Acer Aspire 3693WLMi review
Modern notebooks can be just as powerful as their desktop counterparts, so you can complete tough computing tasks on a PC that doesn't take over your entire desk.
However, many notebook users need to perform only simple tasks such as web surfing, touching up the odd digital photo and watching DVDs.
The Intel Celeron M 430 in this Acer notebook runs at a respectable 1.73GHz. It's not dual-core, so it won't speed through video- or image-editing tasks like the latest Intel Core 2 Duo processors. It comes with 512MB of RAM, which is enough for day-to-day tasks. In our benchmarks, it performed similarly to many of the £700 notebooks we reviewed last year, and is quick enough for the kind of tasks most people do everyday.
This is the first notebook we've seen with Windows Vista Basic, which lacks the fancy 3D desktop and Media Center features of the Premium version. More importantly, it also misses out on the notebook-specific features found in Windows Mobility Center.
The Aspire's 80GB hard disk provides enough storage for most uses, but you'll fill it quickly if you hoard big media files. If you want to clear some space, you can use the DVD writer to archive files to disc. There are plenty of ports for getting data in and out of the notebook. Four USB ports should be enough to handle any standard peripherals, while the memory card reader supports most common formats. Unfortunately there's no FireWire port, so camcorder owners should ensure they can use USB instead.
The 15.4in widescreen display will do a good job of showing videos and other content. It's bright and has good contrast, plus a gloss finish to enhance the appearance of darker shades. Our colour wheel and greyscale tests didn't show up any major problems, so this notebook is fine for photo editing provided you don't open too many files at a time. A webcam above the screen means you can have video chats without a cumbersome clip-on camera. The built-in microphone and stereo speakers are fine for speech, but the speakers distort at their modest top volume.
Wefve used better keyboards than the Aspire's, which feels a little vague and spongy. It's fine for everyday use, but you may want to use an external keyboard for typing long documents. The touch pad is big and tracks accurately. It has decent buttons and a four-way scroll controller.
This notebook weighs a reasonably portable 2.8kg and is quite slim. Its battery lasted only two hours and 22 minutes, however, so it isn't suitable for regular mobile use. Even so, it's a great budget notebook with an impressive specification for the price, and no major compromises. Best of all, you get a great display and useful extras such as a webcam. It's a worthy winner of our Budget Buy award.