Toshiba Satellite Pro C660-1UX

Share Button

 Toshiba Satellite Pro C660-1UX

Toshiba’s Satellite Pro range is designed for business use, but solid build quality, strong usability and decent specifications make the C660-1UX suitable for home use.

Its sturdy plastic chassis has all the resilience you’d expect from a business machine. The textured, matt finish feels great and protects well against scuffs and scratches. Build quality is impressive throughout, with no flex in evidence on any of the panels. Even the thick screen is well put together and sure to withstand frequent family use.

The keyboard is fixed well to the chassis and there’s almost no sign of flex when typing. The keys respond accurately, although a long range of motion can cause occasional errors when typing at speed. However, by striking the keys firmly, it’s easy to avoid such problems.

The touchpad is small and narrow, making it awkward to navigate onscreen at times. It is far wider than it is deep, so it takes a few swipes to get from one side of the screen to the other. In contrast, the mouse buttons are huge but are recessed too far, so they too can be awkward to operate.

At 2.5kg this is not a laptop built for travel use, but it is light enough to be carried occasionally without too much discomfort. While the 159-minute battery life is average, it betters the Advent, Lenovo and Samsung in this group.

Sharp display

The most striking feature is the vivid 15.6-inch screen. The 1,366 x 768-pixel resolution means you can enjoy high-definition 720p content and the display is bright, sharp and vibrant.

Photos and videos look great and the Super-TFT coating is one of the least reflective we’ve seen. The Toshiba lacks an HDMI output, though, so you can’t connect to your TV. An analogue VGA – or D-Sub – port is fitted, for connecting older PC monitors and projectors, but the lack of HD connectivity is surprising for such a new laptop.

Performance is equally disappointing. The Intel Celeron 925 processor is vastly outperformed by the Core i5 and i7 chips of the Acer Aspire 5943G, Alienware M11x and Lenovo B570. Even the Celeron-powered Samsung doubles the power on offer here, making the Toshiba only suitable for basic use.

Graphics fare even worse and the integrated Intel graphics card struggles with the simplest tasks. All its rivals at least double the power on offer and, in some cases, provide almost twelve times the performance of the Toshiba, so consider your needs carefully.

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 159 minutes
Cinebench: 2544
3DMark 2006: 703

Toshiba build

Storage is also disappointing. While the 250GB hard drive is average for this price, most rivals in this group better it. The Lenovo, for example, provides three times the storage. The DVD rewriter and five-in-one card reader compensate somewhat, letting you back-up files to DVD, CD and multimedia cards to save space on the hard drive.

The Toshiba continues to fall short when assessing its other features. The two USB ports limit the amount of peripherals you can connect; there is no Bluetooth for wirelessly sharing files; you only get 2GB of memory as standard and even the fixed Ethernet connectivity uses the older and slower 10/100 standard.

If you’re looking for a tough, usable laptop with a great screen, the Satellite Pro C660-1UX is a good choice. With such high-quality rivals, though, its limited power and features are far too pronounced. The similarly priced Samsung 200B5A provides better value for money, making the Toshiba hard to recommend.

Share Button

Advent Monza E1

Share Button

 Advent Monza E1

Advent’s Monza E1 is an eye-catching laptop aimed at first-time buyers. Despite offering a decent specification for the price, though, it is undermined by poor performance and flawed usability.

With its bright red lid and palm rest, the chassis looks great and the textured plastic finish and mock brushed-aluminium panels set it apart from the glut of plain black laptops on the market. The lid and main panels all feel firm and there are no noticeably weak points on the chassis.

At 2.5kg this is a laptop built for use at home, rather than on the move though. This was highlighted by the awful 107-minute battery life, meaning there’s not even enough power to watch a full movie.

That’s not to say that this is not a decent laptop for enjoying photos and videos, though. The 15.6-inch screen is sharp and bright and delivers gorgeous colour reproduction. Images pop from the screen and are rendered with stunning clarity, so as long as you’re plugged into a power point, this is a decent entry-level media machine.

Poor performance is the Advent’s Achilles heel. The dual-core AMD E-450 processor struggles with even the simplest tasks; applications run sluggishly and the laptop is brought to its knees by basic multitasking.

Graphics are equally poor and there’s little power on offer for media editing. The integrated AMD graphics card is fine for viewing photos or even watching high-def videos, but it shows its weaknesses as soon as you try to edit videos or run 3D games. If you’re after a powerful media laptop, there are far better machines available.

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 107 minutes
Cinebench: 2305
3DMark 2006: 2706

Noisy keyboard

advent monza e1 detail

When it comes to usability, the Advent is a mixed bag. While the wide isolated-style keyboard is suitably responsive and functions well, it is not very well fixed to the chassis and bounces a lot when typing. This makes it a noisy board to use and we quickly found the rattle of the keys both distracting and ultimately annoying.

