Keeping up with Acer is some task.
The Taiwanese company has come of age and is now one of the laptop manufacturers to be reckoned with. Its Aspire 5749 is another fine example of advanced features in a budget package.
From the outside, the laptop is uninspiring. Like many Aspires, Acer has concentrated less on the outward design and more on the technology inside. The light grey chassis is covered with a design that looks not unlike a sheet of metal flooring.
It's a world away from the deep, luxuriant red of the Dell Inspiron 14z, but at 2.3kg, the Aspire 5749 is lighter than your average laptop. We wouldn't have thought you'd have any problems carrying it around for a day.
There is a slight amount of flex around the edges of the keyboard, but this is minimal. The keyboard itself sticks resolutely to Acer's previous models – each key is individually raised above the chassis. It makes for comfortable typing, but crumbs and dirt may easily find their way under the keys.
The touchpad is nicely sized and located slightly further to the left than we've seen on other machines. The two click buttons are melded together as two halves of the same button, while a small section on the right of the touchpad will act as a virtual scroll bar. It's a nice feature that you might find yourself using often after a few experimental flicks.
Acer has seen fit to include 750GB of storage space on the Aspire 5749; a generous amount, considering the average we'd expect to find is 320GB. Even though you can buy external hard drives, it's always reassuring to have plenty of room to install programs and back up data on your native drive.
Power comes courtesy of an Intel Core i3-2330M processor. It's pretty standard for this type of laptop, but manages to kick out a decent amount of power without costing the earth.
Graphical ability is mediocre thanks to an integrated Intel card. You shouldn't have a problem photoshopping your image collection or running high-def movies, but you'll probably want to hold off on ordering Modern Warfare 3 for now.
Battery Eater '05: 169 minutes
3DMark 2006: 3120
If you do want to dabble with multimedia then you'll find this Acer's 15.6-inch screen is quite accommodating. It's not as bright as we've seen on other laptops, but there's a Super-TFT coating that is always welcome when watching films. The viewing angles are also pleasingly wide.
Three USB ports, an HDMI and VGA port and Ethernet socket make up the connections on offer here. The Acer Aspire 5749 comes with 802.11n wireless connectivity, but there's no Bluetooth support for wirelessly connecting peripherals. There's enough speed here, thanks to 4GB of RAM, which should be the minimum amount you look for when buying a laptop.
On the few occasions that we found the Acer lagged, it was when trying to stream high-definition video from the internet with several programs running in the background. Overall, though, it's a comfortably reliable and smooth performance.
Judging by the manufacturer's track record, if you decide to shell out on the Aspire 5749, you can rest assured there'll be a newer model out next week. But, at the same time, that shouldn't matter too much. This is a solidly built, value-formoney performer with plenty of storage space, even if its design leaves plenty to be desired.