Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime

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 Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime

Overview

The burning question with the Asus Eee Pad Transformer prime release, as with any tablet, is this: is it better than the Apple iPad 2?

The immediate follow-up question is usually a bit less thrilling: can it beat the reigning champion of Android tablets, the super-slim and light Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1?

We’ll explore both questions in depth, but for those whole don’t like to wait around for the punch line, we’ll say that the super-thin and light Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime might just be the best tablet ever made.

But first, the basics – in the UK, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime will go on sale in January 2012. There’s only going to be one version over here, which is a 32GB SKU bundled with the keyboard,a charger, cleaning cloth, USB cable and earbuds.

This bundle will cost you £499, which is £70 more than the 16GB tablet-keyboard bundle that the original Eee Pad Transformer came in when it launched earlier in 2011.

The most important spec on the new Transformer is the Nvidia Tegra 3 processor. Everything amazing about the Prime tablet rests on this quad-core, 1.3GHz chip.

HD videos play smoother (and longer, with up to 12 hours of battery use for video) than ever before. Games suddenly look fluid and dynamic, with water ripple effects, smoke, fog and explosions that mimic what you’d normally find in a PC game.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

The super-crisp IPS display, which is similar to the one used on the iPad 2, is refreshingly easy on the eyes even in outdoor locations or with incandescent bulbs blazing around you.

The rear 8MP camera is a wonder of engineering. In several tests, HD videos recorded at 1080p looked smooth and clear, unlike the grainier results from the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. Even the 1.2MP front-facing camera worked well for video chats, without the typical fuzziness of other tablets.

The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime also includes a free intuitive Asus webstorage app for offloading your files, and you can pop in a microSD card in a left-side slot up to 32GB each.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

All of the typical connection options are here: Wi-Fi 802.11n, Bluetooth 2.1, a 3.5mm headphone jack on the right and a micro HDMI port (also on the left) for connecting to an HD TV.

The 263 x 180.8 x 8.3mm tablet is wider than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, although the screen, at 1280 x 800p resolution and 10.1 inches, is the same size.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

At 586g, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime is lighter than the iPad 2 but a touch heavier than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, although nobody will notice a few grams.

It’s also the thinnest tablet on the market today, bar none.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

The 25Wh lithium-polymer battery lasts for about nine hours on a charge for normal use. Asus claims a battery life of 12 hours if you watch mostly videos, because of the way the Tegra 3 manages power.

The tablet comes running Android 3.2 Honeycomb, but Asus says it’s compatible with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, if you wish to upgrade when the update becomes available next year.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Features and interface

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Features

We said up front that we will answer questions about whether the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime beats the Apple iPad 2 and the leading Android tablet, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. Truth be told, some of the factors that will help you decide between the three similar tablets are subtle, yet important.

Let’s start with the hardware design. All three tablets look remarkably similar. An untrained eye wouldn’t know the difference between them.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Turn the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime over on its back, and there’s a silver back cover that looks much more durable than the white plastic back of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and grey back of the iPad 2. The front IPS screen, made with Gorilla Glass, is also durable and sharp.

There’s a proprietary charge port below the main horizontal screen on the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime. This is the same port you use to pop the device into the laptop dock.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

There are two extra ports that secure the tablet to the dock, and when housed that way, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime works reliably as a touchscreen laptop.

The dock isn’t ideal for long typing sessions, and matches the quality of other lapdocks such as the one for the Motorola Atrix 2. In other words, they are functional and provide a mouse pad, quick access function keys, a USB port and an SD memory card slot. But otherwise it doesn’t match the responsive typing of a regular full notebook computer.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Some of the port covers on the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime’s dock are a bit hard to remove. For example, the one that covers the USB port might require some prying loose with a knife.

Overall, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime is easy to handle. It’s wider than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, so is easier to grip, with a slightly wider bezel. But it seems a bit less portable for that reason as well.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

The back is metallic and durable, but not exactly scratch or smudge-resistant, as we found out. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 has a bit more of a pick-up and go feel to it only because the Asus is wider and felt just a hair wider and longer.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Interface

Asus packed some choice extras onto the Eee Pad Transformer Prime, but generally stuck to the basic Android 3.2 Honeycomb user interface. In fact, there are just a few extra widgets for quickly reading your emails, seeing the weather forecast and controlling music tracks.

There’s a goofy app called MyZine that automatically adds your photos into a magazine-like layout, but it has a limited purpose and might be the first one you drag to the trash.

There are no extra app widgets like there are on the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet for adding favorites to an app wheel or an app launcher. Frankly, these additions offer a nebulous value beyond the stock operating system.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Asus used a slightly modified treatment for the bottom row of icons. There’s a back button, a home button and a pop-up multitasking button that shows you open apps and enables you to switch between them. Here you can also click a small X that shuts down any open app to save memory.

There’s not too much more to say about the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime’s interface, because Asus kept things simple. There are no extra tools for storing apps like there is on the Toshiba AT100 (known as the Toshiba Thrive in the US), but some of those enhancements don’t really add to the value anyway. The simple core Android OS makes the Prime easy to use.

Market and apps

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Android Market and Apps

The Android Market included on the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime has been upgraded with a new interface that is surpassingly easy to use. Following the lead of the well-designed HP TouchPad app store, there are panels with rich photos that draw your eye and make you want to purchase more apps. The new look also mimics the Windows Phone 7 look, in that it is image-centric to draw the eye.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Of course, once you drill into the Market a bit you will realise that this glossy magazine-like front-end interface is just icing on the old cake – the Market works about the same as always. You can rent movies and television shows through the Market as you can on other recent tablets.

