The Acer Aspire 7740 is a 17.3-inch multimedia notebook designed for people who want a lot of features for not a lot of money. This notebook costs $749 while still offering an Intel Core i3-330M processor, Intel GMA HD graphics, Blu-ray drive, and a HD+ LED-backlight display. In this review, we take an in-depth look at its performance and see how well it stacks up against the competition.
Our Acer Aspire 7740-5142 Specifications:
Build and Design
For a 17.3-inch notebook, the Acer Aspire 7740 does a good job of hiding its size with a slim profile. From the side, it appears shorter than expected with the lower chassis standing not much higher than the VGA-port's height. The design tapers off at the front giving the palmrest a nice sharp edge. The color scheme is well thought-out with a glossy, dark-blue screen-cover, metallic blue palmrest and keyboard trim, and black keyboard. The only visible branding is a moderately sized Acer logo displayed front and center. One aspect that concerned us was the amount of space left open around the keyboard that could have been used for multimedia keys or other functions.
Build quality of the Aspire 7740 is above average with a solid body that doesn't have much flex. The screen cover provides decent impact protection for the LCD and doesn't allow the screen to be distorted unless firmly pressed from the back side. The glossy paint on the screen lid resists light scratches and seems to hold up under normal daily abuse from carrying it around. The palmrest and keyboard trim resist smudging and managed to stay clean throughout most of the review period.
Inside, the palmrest and keyboard show little or no flex under pressure. The palmrest doesn't compress one millimeter when squeezed with extreme force. The rigid chassis does a good job of holding up the body panels attached to it and doesn't squeak or creak under normal use. The screen hinges feel strong and hold the screen tightly closed. Overall, the body feels solid enough to survive a typical notebook's lifespan.
Users looking to upgrade the Acer Aspire 7740 will find it easy to get to components through a single cover on the back of the notebook. Taking off the panel gives you access to the wireless card, hard drive, and system memory.
Screen and Speakers
The Acer Aspire 7740 comes with a HD+ screen with a 1600 x 900 resolution. This resolution supports 720P content as well as 1080P content when scaled. For watching movies, viewing images, or just surfing the Web, the resolution is more than adequate for most users. Color saturation and contrast are average compared to other screens of this size. Backlight levels are fine for viewing in bright office conditions, but not bright enough for outdoor viewing with the glossy screen surface. Peak brightness levels measured 248cd/m2 at the center of the screen and decreased to as little as 199cd/m2 at the corners. Colors displayed on the screen stay consistent to about 15 degrees when tilted forward or back. The screen stays visible until about 60 degrees when viewing from the side since the backlight is overpowered by reflections on it.
The speakers on the Aspire 7740 sound above average and are pretty good for a system that doesn't have a subwoofer. In our testing, we found peak volume levels to be more than adequate to watch a movie in the immediate area around the screen. The speakers also support simulated Dolby surround sound that worked quite well if you were centered over the notebook. Sound output is warm with a hint of bass and midrange when the Dolby Audio Enhancer was toggled on and off. For a system priced under a $1,000 and not including a low-frequency driver, we were impressed.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The Aspire 7740 uses a floating island-style keyboard that is comfortable to type on but causes a few hang-ups when trying to type quickly. Since this keyboard doesn't have an internal bezel structure or solid key design, it is easy to hit the top of another key when you finger is fully pressing a neighboring key and trying to slide over at the same time. I got used to it after a few hours and learned to lift my finger fully off the key before sliding to the next key in my typing motion. The keyboard layout takes advantage of the chassis and offers a four-key wide number pad with room to spare on each side.
One thing missing from the keyboard layout is quick-access media keys. It was surprising that a notebook designed entirely around multimedia use with a Blu-ray drive didn't offer touch-sensitive buttons for volume control or media playback. Instead this notebook has quick-access buttons for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, backup software, and a customizable program launch.
The touchpad on this notebook is an ALPS design model with a spacious layout and multitouch gesture support. The touchpad is quick to respond, but we did notice just a hair of lag in fast gestures. Refresh times are great which helps prevent a choppy mouse movement when moving around. Sensitivity out of the box was good but not perfect, and no adjustment for sensitivity was found in the ALPS control menu. For users who don't want to accidentally move the cursor while typing, there's a button located to the right of the touchpad to disable the touch surface.
Ports and Features
The Aspire 7440's port selection is average for a 17-inch notebook with VGA and HDMI-out, four USB ports, audio input and output jacks including S/PDIF out, LAN, modem, and a Kensington lock slot. We were hoping to find eSATA for faster external storage expansion, but it was probably left out to keep the price low. We were impressed that a Blu-ray drive was included, but decoding software was absent. Blu-ray decoding software can cost as much as $99, with one example being PowerDVD 10 from CyberLink.
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