The touchpad fares better and proves accurate and responsive to use. It’s not quite as large as we’d have liked, but it is fine for quickly navigating the screen. The mouse buttons are slightly less functional and you have to press at quite specific points for them to register, which can get a little frustrating when trying to work quickly.

Where the Advent really stands out is its fantastic storage. The 640GB hard drive offers a truly staggering amount of space for such an affordable laptop and is only bettered by the Lenovo B570.

The built-in DVD rewriter lets you save files to DVD and CD and create your own music, video and photo discs. A 4-in-1 media card reader is also in place for quickly sharing files from your digital camera and smartphone. Located at the front of the chassis, it is easy to access and supports the most common media card formats.

While the gorgeous screen, fantastic storage and eye-catching design make the Monza E1 a decent entry-level laptop for those on a budget, the poor performance, flawed usability and awful battery life are just too prominent to ignore. There are far better laptops you can buy at this price and so the Advent is very hard to recommend.

Share Button

Medion Erazer X6815

Share Button

 Medion Erazer X6815

Medion’s Erazer X6815 is a powerful and impressive all-round laptop with more than enough punch for your pound, thanks to the inclusion of Intel’s sophisticated second-generation Core i7 processor.

Gamers are the intended audience, which is obvious from the included GeForce GT 555M graphics card. Despite the powerful components, Medion has kept the price down to £699, and at this price it’s an absolute steal.

Unfortunately there are some build concessions. For a 15.6-inch laptop, the Erazer is quite the chubbster. At 2.7Kg and with a 37mm chassis, it’s heavy compared to other models of the same size, although it’s still compact enough to carry around without breaking your back in the process.

The glossy black design means it looks cool, but is a magnet for our fingerprints and dust. The glossy design stretches over the touchpad too, which sits with a slight indentation beneath the keyboard so your fingers can find it easily.

Sadly, the pad and keyboard have a cheap unreceptive clack and the individual keys are so loose in the chiclet array that we managed to get a couple caught underneath the casing. While typing is easy because the keys are isolated, we don’t hold out much hope for longevity before they break.

Excellent features

Fortunately, everything else is more than up to scratch. Four USB ports line the edges, with two at the super-fast 3.0 speed. VGA and HDMI connections fill out the right side, with nothing around the back and just a Blu-ray drive on the left. You also get a multi-format card reader, fingerprint scanner and a 1.3MP integrated web-cam.

Audio was solid thanks to the Dolby Home Theater v4 HD audio, provided by two speakers and a subwoofer for reproducing the sort of low-end rumble that underpins movie or games soundtracks. It’s not going to set the world on fire and disintegrated into a cacophony with the volume up, but was resolutely serviceable for film and music.

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 169 minutes
Cinebench: 16627
3DMark 2006: 10555

Medion did a great job by adding a Full HD 1080p screen. It was less glossy, hence less vibrant, than most and the viewing angles disappoint. However, for a single laptop user in lower lights it played back HD video well, and it’s hard to complain at this price point.

As well as Intel’s excellent CPU and Nvidia graphics, the Erazer has 4GB of memory and 500GB of storage. With a great set of specifications under the hood, we had no issues with multimedia playback or multi-tasking with several apps open.

Kudos to Medion for compiling such a great array of specs at a low price point. Hardcore gamers looking to play the latest titles on maximum detail should look elsewhere, but for gamers and power-seekers on a budget, this is a genuinely great buy.

Share Button

Review: Asus N73SV

Share Button

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.

Share Button

Review: Samsung RV520

Share Button

Review: Samsung RV520

Samsung RV520

The Samsung RV520 is a fantastic budget laptop with power and build quality that belies its meagre price tag. Anyone looking for something that can perform every day tasks with ease would do well to fork out for this portable.

As soon as you unbox the Samsung RV520, you get a feeling for the quality of the build. The silver and black lid is textured, and looks sleek and business-like, without being bland and boring. There’s little flex in the lid, and when you open it up, the smooth silver wrist rests and black isolated keyboard continue this quality look and feel.

Typing on the keyboard is comfortable, and the keys are well spaced, meaning that we were instantly able to start typing long documents without making regular mistakes. The track pad was smooth and precise, and while we’ve used better-quality mouse buttons, these are also well made.

Under the hood is a Sandy Bridge Intel Core i3 processor (clocked at 2.1GHz) that offers more than enough power for watching videos, playing rich web content such as web games, iPlayer and Flash web sites, as well as multitasking multiple applications. We’d recommend anyone to buy a Sandy Bridge machine and the Samsung RV520 shows that this doesn’t have to be expensive.

The reward is performance that will meet most home users’ expectations. In our lab tests of the processor and graphics, the results yielded exactly the performance we’d expect.

