Acer Aspire 3003LCi
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 . 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 , 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.