Acer Aspire 5634WLMi Review

by Reads (109,050)

by Alex P, Melbourne Australia

The Acer Aspire 5634 WLMi is a Core 2 Duo powered notebook with an NVidia Go 7300 card. This Acer notebook is sold in Australia and certain parts of Europe. Following is a full review of this 15.4" screen multimedia focused laptop.

Introduction

Around mid-2006 I had considered either upgrading my Acer Travelmate 281 (Pentium 4M 1.8GHz; 256MB Ram; 20GB HDD; CD-Rom Drive) or replacing it. I had opted to go for another Acer as I was working for an electrical retailer in Australia at the time (Retravision) and could get a staff discount.

Initially I considered the Acer Aspire 5670 (Intel Core Duo 1.66; 1GB Ram; 100GB HDD; DVD-Super Multi Drive; WLAN; Bluetooth) however had heard that heat was a major issue with that model and with Core 2 Duo coming out, had decided to wait.

Finally in December 2006 I settled on the Aspire 5634WLMi. The Aspire 5634WLMi retails at $1,999 ($1,577 USD), although there was a $99 cashback offer when I purchased it (now $199). The term ‘cashback’ is somewhat deceptive as the manufacturer increases the cost to the retailer by $99 and the retailer increases their price by $99, thus any gain is effectively negated.

System

  • Intel Core 2 Duo T5600 (1.83GHz, 2MB L2 cache, 667MHz FSB)
  • 1GB PC4200 DD2-SDRAM (2x 512)
  • 8X DVD-Super Multi drive
  • 15.4” CrystalBrite LCD (glossy)
  • 120GB 5400rpm Seagate HDD
  • Nvidia GeForce Go 7300
  • Integrated High-Definition audio support
  • Integrated 1.3 megapixel Orbicam
  • 6 Media keys (volume up/down; play/pause; stop; forward/next; backwards/previous)
  • Weight- 2.95 Kg

Build and Design


Top side of Acer 5634 (view large image)

The ‘thin and light’ folio design of this notebook is aesthetically appealing although the build does not feel very solid. The casing on the unit appears to be fairly thin however LCD is better built and screen flex is not an issue. Provided undue stress is not placed on this notebook, the build quality should not be an issue.


Underside of Acer 5634 (view large image)

I/O Ports

  • Line-out/in and Microphone in
  • Built-in Microphone
  • S-Video Out port
  • VGA Out
  • 4x USB 2.0 Ports
  • 1x PCMCIA Card Slot
  • 5-in-1 card reader (SD, MMC, MS, MS Pro, xD)

Audio ports (audio out/in, microphone-on) are conveniently located on the front of the unit, although this can be a little annoying when connecting external speakers. Also located at the front are wireless LAN and Bluetooth/3G switches (Bluetooth optional). The four USB ports are well placed, two on the left hand side and two at the rear.


Front view of Acer Aspire 5634 (view large image)


Acer Aspire 5634 left side view (view large image)


Right side view of Acer Aspire 5634 (view large image)

Processor and Performance

Acer has marketed this as an ‘entertainment value’ system. The Aspire 5634 is sufficient for general multimedia playback and light gaming too, with a dedicated graphics card, the NVIDIA GeForce Go 7300 – 128MB dedicated VRAM; and up to 128 turbocache (although I have seen reviews of this same notebook that feature the 7600).

Benchmarks

Super Pi Comparison Results

Super Pi forces the processor to calculate Pi to 2 million digits of accuracy and gives an idea of the processor speed and performance:

Notebook Time
Acer Aspire 5634 (1.83 Core 2 Duo) 1m 16s
MSI M677 (1.8 GHz Turion X2) 1m 53s
Fujitsu LifeBook N6420 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo) 1m 02s
LG S1 (2.16 GHz Core Duo) 1m 11s
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
Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M) 1m 53s

 

Comparison results for 3DMark05

3DMark05 tests the overall graphic capabilities of a notebook, below is how the Acer 5634WLMi did compared to other notebooks:

Notebook 3D Mark 05 Results
Acer Aspire 5634WLMi (1.83GHz Core 2 Duo, Nvidia Go 7300) 1,673 3DMarks
Asus Z96Js (2.0 GHz Core Duo, ATIX1600 3,842 3D Marks
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

 

I use this system primarily for my studies (word processing, viewing PDF files, power point, light web browsing) and occasionally watching DivX files, so performance has not been an issue. However the Core 2 processor is great as it virtually eliminates any lag especially when multi-tasking or running a virus scan with Norton Anti-virus.

