Acer Aspire 1690 Series Review (pics, specs)

by Meaker Reads (80,164)

by Richard Brearley, United Kingdom

(note, the Acer Aspire 1694 WLMi is currently available only in Europe)

There are many things to consider when purchasing a notebook, price, performance, weight and battery life are usually the primary concerns. This review is for those considering the Acer aspire 1694WLMi with the following specifications:

  • Intel Pentium M 760 2.0GHz, Intel 915PM chipset motherboard
  • 512MB DDR1 2700
  • ATI Mobility Radeon X600 128MB
  • 15.4″ WXGA screen with Crystal Brite
  • 100GB 5400RPM Seagate momentus
  • QSI DVD dual layer RW
  • Wireless + Bluetooth
  • Windows XP Home

This is not the exact machine that the benchmark tests are being run on however. I decided to order 1024MB of Crucial memory and an Audigy 2 ZS, but more on that with the benchmarks section of this review.

When I was deciding on a notebook I spent a lot of time researching which notebook to buy. I had always had a desktop built by myself and needed to be sure of getting something that was at least equally as useful. I needed the ease of a laptop when going to university next year, but I needed to be able to release the urge to game every so often. I looked at many laptops from manufacturers such as Rock (Pegasus Ti in particular), Alienware, Dell but decided the best bang per buck was going to come from Acer. I originally ordered an Acer Aspire 2026 but ended up with the Acer Aspire 1694 WLMi as an acceptable replacement.

The Acer 2026 was 1140 from laptopsdirect.co.uk, meanwhile the Aspire 1694 was offered for 1130 and had better specs so I gave it the nod. You would be hard pressed to get these specifications for that sort of money anywhere else, so value for money as far as the specs is very good. When I received the 1694 it was securely rapped and in pristine condition, in the bundle were power leads, recovery CDs, Microsoft works, Norton Antivirus, modem cable, quick start guides and warranty card. Included on the drive are NTI CD/DVD maker gold and cyberlink power producer gold. Everything needed to get started. The NTI software is surprisingly easy to use and quick to get ahold of. I have not used cyberlink power producer gold.

Acer Aspire 1694 WLMi (view larger image)

Build, Design and Ports

General construction is very good, the notebook feels sturdy, the panel just below the power switch moves a mm or two as does the DVD drive, but neither are in danger of coming loose, nor do they make a noise during use due to the movement. The case is plastic and painted in the common silver and black scheme. While not groundbreaking, it certainly makes the laptop look professional and is a clean design, certainly suitable for business environments. As is common for Acer design, for whatever reason the laptop looks smaller than it is.  With a 15.4″ screen it is not small, but nor is it very heavy at 2.95Kg (6.50 lbs) which makes it usable on a lap. The sound ports are on the front, there is always debate as to which area of the laptop is best for placing the headphone and microphone ports, I prefer the side, but it’s personal preference. There is also a USB 2.0 port at the front along with the two sound ports.

Front side view of Acer Aspire 1694 (view larger image)

On the right side are the S-video port, two USB 2 ports, firewire, card reader and PC card slot (view larger image)

The left side is exclusively for the QSI DVD RW (view larger image)

The rear has the battery, power slot and VGA out (view larger image)

As a side note, I would recommend a laptop backpack for carrying this notebook around.  A notebook backpack makes carrying everything such as paper work, books, notes and your laptop easy and simple.

Screen

The screen is bright, sharp and gives good contrast thanks to Acer’s Crystal Brite screen technology and ATI’s LCD support tech, unfortunately my screen has a dead pixel and Acer’s warranty clearly states what is and is/not considered acceptable: Not more than 4 dead pixels per million pixels.  If the screen is considered 9 equal rectangles, in the central area there are no more than 1 dead pixels in the centre

Viewing angles either side are very good but vertical angles are quite poor, moving your head up and down produces differences in contrast and colour which is less noticeable at the centre.  In games there is a blurring affect from the response time of the LCD, it’s not as bad as it could be and is still very playable. Watching a DVDs provies a fine viewing experience.

Sounds

Laptop sound is usually never spectacular, the short time I had the Aspire 2026 I found the sound to be reasonable, but the Aspire 1694 laptop does not have the advantage of a subwoofer and so the sound is very tinny.  It does however have plenty of volume.  However, at higher volumes the high frequencies tend to get to your ears, a pair of headphones is highly recommended, if just for privacy. I decided to opt for an Audigy 2 ZS sound card upgrade (via the PCMCIA expansion slot, http://www.soundblaster.com/products/audigy2zs_notebook/).  I wanted the Audigy 2 ZS because of the added game effects and higher quality sound output which is noticeable when connected to a 5.1 speaker set. The included microphone that comes with the Audigy 2 ZS package is not very sensitive but you could leave notes with it, I would get a separate one for games or speech recognition.

Wireless

The wireless uses Acer’s signal up technology, it generally has a strong signal and as long as you don’t own a mansion should work in the garden as long as the router is up to it. The Bluetooth also works as it should.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The keyboard is very similar to that of the desktop but with the num pad cut off and replaced by holding the Fn key on certain keys. The keyboard does have pg up and down, home and end along the right edge. The layout is easy to migrate to from a desktop and you will be touch typing in no time. The keys are responsive and light, though sometimes one will feel a little bit spongy. There is plenty of wrist room and the case will not creak or feel weak when typing. The touchpad is responsive and accurate while the keys are a little tacky and noisy, you will get used to using tap to click.

