The Acer Aspire 5735Z is a low-priced mainstream notebook with a 15.6”, 16:9 aspect ratio display. It retails for less than $500 and has reasonable build quality, a full keyboard with number pad, and decent battery life.
The Aspire 5735-4744 has the following specifications:
I picked up the 5735-4744 for $399.99 plus sales tax at Best Buy. The specifications are more than reasonable for the amount of money paid. There are higher-end configurations available with larger hard drives and more RAM, but they are naturally priced higher.
Build and Design
The 5735Z has a no-frills plastic construction and a relatively simple design. It feels surprisingly solid in the hand, and despite the all-plastic construction, generally does not flex. The 5735Z has a sound internal frame since the chassis is stiff resists flexing. The palmrests are inflexible, as are the surfaces surrounding the keyboard. The bottom of the notebook is made of thicker plastic than I expected and also does not flex. There are no squeaks or creaks while handling the notebook.
The plastic surrounding the keyboard is a smooth dark gray color with a non-glossy finish, which seems to be relatively durable. The lid and screen casing are a glossy black plastic, which attracts fingerprints easily and is more prone to scratches than the dark gray plastic. The bottom and sides of the notebook are a textured black plastic, which is more durable than the other plastics used.
The lid is secured to the chassis by two strong hinges that do not let the display wobble. The lid itself resists twisting well, partly because of its stocky shape since it has wider than usual 16:9 aspect screen that lends more support. Pushing in on the back of the display will yield small ripples on the screen, but only if abnormal pressure is used. When closed, the lid is securely held down by a latch.
The design of the 5735Z is simplistic. The notebook is quite wide relative to its width, again due to the 16:9 aspect ultra-widescreen display. The 5735Z places function ahead of form.
The 5735Z is not built like a tank, but it has pleasantly sturdy build quality and feels solid. This notebook should be able to stand up to everyday use and last for many years if proper care is taken.
The Aspire 5735Z has one of the new 16:9 aspect ratio displays; most notebooks have 16:10 displays, so 16:9 screens are wider than usual. The 5735Z’s panel measures 15.6” diagonally and has a 1366x768 pixels resolution (a typical 16:10 display is 15.4” diagonally and has a 1280x800 resolution). It takes some time to get used to the extra-wide 16:9 display. Only 768 pixels of vertical space mean a lot of scrolling, but it is difficult to throw up any flags here given the price point of this notebook. The extra wide resolution means working with two windows side-by-side is doable.
The picture quality of the display is beautiful. The display, made by AU Optronics (model AUO10EC), has an 8 ms response time and is advertised to have a 33% wider color gamut (color range). The colors are vibrant and contrast is very good. The display has ample brightness. There is some light leakage from the bottom of the screen, but it is unnoticeable unless the screen is completely black. Side-to-side viewing angles are decent, with minimal color inversion. Colors invert sharply from above and below, but this is normal for an LCD panel.
Overall, the display beat my expectations and is pleasing to look at. The resolution is a bit limited in terms of vertical space, but it is difficult to complain.
There are two stereo speakers located above the keyboard. These are typical notebook speakers, with little to no bass and they sound rather tinny. For a more enjoyable audio experience, use a pair of headphones or speakers.
The 5735Z has volume up/down buttons right above the speakers, which are convenient and a welcome addition to any notebook.
Processor and Performance
I will run a few benchmarks on the 5735Z to demonstrate its performance capabilities.
Windows Experience Index (WEI) is a benchmark built into Windows Vista. It scores various components of a computer out of 5.9. Higher scores are better.
The 5735Z is held back by its integrated graphics, which bring the score down to an average 3.5. The other components – the processor, memory, and hard drive – have reasonably high scores.
wPrime is an arithmetic benchmark that forces the processor to calculate the square roots of numbers. Lower times are better.
