by Barbara Varian, Texas USA
Overview and Introduction:
After searching for several months for a laptop that satisfied both my inner geek and my very limited budget of $1,000, I stumbled upon the Acer Aspire 5002 in a Black Friday sale. After about a week working with this laptop, I find it to be a great buy. Outfitted with a Turion 64, the 5002 has power at a cheap price.
A good mix between a desktop replacement and a budget laptop, the Aspire 5002 is a great choice for students and light-travel business types alike. Made by Acer, the Aspire 5002 is not direct to the US from Acer, but instead must be bought at a distributor such as buy.com or Circuit City. My model, purchased at Circuit City on Black Friday, seems to be of a slightly different build than the standard. I note these differences below in red.
Specifications of the Aspire 5002WLMi as reviewed (standard specs in red):
Reasons for Buying:
Instead of buying a cheaper (not to mention more powerful) desktop, I opted to purchase a notebook. This was mainly for three reasons: First, I could take my computer with me to class and type up my notes (as well as IM during my calculus class). Second, the laptop saved space in my cramped dorm room. Finally, I could bring my computer home with me for the holidays and for summer breaks.
My budget (a meek $1,000) greatly limited my laptop scope. In addition, I needed something that could multitask, and I wanted to be able to take my laptop to class. As such, my requirements demanded a moderately mid-grade computer: at least 512 RAM, 12-15.4 inches, 1.6 or higher processor, and a reasonably large hard drive in which to store various video and audio files.
I immediately disregarded HP strictly due to its high cost: I simply could not get what I wanted out of the computer at a price low enough to fit my budget. Sony also fit this category. As such, this basically left me Dell and Toshiba. I considered Dell a better option, simply because I could personalize my laptop on their website and have it shipped straight to my dorm. Some comparable options from Dell to the Aspire 5002 that I considered were a nicely configured Inspiron B130 and a standard Inspiron 6000.
Where and How Purchased:
Acer is an international company, and does not ship direct to the US from its website. Instead, consumers will need to buy from a distributor such as buy.com or Circuit City.
I grabbed my Aspire 5002 for $880 after taxes at a Black Friday sale at Circuit City. Running a quick search on Google, I found standard configurations for around $1,000. A similar Inspiron 6000 configuration to a standard Aspire 5002 would have run about $1,200, give or take $200 due to small personal preferences and Dell's wide range of coupons.
Personally, I would consider the Inspiron 6000 series to be slightly less pleasing than the Aspire 5000 series due to the higher cost. That said, to the average user they would probably be rather interchangeable.
Build & Design:
The closed lid of the Aspire 5002
While not built like a tank, the Aspire 5002 has a reasonably good build. The lid itself is silver plastic, while the sides and bottom of the laptop are standard black. The inside of the notebook has a black frame for the screen, while the desk space is the same silver as the lid. This gives it a nice look overall.
The lid is fairly sturdy and gives moderate protection to the LCD screen, though it does give a little when closed. I blame this on the locking mechanism of the laptop itself (a single piece, rather cheap plastic slide that sits in the lid). The lid does give a little when twisted, but not so much that I feel that the LCD screen would be in jeopardy.
My Escher sketch reflects perfectly from two feet away. This is under normal lighting-no flash
I have no problem using this notebook's screen as a mirror when it is turned off. The screen on the Aspire 5002 is incredibly glossy and reflective when hit by any outside light. That said, it gives a crisp and clear picture no matter what brightness is selected. I ran Dead Pixel Buddy and could not find any dead pixels. In addition, I couldn't find any leakage.
The speakers of the 5002 are just plain rubbish. Very tinny and lacking any bass what-so-ever, the speakers of this laptop probably should just be plain avoided- look into purchasing a set of headphones or speakers for this notebook.
Processor and Performance:
The AMD Turion 64 1.6 Ghz the Aspire 5002 sports keeps it quite fast while not completely draining the power. In addition, the gig of RAM I have on my model makes multitasking a breeze. It takes 34 seconds for the 5002 to load up completely to the login page.
This notebook is fairly zippy, but I would not recommend it for gaming. While the Aspire 5002 does just fine in image editing and the like, it probably would be rather sluggish when loaded up with some of today's graphic heavy games. The integrated graphics card borrows 64MB of Ram from the computer, and simply doesn't seem up to the task of handling the games on the market.
I ran Super Pi, PCMark04, and HDTune to generate some benchmarks for the Aspire 5002. Following are the results
|Acer Aspire 5002 WLMi (AMD Turion 64 1.60GHz)||2m 14s|
|Dell Inspiron 9300 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 39s|
|Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 53s|
|IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 45s|
|Asus Z70A (1.6GHz Pentium M)||1m 53s|
|Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Pentium M)||1m 48s|
|Dell Inspiron 6000D (1.6 GHz Pentium M)||1m 52s|
|Dell Inspiron 600M (1.6 GHz Pentium M)||2m 10s|
|Sony VAIO S360 (1.7 GHz Pentium M)||1m 57s|
|HP DV4170us (Pentium M 1.73 GHz)||1m 53s|
|Sony VAIO S380 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 45s|
The overall PCMark04 score for the Acer Aspire 5002 was 2,392 PCmarks. Below is a table with the full results compared to a ThinkPad T43 Pentium M 1.86GHz/ATI X300 equipped notebook.
