Acer – Aspire 5920 review

boldly-designed Santa Rosa laptop that might grow on you
Photo of Acer – Aspire 5920

Acer isn’t afraid to make bold design statements with some of its laptops, as witnessed by the bright red Ferrari range. Now the company has commissioned BMW’s Designworks team to breathe some life into the Aspire range, the result being the Gemstone design. The first example of this teamwork to see the light of day is the Aspire 5920.

The new design certainly creates a talking point and, while most people agree that the rounded design and the shiny black pearl external finish of the 5920 work well, opinion is very much divided when you open the lid. What confronts you is a pale grey, ceramic-type finish that some people love and some people think looks very old hat. In fact at first glance it does look like an old Compaq notebook, but as with so many other things it may well grow on you with time, albeit perhaps a long time.

Looks aside, under the bonnet some real technology refreshes have taken place, as the Aspire 5920 uses Intel’s latest mobile Santa Rosa technology to provide plenty of grunt and features. At its heart sits an Intel Core 2 Duo T7300 CPU, clocked at 2.0GHz with an 800MHz FSB (Front Side Bus). Backing this up is 2GB of DDR2 memory which, although clocked slower than the CPU bus speed at a mere 667MHz, still gives the 5920 plenty of performance. In addition there is a 1GB Turbo Memory module to give added oompf when you use Vista’s ReadyDrive and ReadyBoost utilities.

Although the Aspire 5920 has a 15.4-inch screen its resolution is a disappointing 1,280 pixels by 800 pixels so desktop workspace is a bit limited. It would have been nice to see Acer stretch to a 1,440 by 900 screen, but at least the image quality is first rate and ideal for watching movies. Only indoors, though, as the CrystalBrite coating is so reflective it’s next to impossible to use in sunlight.

The Aspire 5920 does have a trick up its sleeve; Dolby Home Theatre, which is handy as Acer is promoting it as a Media Center notebook. The Realtek audio chip supports Dolby’s Digital, Pro Logic II, Headphone and Virtual Speaker Digital Live and with a sub-woofer (of sorts) mounted in the underside of the chassis, the audio certainly sounds better than the average laptop.

Storage is handled by a 160GB hard drive, which is perhaps a bit mean for a media player notebook, especially as it comes with space-hungry Vista Ultimate pre-installed. You do get a DVD burner, so you can keep as much of the hard drive’s precious space free as possible, or if you fancy splashing out an extra £200 you can opt for the HD DVD drive.

Talking of the DVD drive, there is a serious design flaw with the placement of one of the four USB ports. It’s so close to the door of the DVD drive that any standard USB device blocks it from opening, which is just daft.

The front of the chassis holds a 5-in-1 card reader and you also get an Express Card slot which will leave you searching around for something to put in it.

Game-play is possible with the Aspire 5920 thanks to its Nvidia GeForce 8600GT graphics controller, which has 250MB of dedicated memory and can steal up to 512MB of system memory for when the going gets tough. Although it may struggle with some of today’s latest games it did return a very reasonable score of 3,275 in 3DMark06, but only gave a meagre 30fps in FEAR, which is just below what you would call truly playable.

Both these tests were carried out at a 1,024 x 768 pixel resolution and with all the detail settings set to maximum in FEAR, but by knocking back the resolution and dropping the quality settings you should get just over 40fps, which would make games like that a bit more enjoyable.

Company: Acer

Contact: 0870 853 1000

A fast, well featured laptop with a reasonable price tag using the latest Intel technology, but boy, once you open the lid that styling takes some getting used to.