Acer Aspire Ethos 8943G review

16 Jul 2010

Huge, fast and crammed with entertainment features, but it certainly doesn't come cheap

Price when reviewed: 
2,000(£2,000 inc VAT)
5

As mobile processor performance has rocketed, the term desktop replacement has become ever fuzzier. After all, even a £500 laptop can perform most tasks with little effort, so perhaps a new label needs coining for laptops that really do try to replace every piece of kit you own. We're talking real Swiss Army laptops, such as Acer's Aspire Ethos 8943G.

With an 18.4in Full HD display and a quad-core processor inside, you can shift your intensive daily tasks onto it without it breaking a sweat. Even HD video editing if you like, as the Ethos 8943G packs a frightening 16GB of DDR3 into its four memory slots. It raced to a comfortable score of 1.48 in our application benchmarks, and it can handle multiple tasks at once like few other laptops.

But it's also so much more than that. A lot of laptops now include Blu-ray drives for watching movies, but few go to Acer's lengths: this drive can write as well as read Blu-ray discs, and when you slide one into the drive Acer's own Arcade Deluxe media suite takes over the desktop to play it back without any further setup. The 5.1 Dolby Home Theater v3 speakers whomp you with a quality and volume of audio more in line with desktop speakers, and a button beneath the touchpad instantly converts it into a backlit media control pad.

Acer Aspire Ethos 8943G - rear view

Then there's the Acer's fine gaming ability, thanks to the inclusion of a 1GB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5850 graphics chip. It's ATI's second-fastest mobile offering, and it treated Crysis like it was Doom with a few more trees. At 1,280 x 1,024 and Medium settings it averaged 57fps, and when we upped that to 1,600 x 1,200 and High settings it remained just about playable at 25fps.

To put that into perspective, the A-Listed Acer Aspire 8942G has the same graphics chip but managed just 20fps in that High test, and the Alienware M15x - with not one, but two high-end graphics cards inside - managed only 27fps. So the Ethos 8943G is a tremendously powerful laptop, and if you opt for a recommended mix-and-match, playing at the native 1,920 x 1,080 but with Medium settings, you'll be gaming at a comfortable 37fps.

All this power is possible due to the Acer's huge chassis: at 440mm wide and 3.9kg, it's a real backbreaker for those few times you'll be lumping it from the study to the living room. But the space allows for so much to be crammed in, not least those excellent speakers above the Scrabble-tile keyboard.

While it doesn't stretch the full width of the base, it feels spacious and well laid out. Key travel is just right, and a nice firm backing means you won't find the keyboard bowing under heavy fingers. There's also a numeric keypad to the right, which, with a push of the Funtion key, also offers the same playback controls as the touchpad.

Details

Price ex VAT £1,702
Price inc VAT £2,000
Overall rating 5
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 3
Performance 5

Warranty

Warranty 1yr collect and return

Physical specifications

Dimensions 440 x 295 x 41mm (WDH)
Weight 3.900kg
Travelling weight 4.7kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i7-720QM
Motherboard chipset Intel HM55
RAM capacity 16.00GB
Memory type DDR3
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 4

Screen and video

Screen size 18.4in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,920
Resolution screen vertical 1,080
Resolution 1920 x 1080
Graphics chipset ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5850
Graphics card RAM 1.00GB
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 640GB
Hard disk usable capacity 578GB
Spindle speed 5,400RPM
Internal disk interface SATA/300
Hard disk Western Digital Scorpio Blue
Optical disc technology Blu-ray writer
Optical drive Matshita UJ240AS
Battery capacity 6,000mAh
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch yes
Wireless key-combination switch yes
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 4
FireWire ports 1
eSATA ports 1
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 1
3.5mm audio jacks 3
SD card reader yes
Memory Stick reader yes
MMC (multimedia card) reader yes
xD-card reader yes
Pointing device type Multitouch touchpad
Audio chipset ATI HD Audio
Speaker location Above keyboard
Hardware volume control? yes
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 1.3mp
TPM no
Fingerprint reader yes
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 4hr 12min
Battery life, heavy use 1hr 29min
Overall application benchmark score 1.48
Office application benchmark score 1.12
2D graphics application benchmark score 1.74
Encoding application benchmark score 1.43
Multitasking application benchmark score 1.62
3D performance (crysis) low settings 121fps
3D performance setting Low

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
OS family Windows 7
Recovery method Burn own recovery discs