Where Asus scores extra points is with the included apps. It has quite outdone itself for this model.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

First, there’s a MyLibrary app for ebooks, magazines and newspapers. Then not quite as extensive as the Amazon Kindle Store (OK, far less extensive), the Asus @Vibe store, which is really just a portal to Versent Books, lets you buy major bestsellers such as John Grisham’s The Litigators.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Pricing is suspiciously the same as most Amazon Kindle store bestsellers. Some books were noticeably missing, including the latest Michael Lewis book called Boomerang, which is featured prominently in the Kindle store.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Asus @Vibe Music is a welcome addition. With functionally similar to the Google Music app, this music app works like Last.fm in that you can search for an artist and play their songs.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Each “station” lets you play random songs by that artist. The @Vibe store also lets you play songs you have purchased from the Asusvibe.com store, as long as you have used a supported Asus laptop or netbook.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Asus MyCloud is a handy cloud storage portal similar to Dropbox. You can use 2GB of storage for free, or pay about US$9 for three months of unlimited storage. Keep in mind, though, that the service limits file size to 500MB per file for the free account.

Also, while the app lets you offload files to the cloud, you can also access files on one computer that is sharing files through the service.

The Asus MyNet app works exactly like the Samsung Allshare service, in that you can set up a connection to and from another computer on the same router network to share music, photos and videos. We tested the app with a Sony all-in-one desktop PC and could easily share files between the tablet and the desktop computer.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime we tested also came pre-loaded with a wide selection of pre-release Tegra 3 games, including BladeSlinger, ShadowGun and Davinci THD. These titles will be available through an app portal called the TegraZone, and generally cost about the same as normal Android games.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

One important point to make about gaming on the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime is that the games look astounding – the best we have seen on any tablet. ShadowGun in particular uses water effects that look ultra-realistic for a portable device (although nothing like, say, Battlefield 3 on a console).

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

The most interesting comparison we discovered was between the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime playing the same game, Riptide. On the Prime, the water effects were much more convincing, with waves flowing back and forth and whitecaps that change as you drive your jet ski.

At the same time, the Apple iPad 2 may not play games as smoothly, but there is a much wider selection of games, and many are arguably more in-depth. For example, the gameplay for Infinity Blade II on the iPad 2 is far more advanced, with magic ring power-ups, duel-wielding options and collectible gems.

Many of the games on the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime are more like visual effects demos, with limited gameplay value.

Office

The Transformer Prime also includes the Polaris Office app for opening and editing word processing and spreadsheet documents. It’s completely compatible with Microsoft Office.

The app does add value, especially since competing office apps like Openoffice cost £9.99 or more.

Screen

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Screen

The 1280 x 800 resolution, 10.1-inch screen on the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime is sharp and easy to read.

We had no complaints reading an entire ebook on the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime and browsing dozens of websites. Finger swipes and presses registered accurately, and typing was fast and responsive.

Asus chose to use a Super IPS display for the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime, and there are pros and cons with this.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime is not as bright, colourful, or crisp as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, so if you plan to watch movies and view photos routinely, the Samsung is the better tablet.

In comparing the exact same videos and photos on both devices, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime has a slightly dull and washed out look. The Apple iPad 2 looks marginally better than the Prime (they both use IPS displays) but not as vivid as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Clearly, Asus decided to make functionality a higher priority than superior colour reproduction.

The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime works better than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 in a variety of lighting conditions. There’s even a super-bright outdoor mode that makes the display easier to read.

There is much less glare on the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, which means the screen works better, for reading emails and books and for browsing the web.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Unlike some recent tablets, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime doesn’t use haptic feedback for the keyboard or for any parts of the touchscreen. Presumably this is a trade-off with the IPS screen tech that makes it easier to view the tablet from an angle or to view the screen in bright sunlight or by a lamp.

It didn’t hamper the experience of using the tablet, though some users might find that haptic feedback on other tablets gives you a tactile sense that the tablet has registered your finger press.

One surprise is that the screen uses an oleophobic fingerprint-resistant coating. Even more surprising is that it actually works. The chemical agent reduced grime and finger print build-up. We found that movie-watching was more enjoyable when there wasn’t a thin residue coating parts of the screen.

Usability

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Usability

The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime is one of the most user-friendly tablets we’ve tested, and matches up easily with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Apple iPad 2 in terms of portability, user interface and media playback.

Between the three tablets, the only major difference is that the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime is just a little wider and longer, even though the screens are all the same size. That’s not a negative pronouncement, and in fact means the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime is a bit easier to grasp for long web browsing sessions or for watching movies.

The original Asus Eee Pad Transformer felt bulky, overly thick and designed from a bygone age of Windows slates.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Asus skipped any dramatic interface enhancements and sticks to the basic Android 3.2.1 Honeycomb user interface. That means three buttons for navigating back, home, and to a pop-up app list on the lower left.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

The newly designed pop-up menu on the lower left (which shows a taskbar for time, app downloads and open apps) is a pleasant departure, though. You can quickly see the Wi-Fi network you are using, your battery level and access settings.

There are three icons you can use to set the power level – eco mode, balanced and performance. You can also enable screen rotation, check Wi-Fi level and enable Bluetooth connections. There’s an option for setting the brightness level, or using auto, and enabling the outdoor brightness.

Otherwise, this pop-up then shows notifications about recent downloads, schedule reminders and email alerts. You can also view Gmail chat messages here. In general, the new design for this pop-up works remarkably well for controlling basic functions on the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime. The pop-up is well-designed as well.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

One gripe, though, has to do with accessories. Sure, there is a lapdock included as a bundle for the UK version. However, the Apple iPad 2 offers many more choices for docking stations, covers, cases and even microphones you plug into the 30-pin connector.

The original Asus Eee Pad Transformer didn’t become iconic in the sense that hardware accessory companies started making add-on devices for it. The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime may catch on, but we doubt it will develop the widespread third-party support that the iPad 2 enjoys, or even come close.

