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Review: Acer's $399 Net, er, notebook

Full review of the Acer Aspire 5735, a 15.6-inch laptop that costs only $399 at Best Buy.

Acer Aspire 5735: You won't find a larger laptop for less.
Matthew Elliott/CBS Interactive

Our resident cheapskate spied the Acer Aspire 5735 earlier this week. I just finished reviewing this 15.6-inch laptop and have only minor quibbles with what amounts to a ridiculous deal. The Aspire 5735 lists for $499 but is currently selling at Best Buy for $399. I mean, how critical can one be of such a low-cost, fully featured laptop? With a cheap laptop, all you really need to know is that it is not terrible. And after banging on the Aspire 5735 this week, I can tell you that it is not terrible.

The plastic chassis flexes a bit, the screen resolution isn't as fine as that of some smaller displays, and the 16:9 aspect ratio display makes the laptop a bit of a wide body. The mouse buttons are clacky, and the keyboard feels cramped because it must make room for a separate number pad. And some features commonly found on (admittedly much more expensive) multimedia laptops had to be jettisoned, including discreet graphics, an HDMI port, and a Webcam.

The pluses, however, far outweigh these negatives. It offers similar features and performance as current Best Buy models that cost $250 more, and its dual-core Pentium chip offers much more performance than the single-core Atom processor found in most Netbooks. It also offers Draft N Wi-Fi, which came as a surprise since many mainstream laptops still offer only 802.11b/g connections. Movies and HD content fit the 16:9 aspect ratio, and though it's not the best LCD you're likely to encounter, it does provide a roomy screen for your entertainment purposes

Although it's priced lower than many Netbooks, I doubt the Aspire 5735 will woo many would-be Netbook buyers since it's a much different animal than a machine with a 9- or 10-inch display and a sub 3-pound weight. At these prices, however, perhaps you don't need to decide between the two. If I were in the market for a new laptop, I might split my budget and grab the Aspire 5735 for my home machine and a Netbook for when I'm on the road. At a combined $800 to $900, I'd get two machines for the price of one (mainstream) model.