Fair performance and a reasonable price make this a fantastic alternative to a high-end netbook.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive laptop you don’t have to limit yourself to a netbook’s small screen and keyboard. There are plenty of more powerful and flexible laptops available for not a huge amount extra. One example is Acer’s Aspire 5552, a fully-featured 15.6in laptop for just £50 more than netbooks such as the Packard Bell Dot S.
The 5552’s 2.1GHz AMD Athlon II X2 processor doesn’t give astounding performance, but an overall score of 54 in our benchmarks shows it is more than powerful enough for web browsing, office work and even more advanced tasks such as image editing. It’s also more than double the performance of even the fastest netbook. A generous 3GB of memory, DVD re-writer and a 320GB hard disk round off the internal components, which is a great specification for the price. The six-cell battery lasted just over four hours in our light-use battery test, which is average for a 15in laptop.
The onboard ATI HD 4250 graphics chip doesn’t have its own dedicated memory so must share system RAM with Windows, but it’s still powerful enough to play high definition video. You can appreciate the details of 720p footage on the 1,366×768 resolution screen, or output 1080p video to a television or monitor from the HDMI output. Unfortunately a dismal 3.8fps in our Call of Duty 4 test shows it isn’t capable of playing modern games. Older titles and casual games will still be playable at lower settings.
The screen’s image quality is average. Colours looked slightly washed out at default settings, even though brightness was reasonable. We found viewing angles fairly wide and there’s plenty of tilt adjustment, but the reflective surface suffers from reflections under office lighting.
A single small speaker above the keyboard can’t produce good quality audio, sounding very tinny and quiet. At maximum volume there was noticeable distortion on our louder test tracks and a distinct lack of bass. Headphones are a must if you plan to use the Aspire 5552 to listen to music or watch films.
Like most Acer laptops, the Aspire 5552 has a flat keyboard with chiclet keys. We were pleased to see that all except the arrow keys were full-size, even with the dedicated number pad. Key response wasn’t particularly crisp, but we still didn’t have any difficulty typing. Cursor movement using the relatively small touchpad was smooth, but there’s a huge dead spot in the centre of the single rocker-style button.
The Aspire 5552 certainly isn’t perfect, as its display is disappointing and the keyboard isn’t up to the standard of Acer’s more expensive laptops, but it’s still a reasonable low-cost laptop. If you need a larger screen than a netbook and a full-size keyboard, it’s a good choice.
|Processor||AMD Athlon II X2 P320|
|Processor clock speed||2.1GHz|
|Memory slots free||0|
|Sound||Realtek HD Audio|
|Viewable size||15.6 in|
|Graphics Processor||ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4250|
|Graphics/video ports||VGA, HDMI|
|Total storage capacity||250GB|
|Optical drive type||DVD+/-RW +/-DL|
Ports and Expansion
|Wired network ports||1x 10/100|
|Wireless networking support||802.11b/g/n|
|PC Card slots||none|
|Supported memory cards||SD, MMC|
|Other ports||minijack audio output, minijack microphone input|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit|
|Operating system restore option||backup and recovery software|
|Software included||Microsoft Office 2010 starter edition|
|Warranty||one year international|