Excellent performance Huge hard drive Sharp, colourful 1080p screen Interesting remote control gimmick Blu-ray drive
Crap touchpad Bulky and heavy Underpowered speakers
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These days we're seeing a lot more slim and light ultraportable laptops. Rising up against these size zero models is the Acer Aspire Ethos 8951G.
Like the Dell XPS 15z and the Macbook Pro 17 inch, this is all about packing in huge amounts of power, and who cares if it's on the chunky side. After all, as our mothers told us: it's not the outside, it's what's on the inside that counts.
As with the previous Ethos models, the Acer Aspire Ethos 8951G is an entertainment centre that's designed to sit on your desk at home.
Crushing the scales at 4.2kg, you wouldn't want to carry this laptop any further than the next room, to avoid popping a couple of vertebrae.
That said, we were impressed at how thin the Ethos is. Sure, 40mm can't really be described as 'thin', when you consider that the Samsung 9000 series measures just a smidgen over 10mm. But considering the girth of this machine, it's comparatively slender.
We also liked the smart design, which follows the XPS 15z's mantra of 'keep it simple'. The dark chassis has a brushed metal finish that spreads everywhere except the palmrests, and it looks as solid as it feels.
We didn't find any hint of flex no matter how hard we poked and prodded, which is to be expected at this price point.
One of the most interesting new features of the Ethos 8951G is the detachable touchpad. In previous models, the touchpad converted to a media control panel at the press of a button.
This laptop has the same gimmick. One push of the corner gives you fast access to the Clear-Fi application, which is a media hub for enjoying your photos, films and music. Another press brings up the play, skip, pause and volume controls, and a third press returns the touchpad to normal.
On the previous models this was nice, but of limited use as you had to be sat in front of the Ethos to use it. However, the Ethos 8951G lets you remove the entire touchpad by flicking a switch, so you can use it from across the room to control your media.
It's a smart idea that works well. Even when we positioned ourselves across the other side of the office, the laptop still responded perfectly to the infrared remote.
Of course, it isn't a perfect solution. You're limited to the basic pause/play/skip and volume controls, and if you wish to go full-screen or fiddle with other settings, you need to change back to touchpad mode and fiddle around.
While the touchpad works fairly well as a remote, it works rather less well as a touchpad. For some reason, the responsiveness is all over the place, with sensitivity levels dying as you slide your finger towards the edges.
In fact, swiping the right edge did nothing at all. We'd actually recommend using a USB mouse with this laptop, to avoid frustration.
Thankfully the keyboard is typically great for an Acer laptop. As usual, an isolation-style design has been used, with each key poking up through an individual hole cut in the Ethos 8951G's chassis.
It's a well laid out board and a great size for touch typing, despite the tiny left Shift key.
The arrow keys are sadly squashed beneath the right Shift key, which seems unnecessary considering the room Acer had to play with. Still, you do get a separate numeric pad, which is useful if you're a spreadsheet junkie.
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