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Kind of Blue: Acer launches new line of Blue-branded 16- and 18-inch laptops

Acer is leading the charge in the industry's move toward these new screen sizes with two new multimedia-oriented consumer laptops, the 16-inch Acer Aspire 6920 and the 18.4-inch Acer Aspire 8920.

The Acer 8920

We first told you back at CES about the laptop industry's move towards 16- and 18-inch laptops, highlighted by a 16-inch Dell prototype and our off-the-record discussions with several other vendors about these new screen sizes.

Acer is leading the charge with two new multimedia-oriented consumer laptops, the 16-inch Acer Aspire 6920 and the 18.4-inch Acer Aspire 8920. Both are part of what Acer is calling the Gemstone Blue series.

We just got a peek at these two new systems in person at a press event in New York, and while they're not going to be game-changers, there are a few highlights worth noting.

The new screen sizes allow for true 16:9 aspect-ratio displays, which means Blu-ray or other HD content will fit the screen better--look for similar displays from other vendors in the coming months.

The CineDash Media Console Acer

Acer has also made a big investment in sound, offering 5.1 speakers in the 18-inch version and 2.1 speakers, with Dolby virtual surround sound, in the 16-inch. Both also offer virtual headphone surround.

Intel Penryn-class CPUs and Nvidia's GeForce 9500 or 9650 GPUs are standard, and Acer claims its new displays are brighter, with better color range, than the previous Aspire models.

The most interesting part was the unique capacitive touch media controls. Instead of running a simple line of media buttons along the top of the keyboard (even budget laptops such as the Dell 1525 have capacitive touch-sensitive controls these days), the media controls are boxed off to the left of the keyboard in a panel called the CineDash Media Console.

It's the same general concept, but the high-tech layout makes it stand out--you get a volume circle, basic play/pause/transport controls, and a few other media player keys.

Look for these two new systems to hit retailers some time in April, starting at $900 and going up to around $1,700.