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: Toshiba Satellite L730

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This 13.3-inch entertainment laptop is perfect for staving off boredom on the move. The Satellite L730-10G lacks graphical punch, but the compact display is a highlight, while the lightweight body and decent battery life ensure you’ll be entertained wherever you roam.

Despite its smaller screen, the Satellite L730-10G still features a 1366 x 768-pixel resolution. The result is a much sharper picture, so images look crisp and clean. It’s also a bright and vibrant panel, making this one of the best displays for movie watching.

We enjoyed simply browsing our photo collection and watching films, although the integrated speakers are lacking in power. We recommend you invest in some decent headphones.

Most recent laptops use Intel’s latest Sandy Bridge processing technology, but this portable is powered by one of Intel’s older Core i3 processors. However, the difference in our benchmarking tests was minimal. If you love to multitask, browsing the web at the same time as you watch a film and chat with friends using messenger applications, then the Samsung can handle it.

Even with a paltry 2GB of memory on board, we witnessed little slowdown while running several tasks at once.

Weak graphics

However, the integrated graphics are quite weak. This means that you can only run the most basic multimedia tasks such as viewing and editing photos, and watching high-definition (HD) films. If you want to mess around with your home movies or play games, you should look at the Acer Aspire 5750G and Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E520.

TechRadar Labs

Tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 173 minutes
Cinebench: 7632
3DMark 2006: 1502

The 320GB hard drive provides a standard amount of storage space to carry around your files and media collection. It can hold hundreds of standard-definition films or thousands of albums and photos.

However, some other laptops offer double the space for a similar amount of you hard earned cash. If you need a laptop for the whole family, a larger hard drive is recommended. However, if you need a mobile machine for carrying around all day, the Satellite is a great solution.

With a weight of just 1.9kg, it is technically classed as an ultraportable laptop. Not only is it the lightest machine here, the battery life is also commendable. We watched movies for almost three hours before the laptop shut itself down, and limiting yourself to more basic entertainment such as browsing the web gives you many hours of life.You certainly won’t need to lug the charger around on the daily commute.

Toshiba l730

The more compact body means that features are a little stingy compared to some of the other laptops here. If you want to hook up a television, you’ll have to make do with a VGA connection, as there’s no HDMI port.

There’s also no memory card reader. However, one of the three USB ports supports sleep-and-charge technology, which means you can charge your mobile devices such as MP3 players even when the laptop is in hibernation.

You also get built-in hard drive protection, which pauses the drive if vibrations are detected. This reduces the risk of hard drive failure, which could result in lost files.

While the Toshiba may lack graphical power and lots of storage, it’s still a good entertainment machine for regular travellers. The sharp and colourful screen is a good way of enjoying movies, while the reduced weight and decent battery life make it an excellent travel companion.

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Review: Logitech Tablet Keyboard for iPad

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There’s no shortage of reasons to be writing on Apple’s iPad: emails, memos, office suites with word processors and spreadsheets, angry internet comments…

Apple’s tablet can do it all, but a lot of people aren’t so keen on the on-screen keyboard. This is partly why Apple included Bluetooth keyboard integration into the iPad, and why other tablet makers, including Asus with the Eee Pad Transformer and Lenovo with its U1 Hybrid saw fit to create tablet-cum-laptop devices.

The Logitech Tablet Keyboard for iPad is probably the best iPad keyboard we’ve seen, though. It’s a standalone Bluetooth keyboard that’s been customised with iOS control keys, and a case for the keyboard that doubles as an iPad stand.

logitech tablet keyboardSee full-res image

The extra functions added to the keyboard are a Home button key, a lock/unlock key to wake the iPad, media controls, a key to bring up the on-screen keyboard if you so wish, and even a key to put the iPad into Photo Viewer mode. There’s also a Search key, which takes you to the Spotlight screen (although you can’t use Spotlight with key commands alone, which is a bit of a shame).

The keyboard is right up there with the best we’ve used. The keys aren’t too small, but the unit is still compact. Pressing keys has a nice responsiveness to it – they aren’t too resistive or too soft.

The keyboard is powered by AAA batteries, which lasted plenty during our testing. There’s a battery indicator light on the keyboard, though, so you’ll know when it’s getting low.

Now, even if this were just a keyboard, we’d be totally recommending it for iPad owners. But it’s also got the case.

logitech tablet keyboard

The slip case for the keyboard doubles as a stand for the iPad, opening up once you’ve removed the keyboard to reveal a panel that fits across the bottom to hold it in a triangle.

logitech tablet keyboard

The iPad then sits in a little holder, which is on a slider, so you can adjust the angle of the iPad so it’s at a comfortable viewing angle. The case feels really well-made (as does the keyboard), and is what puts this setup over the top, since it’s not even that expensive in the grand scheme of things.

iPad owner? Want a keyboard? Get this one.

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