Acer Aspire 5002 Notebook Review (pics, specs)

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by Tarun Abraham, Trivandrum India

(note to readers, the laptop being reviewed is the Acer Aspire 5002 NWLMi and purchased in India.  The Acer Aspire 5002 WLMi available in other parts of the world is the same laptop with slightly different specs, the spec differences are indicated in the review)

Overview and Introduction

The 15.4″ widescreen Acer Aspire 5002 comes in somewhere between being a budget series notebook and a mainstream notebook. The Aspire series is the consumer line of notebooks from Acer while the TravelMate is more business focused and the Ferrari is higher end gaming focused. In India Acer has the Aspire 3000 series and the Aspire 5000 series available at the moment. The Aspire 3000 series comes with an AMD Sempron 3000 and an SiS760GX graphics chip, a 15″ XGA screen, 40GB hard drive, 256 MB DDR333 RAM, Linux OS, a combo drive and a 4-cell battery but no Firewire or Wi-Fi.  This low end Aspire 3000 configuration was available for about Rs. 32K (about $700). It seemed to be a killer deal, and I was pretty convinced that it would satisfy my needs, but I wanted to have a bigger hard drive, an AMD Turion 64 CPU, a DVD writer, a better battery and a widescreen. After I considered buying the Aspire 3000 the Aspire 5000 range was launched about a month later in India and featured all these things I wanted. The Aspire 5002 retains the same base configuration as the Aspire 3000 series, but has the following improved specs (difference between Indian Aspire 5002 version notebook specs and Europe/Americas specs are indicated in red parentheses):

  • AMD Turion 64 ML-30 processor 1.6 GHz
  • 60GB hard drive (4,200RPM)
  • Dual layer DVD+/- burner
  • 15.4″ WXGA CrystalBrite TFT
  • Built-in 802.11 b/g
  • 256MB of RAM (the 5002 comes with 512MB of RAM in Europe/Americas)
  • SiSM760GX graphics chip (borrows up to 64MB from main system RAM)
  • Linspire Linux Operating system (Windows XP Pro comes with the 5002 in Europe/Americas)
  • 8-cell battery battery
  • Dimensions: 1.5 inches thick, 14.3 inches wide, and 11 inches deep
  • Weight: 6.6 pounds (7.3 pounds w/ adapter)

Acer Aspire 5002 collapsed open view

Reasons for Buying

Since my basic intention in getting a laptop was more for tinkering in Linux, designing graphics, browsing the web, and entertainment rather than for gaming, I was not too concerned about the lack of a powerful GPU. The MSI M635 was the other laptop that crossed my path. The M635 comes with an ATI Xpress200 chipset with an X700 GPU. This laptop in its base configuration (40GB/combo drive) was available for about Rs. 66K (about $1,500).  The MSI S270 (Turion 64/12.1″ WXGA/ATI Xpress) was also an option, but I preferred a larger screen and so I chose the Aspire 5002.

Where and How Purchased

I bought the Acer Aspire 5002 from an Acer Showroom in India for Rs. 48,000 (about $1,066) (a saving of Rs. 2,500 on the list price). I got a 1 year international warranty and an option to upgrade to 3-year comprehensive warranty for about Rs. 9000 extra ($200). I felt it was a good deal as I got most of the improvements that I wished for over the Aspire 3000 series, including a widescreen display and a DVD writer.

Build & Design

The Aspire 5002 notebook design is similar to a folio with a silver-black color scheme. The case seems to be made of a plastic with a brush metal finish. The build quality is decent with a fairly sturdy frame, although applying excess pressure does seem to bend the frame. The screen does wobble a bit on shaking the laptop. This is not as sturdy as some of the Dell laptops that I have used in the past which seemed to have a sturdier chassis.

Top view of Aspire 5002

Screen

The 15.4″ TFT is a CrystalBrite glossy display for extra-sharp and bold colors.  Looking into the display when it is off is a little like looking at tinted glass — very reflective. Images look as good as real photographs on the glossy screen. There were no dead pixels on this unit. There is very minor leakage of the backlight from the right edge of the frame, however this is not visible under normal use.

