When we think of desktop replacement notebooks, we think of high-end machines sporting the latest in processing power and features with a large panel display sitting on the top of it.
Well, the Acer Aspire 9304WSMi manages to deliver on the screen, as this is a 17-inch notebook. This is worthy of note, as at the asking price of £499 (inc. VAT), you won’t find too many others around. The screen offers plenty of space for viewing more than one window at once, so you can have your favourite browser up as well as word document without either feeling cramped.
On the downside, this panel isn’t the brightest we’ve seen and we had to turn the brightness up to full to make the most of it. Graphics are a rather under whelming nVidia GeForce Go 6100 GPU. This is an integrated solution that is fine for daily tasks and even delivers reasonable quality when watching DVDs but you can’t use it for playing games.
The help keep costs down, Acer has opted for an AMD based specification. So, you’ll find AMD Turion 64 X2 Mobile TL-56 powering things. This is great, as it’s a dual-core chip running with a core speed of 1.8GHz. We’d liked to have seen more than 1024MB of memory on board, as this would have meant the Windows Vista Home Premium software would have had enough headroom to run properly, as sadly we found this notebook rather under-performed. The main specification is rounded out by a 120GB hard drive, which runs at 5400rpm, so is quick and responsive.
Being a large screen notebook, you won’t really want to carry this around with you too often. Weighing 3.6kg, we found it on the heavy side. If you want to use it about the house, we found the battery life, on average, of just one hour was on the poor side.
As this machine hasn’t been design for carrying around, the build quality is satisfactory rather than impressively robust. Made from plastic, there is a slight give to the casing but it’s nothing to cause concern. The hinges holding the screen in place were solid and proved reliable.
Less impressive was the keyboard. The keys are a good size and the addition of a numeric keypad makes excellent use of the space available, the keys around the edge are lower than the keys in the centre. This is due to the way the keyboard is clipped into place.
Acer includes a whole range of proprietary tools that help setting the notebook up a great easier to achieve. This comprises setting up everything from the Wi-Fi to the 1.3-megapixel webcam built into the lid above the screen.
If you were looking to replace your desktop PC with a large screen notebook, we’d suggest having a bigger budget than £500, as the Acer Aspire 9304WSMi didn’t really impress.
That said, if you’re looking for a machine to cover the basic tasks of web browsing and word processing, but you just like the idea of having a large screen too, then it’s more than acceptable for the price.