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Acer Aspire 3693WLWi review: Acer Aspire 3693WLWi

Acer has built its reputation on making laptops that look stylish, but don't cost the earth -- the Aspire 3693WLMi is a strong example, with an appealing design and a decent specification for under £350, an amazing bargain

Patrick Wignall
4 min read

Acer now sells more laptops in Europe than any other company. Its reputation has been built on putting together PCs that look stylish, but don't cost the earth. Both of those characteristics are strongly in evidence here. Despite its low price tag of just £349.97, the Aspire 3693WLMi still manages to be appealing to the eye, while also boasting a decent specification. The big question is whether it has enough grunt to stand out among its budget rivals.

7.5

Acer Aspire 3693WLWi

The Good

Good build quality; excellent screen; good keyboard layout.

The Bad

No FireWire port; only 512MB of RAM.

The Bottom Line

The Acer Aspire 3693WLMi has bags of style and feels remarkably well built considering its low price tag. It also has an excellent screen and a great keyboard layout. Windows Vista struggles with the laptop's 512MB of RAM, however, so we'd advise you to fork out the additional £40 to upgrade its memory to 1GB

Design
Looking at this model, it's not difficult to see why Acer's laptops have proven so popular. Despite the bargain price it has a quality look and feel. The black and silver colour scheme exudes a professional air and the chassis doesn't creak when you pick it up -- unlike some other budget models we've seen recently.

The keyboard layout is also very good. Everything is sensibly placed and in perfect proportion. For example, although it has both media keys and quick-launch buttons, they're small, narrow and neatly placed, so as not to cramp the space available for the main keyboard. As a result, the keyboard feels quite spacious and as it hardly flexes in the middle it has none of the sponginess often associated with budget machines. We also like the four-way D-pad, which has been added underneath the touchpad and acts rather like a scroll wheel on a mouse.


The 3693WLWi is no ultra-portable, but it's slim and light enough to be carried from desk to sofa

However, there is one oddity that highlights the fact this is a generic chassis. At the front edge of the case there's an on/off switch for Bluetooth, even though this version of the laptop doesn't actually have a Bluetooth receiver inside.

Features
As with most budget machines these days, the Apsire is loaded with Windows Vista Home Basic, the entry-level version of Vista. This means you don't get to experience the fancy new Aero interface or use Windows Media Center for playing music, videos or slideshows of digital snaps. It's a shame, because both would really show off the laptop's excellent 15.4-inch display. It has an X-Black-style coating, so colours really leap from the screen and movies and pictures look pin-sharp, thanks to its 1,280x800-pixel resolution.

For storing your media files and documents there's an 80GB hard drive, which is pretty much par for the course on a laptop in this price range. You also get a dual-layer, multi-format DVD burner for backing up data or making DVD movies.


The 15.4-inch screen is perfect for watching DVDs, thanks to the shiny X-Black-style coating

However, despite the small 1.3-megapixel webcam perched on a rotating barrel at the top of the screen, this isn't really a laptop for amateur auteurs -- there's no FireWire port. Still, you do get four USB ports, a VGA socket, an S-Video output and a multi-format memory card reader to make it easy to transfer photos on to the hard drive.

Performance
When it comes to performance, this model suffers from the same problem as many of its budget rivals -- it only has a stingy 512MB helping of memory. Half a gigabyte of RAM is fine for Windows XP, but Vista is very memory-hungry and as a result, the laptop's performance suffers.


For example, with Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player and Adobe Acrobat running at the same time, it was sluggish when flicking between the open applications. This was reflected in the laptop's mediocre score of 1619 in PC Mark 05. It's a shame, because we think the machine's Intel Celeron M 430, which runs at 1.73GHz, has enough grunt to hit a higher score if it was backed up by more memory.

Unfortunately, the laptop refused to run our 3D Mark 06 test, but it was obvious from its chugging frame rate in Far Cry that the onboard Intel 945GM Express graphics chip doesn't have the muscle to handle the latest 3D games. You'll be able to play older titles or less graphically intensive ones such as Championship Manager, but hardcore gamers simply aren't catered for here.

In our battery test, the 3693WLWi managed to keep running under its own steam for 1 hour 42 minutes. That's a pretty decent showing, considering its low price. Nevertheless, weighing in at 2.8kg this isn't a particularly light laptop, so it's not going to be the first choice for road warriors.

Conclusion
There's plenty to like about this machine from Acer. It feels well built and the design is not only attractive to look at, but practical too. The keyboard feels roomy and comfortable and the screen really is first-rate. Even the battery life is impressive for a laptop in this price range.

The only downside is the lack of RAM, which has an adverse effect on overall performance. Acer gives buyers the chance to upgrade the memory to 1GB for an additional £40, and we'd seriously recommend you take it up on this offer. After all, even with the extra memory the laptop costs just £389.95, which is still a seriously attractive price tag.

Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Nick Hide