The 15.6-inch Acer Aspire 5745DG looks much like your common or garden laptop, but this machine has a pretty neat trick up its sleeve. It's one of the few laptops that have a 3D screen, working in conjunction with a pair of active-shutter 3D glasses. Available for £860 from SaveOnLaptops, it's targeted at gamers rather than 3D movie fans, but does the 3D feature make it worth buying?
The 5745DG looks very similar to other models in Acer's Aspire line-up. It has a black lid with a ribbed pattern that shows through the smooth, glossy finish. When you flip it open, you'll find Acer has used the glossy finish on the screen surround too. There's a dark brushed-aluminium finish to both the wrist rest and the keyboard surround. It all adds up to a surprisingly classy-looking laptop. It's a refreshing change from the gaudy appearance of many gaming machines.
Nevertheless, the laptop is quite heavy for a 15.6-inch model, weighing a not inconsiderable 3kg. A good deal of this weight is due to the large battery that protrudes from the bottom of the machine. This battery has the effect of tilting the chassis towards you too, creating a good typing angle.
The keyboard uses the same isolated design as other Aspire models. This is no bad thing. The keys are wide and have good travel, so they feel comfortable to type on. We like the trackpad too. It's quite large and the single rocker-style button is very responsive.
The display doesn't stretch to a 1080p resolution, topping out instead at 1,366x768 pixels. It's LED-backlit, though, and has a glossy coating that helps colours to really leap out at you. Black levels are also impressively deep and the viewing angles are the best we've seen on an Acer laptop for quite some time. The infrared transmitter for controlling the 3D glasses is embedded in the top of the screen surround, behind a small, opaque window. The only real external difference between this display and those on other laptops is that it's much thicker, measuring nearly a full centimetre deep.
To keep the laptop under the £1,000 mark, Acer has had to make some compromises in terms of its specification. The laptop uses an entry-level Intel Core i3-370M chip clocked at 2.4GHz, rather than one of the faster Core i5 or Core i7 CPUs. While the laptop has a healthy 4GB of RAM, the graphics chip is a mid-range Nvidia GeForce GT 425M, rather than something higher-end, such as you usually find in gaming machines. Also, there's no Blu-ray drive, so you can't use the laptop to watch 3D Blu-rays.
The laptop's processor and RAM combination pushed it to a score of 6,624 in the PCMark05 benchmark test. That's not bad, but it's not exactly brilliant either, especially when compared to the scores achieved by some other gaming laptops.
In 3DMark06, the GPU managed to post a score of 7,793, which is reasonably good for normal 2D gaming. The problem is that, when the laptop is running in stereoscopic 3D mode, it has a much more demanding workload. Consequently, detail in games usually gets turned down significantly and frame rates aren't always as high as you'd like.
Nevertheless, the 3D glasses are relatively light and comfortable, and, in combination with the 120Hz screen, produce a really convincing depth-of-field effect. Games like Need for Speed: Shift and Call of Duty: Black Ops feel much more immersive when played with the glasses on. The usual problems with 3D technology on LCD screens apply, however. The glasses dim the on-screen image significantly and there's some cross-talk visible, whereby objects in the mid and far distance seem to appear twice, overlapping. This effect is no worse than that which we've seen on some of the pricier 3D TVs, though.
The 5745DG's large battery has nine cells, rather than the more usual six. This helped the 5745DG to put in a very impressive performance when it came to the intensive Battery Eater Classic test. It managed to keep chugging away for a mammoth 2 hours and 30 minutes, which is about an hour more than most 15-inch machines last in this test. Under real-world conditions, you're likely to get even longer battery life from this machine.
The Acer Aspire 5745DG provides a fascinating insight into what laptops might be like in the future, but its specification isn't quite powerful enough to make the best use of its 3D features. We'd like to see the next Aspire 3D model pack in a faster graphics chip and a Blu-ray drive, so you can take advantage of more 3D content.
Edited by Charles Kloet