This time places the Intel Pentium Dual-Core T3200 within 15% of the performance of a Core 2 Duo with a similar frequency (around 2.0 – 2.2GHz). The T3200 is essentially a Core 2 Duo with reduced specifications.
HDTune tests the read, write, and access time of a hard drive. Higher numbers are better for transfer rates, and lower for access time.
The Western Digital 160GB 5400RPM drive posts some nice results. An average transfer rate of 50MB/s is very respectable for a 5400RPM hard drive. This particular drive, the WD1600BEVT, has a single platter, which greatly helps performance.
The Intel GMA 4500MHD integrated graphics card is designed to lower costs and save energy while providing enough power for smooth video playback and light 3D applications. We run 3DMark06 to compare it to other graphics cards:
A typical gaming notebook scores north of 3,500 points in this benchmark, so gamers will obviously not be flocking to the 5735Z.
Heat and Noise
A single fan on the left side of the 5735Z keeps its internal components cool. The fan is always on but is difficult to hear, even in a quiet room. There is minimal noise even at full tilt. The surface temperatures of the notebook are docile, not more than 10-20 degrees above room temperature in most places. The bottom of the notebook gets about ten degrees warmer than on the top. The heat generated by this notebook is insignificant – there is not much of it to begin with.
Keyboard and Touchpad
A computer’s input devices, especially the keyboard, are of utmost importance to me when it comes to buying a computer. The 5735Z does well in this area. The full-size keyboard and separate numeric keypad have good tactile feedback. The feel is a bit soft but movements are defined enough to allow accurate typing. There is some flex in the center of the keyboard but it does not detract from the overall typing experience. The keys have a matte non-slip surface. The four column numeric keypad is a very welcome addition to this notebook. For someone like me that does spreadsheet work all the time, it is a valuable asset.
The touchpad is proportional to the screen dimensions. It has a matte surface and is easy to track on. The two buttons are very loud, so be sure to tap-to-click in quiet places instead of using the buttons. The 5735Z’s touchpad has some unique features. Using two fingers in a pinching motion will zoom in and out, and moving a finger in a circular motion will scroll.
Input and Output Ports
Let’s take a short picture tour. All descriptions are left to right.
The 5735Z does not have a lot to offer in terms of connections, but I imagine a few USB ports and the Ethernet jack will be all most buyers of this laptop require. The memory card reader is an added bonus.
The 5735Z comes with an Atheros AR5B91 wireless card supporting 802.11a/b/g/draft-N bands. Wireless range and signal strength is excellent, superior to the wireless solution in my HP Pavilion dv5t. I had no trouble connecting to a variety of wireless networks. It is surprising to see a draft-N wireless card in a budget notebook.
The included six-cell battery is rated for 11.1V and 46Wh/4600mAh. This battery’s capacity is not particularly high but is on par with the six-cell batteries in competing notebooks. In power-saving mode with the screen brightness at half, I measured two hours and fifty minutes of life while surfing the Internet. Only the buyer can determine whether this time is sufficient; for my personal use, it is more than enough.
Operating System and Software
The 5735-4744 comes pre-loaded with Windows Vista Home Premium with Service Pack 1. Usually very inexpensive notebooks like this one come with Vista Home Basic, a cheaper and more limited version of Windows, so Home Premium is nice to see.
Acer includes many pre-installed utilities, including Acer GridVista and Acer Empowering Technology. NTI Backup Now! Software is included and allows you to make a backup of your entire hard drive. A lot of "bloatware," or junk software, is also pre-loaded. I spent upwards of thirty minutes uninstalling games and other garbage from the Control Panel.
Computers like the Acer Aspire 5735Z show just how far a few hundred dollars can go. For as little as $400-450 you can buy a very capable notebook that is ready to tackle everyday tasks on the go. The Aspire 5735Z has solid build quality, a great screen, comfortable keyboard with separate number pad, and almost three hours of battery life to boot. For those looking for an inexpensive machine with the above qualities, the Acer Aspire 5735Z should be at the very top of the list.
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