Acer Aspire 7750

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 Acer Aspire 7750

At first glance, the Acer Aspire 7750 seems like a good choice for a 17-inch multimedia laptop. It has a simple, clean design with plenty of storage space and powerful speakers. Unfortunately, a couple of underlying issues pull the overall experience down somewhat.

Firstly, the grey and silver plastic design is nondescript. It looks much nicer on the inside of the laptop, though, offset against the black keyboard and screen bezel.

As this is a 17-inch laptop, there’s lots of space to go around, and Acer accentuates this by putting a regular keyboard square in the middle of the chassis, adding a touchpad and leaving it at that.

There are no hotkeys, no flashing lights and although it’s difficult to tell from the picture, the chassis feels expansive and spacious. All well and good, until you realise that the build quality (of the keyboard in particular) is pretty shabby. We felt quite a bit of flex around the edges of the chassis and the keyboard was practically bouncing up and down as we typed.

The machine isn’t particularly heavy at 2.9kg, but since most people buying a 17-inch laptop aren’t looking for portability we’d be happy with a few extra grammes in exchange for a more solid build.

While we’re on the subject, we’re going to assume most people buy a 17-inch laptop for the screen – be it to browse the web or watch a movie. The screen here is decent, complete with Super-TFT reflective coating, but the 1366 x 766 pixel resolution limits you to 720p HD content when, really, we’d quite fancy the full-blown effect of a 1920 x 1080 resolution.

Similarly, the integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics card means the latest games and editing suite will have trouble running here.

Huge hard drive

If you want to put your media on the Aspire 7750 – high-definition or otherwise – you have a huge 720GB hard drive to fill up. If music is your thing, then the Dolby Advanced Audio speakers will go some way to convincing you this is the laptop to buy. You can get plenty of volume, but at no point does the audio become fuzzy or distorted – no mean feat for a laptop.

General performance is no slouch either. The Aspire rocks an Intel Core i5-2410M CPU that coped admirably with both our benchmark tests and general usage. We should probably attribute some of that to the generous 6GB of RAM Acer has stashed away inside. It’s more than the average 4GB and while it won’t make much of a performance difference for the average user, it will help your laptop last that little bit longer into the future.

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 135 minutes
Cinebench: 9652
3DMark 2006: 4646

Yet, in spite of the positives, we have difficulty recommending the Aspire because it doesn’t specifically do what we want a 17-inch laptop to do – which is provide an awesome visual experience.

We understand Acer wanting to keep the price down, but a better choice would be the Dell Inspiron 17R or the Lenovo G770.

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Review: Asus Eee Pad Slider

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Review: Asus Eee Pad Slider

Overview and design

We were totally taken by the Eee Pad Transformer when it came out because it did something different to the iPad, and so gave itself room to breathe away from the tablet big guns.

Now its brother, the Asus Eee Pad Slider has arrived, and manages to stand out in much the same way.

The specs are fairly typical for tablets these days. The Eee Pad Slider features a 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 2 system-on-a-chip, offering dual-core power and good graphics performance, which powers Android 3.1 out of the box (though you can upgrade to 3.2 as soon as you get it connected to the internet, and an Android 4.0 update is on its way).

There’s 1GB of RAM to keep multitasking smooth, along with 16GB or 32GB of internal storage, though a microSD card slot means you can boost this. Wi-Fi is present up to 802.11n, as is Bluetooth.

The screen is a generous 10.1-inch 1280 x 800 IPS affair, so there’s plenty of space for Android 3.2 to show us what it’s got. We’ll go into full details about the screen’s quality on the Performance page.

Asus eee pad slider

Of course, behind the screen is where things get interesting. By grabbing the top of it, you can pull it up, so it slides back and sits up at an angle to reveal the built-in keyboard.

The front of the device is glossy black with a silver rim, like a lot of tablets, including the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, but the keyboard and rear case of the Eee Pad Slider are a kind of chocolate colour, with a matt finish.

Asus eee pad slider

It’s an unusual direction for tablets, but one that we think works for this one. The more we used the Eee Pad Slider, the more we found it to be an office-focussed tablet, and the aesthetic really fits that. Overall, it bears far more of a resemblance to a BlackBerry Boldhandset than the iPhone, and we doubt thats coincidence.

Asus eee pad slider

The build quality of the two halves of the Eee Pad Slider is excellent, feeling totally solid and without any noticeable give. Our only (admittedly very mild) concerns are with the joins between the two.

