Acer Aspire 8940G Review

by Kevin O'Brien Reads (97,249)

Overview

  • Pros

    • Huge touchpad
    • Comfortable backlit keyboard
    • Beautiful display
  • Cons

    • Knee breaking 9lbs 5.5oz
    • No Blu-ray software

The Acer Aspire 8940G is a desktop replacement system packing an Intel Core i7 processor, NVIDIA 250M dedicated graphics, Blu-ray, and a massive 18.4″ 1080P display. Acer built this system to not only handle everyday gaming, but also to be the multimedia hub in your dorm room or home office. With extra perks such as a backlit keyboard and touch-sensitive media buttons, is there anything not to love in the Aspire 8940G? Read our full review to find out.

Our Acer Aspire 8940G Specifications:

  • Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
  • Intel Core i7-720QM (1.6GHzGHz, 1333MHz FSB, 6MB Cache)
  • 18.4″ WUXGA FHD LCD display at 1920×1080
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTS 250M with 1GB GDDR3 memory
  • Intel 5100AGN Wireless, Broadcom Gigabit LAN
  • 4GB PC3-8500 DDR3 SDRAM (2GB x 2)
  • 500GB Western Digital 5400RPM Hard Drive
  • Blu-ray/DVD SuperMulti
  • Webcam, Acer CineSurround speakers, backlit keyboard
  • 120W (19V x 6.32A) 100-240V AC Adapter
  • 8-cell 71Wh 14.8v 4800mAh Lithium Ion battery
  • Dimensions (WxDxH): 17.34 x 11.62 x 1.22-1.73″
  • Weight: 9lbs 5.5oz
  • 1-year warranty
  • Price as configured: $1,329


Build and Design
Acer shares the same overall look and feel throughout many of their notebook lines. The Acer Aspire 8940G shows quite a bit of resemblance to the Acer Aspire One … keeping the same hinge shape and position as well as the protruding rear-edge of the main body that you can see when the lid is closed. The side profile of the 8940G doesn’t look much thicker than a smaller 15″ or 17″ notebook. The sloped front and rear edge do a great job of masking thickness even further while also making it more comfortable to carry. Inside you have a completely flat surface containing the keyboard, touchpad, speakers, and multimedia keys. The keyboard is even recessed just enough so the flat keys lay flush with the outer bezel. Acer did an excellent job of making this laptop look user friendly and organized by keeping so many controls within a finger’s reach.

Notebook manufacturers face a difficult task when it comes to making large notebooks that feel sturdy but aren’t overweight. Wider panels require more bracing to reduce flex and heavier notebooks require stronger panels so they don’t flex under their own weight. The Aspire 8940G feels very well built with a solid frame and only minimal flex on the screen cover when the notebook is shut. The palrmest feels durable and shows no signs of flex even under strong pressure. The same applies to the keyboard and upper bezel, which show only minimal signs of flex under heavy pressure. The one complaint I have with the build quality of the notebook is the use of glossy plastics which scratch and smudge easily. If you are a neat freak then those smudge-prone glossy surfaces might get on your nerves over time.

The upgradability factor of this notebook looks great thanks to a single access panel on the bottom of the chassis. Simply remove the panel and you have access to the dual hard drive bays (one of which is unused in this configuration), two system memory slots, two mini-PCIe slots, and a partial view of the processor socket. I saw no “warranty void if removed” stickers anywhere, including the screws holding the heatsink onto the processor. If you want to add a second hard drive you will need to purchase a spare retention bracket, which mounts to the back of the drive, to prevent it from sliding out of place. The open mini-PCIe slot appears to be intended for an onboard TV-tuner, and as such doesn’t have WWAN-antennas pre-installed.

