The Acer Aspire 5920's biggest selling point is its looks--or so Acer would have you believe. It was crafted with the assistance of over 100 designers and engineers from BMW Designworks--the folks behind the gorgeous BMW Z07 concept car. We thought it looked pretty sexy in pictures, but is it as impressive in the flesh?
Design of the Acer Aspire 5920G Laptop
We're not afraid to say that Acer (or BMW Designworks) got it wrong with the Aspire 5920--it's hideous. We couldn't find a soul in our office who thought it was attractive. The glossy, slightly curved screen lid is trendy enough, but glossy screen lids are the laptop equivalent of jeans and a t-shirt--nothing special. Having said that, the car door handle-style screen-opening mechanism, which doubles as a Webcam, looks the business.
If you thought the outside was bad, you'll vomit when you see the interior. Don't let the white-looking pictures fool you--it's beiger than John Major. Sure, beige is inoffensive, but it makes this laptop look like it was crafted from leftover Amiga bits.
BMW Designworks has attempted to make it resemble a center console from one of their cars by incorporating shortcut keys on either side of the main keyboard. The left-most ones are for launching, activating and deactivating Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and launching a browser and email client. These sit next to a blank button at the bottom left--which is reminiscent of those dummy "buttons" you'd find on a car that doesn't have all the optional extras. It looks silly.
What's more infuriating is that the shortcut buttons on the left are mechanical, while those on the right (for controlling media playback) are touch-sensitive. We'd have preferred an all-mechanical design as it's incredibly easy to touch the buttons by accident. Doing so causes the laptop to emit an incredibly obnoxious beeping noise like a supermarket checkout. The hugely unresponsive mouse trackpad is almost as annoying.
The evidence suggests the designers know much more about designing cars than they do about designing laptops. Why else would the lone USB port on the right side sit about 1mm away from the DVD drive? Once you connect a standard-sized USB device, it physically blocks the drive bay, preventing it from opening. What's more, the logo showing the location of the USB port sits above the optical drive, and not the USB port. The word "wrong" doesn't do it justice.
Our final design gripe is with the mouse trackpad--it's too wide. Perhaps it's our bucket-like hands that cause the problem, but the ball of our right hand would often stray onto the mouse trackpad, causing the cursor to move around the screen just when you least want it to. This wouldn't be so much of a problem were there a button to temporarily disable the mouse--but there isn't.
Features of the Acer Aspire 5920G Laptop
The Aspire 5920 has plenty of substance to make up for its questionable style. It's a next-generation Centrino Duo, or Santa Rosa, laptop that uses a 2GHz Intel T5300 CPU and an ample 2GB of RAM. The memory runs at 667MHz and not the full 800MHz supported by the motherboard, but we expect Acer will switch to faster memory as it becomes more widely available.
The Aspire 5920 ships with 512MB of Intel Turbo Memory--one of the first laptops we've seen to do so. Also known as Robson Flash memory, this dedicated memory module is designed to reduce the amount of time it takes for the laptop to power up, access programs and read/write data.
It works by reducing the laptop's reliance on the hard drive, which can be a bottleneck in many cases. It didn't seem to make much of a difference for our model, though--it took 59 seconds to boot up from the moment we hit the power button.
Acer has positioned the Aspire 5920 primarily as a Media Center laptop. It has "Dolby Home Theater" and "Virtual Surround Sound" scrawled across the top of the keyboard, just above a silver panel housing the speakers. A subwoofer is mounted on the underside of the laptop to provide extra bass. It'll never replace a decent set of dedicated speakers, but the audio sounds surprisingly good. The laptop features 7.1-channel audio capability, so you can connect it to a set of external speakers.
The laptop's media capabilities are helped by a lovely 15.4-inch screen. It looks fabulous in use and is ideal for watching movies, or browsing pictures on. Our only qualms are that its reflective CrystalBrite coating renders it nearly unusable in direct sunlight, and that the hinge is quite unstable. It wobbles noticeably even sitting on a desk and even more so when being used on a train or plane.
Acer supplies a 160GB hard drive, which is on the small size for a media laptop. The Vista Ultimate edition operating system and pre-installed programs occupy about 40GB, leaving you with approximately 120GB to play with. The DVD rewriter drive lets you create backups or watch DVDs, but if you really want to push the boat out you can opt for the version with an HD DVD drive. However, this option might not be available in your region.
If you're more of a gamer than a movie buff you'll appreciate the Nvidia GeForce 8600GT graphics card. It's quick enough to run most modern games. It has 256MB of dedicated memory, and if you need extra juice it can borrow up to 512MB from the main system memory. It can't compete with the dual graphics card-wielding Alienware laptops, but it won't shy away from a little 3D carnage.
Acer rounds up the package by providing an ExpressCard slot, a memory card reader supporting most popular formats, Wi-Fi (including 300Mbps 802.11n support), infrared and an integrated Crystal Eye Webcam. Software includes the very useful Acer Empowering Technology (Acer eNet, ePower, ePresentation, eLock, eRecovery, eSettings Management), which you can read more about here. You also get a trial of Norton Internet Security, NTI CD-Maker and CyberLink PowerProducer.
The Aspire 5920 is a well-equipped PC that offers fantastic value for money. It's not as attractive or as well-designed as the ASUS Lamborghini VX2, for example, but if you don't mind the beige it's certainly worth considering.
Performance And Battery Life of the Acer Aspire 5920G Laptop
The Aspire 5920 is a very quick laptop. Gamers will be interested to hear it scored 3,288 in 3DMark 2006. This trounces the 2,344 achieved by the ASUS Lamborghini VX2. It was also impressive in real-world tests, propelling the graphically intensive F.E.A.R to 28 frames per second.
As expected, it had no trouble running more mundane applications. It munched its way through our PCMark 2005 test,, racking up 4,739, which is higher than the theoretically quicker ASUS V1J. We suspect the Intel Turbo Memory played a role here, although the extra 1GB of system memory obviously doesn't hurt, either.
Battery life was about average for this sort of laptop. It lasted 2 hours 13 minutes in our BatteryEater test, which is exactly long enough to let you watch The Blues Brothers on DVD.
After-Sales Service And Support for the Acer Aspire 5920G Laptop
This notebook comes with an international one-year warranty from Acer. Recognizing that mobile computing has become a key activity for executives, the Taiwan company promises to fix any hardware issued within 2 hours, or it will deliver the unit to your preferred location free. Extended warranty can be purchased from the service center, with packages ranging from S$249 (US$163.99) to S$397 (US$261.01) depending on the degree of coverage and service required. For DIY troubleshooting, a toll-free telephone helpdesk is available for assistance. Acer support Web site offers downloads of updated drivers as well as an email for notebook issues. In the event that further technical assistance is required, the machine can be brought to any Acer service center worldwide for diagnosis.