Acer Aspire 5920 User Review

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Overview and Introduction

The Aspire 5920G is a 15-inch multimedia Santa Rosa notebook based on Acer’s new gemstone concept. There are many new and interesting aspects to the Aspire such as 3D surround sound system and touch-sensitive media buttons. Featuring an impressive specification, but weighing almost 7 pounds with battery, this notebook is most suitable as a desktop replacement.  The 5920G primarily targets gamers and power users with no desire to break the bank.


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System specification (may vary depending region):

  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • Intel Core 2 Duo mobile processor T7300
  • Mobile Intel PM965 Express Chipset
  • Intel Wireless WiFi Link 4965AGN (dual-band quad-mode 802.11a/b/g/Draft-N)
  • Bluetooth 2.0+EDR
  • 2 GB of DDR2 667 MHz memory, upgradeable to 4GB using two soDIMM modules (dual-channel support)
  • 15.4" WXGA high-brightness (220-nit) Acer CrystalBrite TFT LCD, 1280 x 800 pixel resolution, 8 ms response time
  • NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT with up to 1GB of TurboCache technology (256 MB of dedicated GDDR2 VRAM, up to 768 MB of shared system memory)
  • Dolby-certified surround sound system with two built-in stereo speakers and one subwoofer supporting low-frequency effects
  • 160 GB hard disk drives
  • 5-in-1 card reader
  • DVD Super Multi DL Optical Drive
  • Integrated Acer Crystal Eye webcam (0.3 megapixel)
  • 364 (W) x 270.2 (D) x 30.8/43.7 (H) mm (14.3 x 10.6 x 1.2/1.7 inches) 3.00 kg (6.61 lbs.)
  • Included Accessories: Mouse, Travel bag, Power cord, Manual, Starter CD

Reasons for Buying:

The main reason for the purchase was that my family really needed another computer. This turns out to be a great opportunity for me to get an upgrade to replace my two-year-old Dell Inspiron 6000.  I wanted a reasonably-priced laptop with a fairly powerful dedicated graphic card that can handle Vista, occasional gaming, 3D modeling, and video editing with ease. To be honest, I’ve shopped and waited for months before finally purchasing 5290G.  The Dell Inspiron 1520, Asus A8jp, and Asus F3 were some other laptops on the top of my list.  Even though the Dell turned out to be the cheapest laptop with an 8600GT, the poor build quality of my Inspiron 6000 and recent shipping delays steered me toward 5920G instead.


Dell Inspiron 6000 next to Acer 5920G (view large image)

Where and How Purchased:

The 5920G in this review was purchased in Taiwan for about $1,250 + tax (US dollar) at the computer and electronics show at the beginning of August. This is definitely a good deal considering that many comparable models cost $200-$400 more. The Acer support center in Taiwan was also nice enough to switch the operating system to the English version for free at my request.

The 5920 is also available in the US at BestBuy, but the US version lacks Draft N, Bluetooth, and the T7300. Interestingly, the US version does offer an HD-DVD drive while the Taiwanese version does not.

Build & Design:


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Acer and BMW take the design to a whole new level with the Aspire “Gemstone” Series. The 5920G is unlike any previous Acer notebook. The laptop looks gorgeous and stylish with a pearl-white interior and shiny, reflective black lid that can be opened with a unique latch that doubles as a webcam.  The Aspire’s nicely rounded outline gives it a fairly soothing and unobtrusive look. Part of the interior design includes a couple of LEDs and lines that seem to create an image of flowing water. The downside of the pearl interior, unfortunately, is keeping it clean in the long run. As for the shiny lid, ugly fingerprints easily cover the entire surface. However, the fingerprints can be wiped with most cloth without scratching the finish. Ultimately, whether you like the design or not is just a matter of opinion.


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Regardless of the looks, the 5920G is definitely a rock solid laptop. While the entire laptop is constructed from plastic, the chassis appears extremely tough. The only place that flexes slightly is a small area near the power button. Surprisingly, the laptop also does not feel thick at all. This comes as a huge surprise after years with my all-plastic Inspiron, which is the exact opposite. The hinges supporting the screen on the Aspire are also very sturdy and do not stick out. The hinges are strong enough that I have to hold down the laptop while opening the lid. However, the screen does wobble slightly when I poke it.  The excellent build quality of the 5920G is a relief for me considering that the laptop weighs about seven pounds. For a 15-inch screen laptop, the Aspire is undoubtedly on the higher end of the weight scale, and traveling with this notebook will be an unpleasant experience. On the other hand, it is still easy enough to move the notebook around the house.


