by Dexter Pearson, England
I'm a lucky lad. Not only am I sat in front of a portable superb-looking laptop, but I'm also looking at a desktop replacement. Because of my new Acer Aspire 1691, I can finally throw away my desktop computer, space wasting pile of junk. The sleek Acer 1691 tops my old desktop in every single respect. It's amazing how laptops have come down in price, back in the day laptops were a luxury, but now laptops are a necessity for anybody looking for a new computer. Not to mention that a laptop is worth something when you come to sell it in a couple of years time, so for me, buying a laptop as opposed to a desktop was a no-brainer. It's not like I sacrificed a lot of power for portability either, take a look at this beast, and keep in mind that I can take this notebook anywhere, anytime! Here is a small list of what the Acer 1691 has in strore:
Acer Aspire 1691 (view larger image)
And that's just for starters too! I must admit, I almost went for the Turion version of this Laptop, the Aspire 5021. On first glace, the 5021 looked a lot better -- it had a 100GB HDD and 128MB of VRAM for the X700. Were it not for the complaining I've heard concerning the crackling speakers and the RAM running at slow speeds on the 5021 I might have gone for that instead. However, after doing my homework it appears that the Pentium M is better for long wireless surf-sessions, and who can refuse DD2 RAM? It's future proofed, and it's not out of date as soon as you've bought it! Considering the price of just under 700-British pounds from Comet.co.uk (approximately $1240 or 1000 Euros) I'm a happy bunny with this laptop which I'll be using for surfing here, there or on top of that hill, playing games on when I'm bored of surfing on top of that hill, and typing out long pieces of writing for other peoples entertainment using this beautiful keyboard. I'd say it fits my needs like a glove. So let's get cracking with the 1691 review!
Build & Design
Oh, you're just going to love the design of this thing. It's exceptionally visually pleasing, and when the laptop is closed up it will look more like a work of art than a laptop. Inside we have a perfect layout of buttons. The keyboard is perfectly placed in the centre; we have a nice-feeling touchpad centred below the keyboard along with three mouse buttons, two of them to click and one of them to scroll with. Then there's four buttons at the top just under the monitor for various shortcuts that you can customise. Oh, and who can forget the power button which is placed at the top right next to the shortcut buttons. It lights up green too, which can only be a good thing! The monitor is sturdy in place, and does not wobble with pressure.
Carrying the Laptop shouldn't be too hard really. Ok, it's a little heavier than your average super-portable laptop, but you'll get used to carrying it around after a while. The weight makes if sit well in your lap too. When the laptop is closed, you can push the screen down a little bit (if you're that way minded), but this is nothing to worry about as long as you're going to treat your laptop with the care it deserves! The rubber feet are also worth a mention -- when you put the laptop on a desk, it will sit perfectly still, and won't move without a fight. Perfect for those long typing sessions.
Oh, such a beautiful screen. If your other half catches you looking at this lustfully, which, no doubt you will be, then she might kick you out. Then again, that's another advantage with a laptop -- just take it with you, and leave your other half without a computer! 15.4 inches, widescreen makes this one a perfect choice for all your word processing tasks as well as all the entertainment you can throw at it. DVDs and Games in widescreen is a wonder to behold. The 1691 came with the 1280 x 800 resolution, and looks fantastic. Don't forget about Acers CrystalBrite technology though, which can easily be compared to the famous Sony Vaio screens everybody raves about. A black gloss which makes everything that little bit more pleasing to look at. I haven't noticed any dead pixels, but at the same time I'm not going to go out of my way downloading tools that searches for them. If my eyes cannot see them, then I don't want to be introduced to one because then I'll be able to see it forever more!
That's right, that sound did just come from my laptop! Something I find myself telling friends and family a lot, because they don't believe that such sound can leave such speakers. Pump up the volume with the keyboard, and hear music in its finest form. I know for a fact that speakers or big headphones will make music sound better, but you tell me when it's practical to lug around a pair of speakers with you. It's not. So these speakers will do nicely for everything I want them to do. I must say that the speakers sound perfect when playing games such as GTA San Andreas on it, the radio stations, the beeping horns and the angry pedestrians come across well through the speakers. Bass-rich music isn't something you want to be listening without a pair of headphones though, but I'm pleased on the whole.