Performance and Benchmarks

For results of benchmarks when this laptop is overclocked to 2.3GHz view the following article: Acer Aspire 1694 2.0GHz Pentium M to 2.3GHz clockspeed

General windows performance lives up to the specs, the increased speed of the 5400RPM Seagate Momentus over Acer’s usual 4200rpm drive really makes a difference, the extra RAM helps too. The 2GHz Pentium M has no troubles and once into windows becomes responsive almost immediately, the same is true for coming out of sleep or hibernation. While the X600 is up to running Doom 3 and similar titles, the 1GB of RAM which I ordered for 115 from Crucial.com (www.crucial.com) really helps reduce disk caching, which in laptops is even slower than desktops, so is HIGHLY recommended.  Unfortunately Acer stores don’t tend to offer configuration options, but it’s always worth phoning or asking about.

A note about the DVD, the updated firmware for it is a must, it halved the write time and made a much more readable disk for me so grab it straight away!

Performance: (I will use my old desktop computer benchmarks for a performance comparison where possible)

Laptop (Aspire 1694): 2.0GHz Pentium M 760, ATI X600, 1GB RAM
System 1: 2.4GHz Athlon XP, ATI 9800pro @ xt speeds, 512MB RAM
System 2: 2.4GHz Athlon XP, 8500 stock, 512MB RAM

Super Pi:

Laptop  40 seconds (when calculating 1 million digits of accuracy)

3DMark 05:

Laptop  1300
System 1  2804
System 2  Unable to run

The mobility X600 lags here, this is possibly the most graphics intensive benchmark out there so the slower graphics holds it back, but compared to similar chipsets the Acer is very competitive.

3DMark 03:

Laptop  3624
System 1  5612
System 2  1309

This benchmark is more suited to the graphics chip, the suite runs smoother too. The DX9 features bring it ahead of the 8500.

3DMark 2K1:

Laptop  12783
System 1  18757
System 2  11198

Some might argue this benchmark is out of date, but it does reflect overall system performance quite well. The Pentium M really shines through here while the X600 gives performance that is obviously good enough for games of this time and is comfortably ahead of the 8500.

HDD tune:

(view larger image)

Hard drive performance is not quite desktop performancee level but still very good and uses very little power too.

Battery Eater Pro:

Pi Calculations  54,585
HDD ReadWrite  12148MB
Frames Rendered   1993059
Total Time  2:59:04

When on battery the CPU clocks down as do the graphics and the screen becomes more dim, this tends to help battery a lot, but if you still need performance Acer’s e-tools give you the full range of options for the CPU while ATI’s Powerplay gives you control over the graphics. The system is rather flexible. The fan also spins less when on power saving mode, so be aware that if the machine vents are blocked the notebook can get hot. It’s best to use it on a tray.

As a side note on performance and benchmarks for this laptop, after opening up the machine myself I have found the graphics are not upgradeable:

Here you can see the graphics processing unit is a discrete chip with Hynix BGA ram modules soldered onto the motherboard, meaning you can’t upgrade the GPU (view larger image)

Conclusion

Notebooks are all about compromises, choosing the best laptop for you is pretty much choosing what you can compromise on be it price, performance, weight or battery life. Would I recommend this laptop? Well if this is the sort of laptop your looking for then yes. This laptop is cheaper than the Acer Travelmate 810x series, for the same money you get a better CPU, HDD and DVD-RW but also you only get the X600 rather than the X700 graphics card. So if you game a bit, but need the extra HDD space/cpu performance and don’t have heaps and heaps of money to spend then this is a good buy and you wont be disappointed.

The replacement service leaves something to be desired however. My original laptop was delivered two weeks before Christmas and was sent back the week before Christmas as dead on arrival and it was early March before I received a replacement which is abysmal. I have heard many reports that repairs are quicker, however the repair centre keeps no spares and has to order everything.

Overclocking the Acer Aspire 1694

If you’re interested in doing some overclocking on this notebook, or just seeing how it’s done, view this extra section on overclocking the Acer Aspire 1694 2.0GHz Pentium M to 2.3GHz clockspeed.

Pros

  • Solid build
  • Clear screen
  • Good value for specifications
  • Good thermal management

Cons

  • Poor viewing angles
  • Not the latest graphics
  • Poor Acer replacement speed and pixel policy
  • No upgradeability

Overall: 3.5/5 it would be 4 if not for the poor service.

Special thanks: Abo of setfsb for creating the flawless clock generator for my laptop.

Useful links and tools:

Overclocking Benchmark Results

For results of benchmarks when this laptop is overclocked to 2.3GHz view the following article: Acer Aspire 1694 2.0GHz Pentium M to 2.3GHz clockspeed




LEAVE A COMMENT

0 Comments

|
All content posted on TechnologyGuide is granted to TechnologyGuide with electronic publishing rights in perpetuity, as all content posted on this site becomes a part of the community.