The keyboard dock is helpful for a few purposes, though. For one, it adds another 8 hours to the total battery life (the dock itself can take a charge, and then charge the tablet.) The dock has a USB port and an SD port. Measuring 263 x 180.8 x 8 to 10.4mm, and weighing 537 grams, the dock is small enough to fit into a laptop bag, but is like carrying another tablet around all day.

And then there is the quality of the keyboard. If you’ve used a netbook before, you already know what this dock is like – typing speed suffers from the slightly cramped confines of the lapdock, but you get used to it after a while and it’s still easier than typing on the screen.

There are dedicated keys for changing brightness level, volume, and wireless, which makes it easier to control the tablet. When docked, you can use the mousepad or finger input on the tab. One helpful software change would have been to disable the mousepad when you type because the small size of the keyboard makes it easy to inadvertently brush the mousepad. In a pinch, the keyboard helps you type up longer docs but it in no way competes with a full notebook keyboard.

Battery life

For battery life, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime lasted about nine hours on a charge but of course with the extra 8 hours provided by the keyboard dock, that’s a battery span of 17 hours which is phenomenal.

Media

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Media

Our first experience with media files was a bit of a letdown. We download the movie Conanthrough the Android Market and were greeted by an error message. Asus said it must be a Google problem, but the same file and same Android version on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 worked fine.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Otherwise, all of our media tests were blazingly fast, smooth and played without any problems. One of the most impressive tests was for the Battleship trailer, which used a high frame rate, looked colourful and clear, and played in full 1080p resolution. Every video we tested played smooth and fast.

Music playback on the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime also worked reliably and sound quality was excellent.

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Like most tablets, the speaker on the Prime isn’t exactly state-of-the-art quality, and is only serviceable in a pinch when you absolutely can’t use headphones. Yes that is just the one speaker, instead of the two speakers we saw on the side of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

That said, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime is just a bit louder than both the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the Apple iPad 2 when we cranked up the volume, even if the sound quality wasn’t that great and sounded a bit distorted at times.

No tablet on the market has really exceptional sound, though, and the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime is in the same league.

We tested both H.264 movie files and those encoded as MPEG as they worked smoothly. This tablet does not support Quicktime, but the Tegra 3 does support H.264 1080p30/60i (HP @ 40Mbps), VC1-AP 1080p30, MPEG2 1080p30/60i, MPEG4 1080p/30, DivX 4/5/6 1080p30, XviD HT 1080p30, H.263 4CIF/30, Theora, and VP8 720p30.

Audio files like MP3 and AAC played without any problems. For audio, the Tegra 3 supports AAC-LC, AAC+, eAAC+, MP3, MP3 VBR, WAV/PCM, AMR-NB, AMR-WB, BSAC, MPEG-2 Audio, Vorbis, WMA 9, WMA, Lossless, WMA Pro, G.729a, G.711, QCELP, EVRC.

Camera

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Camera

Photos we took with the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime looked clear and colourful.

In a few cases, the colours weren’t as vivid as those taken with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, but they were always sharper than the somewhat blurry images we took with the Apple iPad 2. All three tablets were used for the same photo comparisons below.

Taken with the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime…

Asus eee pad transformer prime reviewSee full-res image

Taken with the Apple iPad 2

Asus eee pad transformer prime reviewSee full-res image

Taken with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1…

Asus eee pad transformer prime reviewSee full-res image

Asus doesn’t offer any extended features for taking photos on the Eee Pad Transformer Prime, but you can change basic settings such as white balance and choose from a few scene modes including Indoors or Night.

None of the settings really add to the value of the camera or compete with a more powerful smartphone or digital camera. Photos, like the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime’s screen, tended to look a bit washed out but still useable.

The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime has a much faster shutter release than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. However, the focus wasn’t always as reliable. The Samsung tablet tends to focus slowly, but the results are sharper Asus.

Asus eee pad transformer prime reviewSee full-res image

Asus eee pad transformer prime reviewSee full-res image

Asus eee pad transformer prime reviewSee full-res image

Asus eee pad transformer prime reviewSee full-res image

Asus eee pad transformer prime reviewSee full-res image

Asus eee pad transformer prime reviewSee full-res image

Asus eee pad transformer prime reviewSee full-res image

Asus eee pad transformer prime reviewSee full-res image

Asus eee pad transformer prime reviewSee full-res image

Asus eee pad transformer prime reviewSee full-res image

Video

YouTube : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n0bsHgWZQo4

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

One initial complaint when shooting video with the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime was that, when we recorded a 1080p video with the tablet, we noticed a few stuttering problems during recording. But playback of this file was smooth and didn’t have any stuttering.

Asus recommended we try again without any apps running in the background, and the test recording didn’t stutter at all when doing this, with smooth-as-butter playback.

Recorded videos also looked super-crisp, which is an important finding compared to the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, which tends to film grainy and almost unusable videos.

As it stands, no tablet is ideal for shooting photos or recording video, because you can’t hold the device in a way that makes it easy to capture stills or video – there is often a shaky-cam look no matter how you hold them. The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime is no different, although the somewhat more rigid design and wider bezel makes it a hair easier to grip.

In one case, while shooting a video, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime suddenly went in and out of focus sporadically, trying to focus on the subject. The problem never happened again, though.

Verdict

Asus eee pad transformer prime review

Is there any reason not to rush right out and get the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime when it starts shipping in January?

Not really. The Prime is an outstanding Android 3.2 tablet.

It is also the first tablet to use the Nvidia Tegra 3 processor for faster gaming, better movie playback, and long battery life.

The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime is light and thin, with a durable design that will withstand a few spills, and even a drop or two. The device uses an understated slim design with a metallic back cover that seems durable.

The included Asus first-party apps add to the value: they enable you to store files in the cloud, buy music and books, and stream content from a desktop or laptop computer on the same network.

The two major reasons we would avoid this model are relatively minor.

