Acer Aspire 5102WLMi Review (pics, specs)

by deltafx1942 Reads (344,055)


The Acer Aspire 5102 WLMi is a 15.4-inch widescreen home/office multimedia notebook featuring the AMD Turion64 x2 processor. While this is a completely new offering from Acer, it utilizes many components from other Acer notebooks, primarily being from the Aspire 3100. It is so new, in fact, that instead of having its own drivers it shares many of the same drivers as the 3100. So new that many of the specs released by Acer America were wrong. I’ll write more on that later.


Acer Aspire 5102 (view large image)

Where and Why Bought:

This notebook was on sale at Circuit City for a mere $849 in store price without rebate. It also came with a free printer, notebook bag, and router. With the Circuit City Advantage Plus Protection plan (which covers for accidental drops and spills), the total price was exactly $1000. I am a college student and need a notebook that I can take to class, run engineering programs on, and play some games. I was originally looking at the Acer Aspire 5672, but this notebook was a steal at the $849 price (or so I thought at the time) since it came with a dual core processor and a webcam for less than the Aspire 5672. Turns out I was missing some key components found on other Acer notebooks. I will get to that later.

Quick Specs of the 5102 as reviewed:

  • AMD Turion64 x2 TL-50 (1.6 GHz, 512 KB L2 cache total, 256 KB on each core)
  • 1 GB 533 MHz DDR2 RAM (2 x 512 MB)
  • 120 GH Hitachi 4200 RPM HD
  • 15.4-inch WXGA Acer CrystalBrite screen
  • ATI Radeon xPress 1100 integrated graphics card
  • Dual layer DVD +/- RW combo with lightscribe? (comes with lightscribe software, but drive doesn’t specify if it has lightscribe or not)
  • Windows Media Center Edition 2005
  • Atheros Wireless 802.11 a/b/g with Signalup high efficiency antennae
  • 8-cell battery with a max of 4.5 hrs battery life with settings on low

Design and Build:


Acer Aspire 5102 above view (view large image)

The Aspire 5102 features the common folio design found on all Aspire models. It is housed in silver painted plastic with black trim on the sides. The screen has almost no flex, which is an improvement over some previous models, and the hinges are tight enough that you need two hands to open it, one to hold the notebook down and the other to lift. It is fairly lightweight, at around 6 pounds depending on configuration. At the time that I bought the notebook, only two configurations were available: 1 GB or 2 GB of memory and Bluetooth or no Bluetooth.

Screen:


Screen view of Acer Aspire 5102WLMi (view large image)

The screen is one of the best I’ve seen on a notebook. It is bright and evenly illuminated. After just 4 days with the notebook, I noticed 2 dead pixels, which isn’t enough for a replacement. They are off in the corner and are not bothersome, but even one dead pixel is cause for concern as to the overall long-term quality of the notebook. The screen has a 16 ms response time, although I haven’t noticed a difference compared with 20 ms flat panel monitor performance. Talking about flat panels, the Acer doesn’t formulate characters (i.e. letters) as well as desktop monitors. While some people complain about the glossiness of most laptops these days, I have found the screen on my Acer to be comfortable for long viewing durations.

Speakers:

The speakers are on the front of the notebook and supposedly have high def. support. Whether that is true or not, I can’t determine, as the speaker sounds distant with almost no bass. They are adequate however for everyday tasks.

Processor and Performance:

While this computer does have a dual core processor, it is nowhere as fast as an Intel Core Duo T2300, or even the stripped Intel T2050. After startup, the processor needs time to warm up before it becomes responsive. The included Acer empowering technology utilities allows the user to control overall processor performance, from medium to max. To save battery and lower the amount of heat generated, I consistently use medium CPU speed.

Using PCMark05, it returned a score of just over 2400, which is on par with Intel Core Duo notebooks.

Benchmarks:

Super Pi calculation to 32 million digits was finished in 2 min 22 sec for 1/24 iterations. To 2 million digits, it finished in 2 min 11 sec for all 20 iterations. This is about 40 sec longer than most Intel Duo T2300 processors, and this was accomplished with the CPU set on Max.

SuperPi:

Notebook

Time

Acer Aspire 5102WLMi (Turion64 x2 TL-50 1.6 GHz)

2m 22s

Dell Inspiron 6400 (1.83GHz Core Duo)

1m 22s

Dell Inspiron e1505 (2.0GHz Core Duo)

1m 16s

Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo)

1m 18s

Toshiba Satellite M100 (2.00GHz Core Duo)

1m 18s

Samsung X60 (1.66GHz Core Duo)

1m 29s

Dell XPS M140 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)

1m 41s

Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)

1m 53s

IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)

1m 45s


PCMark05 returned 2413.