Performance and Graphics
You can throw anything at the Acer Aspire 1691, and it will be only too happy to oblige. I have Guild Wars running on the maximum settings, GTA San Andreas running at the thick end of the graphical settings, and I got Battlefield 2 running on it with medium settings despite the 128mb requirement. Just remember that the X700 is one of the best cards out there at the moment, and with the help of the DDR2 ram most things should run, even if the box says it won't! Booting up Windows isn't a painful process even with my HDD packed with games, music files, and the dreaded Norton Anti-Virus installed that came free for three months with the laptop. Unfortunately the packed HDD only runs at 4200RPM, and while it would have been nice to have a higher running HDD in there, for the price, we have to sacrifice at least something!
To say I only have 512mb of RAM, it's a fast little beast. However, you can upgrade it to a maximum of 2GB. Just imagine that -- 2GB in Dual Channel. With it being a Pentium chip, you can also expect things like Microsoft Word (or Microsoft Works which is another freebie from Acer) to open fast, and the internet to run flawlessly. I've never seen Outlook Express open so quickly either! For what I want it to do (which is just about everything apart from polishing my shoes) the 1691 executes perfectly without moaning. No hangs, no jamming up, just pure quality.
I knew benchmarking my Acer 1691 would depress me somewhat. When tested on 3DMark05 I got a not-so stunning score of 1486, a score close to the model number! However, you have to bear in mind that these tests are testing things at all of the best graphics, with all the best resolutions. It might not be able to handle future games with super-high settings (which is what 3DMark05 tests) but it can handle most of today's games on high settings, and I'd imagine the future ones will run flawlessly providing you turn those settings down.
I then decided to run Super PI on it, which is a nifty little program that times the calculation of Pi to various digits of accuracy. With most processes in the background turned off I managed to get to 2 million PI in 1 minute and 51 seconds.
|Notebook||Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits|
|Acer Aspire 1691(1.6GHz Alviso Pentium M)||1m 51s|
|Gateway 7422GX (AMD 2.4GHz)||2m 12s|
|Dell Latitude D410 (2.00 GHz Alviso Pentium M)||1m 36s|
|IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Alviso Pentium M)||1m 45s|
|Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Alviso Pentium M)||1m 48s|
|IBM ThinkPad T41 (1.6GHz Banias Pentium M)||2m 23s|
|Compaq R3000T (Celeron 2.8GHz)||3m 3s|
|Dell Inspiron 600m (1.6 GHz Dothan Pentium M)||2m 10s|
|Dell Inspiron 8600 (1.7GHz Banias Pentium M)||2m 28s|
Keyboard and Touchpad
Acer Aspire 1691 keyboard (view larger image)
People that are taking this laptop to university, or anywhere that's required for long typing sessions will not be disappointed. For three years I've been using a desktop keyboard, and, because my life sees me writing extremely long documents on a day to day basis I was worried that any laptop keyboard might not suit my needs. Fortunately, with the Acer 1691's keyboard, I was pleasantly surprised. Three years of desktop typing took a mere three days to forget and learn how to use this keyboard with ease. I type fast, I don't even bother looking at the keyboard -- and I very rarely miss a letter out. Your fingers will just glide over the keys, and pressing the keys quickly and not being able to hear the keys is something of a luxury for me. I have noticed a little bit of keyboard flex on the left hand side, but as long as you type with care (which is something laptop owners should learn) then I don't see this posing a problem. Take it from somebody who types a lot -- you WILL NOT be disappointed.
The touchpad is equally as lovely. I've used laptop touchpad's before, and many of them have being a little slippery which posed a problem after prolonged use. With this laptop the touchpad has a matt-type effect which stops your finger from slipping about. There is not much more to say about the touch pad except that it does its job perfectly.
Acer Aspire 1691 shortcut keys
Input and Output ports
Acer Aspire 1691 Front Side (view larger image)
Behind (view larger image)
Acer Aspire 1691 Right side (view larger image)
Acer Aspire 1691 Left side (view larger image)
Acer Aspire 1691 under side (view larger image)
I'm impressed at what ports the Acer 1691 comes with. At the front there's an infrared port, an audio-in plug, a plug for a microphone, and one for headphones or speakers. To be honest, the speaker/headphone plug isn't placed in the right spot for me. When I have this laptop in a desktop environment, and I plug my speakers into it, the jack sticks out about an inch and then the wire drapes off somewhere, and looks untidy. For headphones it's in the perfect place though -- but I would have rather had these plugs elsewhere. In addition to those, we also have one USB 2.0 on the front.