One is that the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 does have a brighter, more colourful screen. Games and movies tend to pop off the screen in a more vivid way than they do on the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime. This is a trade-off though, because the Prime is also easier to view in direct light or from a side angle.

The other reason to delay an impulse purchase has to do with apps. Asus does include quite a few compelling first-party apps, and they make the device more enticing.

That’s all well and good, but the Apple iPad 2 is still a better choice if you prefer quality apps that offer unique features. For example, many of the games on the iPad are superior to the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime in terms of gameplay options and variety.

We liked

More than any other spec, we liked the Tegra 3 processor on this tablet. It’s fast and nimble, pumping new life into apps we’ve used for the past nine months and speeding up the operating system overall. HD movies played smooth and fast, without the typical stuttering (for the most part) of other tablets.

The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime is one light and thin tablet. In fact, it’s the thinnest tablet available. Any thinner and we’d start wondering about durability.

Battery life was good, at about nine hours, and video playback lasts up to 12 hours.

Games were visually superior to every other tablet. Smoke and water effects looked convincing, and frame rates were exceptionally high. Most apps ran faster than we’ve seen on any other Android tablet, without any stuttering, memory pauses, or crashes of any kind.

The lapdock, which is included in a bundle for the UK and sold separately in the US, is a smart addition. It turns the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime into a notebook for typing longer documents in a pinch, and has a built-in mouse pad and USB port.

We disliked

We’re fans of the IPS display tech, because it means getting more use out of tablets in a variety of lighting conditions and at a side viewing angle, but the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime’s screen is still just slightly less colourful than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

To test this theory, we asked various people in the office to give us their first response to the same photo on both tablets, and everyone said they preferred the Samsung’s screen.

There’s also still a lingering question about apps compared to those available for the iPad 2. We just can’t get around the fact that the iPad has superior apps – one called Djay that works like a real DJ turntable, the Apple first-party apps such as GarageBand and Keynote, games such as Infinity Blade II that offer deeper gameplay and so on.

Asus can’t do too much about this problem, but if you want to have the best apps for a tablet, the iPad 2 is a better choice.

Of course, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime won’t attract nearly as many third-party hardware companies to make add-ons for the device, even if Asus does offer a handy lapdock accessory. That’s not a ding against the Transformer per se, but a praise for how popular the iPad has become.

Camera and video quality were good, but we ran into a few snags here and there. The resulting photos were usually sharp and focused, but not as colourful as those taken with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

Final verdict

There’s a nagging sense with the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime that holds us back from declaring a sweeping victory compared to the Apple iPad 2 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

Overall, when you consider the specs, we know the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime is the better tablet. For hardcore tech enthusiasts, this is the tablet you want, because it has the latest next-gen processor and supports true HD movie recording and playback.

For the masses, and just for the overall top spot in the tablet market, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime can’t compete with the iPad 2 for app selection and quality.

And we have to give the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 the nod for a superior screen. That’s hugely important: the screen is what you look at all day.

The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime is faster than any tablet, and matches the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the Apple iPad 2 for size and weight.

But we can’t quite declare the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime the winner overall. The iPad 2 still has that honour.

For Android tablets, we’ll say that the faster, lighter Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime ties with the excellent-screened Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

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HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea

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 HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea

Overview

The HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea comes at an interesting time for portable PC laptops. Traditional laptops have had a turbulent ride of late, with a number of threats appearing to erode their market.

The first threat – netbooks – has been seen off pretty comprehensively. The diminutive machines offered a smaller, lighter and cheaper alternative, but at the cost of power and features.

In the end netbooks failed to capture the public’s imagination, despite the efforts of some great products, such as the Toshiba NB520-10U.

Tablets, however – especially the Apple iPad 2 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 – haven’t had this problem, and have surpassed netbooks to become the laptop’s biggest threat. Sales have rocketed so that tablets have succeeded where netbooks failed. Offering slick interfaces, a huge selection of apps and usually attractive and portable designs, tablets are a force to be reckoned with.

Their Achilles’ heel at the moment is price. Top range tablets go for around £300-£400. You can get cheaper models, such as the Binatone HomeSurf 705 and ViewSonic ViewPad 7e, but they’re not very good.

HP pavilion dm1-4027ea review

A new front has now opened up from the high end of the laptop market, with Intel’s ultrabook format. These new laptops are incredibly thin, light and beautifully designed, as well as being powerful. The standout models of ultrabook is the Asus Zenbook UX31 and the Acer Aspire S3.

So where does this competition leave standard laptops in general, and the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea in particular? Does it do enough to stand out in an already crowded market, and does the audience for that market even exist any more? The HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea starts with a strong foundation, with Hewlett Packard remaining a trusted and respected manufacturer of laptops.

The HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea’s stablemate, the HP Pavilion dm1-3100sa, has impressed as an ultra-portable laptop that doesn’t make too many sacrifices when it comes to performance. But now the spotlight is firmly on the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea.

Specifications

HP pavilion dm1-4027ea review

The HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea is certainly a small laptop, with dimensions of just 29.2 x 21.5 x 3.2cm, and a weight of only 1.6kg. This makes it almost as small and portable as the much maligned netbooks but, crucially, it also has enough power to handle most tasks.

Packed onto the small chassis of the laptop are VGA, HDMI and Ethernet ports. There’s a combined headphone out/microphone in jack and three USB 2.0 ports. It’s a bit disappointing that there are none of the faster USB 3.0 ports included, since these are becoming increasingly common on new laptops.

To keep the computer small, there’s no optical drive for reading CDs or DVDs, so you’ll have to rip music and video to a USB stick to make the most out of this laptop’s media-playing capabilities.

HP pavilion dm1-4027ea review

HP bills the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea as an “Entertainment Notebook PC”. This conjures up expectations of a machine that’s capable of handling media with ease, and maybe even a few casual games. Where the HP Pavilion dm1-3100sa was let down with its handling of high-definition content, we expect the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea to have no such trouble.

