Acer Aspire Ethos 8943G review
Huge, fast and crammed with entertainment features, but it certainly doesn't come cheap
Review Date: 16 Jul 2010
Reviewed By: David Bayon
Price when reviewed: £1,702 (£2,000 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
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.
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.
I will most likely make myself not popular with this comment, but with the advent of so called "Swiss Army" laptops wouldn’t it be interesting for a PCPro team to stand out of the crowd of countless wannabe reviewers and use some more adequate tools (than Crysis) for benchmarking such powerful hardware?
I am talking about specialized benchmarks that would show virtualization capabilities, I/O workloads and RDBMS performance (e.g.: load, disk subsystems).
By stasi47 on 16 Jul 2010
old fire stoking...
Not wanting to stoke up old fires - and failing - but is this not the laptop we'd all desire. Therefore going on a recent review of a particular new phone (Let's call it the i-cannae-hear-you-4) then this laptop should be A-listed, should it not.
By CraigieDD on 16 Jul 2010
I'd certainly be interested in virtualisation and development benchmarks as well. I know they're covered to some extent in the overall score, but more specific benchmarks would help.
By Penguat on 17 Jul 2010
But it doesn't do everything!
I currently use a HP Elitebook tablet. With 4gb of RAM and Windows 7 64bit, it does most of what I want. Most importantly, it allows me to take notes using the pen input and it isn't like moving home just to carry it from one appointment to the next. The Ethos has no tablet input and lacks portability - it is therefore more machete than Swiss Army knife.
By BeacoAnalysis on 22 Jul 2010
Acer build quality
I own an Acer Aspire 8930. This was their High end laptop about a year ago. It is also an 18.4 inch screen monster with all the bells and whistles. But I am terrified to move it from my study to the lounge as I have had to send it back twice to Acer already as the Network card pops out of its socket. “That’s the reason they have given” also if I pick it up often I notice the fancy sound and DVD controller stops working! Comes back when it wants.
So I hope this one really has a better build as I have been put off Acer for life.
By Burnhard999 on 22 Jul 2010
Benchmarking & Build Quality
I agree with the comments on benchmarking; keep the Gaming performance references but find some tests to stress the disk performance also.
The battery-life tests are not too helpful either; perhaps a dvd / blu-ray playback test with high-screen brightness and medium speaker volume would give a real-life comparison.
Regarding build quality the 8930 mentioned by Burnhard999 did garner poor reports for stiffness, but reading reviews the problem seemed to be fixed on the later 8935 and the recent 8942. Of course it's a pity PC Pro didn't comment on the flex of the base and screen as there's no guarantee this model is OK.
By ml_ince on 22 Jul 2010
We are well aware our current benchmarks are looking a bit long in the tooth, and we have been busily working away on a new suite. It takes time to put together though - the point of benchmarks is to compare systems against each other, so we don't want to haphazardly introduce new tests until we can officially move everything across to the new suite.
Until then, in cases such as workstation laptops, we'll try to run a few extra tests to sate your appetites :)
Deputy reviews editor
By DavidBayon on 22 Jul 2010
One more thing - the battery tests we run are intended to give an absolute minimum and maximum battery life range. Every other acton, such as watching a DVD, will fall in between. We feel that's the most useful way to measure stamina, as everyone uses their laptop differently.
By DavidBayon on 22 Jul 2010
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