Acer continue to release more notebooks than anyone else, making them one of the obvious choices for most people. What’s more, they are sold in most major computer stores so you can check them out before you buy.



The Acer Aspire 9504WSMi is the latest desktop replacement and is built around a stunning 17-inch screen. It comes with the now commonplace Super-TFT coating, so you’ll find images sharp and clear. With a 500nit brightness rating, the dual-lamp screen provides brilliant contrast even with high levels of ambient light. Supported by an ATI Mobility Radeon X700 with 256MB of video memory, you can play games with confidence.

As the high-end model of Acer’s Aspire 9500 range, the 9504WSMi is inevitably well specified. An Intel 2GHz Pentium M 760 processor runs at 2GHz and is accompanied by a gigabyte of high-speed DDR2 memory for outstanding mobile performance. For storing high capacity multimedia files, a 100GB Seagate hard drive is in place.

Want a little more from your notebook? There’s an integrated digital/analogue TV tuner as well as built-in stereo speaker/subwoofer combination, so you’ll not only get great pictures, you’ll also great a decent sound. It’d be easy to see this notebook in the bedroom, used for games and set up as a spare TV.

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is starting to have an impact on the way people are keeping in touch. Basically, you can sign up to services, such as Skype, which allows you to make phone calls using your broadband connection to anyone also using the service. Acer has taken a jump over most notebook suppliers by adding a neat little Bluetooth VoIP phone to many of its machines. It’s made to fit into PC Card slot on the side, so when you don’t need it, you won’t lose it. It’s a great idea and one we hope to see copied buy other companies.

The one problem we found was with the keyboard. It’s big and comes with a separate numberpad - great for right-hand controls in games - but the keys are rather cramped together and are slow to respond. It’s a flaw that can’t be overlooked, as you’ll be using the keyboard everyday.

It’s a heavy weight notebook but you’ll get a decent battery life from it - we managed to get well over three hours, which is an advantage. For connecting to external displays, the Acer carries both VGA and DVI ports. Five USB2.0 ports are also in place for attaching peripherals. As expected at this price, high-speed networks can be configured using 802.11g Wi-Fi and Gigabit Ethernet.

Verdict

This notebook really should be rated as a “Hot Product” and had it not been for the variable quality of the keyboard it would have been. It has power and style for most mainstream users and Acer has done a great job at getting a good spec at a reasonable price. If you can live with the quirky keyboard, you'll find this a stunning machine.