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Screen:


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The 5920G is only offered with a glossy CrystalBright screen with WXGA resolution (1280*800).  This may be a disappointment for people who want additional screen real estate. On the other hand, personally I find this resolution to be perfect for a 15 inch laptop since anything higher makes everything stressful to see. Lower resolution also means better GPU performance. Of course, glossy screen means annoying reflections. When turned off, the 5920G’s screen is a perfect mirror. Luckily, you won’t notice any reflections using the laptop indoors. As for the build quality, hardly any ripples appear when I press the back of the screen’s lid, and the screen does not twist easily.


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In general, the screen is really crisp and bright. In fact, the screen is so bright that everything actually looks a little washed out. Not a single dead pixel exists. Unfortunately, the viewing angle, especially from the top, is not very good. From side to side the screen looks passable. There is also quite a bit of light leakage from the bottom of the screen.

Webcam and Built-in Microphone

Above the screen, the webcam seems to stand out. After all, it is also the latch. When the webcam turns on, a tiny green LED next to it will light up. At first, the webcam appears to be a total disappointment considering that it is only 0.3 megapixel. This means that 640*480 is the maximum resolution. While it is unlikely that most people will use this as a dedicated camera, Acer should at least use a 1.3 megapixel camera like its competitors. Aside from the disappointing resolution, the quality of the camera excels. Both the lighting and color appear true. Lastly, the built-in software lacks many advance functions. You can only take pictures and not video.

Two microphones are positioned on the right and left side of the webcam. The quality of the microphone is astounding. When I talked over Skype using just the built-in microphone, the other party reports crystal clear sound. There were also NO ECHOES on the other end, even though I didn’t use headphones.

Speakers

Acer made the speakers one of the key selling points of the Aspire. The built-in Acer eAudio software allows users to change to different modes such as music, gaming, video etc. and toggle surround effect. There is also a handy volume scroll wheel on the front of the laptop. Together, the two speakers above the keyboard and one subwoofer at the bottom create exceptional sound and are almost as good as external speakers. For this laptop, external speakers or headphones aren’t a necessity.


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Processor and Performance:

The 5920G model in this review comes with the Intel T7300 processor (2Ghz) and 160GB 5400rpm hard drive. It does not have Intel Turbo Memory, which yields questionable performance gain anyway. When I first turned on the laptop, it took a while to boot into Windows. When I do, the system automatically starts installing Acer utilities, which I will talk about later in the review. With the default factory settings, the laptop proves to be very snappy and responsive. I did not experience any delays as some other Vista user’s mentioned. Almost all programs such as Firefox open instantaneously. Of course, the 5920G runs much faster than my previous Inspiron 6000 with Pentium M 1.73Ghz and Windows XP. After removing some unneeded software from startup, it takes approximately 45-seconds for the laptop to boot completely.

For games, I’ve tried Cube, TrackMania Nations, Silkroad, and America’s Army so far, and they ran really well even when the GPU is underclocked in “balanced” power mode. I did experience a slight performance increase after installing the NVIDIA 168.18 driver from LaptopVideoToGo.

All the benchmark were run under “maximum performance”.

Benchmarks:

Super Pi comparison results:

Notebook Time
Acer Aspire 5920G (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300) 58s
Dell Inspiron 1420 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500) 0m 54s
Sony VAIO FZ (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300) 0m 59s
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300) 0m 58s
Lenovo ThinkPad X61 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300) 1m 01s
Lenovo 3000 V200 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300) 0m 59s
HP dv2500t (1.80GHz Intel 7100) 1m 09s
Lenovo ThinkPad T61 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T7300) 0m 59s
Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo T7200) 1m 03s
Toshiba Satellite P205-S6287 (1.73 GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T5300) 1m 24s
Toshiba Satellite A205 (1.66GHz Core 2 Duo) 1m 34s
HP Compaq 6515b (1.6GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-52) 2m 05s
HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T2400) 0m 59s
Dell Inspiron e1705 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo) 1m 02s

