Core 2 Duo has been around for several months now, at least on paper, and notebooks featuring the technology are now starting to proliferate. The Acer 5634WLMi is the company's first with the new chipset.
Acer notebooks in the past have been quite utilitarian in appearance, but the new 5600 series adds some subtle, but welcome, cosmetic touches. It comes in a silver and black skin, and the front edge of the machine is now rounded. We quite like the front mounted on/off switches, one for both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and mic and headphone ports. The speakers are also front-mounted, and sound rather disembodied when compared to the usual screen-mounted models.
The 15.4-inch transflective LCD screen is fairly sturdy, with only a minimum of flex. Transflective screens are designed to give you the maximum colour and contrast indoors with their glossy coating, but are also able to be viewed in direct sunlight due to a mirror mounted under the panel. And in the blinding November sun, we were able to view the LCD perfectly, though the experience was nowhere as pleasant as it was indoors.
Keyboard action is fairly standard if a little too soft, while the trackpad, mousing buttons and four-way scroll bar are pleasant to use.
Many new laptops are now shipping with Windows Media Center, but we find this a little perplexing because MCE is designed as a "10-foot interface", and who sits that far away from their laptop? Ever?
Of course, there is a benefit to the manufacturer - it's cheaper than Windows XP Professional. Plus, it looks nice. And so, it's not very surprising to find the Acer has MCE onboard, and the only disappointing exclusion on the features list is a TV tuner.
We're also impressed that the notebook ships with a full GB of RAM, which will help once Vista is released in the coming months. And to hammer home this fact, there is a "Windows Vista Premium Ready" sticker attached to the screen.
Being a multimedia-skewed machine, the laptop also features side-mounted media controls, but they're quite small and labelled from bottom to top, which makes them hard to read. But sound through the headphone jack is quite clear, with none of the poor shielding problems that plagues some competitors' notebooks.