New Dolby System Looks to Improve Laptop Sound

Acer Aspire laptops get upgraded with Dolby speakers.

Dolby's new PC Entertainment Experience 4, or PPEv4, pushes the capacity of one of the weakest sound players on the planet: the laptop. Built into the new line of Acer Aspire Ethos computers, PPEv4 sounded great and didn’t disappoint at CES this week.

The PPEv4 has two levels, the mid-range Dolby Advanced Audio and the high-end Dolby Home Theater. The Home Theater is the one to watch, as it has several new tech abilities to make the sound better on built-in computer speakers. . First, the Dialog Enhancer makes speech clearer while removing excess white noise and avoiding distortion. The Intelligent Equalizer puts the emphasis on balancing sound without requiring too much work-- so you can tell the system to give, say, heavier bass without fiddling with the exact measurements as you would in a traditional equalizer. And both the Surround Virtualizer and the Dolby Digital Output help create quality surround sound, even with audio that wasn't made for it.

The PPEv4 is featured in the new Acer Aspire Ethos line, including the 8950G, which was test-driven at the show. The warm blue user interface can be popped up during any viewing or listening. There are three general settings for movies, music, and gaming, as well as six presets, including "warm" and "lush", for quick setup. It also had a nerdy set of details, including a detailed equalizer and six save slots so favorite custom settings can be kept for later use.

The movie clips shown, including an intense battle scene from Iron Man 2, were alright in their original form. The laptop speakers and the headphone quality were both average. However, with the PPEv4 enabled, the bass, treble, and mid-range sounds were very crisp. Most notably, the actual sound level of the laptop increased significantly without any distortion: Having the laptop sound halfway up with PPEv4 was clearer than having the laptop sound all the way up without PPEv4. The PPEv4 can be flipped on and off on the fly.

PPEv4 launches with Acer Aspire Ethos computers, and the flagship 8950G will be out next week for $1599.

Check out PCWorld's complete coverage of CES 2011

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