Acer Aspire 6920 Review

by Kevin O'Brien Reads (245,412)

by Kevin O’Brien

The all new Gemstone Blue series notebooks from Acer offer a cinematic experience with a 16-inch 16:9 ratio display, built-in subwoofer, and touch-sensitive multimedia control panel. Going beyond the multimedia experience, Acer also give this Gemstone notebook one of the most innovative designs we have seen in years. From a semi-transparent LCD cover with an LED outlined company logo to blue LED illuminated chrome screen hinges Acer really went all out to make this notebook stand out from the competition. Now does Acer really deliver a "true cinematic experience?" Read on to find out.

 

Specifications:

  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo T5750 (2.0GHz, 667MHz FSB, 2MB Level 2 cache)
  • Operating system: Windows Vista Home Premium
  • Memory: 4GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM (PC2-5300)
  • Hard drive: 250GB (5400rpm)
  • Screen: 16" HD Acer CineCrystal (glossy) display (1366 x 768)
  • Graphics: Intel X3100 integrated graphics
  • Optical drive: DVD SuperMulti DL
  • Ports: Ethernet, modem, VGA, microphone in, two audio out jacks, four USB ports, 5-in-1 card reader, ExpressCard slot
  • Wireless: 802.11a/g/n, Bluetooth 2.0
  • Dimensions: 10.8" x 15.1" 1.7" (HxWxD)
  • Weight: 7.3 lbs.
  • MSRP as configured: $899


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Build and Design

Build quality of the Acer Aspire 6920 is very solid and held up quite well during our testing. Whether it was being tossed inside of a backpack haphazardly or carried around by the edge of the palmrest, it didn’t make one creak of noise. The plastics used throughout the notebook are high quality, and give it a tough feel (might even be subliminal with the brick textured palmrest) which doesn’t bend under a strong grip. The glossy plastic bits located throughout, including the media control panel, held up well without showing much wear or scuffing. Those thinking about stuffing the notebook into a backpack full of heavy textbook needn’t worry, as the screen cover resists a strong push without distorting the LCD, although I wouldn’t go as far as standing on it.


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The design of the Gemstone Blue series is a bit unlike anything I have played with or experienced before. Acer paid attention to all of the minor details when designing this notebook, leaving no surface untouched of some sort of special feature. The screen cover which can generally be a pretty basic element of a notebook has a very advanced look to it. It consisted of multiple layers and soft gradient changes from dark blue around the edges to a semi-transparent blue in the center. It is a subtle touch that you don’t notice at first, but once you do it is pretty awesome. LED lighting is another design element used throughout the design of this notebook, and they can be found in many areas:

  • Hinge endcaps
  • Power button outline illumination
  • Media control area
  • Acer logo on the cover

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The only areas Acer didn’t really add to the design of this notebook are found on the lower end configuration models. Acer shares the same plastic trim and palmrest between models, and if your notebook didn’t come equipted with HDMI, TV-Tuner, or Fingerprint scanner you are left with tacky looking blanks. The worst one is the fingerprint scanner blank, which makes it look like you have one, but it is actually black plastic bar. This even confused a few retail sites which list lower configurations as having a fingerprint scanner, even though they don’t.


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Screen

The 16:9 Acer CineCrystal LCD rates average compared to other notebooks, having good color and contrast, but lacking a wide viewing range. The display has a very narrow viewing sweet spot and even a small 5-10 degree change up or down will start to invert colors on the top or bottom half of the screen. Side to side viewing angles were better, but still lacking compared to other displays.


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The aspect ratio of the screen does help reduce the some of the aspect ratio correcting bars found while watching some movies, but doesn’t entirely get rid of them which some might think. Depending on the movie you watch you will still have some bars, either super small, or upwards of an inch tall.

Keyboard and Touchpad

From the first day seeing this Acer notebook opened, I wasn’t sure how much I would like the keyboard with the angled spacebar and right ALT key. Well I am happy to say that although the design is a bit odd, it didn’t impede my typing abilities, which I was nervous about at first. The keys are great, with a shallow cupped surface, and good quiet feedback when typing. Support underneath the keyboard could be better, with some mild sag under moderate finger pressure. The layout and spacing were great and I didn’t miss a full number pad, although it could have fit one if it didn’t have the media controls.