|Futuremark PCMark04 Scores|
|ThinkPad T43 (1.86GHz, ATI X300 64MB graphics)||Acer Aspire 5002 (1.6GHz, SiSM760GX graphics card)|
|Multithreaded Test 1 / File Compression||3.33 MB/s||2.46 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 1 / File Encryption||27.19 MB/s||24.22 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 2 / File Decompression||23.4 MB/s||19.51 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 2 / Image Processing||10.88 MPixels/s||9.92 MPixels/s|
|Multithreaded Test 3 / Virus Scanning||1914.17 MB/s||1323.49 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 3 / Grammar Check||2.82 KB/s||2.45 KB/s|
|File Decryption||54.11 MB/s||48.38 MB/s|
|Audio Conversion||2496.87 KB/s||2105.03 KB/s|
|Web Page Rendering||5.27 Pages/s||3.69 Pages/s|
|DivX Video Compression||51.71 FPS||43.04 FPS|
|Physics Calculation and 3D||159.19 FPS||40.74 FPS|
|Graphics Memory - 64 Lines||868.44 FPS||202.42 FPS|
|Futuremark 3DMark05 Scores|
|3DMark Score||727 3DMarks||N/A|
|CPU Score||3414 CPUMarks||N/A|
|GT1 - Return To Proxycon||3.3 FPS||N/A|
|GT2 - Firefly Forest||2.2 FPS||N/A|
|GT3 - Canyon Flight||3.4 FPS||N/A|
|CPU Test 1||1.18 FPS||N/A|
|CPU Test 2||2.9 FPS||N/A|
Below are the results gained from running the hard drive benchmarking program HDTune:
Keyboard and Touchpad:
The Aspire 5002 sports a large keyboard with tons of function keys
I love the keyboard of this laptop. It is spaced just right for quick typing, and has a function for just about anything you could ask for, including a touchpad on/off button and an imbedded number pad. The keyboard gives a bit of spring, and emits a dull click. It doesn't sag at all.
The touchpad is very responsive, and has imbedded scrolls on the bottom and side. While these respond well in iTunes and Windows Explorer, I can't make them work in Firefox.
Above the keyboard and to the right sits a few customizable hot buttons that the user can customize to open webpages or programs of their choice.
Input and Output Ports:
The Aspire 5002's left side consists strictly of the optical drive.
The right side of the Aspire 5002 is quite busy.
Users who use multiple dongles and plug-ins will probably hate the right side, where most of the ports are. Here we find two USB ports, a type II PCMCIA slot, the Ethernet and Phone connections, and a fan slot. Oddly enough, there is a blocked S-video port here as well.
Note the on/off buttons for Bluetooth and the Wireless card in the center
The front boasts the notebook's two unremarkable speakers, a blocked Firewire port (indicating the design team may have originally intended to integrate FireWire, but it was left out to reduce costs), the power notification lights, a Bluetooth device button, the wireless on/off button, the mic-in, the line-in, the speaker-out, and the third USB port. The buttons kind of annoy me... I frequently turn my wireless card on/off due to the laptop hitting my belt when it sits in my lap.
The back of the laptop consists of the VGA connection and the adapter plug in.
The integrated 802.11 b/g wireless card works great. I can get wireless throughout campus without a problem. My build comes with Bluetooth, but I haven't used it.
The Aspire 5002 runs about 3 hrs and 15 mins on a single charge. Heavy use cuts this down to about 2 and a half. This doesn't even come to close to comparing to the Inspiron 6000's battery life of over 5 hours. That said, it lasts long enough to get me through class, and doesn't extend beyond the back of the notebook.
Operating System and Software:
The Aspire 5002 that I have came with Windows XP Home, but most 5002s will come with XP Pro. Acer packaged in Norton Antivirus 2005, three System Recovery disks, and a system boot disc. It did not come with a Windows Home disc.
The 5002 has a distinct lack of preloaded software: It comes with Acer Arcade, Acer's user-friendly media center, and some various utility programs such as the touchpad software. The Acer Aspire 5002 came with no text editing software outside of notepad. I was surprised by this, as most Dells at least come with WordPerfect.
I haven't had any problems with this laptop, and as such haven't had to contact customer support. That said, the Aspire 5002 does come stock with a limited 1 year warranty. Circuit City tried to sell me extended warranties, but I declined.
My biggest complaint of this notebook has to be the fan. The main vent sits underneath the laptop right where my leg goes under to support it. I constantly have to remind myself that it's there in order not to block it. The notebook does run a little hot (though not as hot as many Dells), but it seems that the fan is on almost to excess. To make things worse, the fan is quite loud, to the point I think twice before taking this laptop to class.
In addition, the main 100 gig HD is formatted Fat32, and is partitioned into two drives of 50 gigs a piece. The partitioning, while bugging me at first, turned out to be a positive when I reformatted my laptop. The second drive is not reformatted, and as such I didn't have to reload my extensive video and audio collection. However, I do feel that the drives should have been formatted NTFS, as this is far more efficient.
I experienced a virus about 3 days after getting this laptop, and the reformatting process took only 26 minutes. In addition, the preset partitions that first bothered me turned out to be a blessing, as the second partition is not reformatted, and as such I was able to keep all the data on that drive.
Some small things I love about this notebook are the user-programmable buttons on the desktop, the neat sound program packaged with the notebook (this has a great built-in equalizer), and the speedy (and very standard) optical drive.
I really like the Aspire 5002, and have already recommended it to a friend who just entered the market. Great for businesss users and students alike, the Aspire 5002 packs a lot of punch for the dollar. That said, gamers should probably look elsewhere, as the integrated graphics card of the 5002 really isn't made for high powered games.
Pricing and Availability: Acer Aspire 5002
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