Acer – Aspire 3935 review

practical, slimline and attractive 13.3-inch notebook
Photo of Acer – Aspire 3935
£899.99

Acer keeps up with the Joneses when it comes to the portable PC market, having recently launched its Aspire One range as a competitor in the netbook arena.

Meanwhile, the company’s large to middle sized array of TravelMate and Aspire models continues apace and the Aspire 3935 is designed as a direct challenge to 13.3-inch heavyweights such as the HP Pavilion dv3 and the MacBook Air.

In terms of eye-candy, the Aspire 3935 has an impressively eye-catching, copper coloured, brushed-metal exterior and café latte interior that’s bound to impress your boss and friends alike. It’s as light and slim as you might desire, weighing a mere 1.9kg and measuring 323 x 236 x 20/25.4mm.

Under the bonnet is a solid workhorse Intel Core 2 Duo P8700 2.53 GHz CPU with 4GB RAM and 320GB hard drive. The 16:9 LED HD widescreen display stretches to the limits of the screen and there’s outstanding definition and detail from the 1366 x 768 (WXGA) pixel resolution (the same as the Pavilion dv3).

The high brightness achieved here is generally a boon when you’re working, although paradoxically you’ll also have to put up with a considerable degree of surface reflection and the viewing angles deteriorate quickly when viewing from above.

The FineTip keyboard has large, full-size, square-shaped keys that seem to hover in space and are some of the most comfortable we’ve experienced on a laptop. One slight handicap, however, is that because of the broad spread of the layout, the cursor keys have been squashed into the bottom right-hand corner and are consequently awkward to operate.

On the other hand, the Bio-Protection fingerprint reader – an increasingly familiar sight on modern notebooks – is easy to set-up and adds that extra bit of security. Above the keyboard are supposedly ‘easy launch’ touch controls for volume, WLAN, Bluetooth and backup but they’re not as sensitive as they should be.

One little extra that’s sure to find a lot of fans is the multi-gesture touchpad that lets you zoom in and out by pinching or widening your fingers, as well as the usual scrolling functions. Initially you might think it’s a bit geeky but the zoom action works so effortlessly that you’ll find yourself playing with it all the time.

The UK version of the Aspire 3935 arrives with a slot-loading CD/DVD optical disk drive as standard, whereas for some peculiar reason the American model has the more traditional tray style. While the slot-fed system is generally to be preferred, we did have a few issues with disks requiring several attempts to be coaxed out again, something that will need to be tightened up to avoid serious customer annoyance.

The graphics card is the proprietary Mobile Intel GM45 Express chipset which is nowhere near as powerful as the Nvidia GeForce 9400M in the MacBook Air, and you’ll see the difference especially when you’re playing games like F.E.A.R., where colours are somewhat pallid and the level of detail is far lower.

WiFi, Ethernet and Bluetooth connections are all built-in, plus three USB 2.0 outputs and one VGA, but alas there’s no HDMI port, even though the Aspire 3935 is undoubtedly geared both towards the business and casual user on the move. Neatly tucked into the front edge is a 5-in-1 card reader for all the usual suspects such as SD, MMC and MS Pro, while above the display lurks the inevitable, surprisingly effective Web-cam for all those vital social networking conversations.

Most mobile PC users demand their entertainment and Acer has included in its software bundle Arcade Deluxe, the company’s own version of Windows Media Center. Sound has never been a strong feature of laptops but Acer has at least made the effort to install a Dolby optimized surround sound system which makes the built-in stereo speakers perform marginally better than average and really comes into its own when you plug in a decent set of headphones.

The supplied 4-cell battery pack averages three and a half to four hours of relatively heavy multimedia usage. Officially you can squeeze up to ten hours from the 8-cell battery as long as you’re making full use of the Eco power saving mode, but unless you’re just staring at a Word document for all that time, 8 hours is more realistic.

Company: Acer

Contact: 0870 900 2237


Verdict
The Aspire 3935 is an attractive, lightweight and efficient notebook that should be worth serious consideration by PC users on the move for its friendly keyboard, powerful CPU and compactly practical utilities, all for under £900.