On the right hand side I can see a multi-card reader which works flawlessly -- just push your card in and browse those files! There's a slot for laptop cards in case you want to upgrade it with something later on, but considering the laptop has almost every port imaginable, this probably won't come in handy. Further down we have a firewire port, two more USB 2.0 ports, a high-speed Ethernet port and a 56k modem right next to it. Who uses 56k these days though? Don't forget about the yellow s-video out port either, which allows you to plug your laptop into the TV and watch a DVD or play a game on the big screen!
On the reverse there's a place for the power, and a blue monitor socket which is handy if you need access to another screen. The left hand side sees a CD-Car Stereo type loading bay, where you just stick the CD in half way, and the laptop will suck it in. I love this feature -- less to go wrong with the laptop because there's no flimsy pop out drawer to break.
The laptop came with 802.11b/g wireless Lan, which works flawlessly with my D-Link wireless broadband router. It allows me to surf anywhere within a generous range, and share files with other laptops and linked up computers in the vicinity. Also, being able to print pictures wirelessly is a luxury I can get used to! On the label it states that the laptop has some kind of Signal Boosting technology, and while I cannot see any software on the computer allowing me to boost at will, I'm always in range even through thick walls -- so it must be working constantly.
In addition the laptop comes with infrared which I have used to transfer files to my mobile phone. It was painless connecting up with the phone, but infrared is one of the slowest methods of transfer known to man -- it took me around twenty minutes to get an MP3 on! The laptop comes with a bluetooth light, but in this model there is no bluetooth built in. You'll have to pay a larger sum of money and buy the 1692 in order to bag yourself bluetooth.
I'm over the moon with happiness about the battery life. This Acer comes with a neat little ePowerManagement program which allows me to adjust things like the CPU speed, screen brightness, standby and hibernation times, and allows me to turn off various ports and features like firewire and the wireless card. You can make your own profiles, but the ones built in will fit my needs perfectly. When I'm on word processing mode which sets the CPU to medium, I can get about 3-5 hours out of it, depending on what I do. I can play less demanding games with this setting for a long period of time too. When on entertainment mode, which sets the CPU to high, I can get 2-3 hours life, again, depending on what I do. Playing high demanding games will give me less time than watching a DVD for example. Plug the laptop into a power outlet, and the power manager automatically flicks all settings to the maximum. I'm really happy at the battery life.
Operating System and Software
This laptop comes with XP home installed, along with Acer-exclusive features like the power manager, and a nifty little thing called GridVista which allows you to split your screen into sections which is great for watching various charts and feeds for share dealing. Unfortunately I can't think of many uses for GridVista other than that, but for the right man, GridVista will be a godsend.
In the pack I got quite a few discs bundled -- a three mouth version of Norton Antivirus, Microsoft Works, NTI CD and DVD maker 7, and various recover CDs. Not much in the way of useful software here, but I'm sure people buying a laptop will have their own CDs just itching to be installed!
I'm touching wood as I type here, but I haven't had to bother with the customer support at all. Judging by the sounds of people complaining about Acers support, I don't want to be speaking to them anytime soon either! The warranty covers you for one year parts and labor, which you can use around the globe thanks to the travelers warranty passport. I never took any extra coverage out, but you're allowed to buy extra coverage if you want it later on. If I'm careful though, I should be able to avoid the customer services at all costs. Yeah, I'm still touching wood too..!
Complaints and Praises
There are not many complaints to be said with this new model of the Acer 1691. The audio plug is in the wrong place for speakers, but for headphones it's perfect. There's a little flex on the keyboard which isn't as bad as I'm making it sound anyway! The only real complaint is the 4200RPM drive, but the DDR2 more than makes up for it! Apart from that, this Laptop is perfect for somebody like me. I love the feel of the keyboard, I love to looks of the laptop, and I like having the ability to open up and play games anywhere. Oh, and its future proof with the better ram too!
So in conclusion...
I would recommend this laptop to everybody and anybody looking for a laptop which will carry them though a couple of years of surfing the internet, playing games, and typing like there's no tomorrow. Basically a laptop that will be a desktop when you want it to be, and a portable typing machine when you click your fingers. There are a lot of people just like me who want a laptop to suit many needs. For the price, you cannot go wrong with this! The old model has an X600 64MB and doesn't have DDR2. If your local supplier is stocking the old model, give them an earful and demand the new model -- you're not going to be disappointed with this flying machine!
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