Editors' note: The Acer Aspire 5742G-7200 is not currently available on Acer's Web site, but a nearly identical equivalent is the Acer Aspire 5742G-5464G50Mnkk.
For some, the purpose of a laptop isn't to be exciting or sexy, so much as to be functional. Those who feel that way might appreciate the Acer Aspire 5742G-7200, an utterly uninspiring 15.6-inch laptop that, nevertheless, has a pretty good set of specs for its $750 price: an Intel Core i5 processor, Nvidia GeForce GT420M graphics, a 500GB hard drive, and 4GB of RAM. You'll be saving money over the competition: the entry-level Dell XPS 15 costs $100 more. However, the XPS 15 features a more modern design, additional ports such as USB 3.0, far better speakers, and a better touch pad. You'll have to decide whether a bit of savings or better features matter more.
For deal hunters, it's hard to beat what this Acer Aspire offers; however, its plastic-feeling construction, lack of high-end features, and middling battery life make it difficult to recommend outside of the budget category.
|Price as reviewed / starting price||$749|
|Processor||2.53GHz Intel Core i5-M460|
|Memory||4GB, 1,066MHz DDR3 RAM|
|Hard drive||500GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce GT 420M|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||15.0 x 10.0 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.6 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||5.3 / 6.5 pounds|
Thick and clad in a matte, patterned black plastic, this Acer Aspire has a look and feel that scream budget from the get-go. It's a solid-feeling machine, however, and not overly heavy for its size. The Acer Aspire's design is so nondescript that from a distance you'd be hard-pressed to tell what brand it is.
Inside, a full keyboard and number pad stretch from edge to edge, with a large strip of unused space above where a lonely power button resides, along with an embedded mono speaker. Below, a wide, flat palm rest is interrupted by an inset multitouch touch pad that's off-center and small for the size of the laptop. The touch pad works just fine, but it's a throwback design compared with larger clickpads. A rocker-style button-bar (we prefer separate left and right mouse buttons) beneath is made of the same matte plastic as everything else on this laptop.
The flat keyboard, an Acer feature across its product line, is actually pretty comfortable to type on: keys are wide, flat, and well-spaced. The design still irks us compared with the raised keys on most other keyboards: crevices between keys beg for dust and crumbs to get trapped, and the slightly flexing keys feel more fragile than on other laptops.
The big, bright LED-backlit 15.6-inch display has a native resolution of 1,366x768 pixels, whereas many higher-end laptops offer better resolutions. On a screen this big, you can look closely and see the pixels, but both video and text appear crisp, albeit with limited viewing angles before looking washed-out.
Unfortunately, the speaker was a big disappointment. The Aspire's cost-conscious single speaker, situated under the top left of the grille above the keyboard, was fine for spoken-word material, but its lack of stereo sound and low overall volume couldn't hold a candle to other 15.6-inchers for music or movies. Video playback, as a result, suffered because of the lack of speaker oomph.
|Acer Aspire 5742G-7200||Average for category [Mainstream]|
|Video||VGA-out, HDMI||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Mono speaker, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, SD card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader, eSATA|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
You get what you pay for with the Acer Aspire 5742G-7200: yes, there's HDMI, but everything else is flat-out generic in terms of basic ports. No USB 3.0 or eSATA here, and no Bluetooth.
The Intel Core i5-460M CPU in this Acer Aspire isn't a next-gen, so it doesn't benefit from any of the latest Intel improvements. On the other hand, it's as good as most Core i5 laptops from last year. The Aspire 5742G-7200 handles multitasking, streaming HD video, and nearly every daily computing task well. That being said, with new Intel processors already having debuted, you might be best served by waiting for a next-generation upgrade (although mainstream dual-core models are still a couple of months away).
The included Nvidia GeForce GT420M graphics chip is by far the best feature on this laptop, and makes this Aspire a choice budget laptop. It's not Nvidia's latest and greatest graphics chip, but it's more than enough for the average user. The above-average graphics power enables the Aspire to effortlessly handle mainstream games, too. Unreal Tournament III ran at 75.2fps in native 1,366x768-pixel resolution, which compares very favorably with the 73.6fps we attained on the entry-level 15-inch Dell XPS with an Optimus-enabled Nvidia GeForce 420M GPU. We played the racing game Blur at its highest graphics settings with great success, and Bejeweled 3 looked silky smooth in highest-resolution Ultra Mode. Is the Aspire 5742G a gaming laptop? Not technically, but it should be more than able to satisfy owners who want to dive into mainstream gaming.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)