Acer Aspire 2000 review: Acer Aspire 2000

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The Good Wide-screen display; attractive design; excellent performance and battery life; Arcade software plays media without booting Windows.

The Bad Uncomfortable keyboard placement and layout; stiff touchpad buttons; no remote for Arcade software.

The Bottom Line The Aspire 2000 is a fast, stylish, long-lasting notebook with great multimedia features but some minor ergonomic flaws. If you don't mind that, it's one of the better desktop replacements.

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8.2 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 9
  • Performance 8
  • Battery 8
  • Support 8

Review summary

You'd be hard-pressed to find a better-looking desktop replacement notebook--or one with better multimedia features--than Acer's lightning-fast, long-lasting, black-and-silver Aspire 2000. The Aspire 2000 offers a 15.4-inch wide-screen display, superior sound, and unique Arcade software that lets you play DVD movies and audio CDs without the need to boot Windows. Alas, Acer's designers may have concentrated just a bit too much on fun: the keyboard is placed so far toward the screen that it is difficult to type unless the notebook sits in your lap; the nonstandard editing-key layout may peeve touch typists; and the touchpad buttons are overly stiff and hard to reach. If those relatively minor ergonomic flaws don't bother you, then this is one heck of a machine.

The Aspire 2000 is one of a new breed of thin-and-wide multimedia notebooks born to accommodate wider screens--in this case, a 15.4-inch, 1,280x800-pixel display. Perhaps it comes from years of toting briefcases, but to us, this new form factor feels both easier to balance when carried under your arm and more natural in appearance. Yet despite measuring 13.1 by 10.9 by 1.3 inches, the Aspire 2000 weighs only 7.9 pounds--including AC adapter.

Alas, the Aspire 2000's ergonomics distract from its otherwise satisfying design. The pair of mouse buttons below the touchpad are too stiff and too far away from the keyboard. The keyboard has a nice feel, but it's placed so far up on the main deck that it's difficult to type on when it's on any surface higher than a lap. But perhaps worst of all is the keyboard layout: Even with such an enormous main-deck area to play with, Acer chose to omit dedicated Home and End navigation keys. You must use the Fn key to modify the Page Up and Page Down keys to perform these functions.

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The keyboard resides so far up on the main deck that it is difficult to type on in some situations.
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The mouse buttons are stiff and far from the keyboard.

On the plus side, the Aspire 2000 runs exceptionally cool and plays much better sound than the average notebook, thanks to a bottom-mounted subwoofer. Though it's no boombox, the Aspire 2000 sounds light-years more sophisticated than the usual tinny notebook audio.

The Aspire 2000 offers the usual external controls and connectors and then some. On the front lip live the aforementioned Arcade control buttons, the Arcade launch button, and the power button; on the front proper are Bluetooth and wireless On/Off buttons, the audio in/out/headphone jacks, and a four-in-one flash-memory card reader. On the right, there are infrared, AC, and Kensington lock ports, while the left side offers up a single PC Card slot and an optical drive. The back has the S-Video, VGA, gigabit Ethernet, V.92 modem, USB, parallel, and mini-FireWire ports.

There are currently only two base models in the Aspire 2000 series: the high-end, $1,999 Aspire 2003LMi and the $1,649 Aspire 2000LCi. Having only two base models in the series is not a complaint; you don't need a lot of choices with basic options such as Pentium M processors in 1.5GHz and 1.6GHz flavors, 333MHz DDR memory from 256MB to 2GB, 4,200rpm hard drives from 30GB to 80GB, the aforementioned 15.4-inch display, and a highly capable ATI Mobility Radeon 9200 with 64MB of dedicated graphics memory.

The Aspire 2000's wireless options are limited to Intel's Pro/Wireless 2100 for 802.11b or its 802.11a/b 2100a variant. You can opt for a slot-loading CD-RW/DVD combo drive or a DVD-RW drive to fill the drive bay on the left side of the unit.

The Aspire Arcade software is this notebook's most notable feature. This software creates a nice rendering of the 10-foot (that is, visible from remote-control distance) interface à la Windows XP Media Center Edition 2004. Arcade runs outside of Windows (or inside, if you so desire); boots in less than 10 seconds; and lets you play DVDs, VCDs, SVCDs, CD audio, MP3 CDs, and other media from your hard drive. It also does photo slide shows, burns discs, and backs up your system--it's slick and then some. Though in most cases you won't be far enough away from the notebook to need a remote control, it would've been nice of Acer to include one, in case you wanted to lie in bed and employ a larger external display, which is the reasoning behind a 10-foot interface.

The Aspire 2000 runs Microsoft Windows XP Professional or Home and includes CyberLink PowerDVD XP 4.0 for DVD-movie playback and NTI's CD-Maker for disc-mastering chores. Acer provides three restore discs as well as the full Windows XP distribution CD.

The Acer Aspire 2000 was the clear winner in mobile performance in this small test group. The system finished 14 points ahead of its nearest competitor, the IBM ThinkPad T41 and 23 points ahead of the HP Compaq nc8000. We attribute most of this performance difference to the degree in which each system's processor speed is throttled down to save battery life. Clearly, Acer didn't feel the need to throttle its system's CPU speed too low, as it scored 23 points above the average score given to Pentium M 1.6GHz-based systems. When it comes to running office and content-creation apps in a mobile state, it doesn't get much better than this.

Mobile application performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo MobileMark 2002 performance rating  
Acer Aspire 2000
IBM ThinkPad T41
HP Compaq nc8000

Find out more about how we test notebooks.

Performance analysis written by CNET Labs assistant lab manager Eric Franklin.

System configurations:

Acer Aspire 2000
Windows XP Pro; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9200 64MB; IBM Travelstar 60GN 60GB 4,200rpm