Laptops are no longer the poor relatives of desktop PCs. But is Acer's latest 'desktop replacement' really the equal to a chunky tower system?
It took some time to get here but PCI Express has finally arrived. If you want a PC that can handle the latest games and play HDTV, then PCI Express is exactly what you need - and Acer's latest mobile computer gives it to you.
If you're a graphics heavy user, PCI Express is a recommended motherboard architecture, as graphics cards can make good use of the wider bus. The Aspire also uses one of the latest graphics cards from ATI, the X600 - not the fastest by our benchmarks, but it's not far off the top either.
Still, we had hoped for 128MB of video RAM rather than 64MB. But still, it performed well with Half-Life 2 - just as well, in fact, as one of our test PCs with a 256MB AGP graphics card. This impressive performance isn't down to the graphics card alone, though.
At the heart of the Aspire 1802WSMi is a 3GHz Pentium 4 chip and 512MB of system memory. And it's because it uses a desktop processor that the chassis of the laptop has to be so big - these processors require a lot of cooling and, therefore, a lot of air space around them.
And that's the real problem with this so-called mobile computer. You really don't want to be lugging this one around airport terminals or train stations. Not only is it a big beast, it also weighs a hefty 4.5kg. Worst of all, the battery life is abysmal - a pathetic 55 minutes in our tests. That's barely enough time to get you from the terminal to the runway, let alone your flight. But then the Acer Aspire 1802WSMi isn't designed for people on the move; it's for those people who are fed up with their tower PC taking up all the room on their desk.
At first glance, the 17-inch widescreen display lives up to the name 'Aspire', but when playing back some HDTV content it wasn't up to scratch in terms of sharpness - perhaps something to do with the native resolution being only 1,440 x 900. It's a shame because Acer usually makes good quality displays. The Aspire has a wide range of connectivity options.
It has 802.11g wireless as well as Bluetooth and a PCI Express Gigabit LAN card. As is the way with a lot of PCs, the Aspire comes with a clone of Media Center, called Aspire Arcade. It looks similar to Windows MCE and offers much the same functionality too. It's an impressive piece of software, but falls slightly shy of the user friendliness and design of Media Center.
Although the Aspire has a lot going for it, there's a lot that's frankly awful too. A desktop replacement it might be, but the poor battery life offers practically no degree of mobile flexibility. There are better desktop-laptops that can do much more.