PCMark05 comparison results:

Notebook PCMark05 Score
Acer Aspire 5920G (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Nvidia 8600M GT) 4,614 PCMarks
Dell Inspiron 1420 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS) 4,925 PCMarks
Sony VAIO FZ (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 3,377 PCMarks
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS) 4,591 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad X61 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 4,153 PCMarks
Lenovo 3000 V200 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 3,987 PCMarks
Lenovo T60 Widescreen (2.0GHz Intel T7200, ATI X1400 128MB) 4,189 PCMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 4,234 PCMarks
Fujitsu N6410 (1.66GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400) 3,487 PCMarks
Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60, Nvidia Go 7800GTX) 5,597 PCMarks
Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400) 3,637 PCMarks
Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400, Nvidia Go 7400) 3,646 PCMarks

3DMark06 comparison results:

Notebook 3DMark06 Score
Acer Aspire 5920G (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Nvidia 8600M GT) 3,249 3DMarks
Dell Inspiron 1420 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 1,329 3DMarks
Sony VAIO FZ (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 532 3DMarks
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 1,408 3DMarks
Samsung Q70 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7300 and nVidia 8400M G GPU) 1,069 3DMarks
Asus F3sv-A1 (Core 2 Duo T7300 2.0GHz, Nvidia 8600M GS 256MB) 2,344 3DMarks
Alienware Area 51 m5550 (2.33GHz Core 2 Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7600 256MB 2,183 3DMarks
Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi 1526 (1.66 Core Duo, nVidia 7600Go 256 MB) 2,144 3DMarks
Samsung X60plus (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7200, ATI X1700 256MB) 1,831 3DMarks
Asus A6J (1.83GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 128MB) 1,819 3DMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 827 3DMarks

 

HDTune hard drive results


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Heat and Noise:

Most of the time the fan is barely audible. Under light load the system stays very cool in general. During intensive gaming and benchmarking, the palm rest and especially the upper area next to the power button on the left noticeably heats up due to the hard drive and graphic card. After 30 to 40 minutes in that condition, the laptop becomes much too hot to be used on the lap. On the other hand, the entire right side stays cool throughout intensive use. Fan noise does go up a notch with the rising temperature, but it is still fairly quiet and unobtrusive. The fan of 5920G running at its highest speed produces roughly the same amount of noise as my old Inspiron 6000 under lightest load.

Optical Drive

The tray of the optical drive is so flimsy that I was afraid that I would break it as I carefully snapped in a disk the first time. The tray surely feels out of place with the excellent build-quality of the rest of the laptop. Aside from that, there is little to no vibration when the drive operates but it gets obtrusively loud. I’ve burned a few DVDs so far with no problems.

Keyboard and Touchpad:

Typing on the Aspire keyboard is quiet and comfortable. The keys are just the perfect size for my fingers. Generally, it feels just like most laptop keyboards. The keyboard does express noticeable flexes and occasionally misses a few inputs. However, this might be a software issue since it tends to happen only in certain applications. Acer placed quite a few handy shortcuts among the keys, such as turning off the screen, putting the laptop to sleep, and disabling the touchpad. Overall, the keyboard is just average.


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The touchpad is probably the worst thing about this laptop. The spacious touchpad is designed to “blend” with the palm rests, thus typing on the keyboard without making contact with the touchpad is impossible. With default setting, using the laptop proves to be a nightmare. I cannot type a single Word document without experiencing crazy movement throughout. Luckily, turning off the virtual scrolling feature solves the problem. Losing this useful feature can partly be compensated by a tiny scrolling device between the two mouse buttons.  Lastly, the buttons of 5920G’s touchpad are extremely loud and stiff. The annoying clicking sound is easily heard several feet away.