Screen and Speakers
The 18.4″ screen on the Aspire 8940G is an “all-glass” style with a protective layer covering the actual display panel. This gives the notebook a very clean and polished look, but also increases glare and reflections. With the notebook turned off the screen surface resembles a mirror and reflects the entire room around you. These reflections are reduced when the screen is on and displaying bright colors. In terms of overall quality the screen looks very nice with good color reproduction and above average contrast. The screen really draws you in while watching movies or viewing pictures … as if you were viewing that place in person. Black levels look great and the only noticeable areas of light bleed are near the edges of the screen and only visible with the brightness set to 100%. Vertical viewing angles look good until you pivot the screen forward or back roughly 15 to 20 degrees. Horizontal viewing angles look nice right up until reflections off the screen start to overpower the image being displayed. At peak brightness the screen is still easily visible in bright office conditions as well as sitting near a window with the sun casting over the notebook.

Acer includes a 5.1 Cinematic Surround system on the Aspire 8940G that seems to sound a step above most notebooks. The audio system features five speakers, including a Tuba CineBass Booster to increase low-frequency sound. In practice the speakers produced a great surround experience, but I felt the peak volume levels were lacking. Even with the system volume set to 100%, the speakers were nowhere near being over-driven. This causes some trouble if you expect to use the system to watch a movie in your bedroom with it sitting on a dresser rather than on your lap. This can be avoided though if you use external speakers or a home theater system connected to the notebook.

Keyboard and Touchpad
Even though many notebooks are switching to Chiclet-style keyboards these days, Acer still uses a traditional design with thin flat-top keys instead. The design resembles lily patties sitting on a pond with a very thin top and the support structure tucked neatly out of view. The keyboard also offers a backlit which gives you great key visibility in dark settings. The underlying light elements are adequately shielded, preventing “light bleed” unless you view the keyboard at an angle shallower than 45 degrees. The backlight is non-adjustable in brightness, but you can turn it off completely.

The keyboard is very comfortable for typing thanks to properly sized keys and good spacing. The large 18.4″ footprint allows Acer to incorporate a full-size keyboard as well as a full number pad. There is almost no “wiggle” or lateral key travel when you move your hand around the keyboard despite the thin looking keys. The keys are easy to trigger with roughly average pressure required and when pressed give off a very small click sound. The broad palmrest works very well for cradling your hands and wrists. Typing for hours at the notebook isn’t a problem unless it is on your lap … in which case your legs might not enjoy the weight.


The touchpad is a very large Synaptics model that rates very high on my list of best touchpads. It is quick to respond to fast movements, showing no discernable lag at any time. The surface texture is a soft matte finish that makes it easy to slide your finger across whether completely dry or slightly damp from sweat. The only significant complaint I have is the size. This touchpad is so much larger than most of the touchpads that I use that I end up clicking the bottom edge of the touchpad instead of the actual buttons. If you like big touchpads you will love the touchpad on the Aspire 8940G. The touchpad buttons are the same width as the touchpad surface and have a very short throw. Each button gives off a higher pitched clicking sound when you press down. Acer also includes a button to disable the touchpad to prevent accidental movement when using an external mouse. This button is located to the right side of the touchpad and lights up when activated.

Ports and Features
The port selection on the Acer Aspire 8940G is phenomenal. Acer gives you four dedicated USB ports, one eSATA/USB combo port, Firewire 400, VGA, HDMI, DisplayPort, LAN, and audio jacks including digital audio out. To load pictures from a digital camera, there is a flush-mount SDHC-card slot on the front side of the notebook.


Front: SDHC-card slot


Rear: Exhaust vent and Tuba CineBass Booster


Left: AC-power, LAN, VGA, DisplayPort, HDMI, eSATA/USB Combo, one USB, FireWire, Audio jacks, ExpressCard/54


Right: Two USB, BLu-ray drive, one USB, Kensongton lock slot

On the left and right side of the keyboard there are touch-sensitive control keys. The left side has three buttons including one for Wi-Fi On/Off, one for Bluetooth On/Off, and another to access the Acer Backup Manager. The right side offers media quick-access keys including a Media Center button, hold button, skip, play/pause, stop, and fast forward controls, and a switch to enable or disable the touch sensitive buttons. The volume control is a metal rotating dial that gives a slightly more precise method to adjust the volume than a touch-sensitive slider.


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