A powerful budget laptop with decent battery life, it's let down by the awkwardly-placed touchpad.
Acer’s smart-looking Aspire 5738Z is more attractive than many budget laptops, with a metallic blue lid, shiny black screen bezel and pitted gunmetal grey plastic around the keyboard. Although it’s a standard 15.6in widescreen display, the laptop’s design makes it look bigger.
The Aspire’s basic specification, with a 2.2GHz Intel Pentium T4400 processor and 4GB of RAM, isn’t extraordinary but is certainly powerful enough for the low-level image editing, web browsing and multimedia viewing that most laptops are used for. Its overall score of 60 is pretty fast and shows that this laptop should be able to cope with most tasks. As you’d expect at this price, the Aspire has integrated Intel GMA 4500M graphics. These aren’t capable of gaming, although they’re fine for standard Windows use.
As with most modern laptops, the 15.6in widescreen display has a 16:9 aspect ratio and a 720p TV resolution of 1,366×768. This gives you a fair amount of desktop space for applications. The screen has a glossy coating, which makes it more susceptible to reflections, but improves contrast. Whites where pure, blacks were deep and contrast was excellent. We found the display had a slightly cold tone to it, but flesh tones still looked good.
The 5738Z comes with Dolby drivers that add audio enhancement and virtual surround sound options to your audio device properties. Along with above-average integrated speakers, this gives the 5738Z surprisingly good sound quality with an unusually well defined bass.
The flat keyboard is fairly comfortable to use and the keys, although slightly separated, weren’t so far apart as to require us to learn a new typing style. We were less impressed by the touchpad. It’s positioned just below the shortened space bar, quite far to the left of the laptop. This position pushed our left hand uncomfortably close to the left edge of the wrist rest. We found it too easy accidentally activate the touchpad’s multi-touch and scroll bar functions, which meant that we kept accidentally resizing text or scrolling up web pages. Fortunately, there’s a button next to the touchpad to disable it and prevent any mishaps while typing.
The 5738Z has a basic, but well thought-out range of features for an inexpensive laptop. Although there’s no eSATA port, there are four USB ports, which means that you can simultaneously use a wide range of external storage and peripherals, such as a TV tuner and mobile broadband dongle. This is handy, as there’s no ExpressCard slot for add-on cards.
The laptop has good networking capabilities, with Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11n Wi-Fi. There’s even a modem in case you’re ever in a position where you need to use a dial-up connection.
We don’t usually expect much battery life from budget computers, but at just over four hours, the Aspire did well in our light-use test. This is plenty for use around the house and even the occasional journey if you don’t mind lugging its 2.6kg weight around.
The 5738Z is a decent budget laptop with excellent battery life for its size. However, its annoying touchpad makes it a little tricky to use at times. For less money you can buy Samsung’s excellent R530, which has a better screen, more comfortable keyboard and faster processor. It’s the better buy.
|Processor||Intel Pentium T4400|
|Processor clock speed||2.2GHz|
|Memory slots free||0|
|Sound||Realtek High Definition Audio|
|Viewable size||15.6 in|
|Graphics Processor||Intel GMA 4500M|
|Graphics/video ports||VGA, HDMI|
|Total storage capacity||320GB|
|Optical drive model||HD-DT-ST GU10N|
|Optical drive type||DVD+/-RW +/-DL|
Ports and Expansion
|Wired network ports||1x 10/100/1000|
|Wireless networking support||802.11n|
|PC Card slots||none|
|Supported memory cards||SD, SDHC, MMC, Memory Stick PRO, xD|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit|
|Operating system restore option||Recovery Partition, burn own discs|
|Software included||NTI Backup No 5, NTI Media Maker 8, Microsoft Works 9|
|Warranty||one year collect and return|