Product Type: Acer laptops
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A Laptop To Aspire To
Acer Aspire 5742
Member Name: cazkins
Acer Aspire 5742
Advantages: Great spec for sub £400, looks good, feels sturdy, seems reliable and speedy, easy to use
Disadvantages: None for me as of yet
The first thing I noticed when searching for a laptop was the huge range of choice, and the small variations between even the same brands of laptops that all look the same. It got very confusing, choosing between specs and brands and appearances. I wanted something with a good capacity, something under £450, that was able to keep up with my usage because I'm on it a lot. Although I wasn't too familiar with Acer, having never used one before, I hadn't heard too much either way in terms of reviews for the brand. I found that, as with all laptops and brand name associations, opinions were divided. It felt like guess work by the end of it, but when comparing the spec of this laptop to, for instance, a Dell, you seem to get far more for your money whilst it also seems to be reliable and efficient.
I bought this from Tesco Direct on sale at £399.99, which was reduced from £549. After much searching and price comparison, this looked like a good deal, especially when considering the processor and capacity of the hard drive and memory.
In terms of the specifics, this laptop looks pretty impressive for its price range. The main important features include:
* An Intel Core i3-370m processor (which is one of the newer Sandybridge ones, since improved upon by the i5, though I'm not entirely sure of the difference or if it's really noticeable)
* Windows 7 Home Premium
* A 15.6" HD LED LCD screen
* 6 cell Li-ion battery, which is fairly standard (providing up to 3.5hrs life)
* 4 GB Memory (DDR3)
* Decently sized keyboard with number pad to the right, along with the usual touchpad underneath
* Shared HD Graphics (which could be better, but for the average user, or advanced but without gaming really, it's probably never going to be noticeable)
* A huge 750GB hard drive for storage capacity
* And of course the things you pretty much come to expect, such as an integrated webcam, WiFi (802.11n), DVD re-writer, USB ports (x3), HDMI output ( so you can connect, for example, to your TV screen)
Upon opening this, the first thing I noticed was its outer appearance. I'm not usually over the top fussy about appearances, but I figured that as I was spending money replacing something that I didn't expect to have to just yet that, given the choice, I'd opt for something pretty and a little different. The 5742 came in black or red, so I thought I'd be a little daring and go for red. What I didn't realise from the photo was that it wasn't a shiny or glossy texture; the surface of the lid is patterned and the red looks more of a burnt auburn, though it varies in the light. I'm only pointing this out because it wasn't what I had expected, so I was a little disappointed at first. None the less, having used it for a few months now I've come to really like it; it doesn't stand out as being tacky or plastic-y in a way that a shiny laptop might possibly do, so it's neat yet still a little different to the average silver or black options. For the green conscious, though, the material is apparently environmentally sustainable, which is always a plus.
Okay, so that's the shallow stuff out of the way. How easily does this set up? I was pleasantly surprised because it really is self-explanatory and quite a pre-prepared installation system that gets going after a few okays by the owner. I was right in thinking that there wouldn't be any problems with the set up but I was pleasantly surprised at how quick the process was, so it wasn't long before I could get things configured the way I wanted them.
I have a broadband connection at home and remember a few issues with setting it up on my last laptop because it didn't want to recognise it. Fortunately, there was no problemo setting up my home Wi-Fi connection; it was almost automatic, smooth and very easy. Same goes for other wi-fi connections when I've taken my laptop elsewhere, so I'm happy with that.
Platform usability is personal preference, but I'm not really a big fan of Windows 7. I can't even put my finger on why exactly, but it doesn't seem as user-friendly to me in a few ways. None the less, having an up-to-date OS is good and thus far I've had no problems with it or any software that I've used with my computer that's Windows XP+ compatible.