On paper, things don’t look too bad. The HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea uses an AMD Radeon HD 6320M integrated graphics card. It comes with some automatic overclocking tools to give it a bit of a needed boost, and with DirectX11 support, it can handle low- to mid-range games.

Graphically demanding newer games are definitely a no-no, though. This is because while the AMD Radeon HD 6320M inside the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea can theoretically use up to 1.92GB of memory for graphics, it doesn’t actually have dedicated graphics memory, so it needs to share memory with the rest of the PC.

HP pavilion dm1-4027ea review

This means if you’re running a few graphic-intensive programs, along with other applications that need memory, the strain is going to show. The 11.6-inch screen has a resolution of 1366 x 768, which is fine for high-definition movies.

Although there’s a lack of dedicated graphics memory, HP has been very generous by including 4GB of DDR3 RAM with the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea. This is more than enough for most applications, and it’s nice to see that HP hasn’t hobbled the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea by cutting the RAM to 2GB to lower costs.

Processor-wise, the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea comes with a 1.65 GHz AMD Dual-Core E-450. This processor has been specially designed by AMD to work in laptops, with lower power consumption that leads to greater battery life and saves the components inside the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea’s small body from overheating.

While it’s no competition for the Intel Core i5 and i7 processors found in higher-end (and much more expensive) laptops, this dual core processor is meaty enough for a lot of tasks, and pleasingly powerful, considering the size of the laptop.

Performance

HP pavilion dm1-4027ea review

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

3D Mark: 2,602
Cinebench: 1,433
Battery eater: 2 hours 59 mins 26 seconds

As with many laptops around this price range, the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea’s performance really depends on what you’re using it for. Day-to-day computing on this laptop, such as writing on a word processor or browsing the web, is accomplished with little fuss, although there is a faint lag when starting up programs. We found that a bit of patience is required when selecting options or launching applications, with pauses of a few seconds sometimes.

Even with 4GB of RAM, multitasking can slow down quite a bit, especially if you’re browsing the internet while running a number of graphic-heavy programs at the same time, such as watching a movie or video editing.

The 320GB hard drive offers plenty of space but has a speed of just 5,400rpm (revolutions per minute). The faster a hard drive can spin, the faster the computer can open, move and edit files stored on the disk. With faster drives out there achieving 7,200rpm and even 10,000rpm, it does feel like the drive is a bit of a weak link.

The trade-off with a slower hard drive, however, is lower overall cost and a longer battery life.

HP pavilion dm1-4027ea review

Graphics performance was OK, but nothing spectacular, with a 3D Mark score of 2,602, which is on the low end even for laptops, and lower than the HP Pavilion dm1-3100sa‘s score. The Cinebench score of 1,433 using multiple cores was better, but still less than the HP Pavilion dm1-3100sa’s score of 1,985.

Despite the lacklustre benchmarks, our real world tests were more positive. Media playback itself was good, with no stuttering on standard-definition movie files.

The 11.6-inch screen displayed colours well and animations in particular looked great. The 1366 x 768 resolution actually benefitted full HD movies files, since the 1080p source was nicely downscaled to run on the smaller resolution, resulting in a sharp image. High-definition movies also play very well, with just a hint of screen tear, but no noticeable stuttering.

HP pavilion dm1-4027ea review

Much has been made of the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea’s sound capabilities, with the inclusion of Beats Audio technology, exclusive to HP laptops. The built-in speakers sound great – definitely the best we’ve heard in a laptop from this price range. Audio is clear, with plenty of depth and none of the tinny qualities that often plague laptop speakers.

Battery life was a pretty standard three hours of intensive computing. That’s not awful, but we’ve seen laptops – such as the Acer Timeline X – with much longer battery lives.

Verdict

HP pavilion dm1-4027ea review

The HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea is a strange beast of a laptop indeed. On the one hand it can feel rather lacklustre and underpowered when doing unexceptional tasks. Windows 7 Home Premium can feel sluggish at times, and with a number of windows left open on the desktop, things can get pretty slow.

In this regard, the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea can’t compete with a higher-end, more powerful laptop, or even a tablet that’s less powerful but has an operating system and apps that use the limited resources well enough to ensure a smooth user experience.

However, there’s no denying that when it comes to media playback – an important consideration due to HP’s labelling of the Pavilion dm1-4027ea as an entertainment-focused machine – this laptop actually performs very well. Movie content – both standard and high-definition – plays very well, and the built-in speakers provide audio that is well above average for a laptop.

The lack of an optical drive does limit its media playback options quite a bit, however, but if your media collection has gone fully digital, then this won’t be such a problem.

The small size and light weight is also a big factor, and this is certainly a more portable laptop than most.

If you’re after a light media-playing laptop then this is a good choice. For anything more demanding, look elsewhere.

We liked

Media playback is a big winner with the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea. A lovely screen coupled with enough graphical power to run movies smoothly (bar the odd screen tear) makes this laptop a pleasure to watch movies on.

The battery life will just about make it through an entire film.

Better still is the audio quality of the built-in speakers, which really does sound great, and saves you the extra expense of buying separate laptop speakers such as the Logitech Laptop Speaker Z305.

The small size of the laptop is also a boon, making it easy to carry around wherever you go, with a slim and attractive design.

Even with the smaller keyboard, typing is comfortable.

We disliked

Outside of media playback, performance is pretty mediocre, with relatively impressive stats on paper not making a great impact in use.

The biggest culprit here is the 4GB of DDR3 RAM, which should give the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea some punch, but actually still leaves the laptop struggling when there is too much going on at once.

Final verdict

If you want a light laptop for watching movies on, the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea does what you want it to do. However, if you want to use it to work on, editing digital photos or anything more strenuous, then you’re going to be disappointed.

