Acer Aspire 7720G review
It's no ultraportable, but HD DVD and 320GB of hard disk space are a real highlight at this price.
Review Date: 6 Dec 2007
Reviewed By: Matthew Sparkes
Price when reviewed: (£790 inc VAT)
The HD bandwagon trundling through the consumer electronics arena is taking a while to affect the PC market. With a lack of clarity on which of the competing next-gen formats to choose, high prices and a less than compelling argument for HD on sub-20in screens, it's hardly surprising.
But the notebook market is proving a little more open to HD's charms, thanks no doubt to their portable entertainment skills. And it helps that Toshiba the creator of HD DVD and principal manufacturer of drives is being particularly aggressive on price. The result is this Acer: the cheapest HD disc notebook we've seen yet; sporting one of Toshiba's DVD drives, but costing comfortably less than £700.
That doesn't mean the rest of the components have suffered a major downgrade. The Core 2 Duo 7300 helped push it to 1.00 in our benchmarks, and 2GB of RAM means you can run even memory-intensive applications side by side without the supplied Windows Vista Home Premium stuttering.
Hard disk space, traditionally a little limited in notebooks, is even more impressive. The 320GB split across two hard disks (and, strangely, three partitions) provides ample storage for use as your main PC or video repository. For external storage, the HD DVD portion of the drive is read-only, but it will happily write to all formats of blank CD and DVD, including dual-layer.
The 17in screen has a reasonable 1,440 x 900 pixel resolution. It won't display 1080p HD video in its entirety, but you won't notice on a panel this small. It stands up well to scrutiny, too, with a good level of detail only occasionally spoilt by the all-too-reflective glossy coating. Sat close up, both standard DVDs and HD DVDs look great, and the panel is evenly bright, with decent viewing angles.
To make the most of the drive, though, you'll need to hook it up to a decent external display or an HDTV. The DVI-D output isn't ideal for this HDMI would be less cumbersome and also carry sound but the use of a DVI-HDMI adapter isn't a big strain.
The built-in speakers also do an adequate job for casual film watching; they become impressively loud before distorting, and there's a small subwoofer on the bottom of the chassis, giving an extra kick to the low-end. For more serious integration with a home-entertainment setup, the headphone jack doubles up as an optical digital out.
Acer also attempts to offer gaming performance, courtesy of Nvidia's GeForce 8400M GS graphics. It isn't up to the latest games - it only managed 17fps in Call of Duty 2 even at our lowest settings - but will cope with older titles. The GeForce card helps with HD playback, too.
As an unrepentant desktop-replacement notebook, we're not too concerned about the Acer's 3.5kg weight or rather lacklustre battery life around two hours of light use. It looks better than many of its big-boned brethren, too, from the outside at least. We like the glossy black finish to the lid, although the grey plastic interior does give away its budget origins. The 7720G also makes no attempt to be svelte, with a big bezel and generously sized keyboard and number pad. Unfortunately, this means the main keyboard is set off-centre. The keyboard is also slightly spongy; pushing hard on a key causes its neighbours to flex towards your finger. However, it's comfortable to use and well laid-out, while the smooth and accurate trackpad is slightly wider than normal to match the widescreen.
The Acer boasts a built-in 0.3-megapixel webcam and a range of expansion options, with four USB ports, a 5-in-1 card reader and an ExpressCard/54 slot allowing you to connect a wide range of external peripherals. You may, in the future, want to add an 802.11n adapter to complement the built-in 802.11abg.
- Toshiba beats retreat from consumer PC market
- Google to follow Apple with device encryption
- U2 and Apple working on "new music format"
- Ellison steps down: but who's really running Oracle now?
- Audioboo to become Audioboom in app revamp
- Apple slaps down Google and police, as it takes high ground on user privacy
- Amazon releases high-end Kindle Voyage Touch
- What's on this week's PC Pro podcast?
- Virgin carpeted again for broadband speed claims
- Microsoft set to make more job cuts
- How to check your identity hasn’t been sold to the hackers
- Tim Cook: this is how much TV has changed since the 70s
- Westminster wins the .London battle
- 20 years of PC Pro: from deep pan pizza to virtualisation
- Five reasons why the Apple Watch leaves me cold
- Apple Watch, iPhone 6 and 6 Plus: Tim Cook's Apple back with a bang?
- BT Home Hub 5: how to get maximum speed
- 20 years of PC Pro: one-star reviews (including "the worst tablet we've ever seen")
- 20 years of PC Pro: our best covers
- Why we've closed the PC Pro forums
- The 7 best Chromebooks of 2014
- iPhone 6 vs Galaxy S5: is the Apple or Samsung flagship smartphone right for you?
- How to install iOS 8 without deleting apps and data
- The best smartwatches of 2014: what's the best smartwatch?
- Nexus 6 (X or Shamu) release date, price and specs rumour roundup
- Best of IDF: top tech and memorable moments from Intel's tech show
- How Apple Pay works and how to use it on your iPhone 6 or Apple Watch
- Tech of the future... and the British boffins building it
- Abuse magnets: the people behind corporate Twitter accounts
- Putting people at the centre of software design
- How to sell more ebooks on Amazon
- 10 ways to make your business more secure
- Top five VoIP mistakes
- How to add in-app purchasing to an iPhone, Android or Windows app
- Remote-control ransomware: TeamViewer and software hardball
- Why laptops with serial ports matter to the Internet of Things
- Make your mobile battery last longer
- Small steps into handling Big Data
- Nexus 5: does it really run stock Android?
- How to get broadband to a garden office