The Good Desktoplike performance; 17-inch screen; plays CDs and MP3s without booting; TV connection via S-Video.
The Bad Heavy; loud cooling fan.
The Bottom Line The Acer Aspire 1710 is a good choice for those who want a laptop but need the performance of a desktop.
Think of the Acer Aspire 1710 as a laptop possessed by a desktop. In other words, expect brute-force performance but don't plan on jumping hurdles at airports with it tucked under your arm or taking it away from a power plug for long. This laptop is big, powerful, and heavy, but its high-end components do help future-proof it. While a low-end laptop can quickly become outdated, the power under the 1710's hood will help you keep up with Microsoft's merciless upgrade curve. We think the 1710 strikes one of the best price-performance balances of any desktop replacement.
At a whopping 14.7 pounds, the Acer Aspire 1710 is a behemoth even for a desktop replacement, and the power brick that comes with the unit increases its total travel weight to almost 17 pounds. The full-size keyboard with separate number pad and the ample real estate of its 17-inch screen make the Acer Aspire 1710 feel more like a portable desktop than a bulky laptop.
The 1710 touts a nice set of integrated speakers, including a separate bass-boosting subwoofer in the unit's base. Unfortunately, the speakers are hard to appreciate when the system is running because of the laptop's loud cooling fan. Fortunately, the Aspire 1710 comes with Acer's Audio DJ feature, which lets you play CDs and MP3s without booting the system and starting the fan. A set of volume-control buttons line the front edge of the system, and you can access them even when the lid is closed.
Acer's 1710 is much easier to upgrade than most laptops. A single removable panel on the bottom of the unit gives you access to the system components and makes child's play of swapping out the hard drive, the memory, or the processor. This flexibility helps future-proof the system and makes the 1710 a smart long-term tech purchase.
The right edge of the Acer Aspire 1710 contains two FireWire and two USB 2.0 ports, as well as a pair of audio minijacks. A combo DVD+RW/CD-RW drive graces the unit's left side, along with a generous array of expansion-card slots for PC Card, CompactFlash, SmartMedia, and SD. The rear panel houses a serial mouse connector, a parallel port for a printer, a Gigabit Ethernet port, a modem port, an S-Video port for connecting the 1710 to a TV, and two additional USB 2.0 ports, bringing the total number of USB ports on the unit to four.
You can outfit the 1710 with either Windows XP Home Edition or XP Pro. You also get CyberLink Power DVD for playing movies, iRiverManager for organizing and playing digital audio, and NTI's CD & DVD Maker, which together make for a respectable software offering.
Our test Acer Aspire 1710-series laptop, the Acer Aspire 1712, came outfitted with a Pentium 4 with Hyper-Threading; 1GB of system RAM, though the 1710 series supports up to 2GB; a 120GB hard drive; and an Nvidia GeForce FX graphics card with 128MB of dedicated RAM. In short, the 1710 is a powerhouse, but our tests indicate that it isn't the fastest desktop replacement in the land; those accolades go to the Dell Inspiron XPS. But then again, the XPS is about $1,000 more expensive than the Aspire 1710.
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