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My old laptop had many problems (if you've read my Advent 7086 review you'll understand just how bad it was!) and so I decided I really needed a new laptop. I decided that I didn't really want to pay more than £250, but I needed a good specification. I have a habit of running a number of programs and ending up with many files so I needed a good processor, at least 2GB of RAM and a good sized hard drive.
There were, annoyingly, a few different Advent laptops that met the spec, but I certainly wasn't about to chance buying another one of them. So my search began and that is when I found this laptop; the Acer Aspire 5742Z.
Processor: 2GHz Intel Pentium processor P6100
Operating System: Windows 7 (64 bit)
Screen: 15.6" HD LED LCD
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics
Hard drive: 250GB
Disk Drive: DVD-Super Multi DL Drive
Card Reader: 2-in-1 card reader
Webcam: 1.3 megapixel webcam
Battery: 6 Cell Li-ion battery
Weight: 2.6 KG
I was surprised when I took the laptop out its box as the top of the laptop has a rough texture to it rather than being smooth and shiny like I'd expected. The laptop is black and looks quite smart with the word Acer in silver in the centre.
At 381mm wide, 253mm deep and 340mm high and only weighing 2.6KG this laptop is quite slim and lightweight.
When you open it up it is like any other laptop with the mouse pad at the front (positioned slightly to the left), the keyboard behind that and the power button at the back. The screen is shiny and reflective, which looks nice but when you're using it it is best to make sure the light isn't behind you as it will cause a reflection. At the very top of the screen in the centre is the webcam, which is only 1.3 megapixel, but works well and can produce quite a good quality video.
I tend to run a number of programs at once and sometimes quite big programs too so I needed a laptop that could process everything. With a 2GHz processor I figured this should be able to handle numerous tasks and it does. I've not had any problems with it going slow or taking a long time to load things and I always have at least 3 programs open at one time which I'm always switching between.
The RAM is 3GB, which is more than enough to run Windows 7 and pretty much any program. If you are planning on planning games this laptop should have enough RAM for most. I'm sure you could upgrade the Ram if you wanted, but for me 3GB is fine and for general use there's no reason to upgrade it.
As I mentioned before I have a habit of saving many files to my computer so I wanted a good sized hard drive. I found some laptops with 160GB, but decided I'd be better off buying a laptop with more rather than maybe having to upgrade later. At 250GB you can save quite a bit to this laptop. There are similar versions of this laptop with bigger (500GB) hard drives, but the prices were close to the £400 mark and it didn't seem worth the extra money just for a slightly bigger hard drive.
Acer computers are known for having split hard drives (C drive and D drive normally). My desktop is an Acer and has that and it's something I've seen posted online about the brand so it seems to be a common thing, which is why I'm pointing it out. However, this laptop doesn't have that, it only has the C drive. I don't know whether it is because of the hard drive size or whether they just didn't do it for this model, but if you're one of them people who doesn't like the fact they usually split them you don't have to worry about it with this.
The battery is good, although it depends exactly what you are doing on the laptop. On average for just surfing the Internet or using Microsoft Office it lasts about 3 hours. It gives a warning when it only has 10 minutes remaining, but it goes to sleep a few minutes after this if you don't plug it in to the mains.
This laptop comes with Windows 7 Home Premium. Personally I prefer XP to Windows 7, but Windows 7 does run perfectly well on this laptop and it does have its plus points.
The main design is still very similar to previous Operating Systems. You have the task bar at the bottom which includes the clock and other icons on the right. The Start button is slightly different, showing the Windows logo rather than saying Start. The menu is also different. I have gotten used to the menu, although I found it much easier to find what I wanted on XP and before.
With Windows 7 the main options such as My Computer and Control Panel are at the right side and all recently used programs are on the left. At the bottom you can select All Programs to see everything. As everything is just in one list it can take me a while to find what I want and I imagine that this will only get worse as I continue to use the laptop and install more programs.
