The term ‘desktop replacement’ is generally applied to any laptop with a 17-inch screen. However, with many 17-inch models housing budget components, many people end up being disappointed with their performance. The Aspire Ethos 8943G from Acer, however, is most definitely capable of replacing a desktop.
For starters, it’s got a whopping 18.4-inch screen with a Full HD resolution of 1920 x 1080 that’s great for watching movies on. To make the most of the display, Acer’s also included a Blu-ray drive on the right side of the chassis.
There are a couple of minor issues with the display, though. Although by no means dire, colours do tend to look a little washed out. More of a concern, though, is that the glossy nature of the display combined with its extra-large size means reflections are a real problem. During testing, we found ourselves struggling to angle the screen so that light from sources such as windows and overhead lamps wasn’t picked up on the screen.
Acer hasn’t skimped on the performance side of things, with an Intel Core i7-720QM processor purring away inside the chassis. A quad-core CPU with each core ticking along at 1.6GHz, this provides plenty of raw power and has 4GB of DDR3 memory backing it up. As expected, the installed Windows 7 Home Premium zipped along nicely.
Graphics performance is also good thanks to the inclusion of an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4650. We fired up a couple of titles, including the notoriously power-hungry Crysis, and managed over 20fps even when at the laptop’s native resolution, which isn’t at all bad.
Just as important as performance is overall usability, and the low-profile keys on the Ethos’ keyboard do take some getting used to. It’s also a shame that Acer couldn’t have eliminated the noticeable flex from the keyboard bed. However, the keyboard is otherwise good to type on, with decent spacing between the keys.
Along with the standard left and right buttons, the trackpad has a third button. Give this a press and the entire trackpad suddenly lights up with touch-sensitive media playback controls. Standard trackpad functions are disabled when in this mode, and a second press of the button reverts it back to normal. We’re used to manufacturers trying desperately to make their laptops stand out from the crowd, and this rather odd dual-function trackpad does leave us thinking the design department has a bit too much time on its hands.
Combine fast performance with an extra-large screen and battery life is always going to be relatively poor. That said, when run at full pelt we were reasonably impressed that the Ethos managed to keep going for nearly two hours. If you go easy on it, somewhere in the region of three hours should be possible from a single charge.
Of course, with the laptop weighing a monstrous 4.8kg, this isn’t exactly the kind beast most people will want to take on daily commutes. Indeed, we suspect most people will simply leave it attached to the mains power supply.
The Ethos isn’t left wanting when it comes to connections options. Networking is catered for by 802.11n wireless, Bluetooth and Gigabit LAN, while no fewer than five USB ports are on hand for attaching external peripherals. There’s also an eSATA port (this actually sits within one of the five USB ports), HDMI-out, VGA-out and even a Mini Firewire port.
It’s not short on storage space either, with a 640GB hard drive lying in wait. If that’s not enough for you, a second hard drive can be added by utilising the spare 2.5-inch drive bay that’s found by removing a back panel.
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