In the last three years, Acer has staked a claim for itself as one of the more affordable brands of notebook. While this, in some respects, may have been to the detriment of looks and finish, you’d certainly opt for a Sony or even a HP, than choose an Acer on style, the company’s aggressive pricing policy has made it the Number One notebook seller across Europe.
The Acer Aspire 1691WLMi is a great example of how the brand operates. Designed as a desktop alternative, the Aspire is a well-built machine that sports a uniform and business-like grey colour. You won’t stand out from the crowd with this notebook but when you’re paying less than a thousand pounds for it, you can’t expect everything and besides not every user will want a purple and Silver VAIO.
That said, the specification is as robust as the build quality. Based around an Intel Pentium M 730 running at 1.6GHz, the 1691WLMi uses the 915GM chipset for a faster 533MHz Front Side Bus. This means that applications will load and run a lot smoother than older machines on the market. Memory is provided by 512MB of DDR SDRAM, a standard allotment of memory, but more than enough to run the Windows XP operating system. Rounding out the main specification is the Toshiba hard drive, which comes with 80GB of space - more than enough for even the most avid collector of audio and video files.
In use, the Aspire ran smoothly and quickly, even when running multiple applications, there were no visible signs of lag or delay.
The 15.4-inch TFT screen sports a widescreen display, which is almost becoming the standard format for all notebooks. Possibly the winning touch to the Aspire, and one that will keep gamers more than happy, is the graphics solution: the ATI Mobilty Radeon X600. It may only have 64MB of dedicated memory attached to the board but it’s more than capable of handling the latest games with ease. It can do this because it’s based around the new PCI-Express technology rather than the old AGP format, so games are smooth and fresh. In testing, we got a score of just over 3200 from the system using 3DMark 2003, which is pretty remarkable for a notebook. If you remain unconvinced, then pushing the notebook’s RAM count up to a full gigabyte will help out the Radeon chip.
A machine that packs this kind of punch doesn’t currently come in a slim and neat package but with an overall weight of 3.1kg, Acer has done its best to keep the weight to a minimum. With a battery life running in the region of four hours from a single charge, we weren’t disappointed. So, if you want to use the Aspire when sat on the sofa, you can surf the Internet for most of the evening without even thinking of having to recharge the battery.
In terms of little extras, you’ll also find that Wi-Fi and Gigabit Ethernet come as standard, as well as a DVD rewriter.
Yes, there are better looking and lighter notebooks out there. True, there are also more powerful systems, but when you're trying to get the best on offer for as little money as possible, we felt that Acer had come up with a winning solution that offered a great deal more than we expect from a sub-£1000 notebook.