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The buttons on the two sides of the keyboard can be used to launch applications and to control wireless activities and media playback. It is a relief that they are nowhere as loud as the touchpad buttons. The Bluetooth and Wi-Fi buttons on the left side will light up and flicker in accordance to the wireless status. On the right side, there are five touch-sensitive buttons. The four blue buttons that light up controls media playback. When you brush those buttons, they brighten briefly then dim. The fifth touch sensitive button opens up the Acer CD/DVD making software. Lastly, a shiny blue “e” button on the upper-right of the keyboard launches Acer Empowering utility. The media buttons are certainly useful, but it is easy to brush the touch sensitive buttons accidentally and trigger unwanted actions. But again, Acer provided software to let you adjust the sensitivity.

Input and Output Ports:

The only thing I would like to mention is that the USB port on the right side is located about one millimeter from the optical drive. That makes it impossible to use a USB stick and the optical drive at the same time. Personally, I do not think it is a problem. Since the port is on the right side, it will most likely be used for something like a mouse. Unless you use up all three ports on the left, it is unlikely that you’ll ever REALLY need that one USB port.

Here is the list of input/output ports:

Left


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  • VGA port
  • Ethernet port
  • Modem Port
  • 3 USB 2.0 ports
  • HDMI (Yes, HDMI)
  • S video
  • IEEE 1394 
  • ExpressCard/54 slot

Right


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  • One USB port
  • Kensington lock slot

Front


Dell Inspiron 6000 on top of Acer Aspire 5920G (view large image)

  • 5 in 1 card reader
  • Line-in jack, microphone in jack, and headphones/speaker/line-out jack.

Rear


Dell Inspiron 6000 on top of Acer Aspire 5920 (view large image)

Wireless:

The Intel 4965AGN card in 5920G works very well. The range is noticeably better than the Intel Pro 2200 (b/g) card in my previous notebook. I only have a G-router so that the speed is approximately the same. My 5920G also has built-in Bluetooth, but it is not present on all models. I can transfer files and sync wirelessly with my Dell Axim x51v PDA without any problem. Lastly, the infrared port comes standard in the front of the notebook. The positioning is perfect for controlling the laptop with a remote. I happened to have a Media Center remote, and it can control the laptop perfectly up to 9 feet away.

Battery:

Every Acer Aspire 5920G comes with an eight-cell 4800mAh battery. In “balanced” power mode, the 5920G lasts about 3:40 minutes while browsing and typing documents. For such a powerful laptop, the battery life is simply amazing. It is safe to say that this laptop can last up to four, even five hours with minimum brightness and lowest processor and GPU speed.

Operating System and Software:

Predictably, the system is equipped with the 32-bit Vista Home Premium. Unlike most laptop manufacturers, the bundled software on the Aspire isn’t just useless bloatware. My previous Dell was stuffed with numerous bloatware and crappy, badly-programmed utilities, so my expectation for the Acer wasn’t very high. To my surprise, not a single trial software package except for Microsoft Office is installed. The system comes with a full-version of Norton Antivirus, Acer Arcade Deluxe, Acer Empowering Tools, Cyberlink PowerProducer, and NTI CD-Maker/Backup. Furthermore, these softwares aren’t just some crappy junk that manufacturers usually throw at you. Even though I kept almost all factory installed software, my laptop still runs snappily and smoothly after a few adjustments. The Acer Empowering utilities, especially, is amazingly useful and user-friendly. The eRecovery tool, for example, allows you to easily create recovery disks yourself and backup the entire system. No complicated steps are involved, and everything is straight forward and easy.

Customer Support:

Acer customer service support at Taiwan is great. Fortunately I’ve never need customer service support so far except for switching the OS to English, which the support staff happily did for free. My system comes with 2 year Taiwanese warranty and 1 year global warranty. I’ve yet to see how the US Acer division performs.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, I definitely recommend Acer Aspire 5920G to gamers and power-users. This is an attractive, solid, and high quality laptop backed up by a reasonable price.

Pros

  • Stylish and well-designed
  • Excellent build quality
  • Great battery life
  • Reasonably priced
  • Outstanding performance
  • Awesome speaker for a laptop
  • User-friendly software, great Acer utilities
  • Good built-in microphone

Cons

  • Touchpad
  • Heavy for a 15-inch notebook
  • Low-resolution webcam
  • Heat
  • Flimsy, noisy drive
  • Keeping the interior clean
  • Viewing angle of the screen



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