Acer Aspire 5112WLMi Review (pics, specs)

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Overview


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This is a review of the Acer Aspire 5112WLMI model (part of the Acer Aspire 5110 series). It is a mostly home-user oriented notebook with following specs:

  • Processor: AMD Turion 64 X2, TL-50 (1.6GHz, 256Kb x 2 cache)
  • Chipset: ATI Xpress 200 (1100 ?)
  • RAM: DDR2 1GB (512×2 533MHz), max. supported – 4GB DDR667
  • Video: Radeon x1600, 128Mb DDR2 (with up to 512 hypermemory), PCI-Express x16
  • Sound: Realtek HD, 2 stereo speakers
  • HDD: 120GB, 5400 RPM, SATA
  • LCD: 15.4", WXGA, Acer CrystalBrite (Glossy), 200nit, 16ms response
  • CD: DVD+-RW, Super-multi, Tray-load
  • Ports: 4 USB 2.0, VGA, DVI, S-Video, Audio-In, Audio-Out, 1394, Lan, Mic-in, Modem
  • Cards: 5 in 1 memory card reader, PC Type II card slot, Express card slot
  • LAN: Realtek8169/8110 Gigabit (10/100/1000)
  • Wireless: Bluetooth, Atheros B/G, Infrared
  • Misc: Bluetooth phone (not reviewed here), 310.000 pixels CMOS Camer, Microphone
  • Battery: Li-ion 8cell, 4800mAh, claimed life — 3h
  • Weight: 3Kg
  • Dimensions: 358 x 269 x 33.8 mm (W x H x D)
  • Warranty: 1 year international Travelers warranty

From the specs above one would think that this is a power horse. We’ll see if that’s true later.

Reasons for buying

This notebook was purchased at local computer store. The price here in Lithuania where it was purchased came to about 4000LTL ($1,480), with a student discount you can get it for slightly less at 3935LTL ($1,457), including Value Added Tax.

Build & Design

The build is mediocre. It is not a notebook that will withstand a lot of abuse or rough handling as it is made from plastic and not magnesium-alloy or carbon fiber. The best place for this laptop to be used is on a desk or table top with little-to no road trips.

The silver lid does not look very scratch resistant, so a sleeve for protection should be used when carrying it around. However, the screen protection is good — no ripples occur when applying pressure from the back of the lid. The hinges are strong, but the plastic latches are questionable. They have a sturdy enough feel that you know they won’t break anytime soon, the hope is that they won’t break after warranty expires.

The palm rests are a bit weak, they flex when applying focused pressure at a point, the same is true for the area above keyboard where media keys are located. Also, there are a little bit of squeaking and creaks you’ll hear from the notebook when lifting and the carrying notebook around.


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Sitting on top of the package box Size comparison with DVD box Size comparison with standard AA battery Right side with half opened display

The design is good — this notebook definitely looks better in person that what you can tell from pictures. The screen has a nice piano-black border surrounding it, which is in harmony with glossy screen (especially when the screen is black or turned off and shiny and reflective itself). The silver-greenish color of the palm rests and lid top is not bright or disturbing. Nor do they look synthetic, like seen on some cheap notebooks. The one drawback I’ll mention regarding the piano-black border is that it catches fingerprints very easily.

Screen

The screen is a 15.4" WXGA (1280×800). Overall it is good screen. On paper Acer claims it has 200nit brightness and a 16ms response time, I can only confirm there is no ghosting detected and it is fairly bright (there are 15 brightness levels, for me level 10-12 is sufficient indoors), vivid colors and this particular screen had no bad pixels.

When looking at the screen not light leakage is noticeable — all screen corners appear to be lit evenly.


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Max. brightness Vertical angle Horizontal angle Notice reflections when screen is turned off

Of course there are reflections from the screen as it is glossy, but for home users such a screen type is usually preferred. For some the WXGA resolution on a 15.4" screen may be too bulky, but for me it felt okay — the text is larger than SXGA and so is less strain on your eyes.

Audio and Speakers

Audio is handled by a Realtek HD chip. There are 3 audio connectors: line in, line out, mic in. The line out also has SPDIF functionality. When connected to headphones and playing audio CD there is no noticeable hiss on loudest settings. The laptop has one integrated microphone.

There are separate volume control buttons, but, unfortunately, as in all notebooks these days, they are software buttons (no driver — no sound control).

Stereo speakers are located at the front of the notebook. The Speaker quality is mediocre — they sound crisp and clear but not at the highest volume (although they are fairly loud and easily can be heard from across the room). Of course there is no bass.

Processor and Performance

In my usage this notebook felt snappy. I could run a Super-Pi test in the background and browse the Internet without any delays. For office tasks the Turion64 X2 TL-50 is fine. Of course we all know that AMD is slower


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Sticker with specs AMD + ATI best friends from now on

than Intel when it comes to Audio/Video compression. But I don’t think that would impact overall productivity, unless you are a video professional.