We don’t expect the hinge to break on anyone for no good reason, but the way the screen just sits loose and wobbly when in the upright position is odd compared how solid the rest of the device is.

There’s also a ribbon connecting the screen to the keyboard. While we’ve no doubt that this offers a huge power consumption advantage over using Bluetooth to connect the two, it’s an obvious weak point if your Slider should take an unexpected trip to the ground.

Around the sides, you’ve not only got your microSD card slot, but also the Lock key, a volume rocker, a reset button that’s far too easy to press, a mini-HDMI port for video output, Asus’s proprietary connection for USB connectivity and charging, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a full-size USB port.

Asus eee pad slider

Having two separate sliding halves in this tablet inevitably means it’s a lot thicker than the competition. At 273 x 180.3 x 17.3mm, it’s around twice as thick as an iPad 2, and at 960g it’s around 50 percent heavier.

The weight difference really does tip it from being comfortable to hold to being just too heavy to keep in one hand for long. Between this and the slide-out function, which puts the screen at a great angle for both desk and lap use, it becomes clear that the Eee Pad Slider is less of a competitor for tablets like the iPad, and is more targeting replacing netbooks and smaller laptops.

The Eee Pad Slider looks set to be available for around £450 in its 32GB version, which isn’t as cheap as the keyboardless half of the Eee Pad Transformer, but is good value compared to most other Android tablets.

Features

Asus eee pc slider

The obvious major feature draw for the Eee Pad Slider is its slide-out keyboard. Offering a wide range of keys, it’s got options for Home, Back and Menu, as well as a few keys to help you quickly conserve power if you’re concerned about your battery life. Specifically, you can turn Bluetooth on and off, turn Wi-Fi on and off, and adjust the brightness.

Asus has taken the same route as other manufacturers when it comes to customising Android on tablets, and has included a carefully picked selection of apps and an original widget to make the Slider stand out.

Asus eee pc slider

The Asus Launcher is a slick widget that displays various bits of information, including the last website you left open, the currently playing music, calendar appontments, the weather, the date, and a slideshow of your photos.

Asus eee pc slider

It’s a lot of stuff to cram into a widget, but it works really well thanks to a simple, no-nonsense design. We certainly prefer it to the utilitarian launcher widget included on the Lenovo IdeaPad K1.

As far as the apps go, the most useful is surely Polaris Office, given the nature of this tablet. It’s a really good inclusion, with a slick, surprisingly powerful interface and options to create text documents, spreadsheets and presentations.

Asus eee pc slider

The word processor is particularly impressive, with tools for indenting, reflowing text, including media, tweaking fonts and loads more. In fact, we used it and the Slider’s keyboard to write this entire review, with no problems in general (though a regular auto-save function would be gratefully received).

Cleverly, Asus is including an impressive cloud deal with the Slider. Asus’ WebStorage offers unlimited online storage free for a year with the Slider. The app for it is easy to use, though it’s a shame that you’re unlikely to see it integrated into apps in the way Dropbox often is.

Asus eee pc slider

Amazon’s Kindle client is included for readers, as is Zinio for buying and reading magazines, along with Press Reader for getting the newspapers right on your device. They’re a killer trio of apps, all offering a great array of content, even if Zinio and Press Reader don’t give you the flexibility in the publications that you get from Apple’s Newsstand on the iPad.

Asus has also beefed up the built-in media options with MyNet, which adds media streaming both to and from the Slider.

The USB port on the side adds a few handy features, too. The first is that, like the Asus Eee Pad Transformer, you can plug in a USB mouse and control the tablet that way. If youre doing a lot of word processing/spreadsheet work, you might find this quite useful.

It also works a USB host for mass storage, so you can plug in USB drives or memory cards (with an adapter) and use the included File Manager app to browse and move files.

On top of all this are the usual Google apps, including the Android Market. Nvidia’s Tegra Zone is also bundled, making it easy to find games, if you want. No games are included, which is unsurprising considering how this tablet feels more work-focussed.

Performance

Asus eee pc slider

The Asus Eee Pad Slider earns itself a huge tick in the performance column in one very simply way: this is the smoothest Android tablet we’ve seen yet.

Scrolling between Home screens is as slick as you like, the app list flashes up and away in an instant, apps load quickly, the multitasking list is smooth and stable – this is Android at its very best, for general use, without a doubt.

