Acer has definitely come a long way in the Gemstone series with the Gemstone Blue. While the company certainly hasn't hit HP's level of design, it's a step in the right direction. While the plastic faux-metal-kickplate wrist rest feels and looks cheap, the full-sized keyboard is great to use, the trackpad is accurate and the styling is leaps ahead of the previous bland greyness inflicted by the last in the series. Somewhat vexingly, the trackpad isn't active all the way to the edge, and so when using the virtual scroll button you have to make sure you swipe in further from the right-hand side than you'd usually expect.
The 8920G is an 18.4-inch, LED back-lit 1,920 by 1,080 screened laptop -- both firsts as far as we're aware. You'll certainly notice the 16:9 aspect ratio, which gives you a letterbox-like aspect and can make you feel you're suck in a movie while typing. The screen also claims to have "100% more color range" -- more colours than what it fails to tell, although another sticker claims 90 percent colour gamut -- presumably NTSC. Regardless of these discrepancies, the screen's colour representation is very nice indeed.
The most attention-demanding feature is most certainly the capacitive-touch media control interface on the left of the keyboard, which Acer has dubbed "Cinetouch". We say interface, but frankly it's more like an abstract art piece, that takes a while to figure out exactly what everything was meant to be. After a little self introduction we were able to navigate, set volume, and control our media playback with ease through Acer's included media centre software, Acer Arcade Deluxe, but is made near useless in Windows Media Center by the fact that the back button doesn't work in it. We also feel the friction of the control interface needs to be reduced for it to be used effectively -- as it stands, we'd prefer to use the included, dead ugly Windows Media Center compatible remote -- at least the back button works there.
Windows Media Center is also rigged to run Acer Arcade Deluxe if you choose the "Play Movie" function -- and there's no way to close the application down from the remote when finished, leaving you with the fall back option of hitting the green Media Center button in the middle of the remote to call back the original program, while leaving Arcade Deluxe running in the background. Sloppy.
The power button at the top left glows blue, as does the control interface (unless you press the "Hold" button, in which case only that is lit), but you can't turn these off at any point, even when watching a movie -- which is high level distraction. In the same vein, Acer has taken a cue from Apple and has lit the company logo up on the back of the monitor.
The 8920G claims 5.1 surround Dolby certified sound, and this time it gets close to the promise of decent sound -- however, despite the large amount of tweaking done in the three separate areas of sound management (under the sound device's properties, through the Empowering technology bar, and through Acer HD Audio Manager in the control panel), we couldn't achieve an acceptable level of clarity, probably down to the fact that there are so many speakers jammed into such a small space, all trying to do different things.
If you're sitting at a distance watching a movie, the end effect is far too much treble to the point of wincing, if you're sitting at the laptop the effect is a lack of definition, regardless of how many of the sound profiles you cycle through, or how you alter the "Room Correction" settings. It handled Muse's Hysteria reasonably well, a track that typically punishes laptop speakers with distortion and clipping, but the end effect simply felt hollow and restrained. We're afraid as usual that this means for those who like decent quality audio, it's still headphones, HDMI out into a decent system, or the combined optical/3.5mm audio jack into some good speakers.