With a 120GB hard disk there is plenty of room to store data and the 5400RPM rotation speed is enough for everyday tasks. The included 8x DVD+-RW writes DVD’s as it should – with no slowdowns (for example, the DVD drive in my Quanta MW1 works fine when using 2x writing speed, but when selecting higher speeds, burning full DVD takes longer than with 2x).

The notebook sports an ATI Radeon X1600 graphics card with dedicated 128MB DDR2 memory. This affects performance positively, too. You are able to enjoy hardware video decoding and do some 3D tasks. The graphics solution included here has got only one drawback — ATI’s "hypermemory up to 512MB" means that the graphic can take 384MB of system memory, but with 1GB of system memory on board, I did not feel any adverse performance effects.

Notice processor load, when doing Super-Pi test:


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It seems, that Turion manages to distribute load evenly between cores.

Benchmarks


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I don’t know how AMD tests its processors, but in the real world they are much slower than quoted it seems, at least based on my tests.

All benchmarks are done with default driver settings, all Acer software installed, with antivirus running in the background, maximum performance mode selected and on AC power.

Super Pi

Notebook Time
Acer Aspire 5112 WLMi (AMD Turion X2 1.6GHz) 2m 04s
Asus W3H760DD (2.0 GHz Pentium M) 1m 33s
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


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3DMark05:

Notebook 3D Mark 05 Results
Acer Aspire 5112 WLMi (AMD Turion X2 1.6GHz, ATI X1600) 2,406 3D Marks
Asus W3J (1.83Ghz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB) 3,925 3D Marks
Dell Inspiron e1705 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400) 1,791 3D Marks
Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB) 4,236 3DMarks
Alienware Aurora M-7700(AMD Dual Core FX-60, ATI X1600 256MB) 7,078 3D Marks
Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB) 2,092 3D Marks
Asus V6Va (2.13 GHz Pentium M, ATI x700 128 MB) 2,530 3D Marks
Fujitsu n6410 (1.66 GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB) 2,273 3DMarks
HP Pavilion dv4000 (1.86 GHz Pentium M, ATI X700 128MB) 2,536 3D Marks
Dell XPS M1210 (2.16 GHz Core Duo, nVidia Go 7400 256MB) 2,090 3D Marks

 


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I expected the score for 3DMark05 would be lower than 3200 in this test, but what I got is unexplainable. First I thought something was wrong with ATI/AMD drivers, or under-clocked hardware, or Acer’s software that controls computer performance. But after some uninstalling and reinstalling (I had to reinstall Windows 3 times) nothing changed, the score was almost the same (yes, I tried Omega drivers too).

I doubt that if memory speed was 100MHz faster it would make any significant improvements. Maybe score would increase by 200 — 300 but not more.

As the Radeon can use a big chunk of system memory, maybe faster (667) RAM would help, but somehow I doubt that would be a significant performance gain either. For those interested, the Radeon X1600 clocks on this notebook are (as ATI’s Control panel shows): core 473, memory 369.

3DMark2006: 1214 (with WXGA resolution)

3DMark2006: 1065 (with SXGA resolution)


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WXGA resolution SXGA resolution

After 3D Mark 2005 these numbers are guessable.

Doom3, TimeDemo1, precached: 35.1fps (1024×768, Medium quality, default Radeon driver settings)

Doom3, TimeDemo1, precached: 39.3fps (1024×768, High quality, default Radeon driver settings)


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PCMark2005: 3102


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The PCMark score, which measures overall system performance, is not bad at all.

HD Tune


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Heat & Noise

Note: Ambient temperature was ~25C when the notebook was on AC power with Acer’s default power schema of maximum performance mode.

When doing office tasks this notebook does not get hot. You can however feel warmth coming from the top-left side of the keyboard. After some time, the notebooks entire left side gets warm, including the left palm rest.

The fan spins constantly at very low speeds; in a noisy room it’s almost inaudible. The DVD drive is quite the opposite, which produces huge amount of noise, especially if a poor quality disk is used. Maybe if another power schema was selected (like lower power "Word Processing") there would be no warmth or constantly spinning fan.

When playing games or doing other processor intensive tasks, the notebook’s top-left side gets hot. And I must say — uncomfortably so. This time both palm rests get warm. The fan spins at higher rates, but the noise is not high (definitely lower than my Quanta MW1).

Fan air intake is on the bottom and warm air comes out from top-left & back-left fan outlets. This is a good thing for right-handed people.

Here I tried to do some drawing to illustrate heat distribution:


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Keyboard, Media buttons & Touchpad

The Keyboard is a bit stiff when compared to my Quanta notebook keyboard, so it took a while for me to get used to it. When pressed harder the keyboard flexes a bit in the areas above left and right palm rests. The top-left and bottom-right corners are mushy, this is not terribly annoying, but still noticeable.

The [Ctrl]+[Fn] keys are positioned correctly and the arrow keys are separated and function keys grouped.


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Keyboard Touchpad Media buttons Bluetooth & wireless on/off buttons

The touchpad has a 16:9 ratio (the same as display). At default settings it is somewhat unresponsive, but that’s easily corrected with some changes in settings. The touchpad buttons are plastic and have a pleasant "click" sound when depressed.

