On the outside, the updated Acer Aspire 5745PG appears identical to the older model. The plastic lid has a lined black finish, while the palmrests are given a brushed aluminium finish. Acer' s laptops may not be ultra sleek but they' re solid enough to withstand a pummeling, handy if you plan to take the Acer Aspire 5745PG on the road or let small children loose on it.
At 2.7kg and with a thickness of 40mm, the Acer Aspire 5745PG is probably best left on a desk. However, it can certainly fit in a rucksack or briefcase if needed, and a battery life of 217 minutes is decent for a laptop this size. Note that running graphics-intensive software will reduce this a significant amount, as the dedicated GPU kicks in (more on this later).
This updated Acer Aspire 5745PG features the same touch-sensitive screen as the previous model and other Acers such as the Aspire 1825, and unfortunately it still feels like a gimmick. Sure, you can use it to scroll through websites and documents, and the display supports multi-touch so you can zoom and rotate using swift gestures, but it feels awkward leaning over your laptop to do so.
Selecting files and menu options through Windows 7 is a little fiddly, and we quickly found ourselves reverting to the touchpad.
As an attempt to justify the touch screen controls, Acer has bundled its TouchPortal software with the Acer Aspire 5745PG. This is a media hub which gives you quick and easy access to your photos, video and music, all well presented within a touch-friendly interface.
On-screen hotspots are generously large so fat-fingered users are well catered for. Media libraries are scrolled through by flicking your finger left or right, and simply tapping your selection will play music and video, or display photographs. Full touch controls are laid out on-screen, to pause or skip through your media.
However, even though the TouchPortal application is well thought-out and does its job, we can' t see many users playing with it on a regular basis. At least the Acer Aspire 1825 has a rotating screen, so you can convert it into a tablet-like device and hold it while you manipulate the screen, which affords a lot more comfort.
We much preferred to use the Acer Aspire 5745PG' s keyboard and touchpad, which are both highly usable. A typically flat keyboard design has been used by Acer, and it' s a well sized board despite the inclusion of a numeric keypad on the right side. Only the Return key suffers, as it' s reduced to a single line.
The keys have decent travel, so don' t feel too firm when hit, although not everyone will take to the lack of key definition. As always, it' s best to try it out in a store to ensure it suits your typing style.
The Acer Aspire 5745PG' s touchpad is another winner, taking up a generous amount of space on the palmrest. A separate scrollbar on the right edge allows you to quickly navigate web pages and documents, while multi-touch gesturing is also supported.
Although the Acer Aspire 5745' s touchscreen controls may be superfluous, we still really liked the 15.6-inch display itself. The 1366 x 768 resolution is standard for a screen this size but we found images looked impressively sharp, thanks to the excellent contrast levels.
A glossy Super-TFT coating is in place, which helps to bring out colours in photographs but also makes the Acer Aspire 5745PG' s screen quite reflective. It' s a reasonably bright display but you' ll struggle to see in strong light.
The Acer Aspire 5745PG has some impressive features for a mid-priced laptop. Most notable is the inclusion of Bluetooth 3.0, which allows speedy transfer of files with compatible mobile devices. We had no problem pairing with our mobile phone and found high-res photos were swapped in a matter of seconds.
Networking is strong, with 802.11n Wi-Fi and Gigabit Ethernet on board for wireless and wired connections. Four USB ports allow plenty of peripherals to be attached, even if three of them are crammed together on the right side of the chassis, while HDMI and VGA ports can be used to hook up external monitors or projectors.
A 320GB hard drive is a little stingy, and we' d have preferred to see 500GB of storage in the Acer Aspire 5745PG. However, only those with large media collections will quickly fill it.