The original Acer Aspire 8920 was the very first 18-inch laptop we had a chance to review, and the follow-up Acer Aspire 8930-6448 is similar in terms of its essentials, with only a handful of component upgrades.
The display has the same native resolution as a 1080p HDTV; that coupled with a unique set of touch-sensitive media controls (although we weren't crazy about the volume slider), make it an impressive package for movie watchers. That is, at least as long as your HD content is downloadable, because for $1,599 you don't get a Blu-ray drive. We'd probably shell out the extra $200 for the 8930-7665 version, which includes a BD drive as well as a quad-core CPU.
|Price as reviewed||$1,599|
|Processor||2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9400|
|Memory||4GB, 800MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||320GB 7,200rpm|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce 9700M GT|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Ultimate|
|Dimensions (WD)||17.4 inches wide by 11.8 inches deep|
|Screen size (diagonal)||18.4 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||8.8/9.9 pounds|
The Acer Aspire 8930 is, like the 8920 before it, a boat of a laptop. As with other 18-inch models, the 16:9 display makes for a chassis that is wider, but shorter, than a typical 17-inch model that features a 16:10 screen. The entire system is decked out in black and dark grey, with a glossy, black lid and keyboard, and textured, dark-grey plastic on the wrist rest and touch pad.
We first saw the unique media controls on last year's Aspire 8920, and this model has the same setup, with a touch panel on the left side of the keyboard tray. They are really just the same capacitive touch controls found on other laptops, arranged in roughly the shape of a handheld remote control. It's a clever idea--very eye-catching--that, once you get used to, works fairly well, with the exception of the large volume slider, which was neither sensitive nor responsive enough for our tastes. To be fair, it's a common problem with touch-sensitive volume sliders, which usually really only jump between preset volume points, even though they look like analog controls.
We also appreciated the 5.1 speaker system, which produced decent bass for a laptop, but not exactly room-filling sound.
The 18.4-inch wide-screen LCD display is the real star here. The native resolution of our 18-inch screen was 1,920x1,080 (you know, like Blu-ray), while a high-end 17-inch laptop is usually 1,920x1,200. That means Blu-ray or other HD content will fit the screen better. Unfortunately, you'll have to trade up to the $1,799 8930-7665 version of this laptop to get a Blu-ray drive.
|Acer Aspire 8930-6448||Average for category (desktop replacement)|
|Video||VGA-out, HDMI, DisplayPort||VGA-out, HDMI|
|Audio||5.1 speakers with subwoofer, headphone/microphone/line-in jacks||Stereo speakers with subwoofer, headphone/microphone jacks.|
|Data||4 USB 2.0 (1 USB/eSATA), SD card reader||4 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth,||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner (high-end: Blu-Ray)|
Intel's 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9400 is close to the top of the line for Intel, and is the same CPU we found in Sony's excellent 18-inch Vaio AW125 model. At that level, high-end systems largely perform comparably in nongaming applications, and the Acer is a robust performer even with heavy multitasking duty.
Nvidia's 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9700M GT is a decent mainstream gaming GPU; you'd have to trade up to the GeForce 9800 to do better, and that chip is currently reserved for laptops specifically targeted at gamers. In Unreal Tournament 3, we managed an excellent 63 frames per second at 1,280x800 and a perfectly acceptable 35.6 frames per second at the display's native resolution of 1,920x1,080.
The Aspire 8930 ran for 2 hours and 51 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, which is especially impressive for a massive desktop replacement that isn't meant to spend much time away from a wall outlet. By way of comparison, Sony's 18-inch model ran for less than 2 hours on the same test.
Acer includes a standard, one-year, parts-and-labor warranty with the system. The technical support phone lines are open 27-7, but the number is well-hidden (it's 1-800-816-2237). For one of the largest PC makers in the world, Acer has a confusing set of overlapping support Web sites, full of broken links and dead ends; though we were able to find basic driver and manual downloads.