There are 2 buttons on the front with 2 dedicated indicator lights — one for Bluetooth and the other for wireless enable/disable. Unfortunately, they are software buttons and do not work until Windows is loaded.

One interesting thing to mention: it seems that there is some bug in Acer’s software — if wireless is disabled, after rebooting, the light next to it lights up, showing that wireless is enabled, but when Windows fully loads up the light goes out.

The DVD drive’s open button is a little bit tricky to hit. It’s almost flushed with the drive’s front panel and requires a fingernail to push it.

Input & Output Ports

Front


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Left speaker, Bluetooth on/off (blue light), Wireless on/off (green light), Power LED, Battery LED, Mic-in, Line-in, Spekers/SPDIF, Right speaker

Left side


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Kensington lock, fan outlet, USB, LAN, InfraRed, 5 in 1 card reader, Fire Wire, PC Card Type II, Express card

Back


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Modem, 2 USB ports, Power, S-video, VGA, DVI, USB, fan outlet

Right Side


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Only DVD+-RW drive is here

Bottom


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Top-right corner — fan intake

* Microphone is located bellow keyboard on the right side.

Wireless

Wireless works as expected — it even detects neighbors unprotected access point with no problem! A test of the infrared with a Sony-Ericsson Cell Phone shows that to work fine.

Camera


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Camera has ability to rotate around

For camera handling Acer provides OrbiCam software. It has a very simple user interface:


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Here is a sample picture taken with the web camera (indoors, with ambient light from window):


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Battery

I had no opportunity to do a full battery test, but when unplugged, wireless & bluetooth off, screen on 7 brightness level, doing office tasks, the battery indicator shows the charge is 92% remaining with an estimated battery time of 2:28 h.

When on battery Acer defaults its mode to "Word processing" and the default core speed lowers to 798MHz (when on AC power and using default power scheme, the core clock is 1596MHz).


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    Battery and power adapter with DVD case for size comparison Power cord has 3 pins.

Acer’s QuickCharge feature allows you to charge battery to 80% in one hour.

Operating System, Software & Doing Recovery

I can say there is no bloatware. Even Norton Antivirus is not installed, but Acer does provide the CD with it + 1 year license. Maybe it is possible to name Acer’s ePerformance management tools and Acer’s eArcade as bloatware, but apart from that you will find no unnecessary software.

There are no recovery CD’s though — you must create them yourself, so when buying this notebook, buy 1 DVD+-R or 4 CD-R’s. A reminder window pops-up every time you start windows, asking you to put in a blank DVD or CD to write all needed recovery information.


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Software installed automatically after recovery Acer’s recovery tool

The hard disk is divided into 3 partitions — a 4GB Acer recovery partition, 58GB FAT32 system partition and 58GB FAT32 data partition.

I tried to do a system reinstall using a recovery DVD and before doing so repartitioned & reformatted the hard disk into 2 NTFS partitions (40GB for the system, 80GB for the data) using 3rd party tools. The recovery disk worked without any problem, only a few questions were asked at the beginning and after about 1 hour I had notebook up and running.

Only 2 notices: 1) Acer’s recovery tool does not ask where to install the system, it automatically installs into partition C: ; 2) The recovery tool reformats system partition to FAT32.

Stability & Hardware problems

As I had reported after playing games for almost 8 hours, the notebook didn’t crash. But when I checked HDD info with HD Tune, it reported the following error:


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I don’t know what is wrong with HDD, but it works fine. In fact if not for the HD Tune report, I would never think that there is something wrong.

Customer Support

I wrote an email to Acer asking about HDD problem above. Almost 2-days had gone and still no answer, but then I got a letter from my mail provider that such mailbox does not exist.

Conclusion

For Home User (as desktop replacement) For Business Oriented User

Pros:

  • Acceptable performance (both gaming and office);
  • Good design, looks nice;
  • All needed ports;
  • Integrated web camera;
  • Glossy screen with vivid colors, good brightness and response time;
  • Bluetooth/Infrared/Wireless;
  • Fan outlet on the left side (good thing for right-handed people);
  • No bloatware;
  • 5 in 1 memory card reader;

Cons:

  • To slow for eye-candy game settings;
  • Mushy keyboard;
  • A bit pricey for such performance;
  • Can not withstand abuse (if your child likes to play with your things J );

Pros:

  • Lots of ports;
  • Good performance in office tasks;
  • Good graphics processor for not super intensive graphics tasks (3D modeling), light gaming, video;
  • Vista capable;
  • Has 64bit computing ability;
  • Bluetooth/Infrared/Wireless;
  • Free Bluetooth phone + integrated web camera for internet conferences;
  • DASP – Acer’s HDD protection;
  • No bloatware;
  • Keyboard layout is OK — [ctrl] and [fn] keys are not swapped, arrow and function keys are separated, additional keys for $ and E symbols;
  • Travelers warranty;

Cons:

  • Heavy;
  • A bit flashy;
  • Not the strongest build (but for the desktop replacement is ok);
  • Because of bottom air intake, may be uncomfortable on lap;
  • Mushy keyboard;
  • Glossy screen;

Unpacking


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