The Acer looks and feels classy but the battery life could be better
Its battery life could be improved a little, but Acer’s Aspire 5101 AWLMi is a neatly designed laptop that provides respectable performance and a decent set of features. And, at £469, it even manages to come in a little under our £500 price limit.
First impressions were good – the Aspire 5101 is a solidly built machine, and its attractive silvery-grey design and black trim certainly doesn’t betray its low cost. The 15.4in widescreen display is bright and clear and will work well with DVDs, as well as ordinary business applications.
Like many laptops at the moment the screen has a rather glossy, reflective coating, which is good for DVD playback but can be a bit distracting at times. Some people might prefer the standard matte finish of the screen on the Toshiba Satellite, although that’s really just a personal preference.
This is the only laptop in this group to include the Media Center Edition of Windows XP, so it’s a good choice if you’re looking for a laptop that will be part of your entertainment system at home, or to keep you amused while you’re on the road. It doesn’t come with a TV tuner, though.
We were also pleased with the built-in webcam that sits on the top edge of the screen – a handy feature for anyone who wants to try out video-chat using Skype, for example. It’s certainly good value for a machine in this price range.
There are a few oddly labelled buttons on the top row of the keyboard, along with an unusual silver button sitting right between the two buttons on the trackpad. The buttons on the keyboard are programmable so that you can use them to launch your own choice of programs, while the silver button on the trackpad is a four-way scrolling device. These are useful little extras, although they’re not clearly explained by Acer’s slim manual, so it may take you a little while to figure out how they all work.
The rest of the machine’s design is fairly straightforward. It’s based on an AMD Turion processor running at 2GHz, which provides solid and consistent performance in most of our benchmark tests. As a result, the Aspire should be more than adequate for handling office software, as well as a bit of multimedia work, such as digital photography or video editing.
The 512MB of Ram is about the minimum you’ll need for multimedia work (or to upgrade to Windows Vista), but the 120GB hard disk provides plenty of room for storing mp3 music or digital video clips.There’s no Firewire port for connecting a DV camcorder, so home video buffs will have to budget for a Firewire upgrade if they plan on doing any video-editing work.
We would also like to have seen slightly better performance from the Aspire’s battery. The one hour, 45 minutes battery life in our Mobilemark productivity test isn’t too bad – although it still pales beside the three hours plus of the Toshiba Satellite Pro – but the one hour, 27 minutes of DVD playback time will barely be enough to watch a movie. It’s not going to be much of a games machine, either, as its 3D performance – like that of all these low-cost laptops – is extremely limited.
The limited battery life means that the Aspire 5101 isn’t the best choice for watching DVDs while on the move, but apart from that it’s a well-designed laptop with some good features for the price.
Graphs and table of features can be read via our pdf downlaods above.
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Pros: Solidly built; good performance in most areas; built-in webcam Cons: Relatively limited battery life; poor 3D perfomance Overall: An attractive low-cost laptop, although battery life could be improved
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