HDTune

HDTune measures the hard drive speed and performance:


(view large image)

Heat and Noise

Having upgraded from an Acer Travelmate 281 (Pentium 4M 1.8GHz), the difference in heat and noise is remarkable. With the CPUs running at maximum capacity (1.83Ghz – 1.83GHz; 35 degrees), the system is virtually silent, with the fan running only when required, and even then is extremely quiet. The touchpad and palm rest are warm (but not uncomfortably so) after prolonged use. 

Running the CPUs at minimum capacity (1.83GHz – 987MHz) does not seem to have a significant effect upon either heat or noise. The HDD (120 MB Seagate 5400RPM) runs at between ~20 degrees at start up to ~45 after prolonged use. The GPU generally runs at ~40 degrees. 

Keyboard and Touchpad


(view large image)

The layout of the keyboard is fairly standard and feels very solid with no ‘flex’ (compared with some older Acer models where the keys would tend to fall off during use, although they clipped back on). The touchpad is responsive with left/right and 4-way scroll keys. The incorporated scroll function (horizontal and vertical) is a convenient feature.

Screen and Orbicam


(view large image)

The Aspire 5630 series are essentially entertainment systems, and naturally come with a 15.4” widescreen CrystalBrite LCD Screen. The 1280 x 800 pixel resolution (16:10 viewing ratio) is excellent for watching DivX movies; word processing; office applications and web browsing.

Acer’s GridVista software is great for comparing documents, allowing the screen to be divided into certain grid configurations (single; double; triple; quad).


Acer 1.3Mp Orbicam (view large image)

Mounted at the top of the screen is a 1.3 megapixel web cam (manufactured by Logitech). It is capable of recording video or taking still photos and is compatible with instant messaging services (e.g. MSN). The picture quality is generally fairly clear, although tends to lag when quality settings are at maximum.

Audio

The integrated speakers are mounted on the front of this unit. Sound quality is generally clear (even at maximum volume) when watching DivX video files or DVD movies; however tends to become somewhat tinny for music.

Connectivity

  • 10/100 LAN
  • Intel Pro Wireless 3945ABG
  • 56Kbps Fax Modem

The integrated Intel 3945 (802.11a/b/g) wireless card works fine with both Windows Wireless Network Connection and Acer eNet Management software, connecting to a D-Link router (DI-624).

Battery Life

Battery life on the supplied 44W 4000 mAh Li-ion Battery Pack (6-cell) is reasonable, but not great. Running the system on the ‘maximum battery life’ setting (Wireless LAN, Card Bus, LAN off; LCD Brightness ‘0’) it is possible to reach close to the advertised 3.5 hours. However under normal operating conditions (Wireless LAN on; Card Bus and LAN off; LCD Brightness 40%) battery life is closer to 2.5 hours.

Operating System and Software

As a multimedia/entertainment system, this notebook has been bundled with a copy of Windows Media Centre. Acer, like most other manufacturers, has opted for a recovery partition rather than supplying any recovery DVDs. Upon first boot, the system will prompt you to create a backup/restore disk (2 DVDs or 7 CDs) although this can be done at any time using Acer’s eRecovery program.

Acer systems include virtually no bloatware. Included was Acer’s Empowering Technology which includes a range of programs for optimising your system (the utility of which will vary according to the user); Cyber Link Power DVD / Power Producer; Norton Antivirus; NTI CD and DVD Maker and NTI Backup Now.

Customer Support

Standard warranty on Acer notebooks is one year carry-in international traveller’s warranty. However, there was the option to opt out of the $99 cash back in exchange for a three year pick up and return warranty (normally $249), which I took up on just in case.

Acer email support is appalling, however phone support was somewhat better, it tends to vary according to the individual you are dealing with. Their service partner Highpoint, are very helpful and professional, turnaround time is generally about 3 days (they also handled the cash back and actually respond to emails).

Conclusion

The Aspire 5634WLMi is a great mainstream notebook designed for general office tasks and multimedia playback. It should also handle older games easily, however may struggle with more recent ones (although I have not tested any newer games on this system)

Pros

  • Very quiet and minimal heat;
  • Great for multitasking;
  • Dedicated media keys.

Cons

  • Better graphics card would be preferable (Go 7400; 7600);
  • No integrated Bluetooth;
  • No Windows XP Recovery DVDs included.


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