Acer aims to balance price with performance and the Aspire series has been its mainstay for many years. With the Aspire 5742G, Acer has put everything you need in a starter laptop and wrapped it up in a great-looking package.

Right out of the box the Aspire has enough processing power to handle everything you want in a starter laptop, but on top of that it's also a pleasure to look at. The textured finish on both the lid and internal chassis feels comfortable and won't pick up the grubby fingerprints that curse more reflective designs.

The keyboard doesn't feel quite as sturdy as some (we noticed an obvious flex in the keyboard during typing), but the keys are well spaced and easy to type on. The Aspire 5742G sports Acer's favoured keyboard where keys appear to float above the chassis. This looks great, but you'll find it quickly traps debris underneath the keys.

Whilst not as comfortable as either the Sony or the Packard Bell, this style is certainly good enough for bashing out longer documents. There is also a full-sized numeric keypad, although no dedicated hotkeys. The touchpad is also comfortable to use.

The Acer is built around Intel's Core i3 processor, which provides plenty of power, and is backed up by the 4096MB of memory.

But what really sets the Aspire 5742G apart is the 1024MB of video memory provided by the dedicated Nvidia GeForce GT 520M graphics card. As you can see from our benchmark tests, this laptop will be fine running the current crop of gaming titles and will easily handle photo and HD video editing.

Similarly, the massive 620GB of hard drive storage will provide plenty of space for all the family's data.

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Benchmarks

Battery life: 278 minutes
MobileMark 2007: 228
3DMark 2003: 11,991

Vibrant screen

The 15.5-inch screen provides a great level of detail and colour vibrancy. The screen is bright and watching movies or playing games is an impressive experience. The HDMI, VGA and three USB 2.0 ports mean you can also hook it up to your HD TV for big-screen viewing.

Acer aspire 5742g

We achieved a very respectable 278 minutes from the battery during our benchmark tests and the chassis is sturdy enough to take a few bumps and knocks should you decide to take it on the road.

We liked the Acer Aspire 5742G. The higher asking price is a bit painful to swallow, but we feel it justifies this with the dedicated graphics card, large storage space and great battery life.

It's likely to future-proof better than some of the other laptops and would make for a worthwhile purchase.

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