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Acer Aspire 5514WLMi review

Verdict:

Review Date: 19 Dec 2005

Price when reviewed: inc VAT

Reviewed By: Seth Barton

Our Rating 5 stars out of 5

Where once notebooks were designed as mobile business devices, they are now just as common around the home.

These house-trained laptops are often second computers, used for surfing the net, reading email, doing homework or watching DVDs. This new Aspire adds an analogue and digital TV tuner to this range of family-friendly capabilities.

We've recently seen USB TV tuners as small as a flash drive and costing as little as £50, so the Aspire has its work cut out arguing the case for an integrated tuner. It has chosen the excellent PowerCinema 4 as the software component, here re-skinned to become Acer Arcade. This combines TV, DVD and media file playback in one slick package. TV support includes a great EPG for scheduling recordings. Picture quality from the TV tuner is good, and on a par with USB TV tuners.

The monitor is ideally suited for all this media playback. It's an Acer CrystalBrite display with a gloss coating that improves contrast and colour vibrancy. The 15.4" screen supports a decent resolution of 1,280x800. It did well in our display tests, showing a reasonable greyscale and smooth colour wheel. A more applicable test with a few DVDs gave equally pleasing results.

If you ever get round to doing any work, you'll find that the Aspire is no slouch in that department. The specification includes a 2GHz Pentium M processor and 1GB of RAM so it was no surprise that it did well in our Shopper benchmarks, with an overall score of 95. This means it has plenty of power for photo manipulation or video work, and the 100GB hard disk is up to those tasks, too.

Graphics performance isn't too bad, thanks to the ATI X700 graphics chipset. This produced a score of 6,261 in 3DMark03 and a very respectable 44.9fps in Doom 3 at 1,024x768 in high detail. It will play all the latest games, though not at the highest detail settings.

The build quality of the chassis is very high. The touch pad is big and shaped to match the widescreen display. The keyboard could be firmer, but is passable in use. The Aspire 5514 has all the expected ports plus a 4-in-1 card reader, a slot-loading DVD writer and a breakout lead with S-video, composite and phono inputs.

This notebook really impressed us, as it seems to provide all things for all people, making it an ideal luxury family notebook. It isn't cheap, though, and many of its functions could be performed by a cheaper notebook with a USB TV card. But if you need the extra performance and want a great integrated TV setup, this is a perfect choice.

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