Speakers

The speakers included are suitable for normal applications but lack bass response. I would always recommend headphones/speakers for the serious audiophile. The audio ports are present on the front panel along with a single USB port and the Bluetooth/WiFi indicator switches. The audio/USB ports at the front prove to be a hindrance at some times depending on your typing position.

Processor and Performance

The processor seems reasonable speedy. The SIS graphics are no match for the solutions offered by ATi or nVidia. I am able to play games like Quake 3, Need for Speed UG at 800×600 without much of a problem. I have 256MB of DDR333 of which 32/64 MB is shared by the graphics hardware. The system response is reasonable due to the lack of RAM. Most tasks seem to work flawlessly. I am planning to pop in a 1 GB stick of RAM

Benchmarks

To get a readout of overall processor performance we use the program Super Pi to force the processor to calculate Pi to 2 million digits of accuracy. Below are the timed results of running this program for the Acer Aspire 5002 and some comparison times from other laptops.

Notebook  Time
 Acer Aspire 5002 NWLMi (1.6 GHz AMD Turion 64 ML-30)  2m 12s
 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

For screenshots of extensive benchmark tests for the 5002 NWLMi configuration notebook click this link

Keyboard and Touchpad

The keyboard is quite large and will take a bit of getting used to. A dedicated button for volume control would be useful. I didn’t notice any keyboard sag/flex. The keyboard seems quite firm and the play on the keys is quite good. The keys also offer a good tactile feedback. The touchpad seems quite responsive and has two buttons and a 4-way scroll button. The scroll button seems to work in Microsoft applications such as Internet Explorer and Word, but does not work in Firefox.

Input and Output Ports

The laptop comes with 3 USB 2.0 ports (two on right side, 1 on front side), a phone jack (right side), an Ethernet port (right side), a VGA connector for an external monitor (back side) and 1 type II PCMCIA slot (right side). It has a line in, mic and a stereo out port from the sound card on the front panel.

Acer Aspire 5002 right side view, two USB 2.0 ports + modem and ethernet jack

Acer Aspire 5002 front side view, notice the number of ports on the front and a USB port located there

Acer Aspire 5002 left side view, the DVD burner is located here

Acer Aspire 5002 back side view with lid open, monitor out port on the back right side

Wireless

The Acer 5002 comes with an integrated Broadcom 802.11b/g wireless card. There is no integrated Infrared or Bluetooth. This is not much of a problem since I have a Bluetooth dongle. The laptop comes with Acer’s Signal Up technology and a different kind of antenna that is supposed to offer increased range.

Battery

The battery lasts about 3 hours under normal usage. This is an 8-cell battery, so the longevity should be better than the 4-cell battery Acer Aspire 3002.  For my needs I am happy with the battery performance.

Operating System and Software

The laptop purchased in India comes with Linspire Linux, which is a just a replacement for not just offering an OS free system (in the U.S. the Acer Aspire 5002 WLMi comes with Microsoft Windows XP Pro). A driver CD is provided with the laptop. Acer has some software offerings that can be used to manage the power profiles, secondary display settings, and BIOS/boot settings from within Windows.

The laptop is supposed to include an Antivirus in the bundle along with the Acer tools and utilities.

Customer Support

I have not used customer service yet! The standard warranty provided is for 1 year. It can be upgraded to 3 years for an additional fee. I am considering purchasing the extra warranty, although, I am not sure whether I will buy a new laptop before that.

Complaints

I think Acer could have gone in for the ATI RS480 for the Aspire instead of the SIS solution as the ATI offered a better overall integrated solution. I would wish for a better GPU, Firewire port and S-video port for TV out.

Praises
 
I was really impressed with the CrystalBrite widescreen display and the dual DVD-RW. That’s real value for money along with the 64 bit offering for laptops in India. However, I just found out that you can pick up the same configuration with the ATi X700 for the same price from the U.S. Now that’s a killer deal.

Conclusion

This laptop has a good configuration for entertainment/designers needs. I would recommend this laptop for its excellent value for money with an AMD Turion 64, widescreen display, a DVD-RW, and the CrystalBrite display.


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