While mobility is the main focus for laptops, the desktop replacement market has grown recently. With screen sizes as large as 20 inches, all the benefits of a full desktop PC can be had in a compact form factor, as shown by the Acer Aspire 9802WKMi (£1399 inc. VAT).
With a footprint of 473 x 350mm, this is a laptop in name only. Weighing 7.8kg, mobility is almost non-existent. However, battery life surpassed all expectations.
Running for 123 minutes under test conditions, the Acer gave a better result than many laptops half its size. The selling point is its 20-inch screen.
Displaying at 1680 x 1050 pixels, images are sharp. Brightness and colour are excellent thanks to the Super-TFT coating, making the Acer ideal for image editing and design work.
At 34mm, the screen depth provides rock-solid protection. Driving the screen is an nVidia GeForce Go 7300 graphics chip - a mid-level GPU, multimedia performance is average but competent. Scoring 5091 points from 3DMark 2003 tests, mild gaming is possible. However, DVDs look cinematic, as do TV signals via the built-in digital tuner.
Improving use, a pair of Acer 3DSonic speakers is fitted. While laptop audio can't match a desktop speaker set, sound quality is clear. Bass is boosted by an integrated BasSonic subwoofer.
Despite less powerful components than we expected, performance was high. An Intel Core Duo T2300 processor runs at 1.66GHz. 1024MB of DDR2 memory helped produce a strong MobileMark 2005 score of 236 points. All software runs with ease, with little or no lags in speed.
For storing large quantities of data, the Acer provides 100GB of storage space set up in a RAID configuration. For recording to optical discs, a slot-loading DVD drive is in place. Supporting DVD /-RW and DVD- RAM, disc compatibility is extensive for current formats.
With such a large chassis, the user interface is spacious, but could have been larger. The keyboard measures 356 x 109mm, and includes a full number- pad. All keys are strong and responsive.
Typing is comfortable at all times, but the keys could have been bigger. For instant messaging, a moveable 1.3-megapixel camera is fitted above the screen.
For multimedia use, a remote control is included. Unusual for such a multimedia laptop, Windows XP Home is installed rather than Media Centre Edition.
Many people may view the Acer Aspire 9802WKMi as missing the point of a laptop, but as a desktop replacement there are few systems to challenge it, making this a great choice for a fully-featured system.
Third-party applications are represented by Symantec Norton Antivirus and Adobe Acrobat Reader. However, a range of proprietary Acer applications are installed for maintenance, and allow control of power management options and desktop organisation, to name but two.