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Review: Samsung Series 7 Chronos

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Review: Samsung Series 7 Chronos

Overview

Samsung wowed us with its ultra-thin, surprisingly powerful Series 9 laptop earlier this year, but the £1,000-plus price tag lifted it beyond the grasp of most common folk.

We’ve spent a week with the latest Samsung portable, the Series 7 Chronos (or Samsung Series 7 Chronos 700Z5A-S01, to give it its full catchy monicker), which isn’t quite as portable but certainly packs in the power – as well as a hefty price tag.

Although the rather curious name conjures up images of psychotic androids hell-bent on human extermination, the Chronos is a rather tame-looking beast.

Anyone expecting a super-slender chassis like the Series 9’s will be disappointed. The Chronos is still slender, at just 25mm, but the 2.4kg weight means it’s more of a chore to lug around than ultrabooks such as the Acer Aspire S3 and the Asus Zenbook.

The sleek silver lid is solid at the edges to keep the display from bending, and even the centre is surprisingly firm. Inside, the metallic motif continues. However, the palmrests are less sturdy than the lid, flexing under light pressure. It isn’t a major concern, but a pity considering the otherwise strong build quality.

We have to admit to being a little disappointed by the overall appearance of the Samsung Chronos. Perhaps our expectations were too high, but this laptop isn’t exactly a beauty compared to some of the new ultrabooks, or even the older Series 9.

Samsung series 7 chronos

Still, we were pleased to see the isolation-style ‘chiclet’ keyboard stretching the width of the interior, giving well-sized keys and enough room for a numeric keypad. Typing is a smooth experience, although the keys don’t travel far when hit.

The arrow keys are once again crushed into a single row, but we could find them without looking, thanks to their wide design.

The keyboard is also backlit, and a built-in light sensor ensures the subtle glow only turns on when the atmospheric lighting is poor, thus saving your battery life as well as your eyes.

However, it isn’t all good news. We noticed after typing for a while that the sharp edges of the chassis were cutting into our wrists.

Not hard enough to open up a vein, thankfully, but enough to leave a red mark. It isn’t so bad if you don’t slouch in your chair, but we found ourselves sinking further down as the working day progressed, putting our tender skin at risk.

We were also less than enamored with the Samsung Chronos’ touchpad. It’s spacious enough, taking up a generous chunk of the palmrest, but opts for annoying integrated mouse buttons.

You have to push the bottom corners to simulate left and right mouse button clicks, which quickly frustrates, since the cursor jerks each time. We gave up and started tapping the surface instead, which occasionally doesn’t register but is less annoying.

Specifications and performance

Samsung series 7 chronos

The Samsung Series 7 Chronos’ 15.6-inch display stretches almost to the edge of the lid, with only a slender bezel in place. It isn’t quite as sleek as the Dell XPS 14z‘s display, with its edge-to-edge glass, but the screen does appear larger than it actually is.

A sharp 1600 x 900 WXGA++ resolution keeps images crisp and clean, whether you’re browsing through embarrassing Facebook pictures or enjoying an HD movie. There’s no glossy coating, so you can use the Samsung Series 7 Chronos outside or in brightly-lit interiors without squinting through pesky glare.

Colours are still rich, and the screen is reasonably bright. However, the narrow viewing angles are less impressive.

If you need a machine to keep you entertained on the move, the Chronos’ spacious 750GB hard drive gives you plenty of space for your games, movies and music. A slot-loading DVD drive has also been packed into the slender chassis. If you’d rather use this laptop as a home entertainment machine, an HDMI port can be used to hook up televisions or monitors, and you have three USB ports for attaching peripherals, two of which are zippy USB 3.0 connections.

Samsung series 7 chronos

Samsung has joined a host of other manufacturers in the challenge to create the fastest booting laptop. The Windows desktop pings up just 20 seconds after hitting the power button, while the Samsung Series 7 Chronos also wakes up from hibernation in just two seconds. That gives you plenty more time to browse mucky Scandinavian websites.

Of course you get the usual range of trial software that has to be uninstalled, while Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11n Wi-Fi can be used to get online.

The Samsung Series 7 Chronos may be light on features, but it doesn’t skimp in the performance department. A mighty Intel Core i7 2675QM processor running at a standard speed of 2.2GHz is in charge, backed up by a generous 8GB of memory. This blasted through our benchmark testing, hammering every task we threw its way.

You can run any software imaginable, and should be able to for some time to come. If you want future-proofing, the Chronos lays it on thick.

Gamers and hardcore editors are also catered for, thanks to the AMD Radeon HD6750M graphics card. While the likes of the Alienware M18x provides twice the graphical power, you can still run some of the latest games on modest graphical settings, and older games run without issue.

Movie fans can enjoy the latest films in HD quality, with no stuttering or other issues. Video editing suites and other multimedia applications also run smoothly.

Despite all this power, we were highly impressed by the Samsung Series 7 Chronos’ excellent battery life. We put our laptops through a tough test, playing HD video on loop with performance settings turned to max, until the battery is drained. Most laptops last a mere three hours before dying, but the Chronos powered through four hours of video before the screen faded to black.

Cinebench 10: 16828
3D Mark ’06: 10049
Battery Eater ’05: 239 mins

Verdict

Samsung series 7 chronos

The Samsung Series 7 Chronos may not be quite as thin as some of the emerging ultrabooks, or the glorious Series 9 that hit stores earlier this year, but can it stand out from the crowd with killer performance instead?

We liked

The latest Intel Core i7 Sandy Bridge processor crushes anything you throw at it, and will do for some time to come. You also have a powerful GPU that can handle the latest games (albeit with some graphical compromises) and multimedia software.

The screen is sharp and vibrant – a great way to enjoy the latest HD movies. The lack of a glossy finish means there are no annoying reflections when working out of doors, while a 750GB hard drive gives you plenty of room for your media. You also have a slot-loading DVD drive.

