Acer is ranked the fourth bestseller in the European notebook market. Following the Pocket Lint exclusive of Acer's Ferrari special edition, we put the Aspire 2023 WLMi to the test. It's a good option, should you require a notebook capable of serving as the main home PC. It's large in width (360 (W) x 273 (D) x 28-33.5 (H) mm) but that's due to the 15.4" widescreen WXGA colour TFT LCD with 1280 x 800 pixel resolution. Even so, it's relatively light at 3kg for such a wide unit and the picture quality is high. One look at that screen and it all seems worth it- clear, crisp and durable.
There's a strong multimedia theme here- the DVD combo drive is accessible via the included Aspire Arcade software with dedicated 5-way control keys. The front edge of the unit isn't covered by the top piece, giving constant access to the smart control keys and display screen. The software is interlinked with Windows Media Player and the view panel, which usually sits on top of other open applications, has quick control keys and a 1 line LCD screen- (unfortunately, this can be a little awkward as the LCD display is under the opening catch, resulting in smearing of the screen).
Sound wise, twin 2.1 channel speakers with built-in subwoofers sit each side of the keyboard and support Aspire virtual surround sound, should you wish to hook up to your main speakers.
The Aspire arcade software is clear and easy to use (with buttons such as ‘rip cd'). These can be a bore, but it saves time on using the XP commands. Experienced users may prefer to subvert the whole Arcade system, rendering it a bit of a white elephant. For novices, it provides quick access to the multimedia elements, making simple the burning and playback of CDs and DVDs via the excellent slot loading, DVD Combo drive sits that sits on the right of the machine.
Looking to the front left corner we find a 4-in-1, card reader-supporting MultiMediaCard (MMC), Secure Digital (SD), SmartMedia, and Memory Stick. Perfect for quick transfer, and storing media from your digital devices.
A 32bit type II PCMCIA CardBus slot accompanies 3 USB slots and the jacks and parallels you'd expect from a desktop unit. An integrated Intel wireless 2200BG network connection (802.11g) is included, ideal for home roaming or outdoor WiFi connection. Good results were achieved with the 3Com firewall router and PC card reviewed last week and the home wireless network is becoming ever more popular. Why suffer indoors, tied to the desktop when you can use the notebook in the garden, or take to bed for a late night DVD?
There's plenty of on board storage space, thanks to the 60 Gig ATA/100 hard drive. Applications are swiftly run by a Pentium M processor featuring enhanced Speedstep technology. Speed and storage is on a par with the excellent Packard Bell Easynote m325, another notebook at the larger end of the scale, but at almost a kilo lighter and a tad smaller, there is no onboard fan- a USP of the PB Easynote.
The 2023 features ATi Mobility Radeon 9700 with 128MB of external DDR video RAM, supporting Microsoft DirectX 9.0, giving excellent DVD playback.
Unfortunately, usage is limited by a 5-hour battery life, a lot less when running devices, with rapid charge in 2 hours and 3.5 hours charge-in-use. Considering the size, you might expect better results from the battery but somewhere along the line, a price for that great screen and burner had to be paid somewhere.
Acer includes some free software in the shape of XP, Norton AntiVirus, Intel PROSet, NTL CD Maker 6 Gold and the aforementioned Aspire Arcade, to get you started and it's ready to go with Invilink WiFi built in.
The machine is a little on the large side, but it certainly holds its own indoors. Most of the power and functionality of the Ferrari is here, but without the flash colours. Losing the 20GB and the red trim saves you a few quid. You can go with the traditional tough chrome and black and enjoy a similar processing speed. The intuitive card reader will be sure to please the multimedia types amongst us. The wireless gubbins under the hood is up to spec and there are a few bits of software thrown in too. Bigger than your average notebook, but with all the bells and whistles you'd expect from a home pc this is a good example of a widescreen style notebook.