As with most if not all new laptops this comes with some trial software. For instance, you get McAfee® Internet Security Suite Trial, which will keep you protected until you download something to replace it or upgrade to the paid version. I opted to get rid of McAfee and download some free software and it's all working smoothly without problem. You also get some games, IE 9, some Windows stuff (like Media Player), along with Microsoft Office 2010 Starter. The latter isn't actually a trial version per se, but a very basic and limited version of Office, to include Word and Excel (ie. Expect to have a sidebar for advertisements in Word). You can always upgrade this, or choose a free software package to install, but I liked it because just having this may be enough for some users, at least to get you started for a while without worrying you'll reach 30 days and be left with nothing to write a document!
This laptop weights 26kg, and measures 3.4cm in height, 25.3cm depth and 38.1cm in width. It's slightly wider perhaps than my last laptop, though only by a fraction, because of the number keypad at the side, but I see that as a bonus. It's actually quite thin when closed, again, compared to my last laptop. I wouldn't say this is a replacement for an ultra-portable netbook, but it's a nicer laptop to be carrying around than some hunks of weight that I've seen. It still feels durable and hardwearing, and has a sense of being solid when you pick it up.
The one niggle I have about its overall 'durability' factor is that you need to be careful when picking it up at the sides; the DVD tray is on the right and the flap (for lack of a better word) seems quite delicate, and on more than one occasion I panicked that I'd picked it up too heavy handed and would crush it inwards. No damage just yet though, and I know it can't really be helped because that's the way you need a DVD drive really, but I didn't notice it with my last laptop so I thought I'd mention it.
I'm guilty of often storing quite a lot of junk on my laptop in terms of music, films and old documents. The amount of CDs I'd put on here, DVDs from iTunes etc had filled up most of my old laptop, which is why I looked specifically for an upgrade in storage space. The 750GB HDD the Acer has is pretty big and a challenge for even frequent downloaders and storers to fill. I've been quite impressed by this, again given the price, so that gets a big thumbs up from me. Having plenty of space, and a 4GB memory, also means it is running smoothly and not getting clogged up and tired.
As for ease of use in practical terms, most keyboards probably take a little while to get used to, and this was no different because it takes time to adjust from something you've gotten used to. I can touch type and type fairly quickly, but my first few goes on the Acer were very slow! I found the keys quite spaced out and thus more difficult to find. But, thanks to muscle memory, you do pick it up easily enough and I now find it just as easy to use. Perhaps even more so; the keys take pressure to use but just the right amount, you have all the keys you'd expect to find with no strange ones added in for effect or any taken out to fool you, and I like having the option of the number pad to the right. Doesn't really matter if you don't use it because you hardly notice it's there, it's just good to have the alternative when using numbers (or playing a game, for instance). The general resting position of my wrists/hands on the keyboard is comfortable, and there's no strange lip at the edge to make the position difficult (unlike some Dell laptops I tried). The touchpad is a little strange to what I got used to; it's not entirely smooth but it's not too rough, neither is it over-sensitive. I actually prefer it, again over the Dell ones I tried. It responds well with the right amount of pressure.
The battery life is estimated at 3.5hrs max, which is average for some laptops (and more than others, despite their higher price tags). Obviously this varies depending on what you're using at the time and how old the laptop gets, but so far I can get about 3 hours out of it when using IE windows, some Media Player for music and some Word docs. Again, it varies, but I'm happy enough with it as it most definitely could be worse!
As for the overall running of the machine, I've not really had anything to complain about as of yet. Yes, there have been one or two freezes of IE, but I was quite impressed by its own ability to quickly rectify this and refresh just the window affected. I'm not really a gamer on my laptop, but I do have one installed from a CD, and I've not noticed any change in performance still installing. Working in a word document, whilst downloading on iTunes, listening to music on Media Player, and with 10 IE windows open, all at the same time, seems to work almost effortlessly, attributable to the capacities of this little sub-£500 laptop.
Overall, I would definitely recommend this. There's so much to choose from at the moment and it does depend on what you're looking for, how much you want to spend and what you want to get out of it, but this is a good all-rounder. I personally am very impressed and very pleased with choosing this one, and hopefully that opinion won't change for a while!
Can be purchased for £399 (Tesco Direct)
Summary: A powerful yet underrated laptop that's well worth the money (so far, at least!)
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