PCMark05

Notebook PCMark05 Score

Acer Aspire 5102WLMi (Turion64 x2 TL-50 1.6 GHz)

2,413 PCMarks
Fujitsu Q2010 (1.20 GHz Intel Core Solo Ultra Low Voltage) 1,943 PCMarks
Gateway E-100M (1.20GHz Intel Core Solo Ultra Low Voltage) 1,648 PCMarks
Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400) 3,637 PCMarks
Dell Inspiron e1405 (1.66 GHz Intel T2300) 2,879 PCMarks
Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400) 3,646 PCMarks
Toshiba Satellite M70 (Pentium M 1.86GHz) 1,877 PCMarks

 

Heat and Noise:

Under AC power, the computer quickly gets warm, especially under the palm rests where the hard drive is located. Most of the time, the fan is off, and like with the Aspire 5672, you can hear the hard drive. This is especially so since this is a 4200 rpm hard drive, and it has to strain itself. I wish it was at least 5400 RPM, but you get what you pay for. To avoid uncomfortable heat, I always use medium CPU speed. When playing graphics intensive games, the fan is constantly on and the palm rests do get hot but not uncomfortable. Just don’t do too much gaming if you don’t want to hear the fan.

Keyboard and Touchpad:

The keyboard has a spongy feel to it, and towards the center, it flexes. However, it is ultimately comfortable enough. The piano black multimedia keys that were originally listed as a specification is non-existent, and a call to Acer support confirms that they do not intend to include it. Seems like the keys were a misunderstanding / miscommunication. This is one of the few gripes that I have: I wanted those keys! The touchpad is responsive and includes a four-way scroll button between the two buttons.


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A couple of keyboard views of the Aspire 5102WLMi


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Input and Output ports:

The 5102 has three USB 2.0 ports, LAN, and a VGA out port. It also includes a 5 in 1 card reader and a PC card slot. The typical headphone, microphone and line-in jacks are found on the front of the notebook.


Acer Aspire 5102 front view of ports (view large image)


Acer Aspire 5102 left view of ports (view large image)


Acer Aspire 5102 right view (view large image)


Acer Aspire 5102 back view (view large image)

Below is an example of a picture taken using the built-in web camera of the Aspire 5102.  It’s a picture of all the stuff that came with the purchase (notebook box, printer, bag — quite a deal).


(view large image)

Wireless:

The Atheros 802.11 a/b/g wireless card provides strong performance. On initial boot, it detected over 10 of my neighbors wireless networks (most had security enabled).

Battery:

The official Acer specification lists the 8-cell battery as achieving 2 hours of battery life. However, I have discovered that by setting my CPU speed to medium and screen brightness to 20%, I can get over 4 hours of life. Medium speed is more than enough for everyday tasks like email, internet, music, and word processing. Photo and video editing would require high or max speed, and battery performance degrades rapidly. A nice feature is that the battery can be charged to 80% full in a little under 1 hour.

Operating System and Software:

Over the past few years, Acer has earned a reputation with their Acer Arcade software. This was noticeably lacking on the 5102. Instead, it came with PowerDVD and is quite a disappointment since it can’t pre-boot. The 5102 comes with Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 with roll-up 2. It is not as good as XP Professional and I have been experiencing standby/hibernation issues that I have never experienced with Pro. Acer doesn’t include a lot of junk programs, and I haven’t had to reformat or do a clean install. However, the systems folder indicates a lot of uninstalled software that I guess Acer wants the user to discover on their own. One interesting thing that I discovered is that lightscribe software is included, but the DVD burner doesn’t mention support for lightscribe. It is important to note that the 120 GB HD comes in 2 60 GB FAT32 partitions. I just converted to NTFS and left the partitions alone.

Customer Support:

Acer support is horrible, at least through email. They are much better on the phone. When I emailed them twice about two different issues, I received the same email detailing the same step twice: go to their website! The website has most common questions answered, and phone support is quick and decent. They certainly cleared up most of my issues in less than 5 minutes. I guess that was because my questions dealt with what they didn’t give me and weren’t really challenging. Acer includes a 1 year warranty on hardware and 90 days on software. I purchased Circuit City’s Protection Plan for safety as it covers for accidental damage due to drops and spills.

Conclusion:

The  Acer Aspire 5102 WLMi is a notebook that will satisfy general users. While the Aspire 5102 lacks some of the features found in other Aspire notebooks, most notably the Aspire 5672, it is still an extremely good buy. With a dual core processor, 1 GB RAM and 120 GB hard drive for under $900, it is a better deal than even many Dell notebooks. It is quiet, offers plenty of power for the average user, and provides decent entertainment. It is a perfect notebook for the college student and mainstream home user who doesn’t require extensive calculations or demanding games.


Pros:

  • Dual core processor at a decent price
  • Brilliant 15.4-inch widescreen
  • Strong wireless connection
  • Integrated webcam
  • Quiet and cool (under med cpu speed)
  • DVD burner
  • 4.5 hrs battery life after a few tweaks.
  • Excellent track pad

Cons:

  • Specifications were incorrect
  • Need to update ATI drivers to get correct GPU reading
  • Slow 4200 rpm hard drive
  • Standby/hibernation issues


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