Asus eee pc slider

It still suffers from Android’s common imperfections, though. When zooming or panning in the browser, it’s fast and responsive, but there can be a stutter, which makes it difficult to be precise. Sometimes, particlarly in the browser, there will be a mysterious lag when typing in the URL bar, which is frustrating.

The browser is fast to load sites, certainly, but consistently lagged just behind an iPad 2 running iOS 5 in head-to-head tests (both with Flash turned on and off). Android 4.0 looks set to boost Android tablets in this area, but that’s the situation as it stands.

Asus eee pc slider

And yes, Flash 11 is available as ever from the Android Market. And yes, browsing a page with Flash content will drastically reduce the responsiveness of the browser. In addition, many iPlayer videos had an odd black mark that appeared occasionally, while going between fullscreen and a smaller window within the browser often caused the audio to go slightly out of sync.

However, the videos did play, and play smoothly, so for those of us who can’t live without Flash, performance is about as good as we can get at the moment.

Asus eee pc slider

Media stored on the device played impeccably. HD video in particular was absolutely brilliant, with both 1080p and 720p files playing back smoothly. The killer is the crisp, clear screen, though. It’s absolutely perfect for video, and the way the screen sits up on the Slider when the screen is out makes this an ideal tablet to keep you entertained on a long journey (well, save for the battery life, as we’ll explain in a moment).

That screen really is the best thing about the Eee Pad Slider. At 1280 x 800, it’s nice and high resolution, with text appearing crisp and easy to read. More than that, though, colours are vibrant and hugely appealing, and the viewing angles are excellent. It’s also brighter than a lot of Android tablets. It’s one of the best tablet screens we’ve seen, to put it simply.

Of course, the keyboard is a big feature for the Eee Pad Slider, since it’s pretty much its reason for existing. And the good news is that is isn’t bad. The keys are fairly small, but a nice gap between them makes them easy to find without concentrating.

Asus eee pc slider

In fact, we found it easy to hit the right key first time over 90 per cent of the keyboard, despite its size. You will inevitably miss more keys than you would on a full-size keyboard, but no more so than other small, portable keyboards.

Most of the 10 per cent where we weren’t hitting the right keys was hunting for things like Control and Alt, which are slightly displaced because of the Home, Back and Menu keys.

The only really annoying aspect was that it’s ludicrously easy to hit the up arrow button instead of the right Shift key. We did it constantly throughout this review, and it gets more annoying every time.

You will, of course, come to accomodate the layout as you get used to it, but even after hours of use, we were still nudging that damn up arrow.

Still, though, we give the keyboard a thumbs up, and the angle of the screen makes the while thing reasonably comfortable to use. Any small mobile keyboard has layout foibles, so we don’t begrudge them too much, even if they can be annoying.

Asus eee pc slider

The last big thing for tablets is battery life, and this is probably the Slider’s weakest area. It’s rated for eight hours, but when we tried streaming video over Wi-Fi with the screen’s brightness turned all the way up, we got just under five hours out of it.

This isn’t terrible, though. You can expect a good deal more battery life than that if you’re just using it type documents, for example. Though it’s certainly well behind what the iPad can give you, let’s remember that this is more focussed on the netbook/small laptop market than the iPad, and compared to most laptops this is great battery life in a far lighter package.

And as is so often the fashion, the Eee Pad Slider features front and rear cameras. The 1.2-megapixel front camera is as good as it needs to be, picking up a decent amount of light. The angle of the screen when slid out will give the person you’re chatting to a lovely view of your nostrils, but it works well enough.

YouTube : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fH8sE-xIRM

Asus eee pad slider

The rear five-megapixel camera turned out to be surprisingly good on a sunny day, though the 720p video footage it takes was rather weak, with a huge amount of artefacting ruining any semblance of detail.

Asus eee pc sliderClick here for full-size image

Verdict

Asus eee pc slider

It became clear to us when using the Eee Pad Slider that Asus isn’t going after quite the same market as the iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. It’s too heavy and too thick to be in quite the same bracket, because of its keyboard.

But as an alternative to a small laptop, it really comes into its own. Suddenly it seems small, and light. Fast, too, compared many lower-powered Windows 7 machines. It even comes with a great office suite ready to go. This is a tablet for the office, the desk at home, or the briefcase, and it really works.

We liked:

The screen is absolutely brilliant, which is always the first thing you want to see a tablet get right.