We were also impressed by the solid build, while the backlit isolation-style keyboard is spacious and well constructed. And although the Samsung Series 7 Chronos isn’t the slimmest or lightest laptop around, its excellent battery life will see you through a full day of office use.

We disliked

Although we like the keyboard, there are some usability issues. The sharp edge of the palmrest cuts into your wrists at times, and the touchpad opts for annoying integrated mouse buttons, which knock the cursor out of position when pushed.

The Samsung Series 7 Chronos also lacks that certain something to get us excited. It doesn’t have the sexy, curved chassis of the Series 9, or the ridiculously slender build of some of the new ultrabooks.

Final verdict

If you need a portable machine to entertain you on the move, which won’t be out of date any time soon, the Samsung Series 7 Chronos is well worth considering. Just don’t expect great beauty.

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Review: Acer Aspire 5742Z

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Review: Acer Aspire 5742Z

Acer is one of the most prolific manufacturers we know, producing everything from huge multimedia powerhouses such as the Aspire Ethos 8951G to stripped-down budget models. The Aspire 5742Z is one of the latter, and another strong entry-level contender.

At this price range, you won’t be getting the latest technology and performance will be limited. However, the 5742Z features an Intel Pentium P6200 processor backed up by a staggering 6GB of memory, much more than we usually see at this price. Only the MSI CR620 and Asus K52F performed better in our tests.

We managed to write this review, stream music over the internet and back up our files all at once, with no slowdown at all. Applications started up quickly and ran smoothly.

However, you only get basic integrated graphics to keep the price low. This means that you’re limited in what you can do with your media. Browsing your photo collection and touching up images with basic editing tools are perfectly possible, and we were impressed that high-definition movies played smoothly. However, don’t expect to be able to edit videos or play anything but basic or elderly games.

Optical drive

Acer aspire 5742z review

You can watch DVDs thanks to the built-in optical drive, although the 5742z’s speakers are far too quiet for enjoying music or movies. We recommend you attach an external pair.

Thankfully, the 15.6-inch screen is fine for enjoying films, with sharp contrast and rich colours. If you want to work on a larger display, VGA and HDMI ports can be used to hook up an external television or monitor.

Of course, you probably want a laptop for work as well as play, right? The Acer is a great option in this respect too, thanks to the firmly constructed keyboard which stretches the full width of the interior. Some may find the perfectly flat keys a little awkward at first if they’re used to bevelled keys, which feature slanted edges.

However, the keys are well sized, with the exception of the arrow keys which are flattened into a single row. You also have a separate numeric keypad to the right. The rest of the laptop is well constructed, although the palmrests do flex when you push on them.

The lid is solid enough to protect the screen against any knocks. We weren’t huge fans of the plain black design, but it doesn’t look particularly bad. The 5742Z simply won’t be winning any beauty awards.

At 2.3kg, it’s a lightweight laptop and would suit the regular commuter. The slim 35mm body slips easily into a bag or rucksack big enough to hold a 15.6-inch laptop, but make sure you pack the charger too.

The battery died before we finished a two-hour film and only lasts half an hour longer if you limit your use to basic office software.

TechRadar Labs

Tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 113 minutes
Cinebench: 5661
3DMark 2006: 1703

Still, at least you can carry your entire media collection if you take to the road, thanks to the generous 640GB hard drive. This is the largest amount of storage offered by any laptop here, and something we would expect from more expensive mid-range models.

The Aspire 5742Z offers strong value for money, although the poor battery life is a shame. If you want a highly portable laptop, the Lenovo IdeaPad S205 may be more suitable.

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Review: Acer Aspire Ethos 8951G

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These days we’re seeing a lot more slim and light ultraportable laptops. Rising up against these size zero models is the Acer Aspire Ethos 8951G.

Like the Dell XPS 15z and the Macbook Pro 17 inch, this is all about packing in huge amounts of power, and who cares if it’s on the chunky side. After all, as our mothers told us: it’s not the outside, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

As with the previous Ethos models, the Acer Aspire Ethos 8951G is an entertainment centre that’s designed to sit on your desk at home.

Crushing the scales at 4.2kg, you wouldn’t want to carry this laptop any further than the next room, to avoid popping a couple of vertebrae.

That said, we were impressed at how thin the Ethos is. Sure, 40mm can’t really be described as ‘thin’, when you consider that the Samsung 9000 series measures just a smidgen over 10mm. But considering the girth of this machine, it’s comparatively slender.

We also liked the smart design, which follows the XPS 15z’s mantra of ‘keep it simple’. The dark chassis has a brushed metal finish that spreads everywhere except the palmrests, and it looks as solid as it feels.

We didn’t find any hint of flex no matter how hard we poked and prodded, which is to be expected at this price point.

One of the most interesting new features of the Ethos 8951G is the detachable touchpad. In previous models, the touchpad converted to a media control panel at the press of a button.

This laptop has the same gimmick. One push of the corner gives you fast access to the Clear-Fi application, which is a media hub for enjoying your photos, films and music. Another press brings up the play, skip, pause and volume controls, and a third press returns the touchpad to normal.

On the previous models this was nice, but of limited use as you had to be sat in front of the Ethos to use it. However, the Ethos 8951G lets you remove the entire touchpad by flicking a switch, so you can use it from across the room to control your media.

It’s a smart idea that works well. Even when we positioned ourselves across the other side of the office, the laptop still responded perfectly to the infrared remote.

Of course, it isn’t a perfect solution. You’re limited to the basic pause/play/skip and volume controls, and if you wish to go full-screen or fiddle with other settings, you need to change back to touchpad mode and fiddle around.

While the touchpad works fairly well as a remote, it works rather less well as a touchpad. For some reason, the responsiveness is all over the place, with sensitivity levels dying as you slide your finger towards the edges.

