With its 15.6-inch screen striking a nice balance between size and portability, the Acer Aspire 5738DZG is a semi-portable laptop, suitable for home use and basic travel.

Weighing 2.9kg, you can comfortably carry it on short journeys, but the 191-minute battery life means you'll need to carry the AC adapter during the day to charge the battery at least twice a day, making it a machine more suitable for use at home on your desk.

As with most laptops in Acer's entry-level range, the Aspire 5738DZG uses plastic throughout its chassis, with no use of the brushed aluminium and metallic finishes seen on more expensive machines such as the Acer Aspire Ethos 8943G.

This creates quite a cheap feel to the Aspire 5738DZG, but the chassis still manages to feel suitably resilient and well made, making it tough enough for frequent use by the whole family.

The user interface of the Aspire 5738DZG incorporates Acer's traditional use of a flat keyboard with all keys raised slightly above the chassis' surface. While the flat keys restrict tactility somewhat, the ample spacing between each key makes it easy to type at speed.

All keys respond smoothly for a reliable typing action. A full numeric keypad is also in place, for quickly and easily inputting data – into spreadsheets for example.

Acer aspire 5738dzg

KEY FEATURE: Acer's unique keyboard design has all keys raised above the chassis' top panel

The Aspire 5738DZG's large touchpad measures 100 x 50mm and perfectly matches the 15.6-inch screen's 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio. Only the cheaply made mouse buttons let things down slightly, because they lack the quality of the rest of the interface.

A scrollbar on the pad's right-hand side makes it easy to scroll vertically through documents, while a small button can be used to disable the pad entirely, for when using an external USB mouse.

Acer aspire 5738dzg

NO TOUCHING!: A compact button enables you to instantly disable the Acer's huge touchpad

To help keep costs low, the Acer Aspire 5738DZG has been built around an older Intel Pentium T4300 processor running at 2.1GHz, rather than one of Intel's latest entry-level Core i3 or mid-level i5 chips.

Backing up the processor is 4096MB (4GB) of DDR2 memory, again eschewing the use of newer technology – in this case faster DDR3 memory – in order to keep the Aspire 5738DZG as affordable and accessible as possible.

Storage is far more pleasing, with a 500GB hard drive in place spinning at 5400rpm for average data read/write speeds.

Unlike more expensive 3D-capable rivals, such as the Asus G51, that use a Blu-ray optical drive for maximum external disc storage and high-definition multimedia playback, the Acer Aspire 5738DZG has a standard CD/DVD rewriter – fitted on the chassis' right-hand side – for creating your own discs.

Acer aspire 5738dzg

CARD HOLDER: A 5-in-1 card reader provides easy access to popular multimedia card formats

A 5-in-1 card reader at the front of the chassis enables access to the most popular media card formats, making it easy to share files with your smartphone and digital camera. All other ports are spread across the right and left-hand sides of the Acer Aspire 5738DZG.

Two USB 2.0 ports are located on the right, while the left side has two more USB 2.0 ports, alongside VGA and HDMI outs for connecting to external analogue and digital displays.

Acer aspire 5738dzg

HIGH OUTPUT: VGA and HDMI-out ports enable you to connect to analogue and digital HD displays

Impressively for such a low priced machine, the Acer Aspire 5738DZG is well equipped for high-speed network connectivity.

802.11n Wi-Fi allows the fastest possible wireless network connections, while a Gigabit Ethernet port on the chassis' left-hand side allows high-speed network connections via Ethernet cables. Bluetooth support is also in place for wirelessly syncing compatible peripherals.

A mid-level ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4570 graphics card drives the Acer Aspire 5738DZG's 15.6-inch screen, for basic graphics performance.

The screen's 1366 x 768 pixel resolution enables high-definition 720p video content to be viewed in all its glory, but with no support for sharper 1080p content, the Aspire 5738DZG lacks the full high-definition compatibility of more expensive machines such as the Rock Xtreme 680 and Asus G73.