If there's one thing Acer's laptop line-up isn't short of, it's budget models. The latest one to grace our laboratory is the Aspire 5552. It can be snapped up for the paltry sum of £300 from Laptops Direct. That's as cheap as most netbooks, yet the 15.6-inch 5552 offers a larger screen, faster processor and DVD writer.
Solid as a rock
The 5552 is virtually indistinguishable from Acer's other budget laptops, such as the. You get none of the fancy chrome touches or glossy finishes that you'll find on the company's higher-end models. Instead, the chassis is made entirely from matte black plastic. On the plus side, the matte finish should be more scratch-resistant than the glossy paint jobs on more expensive laptops, and a hint of interest is added by the dimpled pattern stamped into the lid and wrist rest.
Thankfully, this model also manages to avoid the flimsy feel that often affects budget machines. While it doesn't exactly look a million dollars, it feels like it's been built to last and that's perhaps more important in a budget machine such as this.
Perhaps understandably, given the laptop's low price tag, it doesn't offer a plethora of ports. There's no PC Card slot or Bluetooth support and it also lacks eSATA and FireWire ports. Nevertheless, the basics are covered off by three USB sockets, as well as both VGA and HDMI outputs. The laptop also offers 802.11n Wi-Fi, and an Ethernet socket if you'd prefer to use a wired connection.
The hard drive isn't massive, but the 250GB of storage that it offers should be enough for most users. There's also a dual-layer DVD writer, tucked into the right-hand side of the chassis, that can always be used to back up files from the hard drive, should you run low on space.
The screen is fairly disappointing. Its resolution of 1,366x768 pixels is to be expected at this price point, but its vertical viewing angles are rather tight, so you'll often find yourself adjusting the screen to try to get colours to look more even. Nevertheless, LED backlighting ensures that the screen looks quite bright.
Annoyingly, the 5552 makes do with a single speaker on the top left of the chassis. Its audio is very tinny and, because it's on its lonesome, you won't get stereo sound unless you use headphones or connect the laptop to an external set of PC speakers.