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Starting at less than $600, the Acer Aspire 3000 is one of the least expensive laptops on the market. Though it has an unremarkable design, the Aspire 3000 features a big 15-inch standard-aspect display and weighs right around six pounds--too heavy for regular travel but fairly lightweight for a laptop of this size and price. That said, the Aspire 3000's measly specs aren't going to set any records, and this machine delivers absolutely terrible battery life; furthermore, it lacks some basic ports and connections. If you're looking for a laptop that's portable enough to move around the house for lightweight computing tasks--e-mail, Web surfing, and word processing--the Aspire 3000 may fit the bill. Still, we recommend that you consider shelling out a few hundred more for one of the stronger systems we profiled in our $1,000 roundup a few months back.
The Aspire 3000 sits right on the edge between thin-and-light and midsize. It weighs 6 pounds and measures 14.3 inches wide, 11 inches deep, and 1.5 inches thick, so it's a bit bulky for regular travel. It's a smidge larger than two other inexpensive laptops--the 6-pound Acer TravelMate 2350 and the 5.7-pound Toshiba Satellite L25. The Aspire 3000's AC adapter weighs 0.8 pound, which is about average for an adapter on a laptop in this category.
Designwise, the Aspire 3003LCi is a dead ringer for the Acer TravelMate 4060 save for its keyboard: the TravelMate's is curved and the Aspire's is rectangular, and we like both just fine. The Aspire 3000 features a nice wide touch pad, two big mouse buttons, and a convenient rocker button for scrolling through documents or Web pages. It doesn't incorporate multimedia controls or external volume buttons, though it has four programmable application buttons and a Wi-Fi on/off button. The system's 15-inch display has a standard 1,024x768 native resolution and is plenty clear and bright, but it doesn't have the wide-screen dimensions you find on more and more laptop displays. The two speakers deliver mediocre sound. For a better multimedia experience, check out the Dell XPS M140, which starts at $999.
The Aspire 3000's limited group of ports, jacks, and connections reflects its rock-bottom price. It offers one VGA port, one Type II PC Card slot, 56Kbps modem and Ethernet jacks, three USB 2.0 ports, and three audio jacks (headphone, microphone, and line-in). Also onboard is a cost-cutting DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive. Absent from this group are common connections such as FireWire and S-Video as well as a flash-media card reader--a key feature for digital-photo enthusiasts.
Microsoft Windows XP Home comes preloaded on the Aspire 3000, though other configurations in the Aspire 3000 series ship with Windows XP Professional. Acer bundles very little software with the system. For viewing and burning discs, Acer includes CyberLink PowerProducer and NTI CD and DVD Maker; it also provides its own utility for managing core system settings, such as passwords. Starting at $989, the Sony VAIO FS series provides a more palatable software package.
Our test unit, the Aspire 3003LCi, features decidedly bargain-bin components: a 1.8GHz AMD Sempron 3000+ processor, a meager 256MB of slow 333MHz RAM, a puny 40GB hard drive running at a sluggish 4,200rpm, and a low-end SiSM760GX graphics chip that steals up to 64MB of main system memory. Both the comparably priced Acer TravelMate 2355LCi and the Toshiba Satellite L25 offer Celeron processors and larger hard drives, and the TravelMate includes twice as much RAM. Many other laptops offer considerably better specs for a few hundred dollars more; check out our roundup of $1,000 laptops and our list of top low-priced laptops for some picks.
We couldn't measure the Aspire 3003LCi's mobile performance precisely, because the system's battery couldn't last the 90 minutes it takes to complete CNET Labs' mobile benchmarks. It consistently cut out after about 70 minutes, which is nearly two hours less than average. Battery life aside, the Aspire 3003LCi displayed enough power in our SysMark performance tests to handle basic productivity tasks such as e-mail, Web surfing, and word processing; it performed on a par with other low-priced systems, including the Gateway NX500X (a.k.a the M360) and the Acer Aspire 5000.
Acer backs the Aspire 3000 with a one-year warranty, which is standard for consumer laptops. Acer's tech-support phone lines are open only Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on weekends from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT. The company's online support could stand some sprucing up; it currently lacks helpful features such as forums and real-time chat with a tech-support rep.
|BAPCo's SysMark 2004 rating||SysMark 2004 Internet-content-creation rating||SysMark 2004 office-productivity rating|
Acer Aspire 3003LCi
Windows XP Home; 1.8GHz Mobile Sempron 3000+; 512MB DDR SDRAM PC2700 333MHz; SiSM760GX 64MB; Hitachi Travelstar 60GN 60GB 4,200rpm
Acer Aspire 5000
Windows XP Home; 1.6GHz Turion 64 ML-30; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; SiSM760GX 64MB; Hitachi Travelstar 60GN 60GB 4,200rpm
Windows XP Home; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M 725; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; Intel 82852/82855 64MB; Hitachi Travelstar 4K40 40GB 4,200rpm