Acer Aspire 5536 review

2 Oct 2009

A cheap and cheerful desktop replacement that cuts acceptable corners to hit the low price

Price when reviewed: 
420(£420 inc VAT)
5

The Acer 5536 is a conspicuously designed laptop, with a tasteful blue exterior, shiny lights and a curved case that feels reassuringly solid. The glossy CineCrystal display is eye-catching too, and feels bigger than 15.6in. You'd never guess this is such a cheap laptop.

Peek under the bonnet and you can see where the savings have been made. Instead of the most common Core 2 Duo processors, the 5536 uses a mobile Athlon X2, which achieved a score of 0.88 in our 2D benchmarks. That's only a big problem for intensive computing tasks: 3GB of RAM keeps the OS responsive.

We were pleased to see no cut corners when it comes to the OS itself. Unlike many sub-£400 laptops, the Aspire 5536 uses Vista Home Premium rather than Home Basic. This means it includes the likes of Mobility Center, Media Center and a backup client, while also supporting Aero Glass transparency effects - and the onboard Radeon HD 3200 GPU is more than capable of supporting them. It isn't much use for gaming, however, achieving just 16fps with low settings in our Crysis test.

One let-down is the battery: 4,400mAh is on the low side and with a screen this size it lasted only 3hrs 41mins in our light-use test - disappointing even for such a cheap system. Still, a 15in laptop isn't designed for computing on the go. In that light it's impressive that Acer has retained as many grown-up features as it has. You get draft-n wireless (although no Bluetooth), a 500GB hard disk, Gigabit Ethernet and a multiformat card reader.

The keyboard hasn't got as positive an action as we'd like, but it's more solid than some expensive rivals, and the touchpad is large and responsive. The speakers can't fill a room, but they're loud and clear enough to watch a film.

So the Aspire 5536 has its flaws, but it does make a good, simple desktop replacement - and if that's all you need, the price is very tempting.

Details

Price ex VAT £365
Price inc VAT £420
Overall rating 5
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 6
Performance 4

Warranty

Warranty 1yr collect and return

Physical specifications

Dimensions 383 x 250 x 37mm (WDH)
Weight 2.590kg
Travelling weight 3.0kg

Processor and memory

Processor AMD Athlon X2 QL-64
RAM capacity 3.00GB
Memory type DDR2
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 2

Screen and video

Screen size 15.6in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,366
Resolution screen vertical 768
Resolution 1366 x 768
Graphics chipset ATI Radeon HD 3200
Graphics card RAM 256MB
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 1
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 500GB
Hard disk usable capacity 466GB
Spindle speed 5,400RPM
Internal disk interface SATA/300
Hard disk Hitachi Travelstar 5K500
Optical disc technology DVD writer
Optical drive TSSTcorp TS-L633B
Battery capacity 4,400mAh
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a support no
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter no
Bluetooth support no

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch yes
Wireless key-combination switch no
Modem yes
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 4
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 3
SD card reader yes
Memory Stick reader yes
MMC (multimedia card) reader yes
Smart Media reader no
Compact Flash reader no
xD-card reader yes
Pointing device type Touchpad
Audio chipset Realtek HD Audio
Speaker location Above keyboard
Hardware volume control? yes
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? no
Camera megapixel rating N/A
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 3hr 41min
Battery life, heavy use 1hr 1min
Overall application benchmark score 0.88
3D performance (crysis) low settings 16fps
3D performance setting Low

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit
OS family Windows Vista
Recovery method Burn own recovery discs
Software supplied Microsoft Works 9 SE