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A few months ago my old laptop was definitely beginning to show the tell tale signs that it was on it's way out. With this in mind I set about looking around for a new laptop with a decent enough spec for what I needed, and in my price limits. I guess I would class myself as a general home/student user, thus I shall review this laptop from that perspective and not claim to understand all the technical jargon.
To set the scene, I wanted a laptop that would run multiple programmes with ease. I use Microsoft Office a lot, often using multiple pages on the Internet and some sort of music player (windows media player or Spotify) and am normally logged in to MSN instant messenger. My old laptop just about coped with doing that, but was a bit of a struggle for the old guy and it seemed to 'hesitate' when wanting to switch between windows/programmes I had open, etc. This Acer laptop has an Intel Core i3 processor and 3GB RAM. This is more than adequate for my usage, and I find it copes with my demands extremely easily. I can multi-task with my programmes and flick between windows with ease.
There is a 320 GB HDD. I think this is more than adequate for a general user, I'm barely using any of the hard drive space with my documents and photos.
This laptop has a DVD Super Multi DL drive which I'm told means it can read all sorts of formats, including the normal DVDs/CDs that you would expect it to. I've often played a DVD movie on this laptop and it plays just fine with no problems at all. The 15.6 (HD LED LCD) screen is wonderfully clear, and the laptop boasts Intel HD graphics - and in my opinion watching a DVD on this laptop is just as good as watching one using the TV (just a tad smaller seeing as we have a big TV, :-P ).
The battery life on this laptop is also pretty decent for a laptop in this price range. To give you some sort of idea the other night I was using the battery as my power source for approximately 3 hours. When I shut down the laptop it still had approximately half an hour of battery time remaining. For those 3 hours I was browsing the internet, with several tabs open in my internet browser (including things like You Tube, so video), and talking to a few people on MSN. I've also watched DVDs whilst being powered by battery and have found it to still have power after the length of an average film. I have the laptop set up to be 'balanced' whilst being powered by battery, but there is also the option to save even more power by dropping this down to 'power saver' mode. I know there are other laptops out there with longer battery lives, but I find the battery in this laptop to be fine for my usage.
A few other things to mention about this laptop...
It pretty much goes without saying these days that this laptop has WiFi built in. I've never had any problems with the WiFi, it works - good enough for my non technical mind.
The laptop came with Windows 7 home premium pre-installed, but unfortunately without Microsoft Office. Fortunately for me I already owned a copy of Office so installed this myself.
There is a built in card reader, 3 USB ports and a HDMI port. I've not used the HDMI port so can't really comment but I'm sure it's a useful thing to have, means I could connect the laptop to the TV if I should so wish. I enjoy the flexibility of having 3 USB ports - more than some other laptops, and the card reader is a useful addition for when I've transferred photos from the card in my camera over to the laptop. The laptop also boasts a built in microphone and 1.3 megapixel webcam. I find this webcam to be pretty good in most lights. It doesn't like it being toooo dark, but in general I would say it's pretty good. Seems to give a good enough picture when I'm sat in the living room with just the energy saving light bulb on in the lamp on next to me. A definite plus point for me as I often have video chats over MSN with my cousin as we live a distance apart.
I am not a big gamer, so I can't really comment on how this laptop would cope with any of the latest games out there. The only game I really play is The Sims 3, which this laptop runs fine.
The only downside I can mention from my perspective is the speakers are a bit tinny if the volume is up to loud when playing music. Seeing as I never really feel the need to have the volume up full this doesn't bother me all that much.
I paid £399 for this laptop, but at the time I bought it it was on offer in PC World.
*** Edit - Sept 2012 ***
So, it's now approximately 20 months after I bought this laptop, and it is still going strong! I have had no real issues with it at all in this time, other than occasionally overheating which I have combated by getting a cooling stand (see my exibel cooling fan review for information on that). I fully appreciate that I may have helped create this overheating problem myself by using the laptop on the duvet, etc. But yes, in general, this laptop is doing everything that I need it too, including coping with an increased workload due to me starting my teacher training course at uni. For the money that I paid I feel as though I got a decent laptop. This is still an ace acer!
I needed a laptop after moving to a small house with no room for an office. I hit the Christmas sales and I had a small budget but needed it to go a very long way. The laptop needs to be my photo album, family travel DVD player, radio, home computer for me (I have an ebay business), a game console for the kids, and a spare TV to boot.
I asked my tame computer expert for advice. He recommended this one straight off as it really does manage to do everything I need it for.
I chose to buy it from John Lewis just because its a trusted retailer and provides a 2 yr extended warranty. It was a bit cheaper in some online stores but when parting with £430 I get nervous of online retailers.
I won't pretend to know much about computers but here goes with my thoughts:
I can skype with ease
The speakers are good enough for my needs
There is a proper full size keyboard
It has lots of memory space and it is very sprightly in terms of processing speed
In one neat package I now have a DVD player/recorder, spare TV, radio, games console
It has windows 7 and starter version of word, excel etc
The screen image is really good
My computer expert tells me the i3-370m processor is best
It has relatively good battery life compared to many other comparable machines (6 cell battery)
Its pretty ugly given how other manufacturers manage to create such lovely gloss, colourful shells
It shows up fingerprints on the shell
Its a bit heavier than I'd like but then I have arthritis so am not as strong as most
I'm really happy with it overall - downsides are really just cosmetic
I recently purchased the acer aspire i3 and absolutely love it. It is so much of an improvement on my old laptop I can't believe I waited so long to upgrade.
Also, windows 7 is far FAR superior to windows Vista. I had heard people complain about Vista but until I used windows 7 for myself I didn't understand their problems.
The build quality of the laptop is nice (if a little plasticy) and the non-gloss finish is a welcome change from the finger print traps which most laptops are.
It has all the features you would expect from a mid-range laptop including webcam, HDMI output, 3x USB slots but the inbuilt speaker is a little disappointing. The keyboard is a really nice touch, the keys are all separate making typing quickly a dream and a dedicated number pad makes entering numbers easy, very useful if you use Excel often.
Overall, a great laptop at a very reasonable price.
I have had this laptop for a week now after I bought it in the post Christmas sales. I needed a basic, fairly cheap laptop but also wanted one which was relatively fast, up to date and could be connected to my TV through using an HDMI cable. For these reasons I feel that the Acer Aspire 5742 i3 does the job for me. On first inspection it is not the most aesthetically pleasing laptop for example it does not have a shiny exterior and when I bought it they didn't have it in any other colours, however it is very light and easy to transport. Another thing which is a little annoying is the sound which is tinny and not loud enough, however I have been using earphones or connecting it to my TV so isn't too much of a problem for me. Furthermore, for me the laptop's widescreen took some getting used to and means that on some websites the content can get cut off. Finally, the battery lasts around 2.5 hours which was much the same as my last laptop and hasn't been a problem for me so far.
All that being said I have struggled to find a laptop for a similar price to what I paid (£399) that has the new intel core i3 (2.4GHz) and 4GB memory and for that reason I can recommend this laptop for basic computing.