Windows in the taskbar as also shown differently. Instead of the rectangular boxes saying the name of the window you have open it now shows small square logos of the program you have open. For some things I prefer this as it takes up less room, but sometimes I wish I could change it as I forget what the logo is for or can't see the window I'm looking for if I have a lot open. It seems easier to me to look for the words saying the program than a logo, but some people may find it better this way round.
Unlike XP and before, Windows 7 organises folders better. There is Documents, Music, Pictures and Videos folders under each user. I always used to make folders with these names anyway so I haven't noticed much difference as far as files being more organised goes. Under each I still have many other folders so things can still get confusing and become hard to find.
There's nothing really new about Windows 7. You still have Paint, notepad, Windows Movie Maker and the option to change your desktop, screensaver and so on as you always have done. You get a better selection of desktop and screensaver images, which is nice but you can always add your own so this isn't really anything interesting or even new as you could do this before.
One new thing, which can be seen as good or bad, is the preview you get when you hover over the windows in the task bar. As you hover over them it will bring up a small preview above the bar which shows you what that window is. When you have two or more windows open for one program (e.g. two Internet sites or two tabs on Internet Explorer) it will put both of these under the same Internet Explorer logo and when you hover over it it shows both windows and to open it you have to click the preview window. This is both useful and annoying. If you have a few pages or tabs it can be useful to see them all and click which you need. It also saves space in the taskbar. It gets annoying though when the previews go all the way across the screen at the bottom because you have a few windows/tabs under one program and you can't find the one you want.
The keyboard takes some getting used to. The keys are a good size, but each one is flat with gaps between and underneath. I guess the best way to explain it would be the keys are 2D rather than 3D. I have long nails and sometimes they get caught in the gaps which doesn't happen to me on any other keyboard. These gaps also make it easier for things to fall into the keyboard so if you always eat food while on the laptop or have a pet expect crumbs and fur in it.
I wouldn't say it is a bad keyboard as it works fine and most people probably won't have any problems with their nails getting caught, but there's just something about it that I don't really like. The more I use it the more I get used to it, but I can't type as fast on it and if I plan on doing a lot of writing I'm more likely to use my computer because of it.
The mouse is very responsive and the pad is a good size. It has one large button underneath which I thought might be annoying, but as long as you press on the edge of it rather than near the middle it works fine. The middle feels quite solid and if you click too close to the middle it won't do anything, but I've never had any problems with it.
At the edge of the pad is a scroll feature which works well if you wish to scroll up or down a page faster. This feature tends to annoy me more than help me though as I keep catching it and making the text on the page massive. For some reason it always takes a few minutes of trying to change it back before it goes to the correct size as it tends to jump from massive to tiny.
The laptop doesn't come with much software on it, which to me is a good thing as I find it annoying when computers come with loads of unnecessary programs on. Having said that, it does have quite a large number of games stored on it. Most of these are trials and can be removed. It also has the usual programs such as Windows Movie Maker, Paint and Internet Explorer.
It comes with Microsoft Word and Excel 2010. I thought these would be trial versions, but instead they are starter versions. I'm guessing there are probably certain features that are missing that are on the normal versions, but I haven't noticed any difference. Personally I prefer the older versions of Microsoft Office, but it is nice to have a proper version of Word that you can use rather than a trial version and Microsoft Works (or similar). At the right hand side it has a sidebar which has an advert on and a few links (e.g. help and support, free templates and clip art) and there doesn't seem to be any way to remove it. When you start typing you don't really notice it, but it would be nice to have the option to remove it.
Originally the laptop came with a trial version of McAfee. I don't like McAfee, but as it wasn't activated I ignored it and downloaded another anti-virus. Previously this has never caused any problems - I did it with my first laptop and my desktop. For some reason though this laptop didn't like having both installed and began crashing. Luckily I managed to get it to work long enough to un-install both programs and start again. Other than that problem I've had no other problems with the software or hardware.
You can buy this laptop new from shops like Currys for £350 and £330 on Amazon. I bought this laptop new for £250 though so it's worth shopping around to see if you can find it cheaper.
Overall this is a great laptop and has a better specification than other laptops in this price range. There's a few things that could be improved, but for £250/£300 you can't go wrong. Recommended.