Acer Aspire 5000
At $1,099, the Acer Aspire 5000 comes at a nice price for students as well as home and small-business users. It's the first laptop we've seen that's based on AMD's new Turion 64 technology; designed specifically for thin-and-lights, the Turion 64 is a more efficient version of AMD's 64-bit Athlon chip. We find it a bit strange that Acer picked the Aspire 5000 for its Turion 64 debut, as the system is a bit bigger than most other thin-and-light laptops, nudging up against desktop-replacement territory. Nevertheless, we found that the Aspire 5000 delivered decent productivity performance, though gamers and performance junkies will be underwhelmed by the system's supporting components and its average battery life.
Measuring 1.5 inches thick, 14.3 inches wide, and 11 inches deep and weighing 6.6 pounds (7.3 pounds with its small AC adapter), the staid silver-and-black Aspire 5000 is a bit too big to classify as a thin-and-light, but it's lighter than many other desktop replacements. It's not the first such notebook we've seen: the Sony and the Dell Inspiron 6000 are also somewhere between thin-and-light and desktop replacement. Keep in mind that though the Aspire 5000 is relatively light for its size, it's still too big for regular travel.
The Acer Aspire 5000's design is relatively uninspired, but for such an inexpensive notebook, we can't really complain. Below the notebook's large keyboard, the wide wrist rest offers plenty of room and provides comfortable access to the decent-size touch pad and the large mouse buttons; there's also a cool four-way directional pad that lets you scroll through Web pages and documents vertically and horizontally. The speakers located at the right and left corners of the Aspire 5000's front edge sound tinny and weak--both Sony's and Dell's performed better.
You'll find most of the standard connections you'll need on the Aspire 5000, with the exception of FireWire and S-Video. Curiously, we found both FireWire and S-Video labels near ports that were blocked by hard, black-plastic pieces that we were unable to remove. The front edge of the system is fairly busy: there are a few indicator lights, LED on/off switches for both Wi-Fi (802.11b/g wireless networking support is included) and Bluetooth (which our test unit did not have installed), as well as one USB 2.0 port and microphone, audio out, and headphone jacks. The left side features a double-layer DVDÂ±RW optical drive--surprising for a notebook at this price point--and the right side includes two more USB 2.0 ports, as well as Ethernet and modem jacks. The system's rear edge is bare but for a VGA port and the AC adapter connection. Aside from Microsoft Windows XP Home, the included software package is weak: a few Acer-branded apps and NTI CD-Maker for burning CDs (but, unfortunately, not DVDs).
Our test model came configured with one of AMD's new Turion 64 processors, the ML-30 chip that runs at 1.6GHz with 1MB of L2 cache. Also onboard was 512MB of SDRAM and a modest 60GB hard drive running at a slow 4,200rpm. The notebook's big, 15.4-inch WXGA wide-screen display looked quite dim, even at its brightest setting, and was driven by an anemic SiSM760GX graphics chip, which borrows up to 64MB from main system RAM. Needless to say, we found this system ill-equipped to run new games, such as Half-Life 2.
Put aside 3D graphics, and the Acer Aspire 5000 turned in a decent performance in CNET Labs' benchmark tests. The system could have benefited from a few stronger supporting components, such as a more robust 3D graphics subsystem and a faster, larger hard drive. Nevertheless, its MobileMark score of 192 handily beat the scores turned in by the comparably priced Toshiba Tecra A3-S611 running a 1.6GHz Pentium M, the cheaper Dell Inspiron 6000, and the pricier running a 1.73GHz Pentium M. The Aspire 5000 should have no trouble with ordinary business and productivity tasks, though its battery life lasted only 2 hours, 52 minutes--not terrible for a notebook this size but far less than the Inspiron 6000's 320 minutes. It's too early to come to a sweeping conclusion about the Turion 64, but so far we aren't overly impressed with its PowerNow technology.