In fact, swiping the right edge did nothing at all. We’d actually recommend using a USB mouse with this laptop, to avoid frustration.

Thankfully the keyboard is typically great for an Acer laptop. As usual, an isolation-style design has been used, with each key poking up through an individual hole cut in the Ethos 8951G’s chassis.

It’s a well laid out board and a great size for touch typing, despite the tiny left Shift key.

The arrow keys are sadly squashed beneath the right Shift key, which seems unnecessary considering the room Acer had to play with. Still, you do get a separate numeric pad, which is useful if you’re a spreadsheet junkie.

Acer aspire ethos 8951g

Since the Acer Aspire Ethos 8951G is a multimedia machine at heart, we were keen to test out the huge 18.4-inch screen by kicking back with a sack of Blu-rays and a vat of popcorn.

That’s right, we said Blu-rays, not crummy old DVDs. Acer has included Sony’s HD technology so you can enjoy films the way they’re meant to be seen, with ultra-crisp visuals.

Of course, you can still play DVDs on the drive, so you don’t need to part with your collection just yet.

The Ethos 8951G’s display features a sharp 1920 x 1080 WUXGA resolution, making it perfect for taking in Full HD 1080p movies and shows.

HD films really do look amazing on this machine. Contrast levels are excellent, blacks actually look black, as opposed to grey, and colours are rich and vibrant.

Viewing angles aren’t too bad either, so you can happily enjoy a movie with your family, spread out on the sofa. You don’t even have to get up thanks to the detachable touchpad/remote control.

A good chunk of space above the keyboard is dedicated to the built-in speakers. Although laptop speakers are usually as powerful as a gnat’s fart, we were expecting great things from the Ethos 8951G. Those expectations were sadly dashed on the rocky plateau of disappointment.

The sound quality is fine, but there’s a serious lack of power. Even on top volume, we were straining to hear over ambient office noise.

This is especially disappointing considering how powerful the Dell XPS 15z’s speakers were. If you want to truly enjoy a movie or some bass-heavy music, you’ll definitely want to attach some USB speakers.

Those with enormous media collections are well catered for by the 1.5TB hard drive, which provides enough space for hundreds of thousands of songs and photos, and hundreds of HD movies.

If you need even more space or simply wish to back up your collection, you can attach an external drive using the eSATA port, or slip a memory card into the multi-card reader.

You also get four USB ports, one of which is USB 3.0, in addition to VGA and HDMI connections for hooking up external monitors or televisions. Acer has even included mini-Firewire, which we rarely see on laptops these days.

Rounding off the features is the almost-obligatory fingerprint scanner, which provides a satisfactory alternative to remembering ridiculously complex passwords.

Acer aspire ethos 8951g

When we saw the specs list for the Acer Aspire Ethos 8951G, we certainly weren’t disappointed. Acer has stuffed in one of Intel’s latest Sandy Bridge processors, the Core i7 2630QM, which runs at 2GHz.

Backed up by a mammoth 8GB of RAM, it was obvious that the Ethos would destroy our benchmarking tests.

And destroy it did. We didn’t think the Dell XPS 15z‘s CineBench score of 11,474 would be beaten any time soon, but the Ethos 8951G topped it with a score of 12,633.

The Intel CPU’s eight cores are perfect for multi-tasking, while software loads up almost instantly. No matter what we were doing, this laptop provided a smooth, fast experience.

Since the Ethos 8951G was built for enjoying media, Acer has included a dedicated nVidia GeForce GT 555M graphics card.

Most modern games that we tried ran fine, although we had to turn down detail levels on more demanding titles. HD films ran smoothly as expected, as well as video editing software.

The dedicated graphics make full use of nVidia’s Optimus technology, powering down when you’re doing basic tasks such as bashing out an email.

In these cases the basic integrated graphics on the motherboard take over, to save power. As a result, the Ethos 8951G’s battery lasts for a full three hours when you aren’t playing games, and even longer if you turn down brightness levels and performance settings.

This was much longer than we expected considering the high specs and huge screen. Okay, so the battery life isn’t really a significant factor considering the size of this machine, but at least you won’t have to drag the charger as well as the laptop when you shift to another room.

Benchmarks

CineBench: 12633

3DMark 06: 9989

Battery Eater: 185 mins

Acer aspire ethos 8951g

Acer’s Ethos range are built for entertainment, and aimed squarely at those who want a smart and powerful portable for enjoying their games and media collection. We’re big fans of previous Ethos models, so gleefully put the Aspire Ethos 8951G through its paces.

We liked

Featuring one of Intel’s most powerful Intel Core i7 mobile processors and a mighty 8GB of memory, the Ethos 8951G is a better performer that ten Ron Jeremys. You’re fully future-proofed and can multi-task to your heart’s content.

You’ll have no trouble running the latest games (although some detail fiddling is required on the most demanding titles), which look fantastic on the bright and vibrant 18.4-inch screen. The Full HD 1080p resolution means both games and Blu-ray films are presented at their best.

And now you can enjoy movies from the comfort of your sofa, thanks to the detachable touchpad which doubles as a remote. It’s a cool gimmick, although not entirely perfect.

Finally, the generous 1.5TB hard drive means you won’t have to constantly remove old films and games to add new ones.

We disliked

As with previous Ethos models, this bad boy is best left at home. The 4.2kg weight will break your back if you attempt to lug it around on a regular basis, and it isn’t the easiest to slip into a bag or rucksack. We were impressed by the three-hour battery life though.

The Ethos 8951G has few flaws, but we were disappointed by the rubbish touchpad. It works fairly well as a remote control, but not so well as a device for moving the mouse cursor around. We’d have also preferred more powerful built-in speakers.

Verdict

As a home entertainment machine, the Acer Aspire Ethos 8951G does almost everything right. Attach a mouse and some decent speakers and you’re set.

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