Acer Aspire 9425WSMi
- Performed very well in our WorldBench 6 tests; 2GB RAM; 160GB hard drive; comfortable to use
- Reflections from the glossy screen can make for uncomfortable viewing; no FireWire; no ExpressCard slot; Acer's GridVista software didn't seem to work on our test unit; poor speakers for such a big unit
A good price point, decent features and great performance make this notebook a good choice if you're after a desktop replacement.
Price$ 2,699.00 (AUD)
Suitable as a desktop-replacement notebook, the Acer Aspire 9425WSMi definitely has a lot of grunt under its hood, and plenty of useful features that make it comfortable for everyday use.
It runs off an Intel Core 2 Duo T7200 CPU, which operates at 2GHz, and 2GB of DDR2 RAM is installed, as well as an NVIDIA GeForce 7300 graphics card. These components combine well to give the 9425WSMi powerful multitasking capabilities, and this was shown in our WorldBench 6 benchmark where it completed the multitasking test in 433sec. Meanwhile, its Windows Media Encoder, WinZip file compression, Photoshop CS2 editing and Microsoft Office productivity results along with a final score of 74 highlight the unit's versatility.
However, it isn't a graphics powerhouse, as its score of 678 in 3DMark06 illustrates. Its 7300 graphics adapter uses up to 400MB of system RAM, so it's a good thing the 9425WSMi has 2GB, but it isn't powerful enough to play the latest games. It should be fine for older titles, however.
Its 17in widescreen has a native resolution of 1440 x 900. It isn't very bright, which makes it comfortable on the eyes, but its glossy coating can make viewing uncomfortable due to reflections when lights are switched on or if natural light is shining through the windows, especially when viewed from an angle. The viewable angles of the screen are adequate, but contrast problems are noticeable. The screen's response time is fast so there shouldn't be any noticeable blurring when scrolling down a Web page, for example.
While watching DVDs from directly in front of the unit, we found the screen to be a good performer. Dark scenes were handled well and colours weren't overly vibrant. The unit ships with Windows Vista Home Premium, which has Windows Media Centre built into it, and this is what we used to watch movies.
The notebook's tiny stereo speakers are far from impressive and not well-suited for any audio tasks. We didn't have any problems using the unit's headphone/speaker output and, in fact, we recommend you plug speakers into this unit if you want to use it for media playback.
Storage is handled by a single, 160GB (140GB formatted capacity) hard drive, which Acer has partitioned into two 70GB drives. A multi-format DVD burner (it can burn to DVD+/-R/RW discs as well as CDs) is also installed and there are four USB 2.0 ports available if you want to add external storage.
Aside from the USB connections, there are gigabit Ethernet, VGA, S-Video and modem ports, but FireWire is conspicuously absent. If you want to edit video from a digital camcorder, then a FireWire card can be installed in the unit's sole PC Card slot. A memory card reader resides on the right-hand side of the unit and lets you plug in SD, xD, MMC, Memory Stick or Memory Stick Pro cards, but not CompactFlash.
Wireless connectivity is well represented, with 802.11a/b/g and Bluetooth 2.0 EDR capabilities built in and we didn't have any problems using them during our evaluation.
We like the built in Webcam, which sits at the top of the 17in widescreen. It can capture you as you work on your notebook during a video conferencing session, or it can be flipped 180 degrees to record what you are looking at. It works perfectly with Windows Live Messenger and its image quality is acceptable. However, before you can get Windows Live Messenger to work on this unit, an update must be downloaded and installed. This is due to an incompatibility between version 8.1 of Messenger and Acer's eDataSecurity Management software.
EDataSecurity Management is a program that can be used for encrypting data on your hard drive as well as MSN and email transmissions. Acer also provides its own battery management software as well as backup and recovery software (which works in conjunction with the DVD burner and allows you to burn incremental backups of your data). A utility called GridVista is also supplied, which can help to quickly align multiple windows on the widescreen display, but we couldn't get it to work during our tests.
As this is a 17in widescreen notebook, there is plenty of width for a full-size keyboard and Acer has included one. Despite it being a little bouncy (the whole keyboard moves a little when keys on its left-hand side are hit), it's actually very comfortable to type on; the keys have a soft, yet firm feel to them and everything is laid out in a traditional format. The dedicated number pad should please those who are regular number-crunchers and the four dedicated shortcut buttons along the top frame of the notebook's base can be customised to open the applications of your choice.
A Synaptics Touchpad is used to control the mouse pointer, and it has left and right buttons, as well as a scroll-button. The Touchpad was responsive throughout our tests and the scroll-button was useful when browsing long Web pages.
Physically, the notebook weighs in at 3.6kg without its power supply and 4.2kg with it, but it isn't designed to be a mobile unit that you can use on the bus or the train. Its build quality is sturdy. The screen's hinges aren't overly stiff and there isn't a noticeable flex in the chassis when the unit is picked up by the corners. We also didn't experience any heat issues while using it. In fact, over many hours of use, we found the 9425WSMi to run quite cool despite its 2GB of RAM, dual core CPU and dedicated graphics adapter.
All of the unit's ports reside along the right-hand side, the front and the rear, but there are a couple of notable omissions. As previously mentioned, a FireWire port isn't present, but the notebook also lacks an ExpressCard slot, which is the high-speed successor to the PC Card slot. An ExpressCard slot will be useful for add-ons such as TV tuners or mobile data cards, for example.
The 9425WSMi's battery life was very good considering its large size. Our DVD rundown test, which plays a DVD until the notebook runs out of power, lasted for 128min. If using the notebook to perform simple tasks such as Web surfing and word processing, and if you employ a suitable power saving scheme, the 9425WSMi should last even longer.
Despite a couple of omissions, the 9425WSMi represents great value if you're looking for a desktop replacement notebook and it was as a great performer in our WorldBench 6 applications tests.
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