Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Acer TravelMate 7720G (7720G-602G50Mn)
- Plenty of storage space, 802.11 draft-n wireless networking, ran quietly and didn't get hot, very good battery life, both PC Card and ExpressCard slots
- Lacks e-SATA ports, 17in screen only has a native resolution of 1440x900
A desktop replacement notebook with good speed and some versatile connectivity features that's also comfortable to use.
Price$ 2,499.00 (AUD)
It's funny that Acer has decided to release this desktop replacement notebook with the TravelMate name, because, unless you're Yao Ming's size, this thing is far from a 'mate' when you travel. In fact, at 3.8kg (without its power supply, and 4.3kg with it), you won't want to lug it to and from work too often, especially if you rely on public transport.
For the home, however, the TravelMate 7720 is packed with plenty of features. It's got a big 17in screen, a webcam, 802.11 draft-n networking, Bluetooth, (mostly) full-sized keys and a number pad, and it has all the ports you're likely to need in the foreseeable future – unless you quickly develop a need for e-SATA and HDMI.
Along the left-hand edge of the notebook you'll notice a trifecta of video ports: DVI, VGA and S-Video. These give the 7720 versatility when it comes to monitor and TV connections, and although the notebook has a vibrant 17in screen, some users might want more desktop space than its 1440x900 native resolution can deliver.
Joining the video ports on the left-hand flank are USB, FireWire and gigabit Ethernet ports. Most importantly, both PC Card and ExpressCard slots co-exist on this side of the notebook, thanks to its large base, although depending on the thickness of the cards used, you might not be able to populate both slots simultaneously.
On the rear of the unit there are three more USB 2.0 ports, and an irrelevant modem port, while on the right-hand side you'll find a double-layer DVD burner. Rounding out the extraneous niceties are a fingerprint scanner, for extra security when logging on to Windows Vista, a memory card slot (for SD, MMC, MS/MS Pro and xD cards) and audio ports.
However, it's the inside of this hulk that's likely to arouse most interest. Acer has installed not one but two 250GB hard drives, which give the 7720 a total of 454GB of formatted storage capacity. They aren't in a RAID array, so you won't benefit from extra speed or redundancy; instead, the first drive is split into three partitions: one hidden system-recovery partition, one operating system partition and one data partition; meanwhile, the second drive is just one single partition.
The notebook's CPU isn't the latest and fastest, but it's also not a slouch. It's an Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, which runs at 2.2GHz and has a 4MB cache. Along with 2GB of DDR2 RAM, it ensured that the Vista experience was never a slow one. In WorldBench 6, the notebook's score of 87 is good, and it means you'll easily be able to run multiple office applications simultaneously without noticing any sluggishness. In our iTunes encoding test, where we encode 53min worth of WAV files to 192Kbps MP3 files, the notebook's time of 1min 28sec is exactly what we were expecting out of its T7500 CPU.
For photos and movies, the 7720 is powerful enough to adequately run photo and video editing software, but gamers aren't catered to well enough. The installed ATI Mobility Radeon HD 2600 HyperMemory graphics adapter (it uses a combination of on-board memory and system RAM) scored 3320 in 3DMark06, which isn't a fast score, so you won't be able to play the latest games smoothly, but older games will run without difficulty.
When it comes to stamina though, this notebook's a stallion. Its 8-cell, Lithium Ion battery galloped along for 2hr 28min in our worst-case scenario test, in which we loop a DVD in order to work the CPU, screen, speakers and DVD drive. This is a great time, as it means you can enjoy most movies – which aren't Titanic – in their entirety while sitting in your backyard or balcony.
There's not much more to say about this desktop replacement except that it's enjoyable to use. It didn't get hot during our tests and it was also a very quiet-running notebook. It's a good choice for anyone who wants a well-powered and well-equipped computer, which won't take up as much space as a full-blown desktop PC.
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