Acer Aspire 5935G review

12 May 2009

Some nice media touches, but the keyboard is a bit iffy and it'll need to come down in price.

Acer's Aspire range does more than most to turn the everyday task of using a laptop into a true entertainment experience. Touch buttons, media control panels, proper speakers and plenty of lights and whooshes ensure they often feel more like a cockpit than computer.

And where the A-Listed 8930G led, the new Acer Aspire 5935G follows - but on a more compact scale. This is evident in the streamlined control panel to the right of the keyboard, with the basic playback buttons and a swish volume dial giving you just what you'll need to control your playlist without overdoing it. To the left are a three quick buttons for various functions, and the whole base area is a little more sparse than previous models.

The touchpad is large and responsive, with a fingerprint reader between the two buttons, but it's the keyboard that grabs the attention. Rather than solid blocks, the individual keys are more like thin hats on stems to allow for gaps beneath them for backlighting. It looks stylish enough but it feels a little odd at first, and if you move your fingers from key to key too quickly it's quite easy to catch the lip of an adjacent key and lose your position. You'll get used to it but we're not huge fans.

The rest of the chassis is pleasing enough, with a wide array of ports to cover most people's needs. In keeping with the media approach there's a DVB-T tuner built in, with an antenna input on the rear right. An ExpressCard/54 slot sits on the left for expansions, and there's a card reader for the major formats too. Three USB ports are joined by the increasingly common USB/eSATA combo port, and your choice of digital or analog video ouputs comes in the form of both HDMI and VGA. Finally, draft-n wireless and a Gigabit Ethernet port round off the set.

Moving up from the base, the outlook is equally mixed. The 16:9 display has a 15.6in diagonal, and the 1,366 x 768 resolution is geared towards media more than traditional laptop uses. It'll handle 720p video, and the 5935G comes with a Blu-ray reader too, to make it as up-to-date as possible at this budget.

But the screen is incredibly reflective and the contrast poor: the black level isn't particularly deep, and many of the top-most grey tones are indistinguishable from a white background. It's a shame, as colours are accurate and vivid, and we had no issues with the response time.

It nevertheless looked good in movies and games, and Acer has included both a discrete Nvidia GeForce GT 130M chip and integrated Intel graphics: when you're not gaming or watching a Blu-ray movie just press the power-save button and the discrete part is disabled. This gives the best of both worlds, with just-about-playable Crysis framerates of 26fps in our Medium test, but also battery life of 4hrs 47mins when it's needed - that's more than we'd usually expect in a laptop of this size and power.

These results came with the help of a 2.66GHz Core 2 Duo T9550 and 4GB of RAM, but this is only a demonstration sample. When it comes to market the 5935G will have half that amount of RAM and a choice of CPUs and hard disks. A 2GHz Core 2 Duo T6400 and a 320GB hard disk (LX.PBS0X.002) will set you back around £826 (£950 inc VAT), while a 2.4GHz T8600 and 500GB hard disk (LX.PBS0X.003) will be nearer to £956 (£1,100 inc VAT).

Those prices may fall as more retailers get stock, but for now they look a little high next to the A-Listed 8930G. That had an 18.4in screen, better graphics, 4GB of RAM and only a slightly slower CPU than the above, for around £650 exc VAT. With this in mind the Aspire 5935G is certainly an interesting addition, but it'll need to get cheaper to be truly competitive.