If you had asked us 12 months ago how cheap a notebook could get and still offer plenty of punch, we don’t think we’d have said as little as £565, but we would have said that one company who would be at the front of the super-budget notebook would be Acer.
So, here we are with the Aspire 5002WLMi, which comes in at the aforementioned price and manages to pack in an AMD Turion 64 ML-30 chip, which runs at 1.6GHz, and 512MB of memory.
This chip, as the name implies, is a 64-bit chip, so you’ll find plenty of performance to be had for the price. To make the most of it you’ll need 64-bit software but even in standard applications you’ll find a 20% improvement. The specification is rounded out with a 60GB hard drive, which is sufficient space for most users.
In use, we found the Aspire to be quick and sprightly. True, the Turion is a budget processor and can’t match Intel’s new dual-core chips in terms of power, but if your needs are limited, there is performance enough here.
The 15.4-inch panel comes in the widescreen format, so watching DVDs is great and the use of a Super-TFT coating gives it that touch of luxury, which at this price is something special.
Where the screen starts to falter is in Acer’s decision to use the SiS M760GX integrated graphics chip, which is adequate for office tasks but don’t even think of editing video or playing games on this machine, as the graphics simply aren’t up to it.
One bone of contention with cheap notebooks is often the quality of the keyboard but in this case we were more than satisfied. The widescreen display means there is plenty of space for the keyboard and they are well fitted, making for a comfortable typing action.
Weighing in at 3kg, there is a degree of portability in the Aspire and the body, which is made of plastic, is solid enough to handle everyday knocks.
We managed to get a little over 3 hours from the battery, which is fine if you’re attending classes or simply surfing the web sat on the sofa.
There is even a DVD rewriter built in as standard, which supports dual-format as well as dual-layer burning, which is something we weren’t expecting at this price. Connectivity is well covered with Wi-Fi supported by the 802.11g adapter, and 10/100 Base-T handling the fixed Ethernet.
At the cheap end of the market you can’t expect too much in the way of surprises but the Aspire manages to deliver on a number of points: you’ll find it powerful enough for most tasks and the widescreen panel is great to view. We’d expect that a nature or a home user looking for a basic machine will be impressed with the value for money and why not, as there is something for everyone here.