Archive for January, 2012

Acer Aspire 5750G review01.13.12

If you want some real processing and graphics firepower without forcing yourself into bankruptcy, the 15.6-inch Acer Aspire 5750G might be just what you’re after. Our high-end version packs an Intel Sandy Bridge Core i7 processor, 750GB hard drive and 8GB of RAM, while an Nvidia Geforce GT 540M dedicated graphics card takes care of gaming. The specific model number of our machine is AS5750G-2638G75Mnkk, although you might also find it being sold as the LX.RCG02.048. Catchy.

Despite its impressive specs, you can currently pick this machine up for under £800 from SaveOnLaptops, among other vendors.

Cut corners
The 5750G’s design is rather disappointing. The laptop looks reasonably stylish, but it lacks the aluminium lid and chrome trim that you get on Acer’s more expensive machines. The company’s designers have tried to add a hint of class here and there with an etched pattern on the lid, and a two-tone colour scheme inside. But, despite the sturdy feel of the chassis, it just doesn’t come across as a premium design, which is perhaps understandable given the fact that the laptop packs in such high-end components for a reasonably affordable price.

Another area that’s been compromised is the screen. We expect most gaming and entertainment-focused laptops to use high-resolution displays, but the 5750G’s screen maxes out at 1,366×768 pixels. The display’s viewing angles are on the tight side too, both on the horizontal and vertical axes, so you have to be careful how you position the screen if you want to be able to see what’s happening properly.

The speakers aren’t much better. They’re definitely below-par for an entertainment-focused laptop. Acer has added Dolby Advanced Audio support, so you can switch between ‘video’, ‘music’ and ‘game’ audio modes using a software-based control panel. Unfortunately, this just spreads out the stereo image slightly and doesn’t add any weight to the bass, which is what the 5070G most sorely needs.

Hardware flair
Other aspects of the laptop are much better, though. The keyboard is excellent, for example. It uses the same isolated-key design seen on many of Acer’s previous laptops. It’s an interesting approach, with the flat keys perched atop narrow stems so they look like they’re floating on the surface of the laptop. The keys’ wide surface area and generous amount of travel means they’re very comfortable to type on. The wide trackpad is excellent too, and the single long rocker button is responsive.

There isn’t an abundance of ports, but the 5070G packs in the most useful ones. You’ll find three USB ports dotted around the chassis. The one on the left-hand edge supports ’sleep and charge’, so you can charge devices like mobile phones and MP3 players even when the laptop is switched off. Also, one of the ports on the right-hand side supports USB 3.0 for much faster data transfer when used with compatible USB 3.0 kit.

The 5750G doesn’t skimp on storage either. It’s kitted out with a cavernous 750GB hard drive, providing plenty of room for storing media and work-related files. There’s also an SD card reader tucked under the front lip and a DVD rewriter on the right-hand side.

Blistering performance
The 5750G really excels when it comes to raw processing power. It’s built around one of Intel’s high-end Sandy Bridge Core i7-2630QM processors. It’s a quad-core chip clocked at 2GHz, but it can be overclocked to as high as 2.9GHz in short bursts, when needed. Together with 8GB of RAM, this chip sliced through the PCMark05 benchmark test like a hot knife through butter, clocking up a blistering result of 8,241. It’s one of the fastest laptops we’ve seen.

The 5750G’s gaming performance is also top-notch. The killer trinity of the fast processor, abundant Ram and dedicated Nvidia GeForce GT 540M graphics card helped it rock its way to a lightning-fast result of 9,691.

The 5750G is equipped with a six-cell lithium-ion battery, but its high-end components mean it didn’t perform impressively in the Battery Eater Classic test, which runs the CPU at 100 per cent until the battery dies. The laptop managed to keep puffing away for 1 hour and 6 minutes before throwing in the towel. In comparison, most 15-inch laptops manage to reach the 1 hour and 20 minute mark.

The Acer Aspire 5750G isn’t the best-looking laptop around and its screen isn’t wonderful either, but it really does delivery some serious processing power for a very reasonable amount of money.

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Samsung Series 9 13.3in: first-look review01.11.12

Samsung Notebook Series 9 13.3in

There are some times when photos of laptops can fool you: they look beautiful when blessed with stunning lighting and clever angles of photography, but when you actually see them in the flesh it’s like going on a blind date with a “slim, athletic and handsome man” and ending up with Danny de Vito (sorry Danny).

The Series 9 is no such laptop. It looks and feels beautiful, with what Samsung terms as a “mineral matt-finish”. The end result is no fingerprints on the lid, which was one of the big complaints consumers had with the original Series 9.

And it’s helped along by an ultra-sleek chassis, with Samsung going all-out with its marketing hype: this, folks, is the world’s slimmest laptop. Or to be more precise, the 13.3in version of the Series 9 is, measuring a ridiculous 12.9mm thick.

Unlike so many laptops, as can be seen from the photo above, that claim this kind of girth it doesn’t gain much extra towards the back.

Then there’s the weight of 1.16kg. We’re now used to high-powered laptops being featherlight, but even so the Series 9 is exceptional.

The payback comes with the ports. This 13.3in model has one USB 3 port on the right and a USB 2 port on the left, plus a full-size SD slot neatly tucked into the side of the chassis, but aside from this you’re slipping into the world of micro and adapters: there’s a micro-HDMI port on the left, an adapter for Ethernet and VGA, plus one 3.5mm socket (usable for either a microphone or headphones).

Samsung Series 9 keyboard

Samsung doesn’t make too many compromises with the keyboard. Naturally there isn’t a massive amount of travel on the keys, but we got up to a decent speed (this review is actually being typed directly onto a showfloor Series 9) and didn’t notice much clatter. Yes, the Enter key is single-height, but it’s also nice and large – as is the excellent touchpad.

We’re a little less enamoured by the screen. This uses a Samsung LED panel that’s been custom-made by Samsung itself, and it suffers from a very slight grain. If you go a little off-centre, it also develops a slight yellow hue.

In practice, though, we don’t think we’d complain. For a start there’s minimal glare from the screen’s matte finish; and second, it’s very bright at full whack: 400cd/m2 according to our man on the stand.

Perhaps even more important is the resolution: Samsung packs in 1,600 x 900 pixels into this 13.3in display, yet it doesn’t feel squashed or cramped.

This gives it a full notebook feel, and it’s helped further by a Core i7 processor – the exact spec has yet to be confirmed. Samsung is making bold claims about wake times too: 1.8 seconds from sleep, 9.8 seconds from off. Our tests didn’t quite bear this out, with the pre-production sample on show taking around 13 seconds .

The final thing to note is the battery. Being a unibody chassis, sculpted from aluminium, the battery is built-in and there’s no option for replacement.

If Samsung is to be believed, however, this shouldn’t be an issue, because the battery is designed to last for 1,500 recharges before it loses 20% of its capacity. This compares, Samsung claims, to 300 recharges for a typical laptop.

Hopefully that means you’ll still have at least 80% of the original capacity after five years; Samsung claims the 13.3in Series 9 lasts for six-and-a-half hours.

It adds up to a laptop with a lot of promise, and we look forward to Samsung confirming the launch date – and price – in the coming weeks.

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