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The touchpad surface was great to use, with a unique brick-like surface texture that let you finger effortlessly slip across it even if your hand was a bit sweaty. Sensitivity was excellent out of the box, and if you wanted to, you could adjust it further through the control panel. The scrolling region of the touchpad was defined with a small ridge that separated it from the main area, which had a tendency to confuse you during use. Your finger would slide over and try to scroll inside the main area, since you would think you were hitting the far edge of the touchpad.


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Input and Output Ports

Port selection on the Acer Gemston Blue was decent, but was missing a few common ports that we would have liked to see. Firewire was nowhere to be found, and for those who selected lower configurations, all you get is a blank HDMI and TV tuner port. Acer included 4 USB ports, instead of just 3 which you sometimes find on 15" or even 17" notebooks. Below is the full port selection list:

  • 4 USB 2.0 ports
  • ExpressCard slot
  • Gigabit Ethernet and modem
  • 5-in-1 multi-card reader
  • Headphone
  • Microphone, Line-In
  • VGA monitor out
  • Kensington lock slot

eSata and a true docking connection were also missing. I would have personally enjoyed not seeing a modem jack and the extra space used for eSata or a proprietary docking connection.

Front: 5-in-1 multi-card reader


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Rear: Subwoofer


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Left: AC Power, Modem, VGA, LAN, 1 USB, Headphone/Mic/Line-in


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Right: Optical Drive, 3 USB, Kensington Lock Slot


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Performance and Benchmarks

The Intel Core 2 Duo T5750 processor found in our review configuration isn’t exactly the fastest processor on the market, but it was more than fast enough for your average workload. Office productivity applications and internet browsers were no problems for this computer. Even more difficult tasks such as compressing audio or video files in iTunes completed without much delay. Overall most users will have a hard time telling the difference between a top of the line processor and base budget model during day to day work. Gaming and more stressful applications where something with that amount of grunt is needed.

The lack gaming abilities of the X3100 integrated graphics chipset on the other hand really put a damper on any fun with this notebook. Without a more powerful dedicated graphics chipset, you won’t be able to play current or even last generation games without horrible frame rates, or even getting the game to load at all. Another downside to the X3100 graphics on this notebook is the removal of the HDMI port (come standard in higher configurations), leaving you with only VGA out for connection to a larger display.

WPrime 32M comparison results

WPrime is a benchmark similar to Super Pi in that it forces the processor to do intense mathematical calculations, but the difference is this application is multi-threaded and represents dual core processors better. Lower numbers indicate better performance.


Notebook / CPU wPrime 32M time
Acer Aspire 6920 (Core 2 Duo T5750 @ 2.0GHz)  44.457s
Sony VAIO FW (Core 2 Duo T9400 @ 2.53GHz) 30.373s
Dell Studio 15 (Core 2 Duo T5750 @ 2.0GHz) 41.246s
HP Pavilion dv5z (Turion X2 Ultra ZM-80 @ 2.1GHz)
39.745s
Dell Vostro 1510 (Core 2 Duo T5670 @ 1.8GHz) 51.875s
Dell Inspiron 1525 (Core 2 Duo T7250 @ 2.0GHz) 43.569s
Dell XPS M1530 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz)
37.485s
HP Pavilion dv6500z (Turion 64 X2 TL-60 @ 2.0GHz) 40.759s
Sony VAIO NR (Core 2 Duo T5250 @ 1.5GHz) 58.233s
Toshiba Tecra A9 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz) 38.343s
Toshiba Tecra M9 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz) 37.299s
HP Compaq 6910p (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2GHz) 40.965s
Lenovo T61 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz) 37.705s
HP Pavilion dv6000z (Turion X2 TL-60 @ 2.0GHz) 38.720s

 

PCMark05 measures overall notebook performance based on processor, hard drive, operating system, RAM, and graphics (higher scores are better):

Notebook PCMark05 Score
Acer Aspire 6920 (2.0GHz Intel T5750, Intel X3100)   4,179 PCMarks
Sony VAIO FW (2.53GHz Intel T9400, ATI Radeon HD 3470)  6,002 PCMarks
Dell Studio 15 (2.0GHz Intel T5750, Intel X3100) 3,998 PCMarks
HP Pavilion dv5z (2.1GHz Turion X2 Ultra ZM-80, ATI Radeon HD 3200)
3,994 PCMarks
Dell Vostro 1510 (1.8GHz Intel T5670, Intel X3100) 3,568 PCMarks
Dell Inspiron 1525 (2.0GHz Intel T7250, Intel X3100) 4,149 PCMarks
Dell XPS M1530 (2.20GHz Intel T7500, Nvidia 8600M GT 256MB) 5,412 PCMarks
Dell Inspiron 1520 (2.0GHz Intel T7300, NVIDIA 8600M GT) 4,616 PCMarks
Sony VAIO NR (1.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5250, Intel X3100)  3,283 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


