by Andrew Johnson, Alaska USA
Overview and Introduction:
The Acer 5670 is one of the first notebooks featuring Intel’s impressive new Centrino Duo processor which has two cores to offer significant performance gains. It has a sharp 15.4″
wide aspect screen putting it in the mid-sized desktop replacement category. It’s also loaded with extras such as Bluetooth, a sleek slot-load DVD burner and a built in webcam, which, along with the ATI mobility X1400 graphics and 1GB of Ram plus a 100GB 5400 RPM SATA hard drive make for a pretty impressive machine.
Acer Aspire 5627WLMi (view larger image)
Acer 5670 Configuration as reviewed (Acer Aspire 5672WLMi):
- Intel Core Duo T2300 (1.66 GHz, 667 MHz FSB, 2MB L2 cache)
- 15.4″ WXGA CrystalBrite LCD with 16ms refresh rate.
- ATI Mobility Radeon X1400 128MB
- 100GB 5400 RPM SATA hard drive
- Slot-Load DVD super multi drive
- 1GB DDR2 dual channel memory
- 802.11 a/b/g wireless with singalup high efficiency antenna
- Bluetooth 2.0+EDR
- ExpressCard slot
Acer Aspire 5672 in the box (view larger image)
Build & Design:
Acer 5670 top view (view larger image)
The Acer 5670 is clad in silver painted plastic and a combination of glossy and flat black plastic. It’s not thin, but it’s not bulky either. It is a fairly solid notebook with decent hinges for the screen. There is some flex but nothing alarming. Only a hard press on the rear of the screen will cause ripples to appear. I like the slot-loading dvd burner which looks sleek and avoids potential damage.
The 15.4″ WXGA “CrystalBrite” LCD is glossy and spectacular. It is bright, with high contrast, saturated colors and even illumination. The viewing angle is very good to the sides and falls off more quickly to the top and bottom like most laptops. Response time is rated at 16ms which should eliminate ghosting even in high speed gaming.
Built-in web cam (view larger image)
The screen is about normal brightness for a high quality notebook. I had to turn the brightness down to get a correct exposure in a bright room — five 60 watt light bulbs hung in a chandelier above the notebook photographed on my floor.
As with all glossy screens, reflections of lights can become annoying to some. Your eyes, like my camera, can usually focus on the screen rather than the reflection as shown here, like this:
Example of glossy screen and different vantages your eyes and brain might take of focusing on the screen (view larger image)
The speakers on the front of the notebook put out a decent level of crisp sound that is about par for notebooks, but still sounds tinny with no bass.
Processor and Performance / Benchmarks:
Just what can be expected from Intel’s advanced new Centrino Duo chip? It has twice as many cores, so is it twice as fast? Sometimes, but usually the benefit is smaller. However, while most benchmarks won’t show a twofold increase in speed, heavy multi-taskers will immediately notice a significant boost in overall system responsiveness. Tasks that would normally cause a major slowdown on a single core machine (like running super-pi or rendering a video) seem as if they’re not even running, because the computer is ready and available for your other input on another program.
For a single program to take advantage of two processor cores, it has to be specially programmed. More and more software is being written this way, and for now at least most high end software that is likely to make you wait in the first place is. Video and Photo software is often “multi=processor aware.” Being a photographer, I spend many hours using Adobe Photoshop. While I believe even older computers are more than fast enough for most tasks, it will be a long time before Photoshop’s need for speed is satisfied. Why wait 60 seconds when you can wait 1? Or none?
I compared the Acer 5670 to my Dell 9300 in common Photoshop tasks real photographers do, not wacky filters that might make an Apple seem super fast. The Acer’s clock speed is only about 4% faster than the Dell, so I thought it was a fair indication of the performance gains possible with a dual core CPU. Both machines had 1GB of ram, and the Dell has a faster hard drive (7200 RPM vs. 5400 RPM)
While the tests are not all inclusive, it represents some of the things I am commonly waiting on the computer for, and illustrates the potential performance gains dual core CPUs offer.
Test 1: Average time to convert a 16.7 megapixel raw files to Tiff using Adobe Camera Raw 3.3
Acer Core Duo 1.66GHz: 12 seconds
Dell Pentium M 1.6GHz: 22 seconds
Here the dual core is almost 85% faster!
Test 2: Unsharp Mask a 16.7 megapixel digital image.
Acer Core Duo 1.66GHz: .7 seconds
Dell Pentium M 1.6GHz: 1.2 seconds
Again very significant speed gains with the dual core.
Test 3: Resize a 16.7 megapixel image to 20×30 inches at 300 DPI
Acer Core Duo 1.66GHz: 2.0 seconds
Dell Pentium M 1.6GHz: 4.2 seconds
Whoa! Over twice as fast! I’ll have to up my hourly rate.
Test 4: Convert 16.7 megapixel digital image to CMYK color
Acer Core Duo 1.66GHz: 4.4 seconds
Dell Pentium M 1.6GHz: 9.4 seconds
At least with Photoshop, the performance is scaling almost linearly with clock speed and number of cores! Less commonly used filters are not multi-processor aware and may not show as significant a boost.
I ran the popular Super Pi benchmark once by itself and got a result of 1m 22s. This was just slightly slower than the 2.0GHz Core Duo Super Pi times:
|Acer Aspire 5670 (1.66GHz Core Duo)||1m 22s|
|Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi (2.0GHz Core Duo)||1m 15s|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo)||1m 18s|
|IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 45s|
|IBM ThinkPad Z60m (2.0 GHz Pentium M)||1m 36s|
|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|
|HP Pavilion dv4000 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 39s|
|HP DV4170us (Pentium M 1.73 GHz)||1m 53s|
|Sony VAIO S380 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 45s|
And once while watching a DVD, which did not skip, I got a time of 1m 34s.