This laptop is faster than most budget machines and able to multi-task media, documents and web pages without problems. You won’t find much that will challenge the RV520, until you start editing pictures in Photoshop or editing your home movies, which would be slower than Intel Core i5-based machines.

Battery life was also strong, and the Samsung withstood our rigorous tests for 184 minutes, or around three hours. This is a good result, and if your day consists of just checking emails and surfing the web, you can expect it to last even longer.

Samsung has also included 6GB of RAM in the RV520, which, again, is significantly more than on most budget laptops, and means your applications will load faster, and your whole system will feel more responsive. We noticed fast resuming from sleep and quick loading of large applications, which is all down to that extra memory.

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 184 minutes
Cinebench: 7634
3DMark 2007: 4064

Storage has also been given a big boost in the RV520, and there’s a whopping 750GB hard drive with tons of room for movies, music, photos and more. This is a lot more storage than we’d expect to find on a laptop in this price band and is another reason why this Samsung offers great value for money.

On reflection The 15.6-inch screen is one of the most reflective panels that we’ve seen on a laptop, and using the RV520 in our bright office was almost impossible. If you’re a mobile worker, or have your laptop positioned near big windows, it would be advisable to think twice before purchasing.

The Samsung played HD movies without any problems, but it was here that the screen let the side down again. The problem is that, while the picture was clear and pin sharp, the colours were flat and devoid of vibrancy. While playing our HD videos was technically not a problem for the Samsung RV520, we wouldn’t recommend this as a laptop for movie lovers.

Interestingly, the Samsung was equipped with some built-in software, which recognised when a movie was being played and enhanced the display to ‘Movie Colour Mode.’ This didn’t help the problem, though and looks like an admission from Samsung that colour vibrancy is an issue on this model.

The Samsung weighs 2.7kg, which means it’s easily carried in a bag, but people who spend their life flitting from place to place will want something lighter, and the RV520 is definitely not ultra-portable.

The Samsung RV520 is a fantastic budget laptop that can handle home computing and business tasks with ease. The Sandy Bridge processor provides enough power to enjoy media, pictures and music and the keyboard and build quality are good enough to work comfortably on.

It’s not brilliant for movies, and anyone looking to get creative will come up short against the low-end Intel Core i3 processor, but for most consumers, this is a highly recommended purchase.

Share Button

Review: Asus U36J

Share Button

Review: Asus U36J

Asus’ attempt at an ultraportable laptop might not have made the same splash in the technology world as Apple, Sony or Dell, but the U36J has a couple of good features that make it a likeable alternative, and the perfect accompaniment to the daily commute or a weekend away.

Outwardly, the U36J is an unassuming, black rectangle. In fact, the chassis is similar to that of the Sony VAIO C Series. We don’t mind the matt-black executive look, but it will put off anyone who likes a bit more colour sitting on their desk.

The 13.3-inch screen is bright and crisp, although the thick black bezel and ugly protruding hinges are slightly distracting.

Fortunately, Asus has become quite adept at giving their laptops great usability and the U36J is no exception. The isolation-style keyboard is superb, with plenty of space between keys, meaning we rarely hit the wrong keys when touch-typing. Because this is such a slim laptop, the keys are tucked in close to the chassis and there’s little travel when typing.

The touchpad has the same smooth plastic surface as the palmrests and works well. Asus has included a fingerprint scanner between the mouse buttons.

Staying power

Performance-wise, the U36J gave us some impressive results that make its low price tag even more appealing. The Intel Core i5 M460 CPU delivers 2.53GHz of speed bolstered by the 4GB of memory.

This kind of spec is great for general performance, but the integrated GPU means no heavy gaming on this laptop. But you should be able to run some older titles and do light photo editing.

tech labs

TechRadar Labs

Battery Eater ’05: 226 minutes
Cinebench: 8611
3DMark 2006: 3516

In terms of software, the U36J comes pre-loaded with around 15 native Asus applications. Although there is no optical drive, there are three USB ports, one of which is the faster USB 3.0 connection. Both an HDMI and VGA port mean you can attach a second monitor or HDTV to the U36J and an Ethernet port means you don’t have to settle for the 802.11n Wi-Fi connection. There is also an SD/MS Card slot for expanding the memory.

Two of the biggest positives we drew from the U36J though are the battery life and the price. During our intensive tests, the Asus recorded a strong score of 226 minutes, but we think that with sensible everyday usage you should easily be able to get over four hours out of this laptop and probably more if you use the included battery management software.

We’d expect to pay around £800–£900 for this type of machine, seeing as the Sony C Series and MacBook Air are both nudging a thousand pounds. Instead, you can get it for only £700.

Overall then, while this is certainly not the best ultraportable you can buy, it is the best value for money. So if your cash is tight this month, we’d recommend giving the U36J the once over at your local computer store before buying something pricier.