3DMark06 comparison results for graphics performance (higher scores are better):

Notebook 3DMark06 Score
Acer Aspire 6920 (2.0GHz Intel T5750, Intel X3100)   605 3DMarks
Sony VAIO FW (2.53GHz Intel T9400, ATI Radeon HD 3470)   2,598 3DMarks
Dell Studio 15 (2.0GHz Intel T5750, Intel X3100) 493 3DMarks
HP Pavilion dv5z (2.1GHz Turion X2 Ultra ZM-80, ATI Radeon HD 3200)   1,599 3DMarks
Dell Vostro 1510 (1.8GHz Intel T5670, Intel X3100) 519 3DMarks
Dell Inspiron 1525 (2.0GHz Intel T7250, Intel X3100) 545 3DMarks
HP Pavilion dv6500z (2.0GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-60, NVIDIA 8400m GS)  1,551 3DMarks
Sony VAIO NR (1.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5250, Intel X3100) 504 3DMarks
Dell XPS M1530 (2.20GHz Intel T7500, Nvidia 8600M GT 256MB) 4,332 3DMarks
Dell Inspiron 1520 (2.0GHz Intel T7300, NVIDIA 8600M GT) 2,905 3DMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 827 3DMarks

 

HDTune results:


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Speakers and Audio

Audio performance of the speakers found on this Acer notebook fall between above average and "sounds like earbuds cranked up." Acer included a subwoofer tube built into the hinge section of the display, which helps to add life into the music or movies that you might be watching. However, if you disable the subwoofer, the regular speakers sound horrific. They lack all midrange and bass, and sound just like small earbud headphones cranked up to a higher volume. The overall speaker performance could have been greatly improved with slightly better main speakers, but as it stands, they still rate fairly good if you keep the subwoofer turned on.


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The headphone jack worked very well without any static or hiss if you were watching a movie or listening to music in a more private setting. For a notebook, I still think a users best friend is a good set of "cans."

Battery Life

On the balanced profile with screen brightness set to 60% and wireless enabled, the Acer Gemstone pulled off 4 hours and 6 minutes of battery life with the 4400mAh battery. This is well above average, even compared against notebooks equipped with much higher capacity batteries.

Heat and Noise

Thermal performance is better than average, where even under heavy stress, like in the middle of benchmarking, the notebook is barely above room temperature in all of the important areas. The palmrests were slightly above room temperature and the bottom of the was fairly cool as well. The only warm spot that you notice with it sitting on your lap is right at the back corner of the notebook near the CPU exhaust vent.


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Even while maintaining a very cool outside temperature, the system doesn’t really emit much fan noise. During normal operation the system has the fan completely off or at a very slow speed, which you can only hear if your head is right above the exhaust vent. During stressful activities such as benchmarking or encoding video, the fan increases speed, but still within the whisper range.

 

Conclusion

The Acer Gemstone Blue series has one of the coolest designs we have seen in our office in quite a long time. The attention to detail is astounding, especially with the screen cover where you realize the color isn’t a solid blue, but instead a smooth transition to a lighter color towards centered Acer logo. Even the screen hinges weren’t overlooked, with the chrome accents and inner blue LED lighting when plugged in. While our review model lacked HDMI out and a Blu-ray drive, it still handled downloaded HD content (720P) and DVD movies just fine. The built-in subwoofer performed well, but covered up the anemic audio that the main drivers put out.

For the going price of $899 this notebook configuration is a lukewarm deal, but if you find it on sale for $699 (which we have seen) it turns into a great deal for all that you get.

Pros

  • Solid build quality
  • Cool screen cover paint finish
  • Chrome and LED trimmed pieces everywhere
  • Operates with lap friendly temperatures
  • Great battery life

Cons

  • Anemic main speaker drivers
  • Mild keyboard flex under typing pressure
  • Poor screen viewing angles


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