This came as a surprise because according to windows task manager, super pi only uses one core, or 50% of the total available processing power. Still, it seems much faster than single core cpu’s at the same clock speed. Unfortunately Super Pi won’t allow itself to be run twice simultaneously, which would have been an interesting benchmark.
HDtune: this measures disk throughput and access time.
The 3D mark 2005 results for this laptop.
|Notebook||3DMark 05 Results|
|Acer Aspire 5670 (1.66 GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB)||1655 3DMarks / NA|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB)||2092 3D Marks / 4462 CPUMarks|
|ThinkPad T43 (1.86GHz, ATI X300 64MB graphics)||727 3DMarks / 3414 CPUMarks|
|Asus V6Va (2.13 GHz Pentium M, ATI Radeon Mobility x700 128 MB)||2530 3D Marks / 3749 CPU Marks|
|Quanta KN1 (1.86 GHz Pentium M, NVIDIA GeForce Go 6600 128mb)||2,486 3DMarks / 4106 CPUMarks|
|HP dv4000 (1.86GHz Pentium M, ATI X700 128MB)||2536 3D Marks / 3557 CPU Marks|
|Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB)||4157 3DMarks / 4812 CPU Marks|
Heat and Noise:
I hoped, being a larger laptop with an advanced processor, this would run very cool. Unfortunately under normal use the palm rest gets warm. Under heavy use like gaming or even DVD watching, the palm rest gets fairly warm on both sides, but never got uncomfortably hot. The underside can get hot if used on your lap, which seems to insulate the laptop. Under typical plugged in use, a quiet fan is running. With the laptop in front of me, I can still hear a quiet refrigerator 20 feet away. The fan will remain off most of the time under battery power, but then the 5400 RPM hard drive is noticeable. It seems a little louder than most.
Keyboard and Touchpad:
Acer Aspire 5672 keyboard and touchpad (view larger image)
The keyboard is a good layout with full sized keys and an extra row of navigation keys plus handy media keys on the left side. I’ve never been bothered by keyboard flex, but the Acer has one of the more “spongy” keyboards out there. Other than that it has good tactile feel and I am able to type quickly and accurately. The touchpad works well and includes a four way scroll button.
Aspire 5670 power button and shortcut button (view larger image)
Input and Output Ports:
The Acer 5670 is a well connected notebook with a good selection of ports that are nicely laid out. Two USB 2.0 ports are on each side, so a mouse can be used on either side without the cord getting in the way. Both a DVI port and a D-Sub VGA port is included for older and newer monitors alike. There is both a PC card and the new ExpressCard slot for expansion. A 4-pin mini-1394 FireWire port is included. There are no legacy (parallel, serial) ports.
Aspire 5672WLMi front side view (view larger image)
Aspire 5670 left side view (view larger image)
Aspire 5670 back side view (view larger image)
Acer 5670 right side view (view larger image)
With 802.11 a/b/g wireless, infrared, and Bluetooth, the Acer 5670 is a very well connected notebook. The wireless worked well and connected to a variety of local wireless hotspots with ease. The range was very good. I’m always surprised to find several networks available in many places throughout Fairbanks, Alaska — not exactly your Silicon Valley.
Acer overrides windows power settings with a comprehensive power management suite called Acer ePower Management. It lets you balance between performance and battery life depending on your preferences. Under normal light use with a middle screen brightness selected, battery life was around 2:15 with wireless on and Bluetooth off. With the maximum battery setting, 2:30 could maybe be squeezed out at a maximum, but only with fairly low screen brightness.
It was able to play a DVD for nearly 2 hours using the included Acer Arcade DVD playback software and Acers power management settings on maximum battery, but with full brightness.
There is usually a greater difference between DVD playback and simple tasks like word processing. Perhaps this is an early issue with the Core Duo not fully going into low power mode. I had hoped for three or more hours battery life, even from such a high performance notebook.
Operating System and Software:
Acer included Windows XP Home plus a multimedia suite for DVD playback and burning and other video and audio tasks.
They also included a bunch of software and utilities to provide better control over various things such as power saving setting and input devices. The Acer Empowering Technology suite has some useful features to manage data security and computer performance. These, as well as several drivers install upon first boot. While it’s a nice feature to automatically install them, so much is installed it takes something like 20 minutes, which does not give a great first impression on what’s supposed to be a rockin’ fast computer. Plus, some of these tasks are handled by windows well enough so the software redundancy may not be necessary.
At the end of this process it prompts you to insert a DVD to burn a recovery disc — another nice feature, but one I’ve often seen included and not requiring user input.
I have to say I am very impressed with the performance of the Acer 5670 with its Core Duo processor. The performance boost from the dual core is anywhere from negligible to a full twofold increase, something that does not come often in the computing world. Acer puts together a nice notebook that’s full of features and a pleasure to use thanks to a crisp screen and full connectivity. I would have liked to see a slightly sturdier build, but that is usual for me. The only big negative is the battery life. I’ve come to expect at least three hours from modern notebooks, and 4-5 is always a big plus. Running for only just over two hours under most use, the 5670 falls somewhat short. If performance is most important, however, shorter battery life is a small compromise. As a powerful desktop replacement with significant portability, the Acer 5670 excels wonderfully.
- Very fast under some circumstances
- EXTREMELY fast under other circumstances
- Bright, sharp, saturated screen
- Good video performance
- Ports are well placed
- Great connectivity and built in webcam
- Short battery life
- Somewhat mushy keyboard
- Build quality is not top-notch.
Pricing and Configuration: Acer Aspire 5670 Pricing