Share Button

Review: Microsoft Wireless Optical Dekstop 700

Share Button

Review: Microsoft Wireless Optical Dekstop 700

Obscure Washington outfit Microsoft present us with this, the Wireless Optical Desktop 700.

It’s been fairly inconsistent in the design and quality of its peripherals lately, swinging from the sleek Arc Touch to the almost unusable Windows 7 Touch mouse.

Recommended at £30 but available for a shade over £20, the Wireless Optical Desktop 700 features a well-built keyboard running on AAA batteries and a slightly flimsy mouse running on AAs, each communicating with your PC or laptop via a wireless receiver.

Key feature

As far as this reviewer’s weary fingers are concerned, the best thing about this package is the weighting of the keys.

The mouse, however, is less satisfying underhand. It’s extremely light, which makes it a bit of a nightmare in a gaming scenario. Despite this and some flimsy buttons, the real problem is that it goes to sleep too soon if you haven’t moved it in a while.

We can forgive the Wireless 700’s unsuitability for gaming because that’s not what it’s designed for, but this has an impact on everyday desktop use. It’s an issue that plagues many wireless mice, particularly at the budget end.

The big problem here is the absence of any lights for caps, num and scroll locks. Okay, it’s £30, but no lights? It affects the most fundamental keyboard tasks, and is something that £10 keyboards get right.

It’s easy to get up and running wirelessly and while the mouse doesn’t feel great, we doubt either peripheral will fall apart any time soon.

However, you should only consider this keyboard and mouse if your needs necessitate a wireless setup, and your budget’s locked down to this price point. There are better wired bundles for the same price, and better wireless ones for a bit more.

Share Button

Review: Acer Aspire 5742Z

Share Button

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.

Share Button

Review: Asus Eee PC 1008P Karim Rashid

Share Button

Review: Asus Eee PC 1008P Karim Rashid

Nothing polarises opinion like a pink design, and the Asus Eee PC 1008P Karim Rashid is very, very pink.

At the risk of stereotyping, we’ll assume this design will find more traction on the female side of the market, but it’s great to see Asus reaching out beyond the technology industry to renowned designer Karim Rashid to spice things up a little.

The interesting design covers the lid with an uneven, undulating surface and overlays this with hundreds of tiny rectangles. Running your hand over it is akin to touching a bag made from alligator hide.

Lift the lid and you see that the pink outer design is complimented with solid black on the rest of the laptop – the exception being the single clickbar beneath the touchpad that is chrome silver. If pink isn’t your ideal choice, then don’t worry as the laptop also comes in a dark brown colour.

The keys use the isolation-style design, which looks nicer than a standard keyboard and also works better for typing. The extra space between the keys means there’s less chance of hitting the wrong key by accident.

The touchpad is also easy to use. It’s responsive and the textured surface feels better than any kind of regular smooth touchpad.

Conventional power

Asus eee pc 1008p karim rashid

Even though it looks great on the outside, the workings of the Eee PC are much the same as any conventional netbook. Power comes courtesy of an Intel Atom N450 processor and the 1GB of RAM is basic, even in the netbook market.

The benchmark tests we ran returned average results, although we would have liked to see a little more staying power from the battery.

TechRadar Labs

Tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 158 minutes
Cinebench: 565
3DMark 2006: 100

The 250GB hard drive is perfectly suitable for a netbook and, in fact, the Eee PC beats the Dell Adamo XPS when it comes to storage, even though it’s less than half the price.

Graphical performance on any netbook will be severely limited, as it is the first thing manufacturers cut back on to keep battery life up and weight down.

The Eee PC has a standard integrated Intel chip that is enough to keep a couple of browser windows open and play video at the same time, but don’t expect it to do much more than that.

When playing video, you will most likely want to invest in some external speakers. As expected on a portable machine, the built-in speakers lack punch and are on the tinny side.

The Eee PC does feature Asus’ Express Gate fast boot-up software, which is now being packaged with Asus’ newer models.

Outward connectivity is also par for the course, with two USB slots, an Ethernet slot and a space for a MicroSD card to boost the storage space. All the ports are covered to continue the unbroken alligator-skin design which runs over the base of the netbook as well as the lid.

Obviously, being a netbook means the Eee PC is exceptionally light and, as well as looking good, the outward design makes it easier to grip the device. Both of these features add to its portability and the Eee PC is perfect for slipping into a bag and takiing out an about with you.

We’re big fans of the Eee PC range. Asus was the first to market with the netbook format and it continues to produce some of the best machines.

The Eee PC 1018P would be a better choice if you value power and features on your netbook but, in terms of style, the Karim Rashid Eee PC is the most striking we’ve seen.

Share Button

Review: Acer Aspire Ethos 8951G

Share Button

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.

Related Links

  • TechRadar’s Reviews Guarantee
  • Read more laptop reviews
Share Button