A great big screen and booming sound provide cinephilic bliss
It may not fit in an average laptop bag and you could look a little comical trying to peck away at it on the local bus, but a really big notebook with a really big display pleases us. While the Acer Aspire AS8950G-9839 didn’t impress us in terms of gaming performance, it’s one of the best movie-watching laptops we’ve ever tested.
What sets this Aspire apart is its 18.4-inch full HD, widescreen, LED-backlit display. This huge, clear, bright display with 16:9 aspect ratio is perfect for watching movies, either from the included Blu-ray player or streamed online. It would also perform spectacularly on PowerPoint presentations. Equally impressive are the five built-in speakers and subwoofer. This Aspire’s also surprisingly light, weighing only eight pounds on your lap and less than 10 pounds with the power supply. Note, though, that the screen’s native resolution of 1920x1080 isn’t any higher than a typical 17-inch screen. That’s a bonus for those who prefer easy-to-read text and icons, but might be a disappointment to those searching for the maximum screen real estate.
The huge screen on this surprisingly light laptop is perfect for movies but its GPU lacks the wow factor.
Unfortunately, the ATI Radeon HD 6850M with 2GB of DDR3 memory couldn’t deliver the wow factor of the huge screen and blasting sound. At our test resolution of 1680x1050, the system could only muster 26 frames per second in our Far Cry 2 test and 45.6fps on Call of Duty. That’s playable, to be sure, but well below the zero-point notebook we use for comparison, which has a GeForce GTX 460M. The GPU is definitely the limiting factor here. In our CPU-intensive tasks the Aspire’s 2GHz Intel Core i7-2630QM processor and 8GB of DDR3/1600 dual-channel RAM helped it blow past our zero-point machine, just like the other Sandy Bridge notebooks we’ve tested so far.
One of its unique features is a transparent, smooth touchpad that does double-duty as a media control center. A button below the touchpad lets you toggle the modes. We found it took time to get used to the glassy texture of the touchpad. Much worse, if you’re the type who likes to eat Pringles while tending livestock on FarmVille, the greasy fingerprint smears are likely to get on your nerves. We’re also concerned with the location of the little button that toggles Wi-Fi right at the front of the laptop where it’s much too easy to press accidentally, especially when maneuvering this behemoth to just the right position on your lap.
Overall, as a desktop replacement, this notebook will satisfy everyone except those looking for cutting-edge 3D graphics. The big screen and well-designed speaker system make for an outstanding movie-watching experience, and your movie enjoyment won’t be limited to sitting at your desktop—this notebook is not only light enough to lug around without too much stress and strain, it lasted more than three hours playing a DVD on battery power. That’s impressive.
Very large screen and excellent surround sound speakers; surprisingly lightweight.
Mediocre 3D graphics; some questionable industrial design decisions.
2.0GHz Intel Core i7-2630QM
750GB 5,400RPM hard drive
Blu-ray ROM/DVD burner combo drive
ATI Radeon HD 6850M w/2GB DDR3
HDMI out, VGA out, Ethernet, 1x USB 3.0, 3x USB 2.0, 1x eSATA/USB FireWire, fingerprint reader, Wi-Fi, headphone, mic, line-in, media reader, webcam
8 lbs, 4.6 oz / 9 lbs, 14.3 oz
Acer Aspire AS8950G-9839
Premiere Pro CS3 (sec)
Photoshop CS3 (sec)
Proshow Producer (sec)
Far Cry 2 (fps)
Call of Duty 4 (fps)
Battery Life (min)
Our zero-point notebook is an Asus G73Jw-A1 with a 1.73GHz Intel Core i7-740QM, 8GB DDR3/1066, two 500GB Seagate 7,200rpm hard drives, a GeForce GTX 460M, and Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit. Far Cry 2 tested at 1680x1050 with 4x AA; Call of Duty tested at 1680x1050 with 4x AA and 4x anisotropic filtering.