We've seen plenty of big and powerful laptops from Acer recently, but they've also generally been pretty expensive. If your budget is more modest, then you may be interested in the Aspire 5336. Available for about £370 from Laptops Direct and other vendors, it's not much more expensive than many netbooks, yet it still packs in a big, 15.6-inch screen and a dual-core processor.
Note that we reviewed a unit with the model number AS5336-T353G32Mnkk. It's also known as the LX.R4G02.044. Other models are available, differing in terms of RAM and hard-drive size.
Acer has had to make some compromises to get the price down to such an affordable level. For example, rather than an Intel Core i processor, as found in most desktop-replacement machines, the 5336 has a dual-core Intel Celeron T3500 processor. This chip has a high clock speed of 2.1GHz, but clock speed doesn't mean a huge amount these days, and the T3500 is a pretty modest performer.
Even though Acer has twinned the chip with an ample 3GB of RAM, its performance in the PCMark05 benchmark test was poor, scoring 3,872. By way of comparison, the £500 Samsung P530 model that we reviewed last year has a modest, dual-core, 2.13GHz Intel Core i3-330M processor, but scored 5,116 in the same test.
But, if you're not a crazed media junkie who spends their life editing high-definition videos, you'll find that the 5336 is a fairly decent performer when it comes to day-to-day stuff like messing about on Facebook and catching up with TV shows on iPlayer.
Nevertheless, the use of integrated Intel graphics means that gaming is pretty much out of the question. A score of 795 in the 3DMark06 test shows just how weedy a performer the laptop is in this area. A mid-range laptop with dedicated graphics is likely to score nearer the 3,000 mark.
Given its modest asking price, it's not too much of a surprise to find that the 5336 also lacks the glossy lid and chrome trim found on Acer's higher-end desktop-replacement laptops. Instead, the chassis is made entirely from matte black plastic. It doesn't look as dull as it sounds, because Acer has stamped a geometric pattern into the lid and the area that surrounds the keyboard. This machine's appearance isn't going to make your mates turn green with envy, but it won't embarrass you either.
A definite plus point is that the build quality is good. The chassis feels fairly strong and sturdy. The laptop isn't overly heavy for a 15.6-inch model either, weighing in at a reasonable 2.6kg.
The keyboard is pretty much identical to those used on Acer's other desktop-replacement models. We've got no complaints about this, though, as the large flat keys are comfortable to type on and there's enough space between them to help you avoid typos.
Acer describes the 15.6-inch screen as being HD, but, sadly, it doesn't have a 1080p resolution. Instead, it only stretches to a resolution of 1,366x768 pixels, which is enough to display 720p HD material, but not Full HD videos in all their glory. Also, the screen's colours look muted, especially when you're running it at the higher brightness settings. But its viewing angles are generally quite good, and text on Web pages and in documents is perfectly legible.
The 5336 has three USB ports, which will be enough for most users. Handily, it also has an HDMI port, as well as a VGA socket, so it's easy to connect it to a high-definition TV.
The laptop offers Wi-Fi connectivity and an Ethernet socket. But it lacks features like an eSATA port, PC Card slot and Bluetooth support, which you'll find on most of today's mid-range laptops. The hard drive is arguably fairly pokey too -- it only offers 320GB of storage space. There's a dual-layer DVD writer crammed into the right-hand side of the chassis, though, so archiving large files, like movies and high-resolution photos, won't be much of a problem.
Given the laptop's large size -- it's 381mm wide -- it's not really suitable for life on the road. But it still puts in a pretty good showing when it comes to battery life. Running the CPU at 100 per cent in the Battery Eater Classic test, it held on for 1 hour and 36 minutes, which is above average for a 15-inch model.
While the Acer Aspire 5336 won't blow you away in terms of raw performance, it could be just the ticket if your computing needs are relatively modest. It's a comfortable machine to use as well, thanks to its good keyboard and decent screen. Overall, we think it's more than worth its asking price.
Edited by Charles Kloet