Acer's Llano-powered laptop delivers in the basic productivity and graphics departments, but falls woefully short on battery life.
The Acer Aspire 5560G is the first laptop we've seen sporting AMD's new "Llano" fusion processors as well as AMD's Dual Graphics solution, but in design terms — if you left aside the rather prominent badges that remind you of its AMD innards — it's a relatively plain-looking 15.6-inch laptop. Acer has provided the system with a full and relatively spacious keyboard, including number pad, although in doing so they've shifted the touchpad to the left side of the overall chassis. That's a matter of personal preference; if you're expecting to be in the middle, you may find yourself mis-swiping a few times while you learn.
We can't state a definitive price for the model that we've tested because, at the time of writing, Acer's local website doesn't list the specifications for the Aspire 5560G at all, and all that the press release stated is that pricing is "from $799". It seems unlikely that these will scale up into top-tier performance-pushing price brackets, however; it's clearly an affordable line. The model that we tested featured an AMD A6-3400M 1.4Ghz processor, 4GB of RAM and AMD's Radeon Dual Graphics solution. This matches up an on-die Radeon 6520G graphics grunt of the A6 processor with a discrete 1GB Radeon HD 6540G2 processor for graphics boosts as and when needed, in much the same way that certain Intel-based notebooks match up the integrated Intel HD graphics with an Nvidia processor. The result should be a significant graphics boost at no real price premium — at least in theory. The display screen is a 15.6-inch, 1366x768-pixel LCD.
On the ports side, the Aspire 5560G features Ethernet, VGA, HDMI, a single USB 2.0 and headphone/microphone sockets down the left-hand side, while the right-hand side houses two more USB 2.0 ports and the DVD-Multi writer — and that's your lot. The press release suggests that a Blu-ray drive is an option for this system, but our review sample didn't come with it.
Our review sample came with Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit pre-installed, as well as a variety of Acer utilities, including the clear.fi media sharing utility for easy media sharing and streaming. Our review sample also had Norton Online Backup and McAfee Internet Security Suite installed.
Acer's got the basics of a desktop replacement notebook down pat by now, but then again so do most vendors. The keyboard is large and expansive, and, for some knowledge workers, the inclusion of a full number pad will be a real boon. For once, it's not even at the expense of a reasonable-sized set of cursor keys. The A6 processor's not the utter top of the heap in number crunching specifications, but for the average desktop user it should provide the basics well.
In benchmark terms, the Aspire 5560G offered up a plain score of 5631 in PCMark05, supporting our ad-hoc testing that marked this out as a solid but basic system. Switching over to the graphics testing side of things gets a little more complicated, however. Our normal test suite encompasses 3DMark06, which doesn't test the capabilities of DirectX11 graphics cards. That's the entire promise of AMD's Radeon Dual Graphics product, however, so we also ran 3DMark11 past the Aspire 5560G, as well.
Its 3DMark06 score of 5218 is relatively basic; a touch higher than we've seen out of Intel's HD graphics, but only by the slimmest of margins. Switching to 3DMark11, its performance score of 1095 and extreme performance score of 346 marks it out as a workable, but not exceptional, graphics part, bearing in mind that a comparable Sandy Bridge-based system wouldn't be able to run the DirectX11 parts of 3DMark11 at all.
We ran the Aspire 5560G through our standard battery test. This involves disabling all battery-saving measures, putting screen brightness at maximum and then timing how long it takes for the battery to fully exhaust itself. It's a worst-case-scenario type of test; you should get better performance than these figures, but they do give a good "at least"-type figure for battery life, rather than the optimistic "up to" figures that notebook vendors love.
All we can say about the Aspire 5560G's six-cell battery is that at least they put a battery in it. Sort of. The Aspire 5560G's battery conked out at a frankly woeful two hours and 10 minutes of playback time. Sure, it's a larger system more suited to desktop replacement duties, but if you had need to take this particular laptop on the road, you'd better take a rather long extension cable with you.
Without solid pricing data, it's rather difficult to come to a complete conclusion about the Aspire 5560G. On the one hand, the entry-level "from" pricing suggests that the overall performance of this system might make it very worthwhile, if not that exciting, in exactly the same way that we liked the Dell Vostro 3550. If the combination we've got creeps the price up too much, however, that value fades away. Either way, it's a system that we like but don't love, especially in light of its sub-par battery performance.