Red Bull, the benefits are still noticeable. I realize how “unscientific” this sounds, and yet, it is purely anecdotal and entirely uncontrolled. I’m not tracking what I’m eating, my sleeping habits or whether or not I had my morning coffee. But I will say that I can sense a difference. And that is enough for me to want to continue using it and recommend it to anyone who is into novice-level biohacking and wants to find alternative, non-chemical ways to up your productivity.
Obviously, check precautions before you buy it — there are a few medical and physical conditions that you should pay attention to. (You should only use it once a day for 20 minutes. You shouldn’t use it if you have any electronic implanted medical devices in the brain or head, a pacemaker or a defibrillator. You shouldn’t use it if you have a neurological condition or disease. You shouldn’t use it on any other areas of the body, etc.) You are playing with your brain after all.