The same goes for the touch control and overall performance. Though smoothness in the browser and some other areas isn’t quite as perfect as the iPad, this is a more than capable machine.

The way the keyboard slides out puts the screen at an ideal angle for on a desk or your lap – something that’s clearly been thought through. And the keyboard itself is pretty good for a small mobile offering; good enough to write this review on.

The included apps are very useful, but quite understated, too. It’s not bloatware – this is a great suite to have available from the off.

We disliked:

The only real disappointment with the Eee Pad Slider is the battery life. It’s well below the likes of the iPad, and we’d hoped for better. As we said before, though, it holds its own against the kind of laptops it’s most likely to replace, so it’s not a deal breaker.

Similarly, it’s chunkier and heavier than other leading tablets, which is a shame, but inevitable when you consider the extra mechanics and casing required for its two halves. And again, it compares favourably to laptops.

Our other gripes are only very minor foibles, really.

The keyboard is still harder to use than a full-size one, even if it’s very good overall. Some people may never find it comfortable, but this is true of all small keyboards.

Android still needs some spit and polish here and there – hopefully Android 4.0 will bring at least some of that, and we’re really looking forward to seeing the Slider with future versions of Android on.

Verdict:

As a tablet, this is a slightly flawed gem with a gimmick that not only makes it stand out, but makes it genuinely useful.

But as a laptop replacement, this is nippy, light, versatle and hugely desirable. As tablets increasingly become work tools, we fully expect the Eee Pad Slider to be right at the forefront of the revolution, thanks to its smooth performance, stunning screen, handy software and more-than-adequate keyboard.

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Review: Asus N73SV

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Review: Asus N73SV

Asus has built a great reputation over the years, offering laptops that pack style and power at competitive prices. Few multimedia machines can match the value offered by the N73SV but its flawed usability unfortunately lets the side down early on.

Finished with a brushed aluminium lid and contrasting gunmetal and black interior, the chassis feels suitably well put together and looks every bit the high-end media centre, despite its surprisingly low price.

Sadly, this quality does not extend to the keyboard. While the large keys are responsive and easy to type on, the board is poorly mounted and bounces a great deal during use. The touchpad fares little better, proving sluggish and slow to respond.

A vertical panel of multimedia keys sits to the left of the keyboard, providing a fast way to control your music and movies. The six backlit buttons can be easily seen in the dark, but we found no easy way to disable the backlighting, so they can prove a little distracting at times.

At 3.5kg this is not a laptop for frequent travellers and its bulky dimensions make it far better suited to life at home on your desk. This is reflected in the limited 193-minute battery life, although this still managed to beat the sub-standard results of the other machines.

The most obvious strength of this laptop is its stunning 17.3-inch screen. The exceptionally bright and colourful panel shows images and videos to glorious effect, while the Full HD resolution makes the most of the built-in Blu-ray drive. Even the glossy coating is not overly reflective.

Powerful sound

Sound quality also impresses. Using technology co-developed with audio specialist, Bang & Olufsen ICEpower, the audio from the speakers is loud, clear and detailed. We noticed some slight treble distortion at higher volumes, but bass and mid frequencies were always clear.

Despite using the same dedicated Nvidia graphics card as the, the Asus almost doubles its power. Bettered by only the Acer Aspire 8951G and Toshiba Qosmio X770-107, there is plenty of power for light gaming and running high-definition video – a great result at this low price.

Office performance is no slouch either, despite falling some behind the powerful Intel Core i7 laptops. The Core i5 processor is backed by a healthy 6GB of memory and software opens and runs swiftly, with plenty of power for multi-tasking.

You also get a healthy amount of storage, thanks to the Asus’ 640GB hard drive. While it falls far behind the vast disks of the more expensive Acer and Toshiba, there is still ample room for storing large multimedia collections.

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 193 minutes
Cinebench: 9798
3DMark 2006: 7905

A final unique feature of this laptop is its ExpressGate Cloud operating system. Installed along with Windows 7 it enables you to boot into a basic, panel-based OS in nine seconds, to access your photos, music, a calendar and a web browser faster than you can with Windows. We found the software needless, however, and find it unlikely anyone would use it on a regular basis.

If you can overlook the flawed user interface, the N73SV has a lot to offer at this price. Offering power, Blu-ray compatibility, an excellent screen and surprisingly strong audio, it makes a very good entry-level media centre. If you tend to work more than you play, though, the bouncy keyboard could be a deal breaker.

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