With so many 15.6-inch laptops on the market it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd, but Acer has a cunning trick up its sleeve with the Aspire 5745PG. It's one of the few models around to use a touchscreen display. Our model was supplied by Save On Laptops, where it's priced at an affordable £666.65 -- but does the touchscreen add much to the experience?
Slick and slim
Like many of Acer's recent laptops, the 5745PG is a good-looking machine. Decked out in a combination of gunmetal grey and glossy black, it manages to look both stylish and business-like. With the lid closed, it's relatively slim at 33mm, and weighing in at 2.6kg it's quite light for a 15.6-inch machine.
At first glance, the laptop's display looks no different to hundreds of other screens we've seen on 15-inch models. As you would expect from a consumer-orientated laptop, it has a glossy finish and uses LED backlighting, both of which help it to produce bright and vibrant colours. The display's resolution of 1355x768 pixels isn't anything to write home about, but text and graphics do look quite sharp and there is enough room to have two documents open side by side.
Naturally, it's the touch aspect of the display that's of most interest. The good news is that the screen is actually very responsive and, since touchscreen control is integrated into Windows 7, you can use it for most day-to-day tasks such as opening folders, clicking through links on Web pages and resizing open windows. The screen also supports multi-touch, so you can use pinching and swivelling gestures for zooming and rotating pictures in Windows Photo Viewer. While we think most people are unlikely to use the touchscreen all the time, we believe it's a neat and handy feature to have. You do need to wipe it clean every now and then, as fingerprints start to show up after a while.
The keyboard might not be as exciting as the screen, but it's still excellent. It features flat keys similar to those found on isolated keyboards, but whereas isolated keys generally look as if they're stamped out of the chassis, here they appear to float above it as though they're suspended in thin air. The keys feel very responsive and the layout is good, too. Acer has even managed to fit a numeral keypad on the right-hand side, which will come in handy for those who spend far too much time tapping numbers into Excel.
One weakness with the design, however, is the speakers. These are perched just below the screen hinge and are very small, even by laptop standards. As a result, they really aren't capable of producing much bass, so music and film soundtracks tend to sound quite thin and weedy.
Nevertheless, when it comes to processing power the laptop is reasonably well equipped. It's built around a dual-core Intel Core i3 processor that ticks over at 2.27GHz. This, along with the 4GB of memory, helped it achieve a fairly reasonable score of 5,668 in the PCMark05 benchmark, which indicates it'll happily handle reasonably demanding multitasking duties.
The laptop's 3D performance isn't bad, either. It uses a dedicated Nvidia GeForce 310M chip, and this pushed it along to a score of 4,117 in the 3DMark06 benchmark. This means it's good enough for 3D design software and some limited gaming, but doesn't quite have the chops for the latest 3D first-person shooters.
Stamina, storage and sockets
Meanwhile, battery life is fairly good. In our intensive Battery Eater test, the Aspire managed to keep running for an hour and 25 minutes, which is above average for a 15.6-inch machine. This test places a heavy, constant load on the processor, so it should last much longer on battery power with more normal day-to-day usage .
Elsewhere, the specification is rounded out by a 320GB hard drive, which provides a decent amount of storage space, and a DVD writer that'll come in handy for creating your own DVDs and CDs. It's not exactly laden down with ports. There are three USB ports, along with both a VGA and HDMI socket, but there's no eSata port or ExpressCard slot, so expansion potential is a little limited. Although there is Ethernet and Wi-Fi on board, Acer hasn't added Bluetooth support.
So while it doesn't have the greatest range of ports, the Acer Aspire 5745PG does have a superb design and enough power under the bonnet to handle most daily tasks. Add the useful touchscreen to the mix and you've got one of the better 15-inchers around.
Edited by Emma Bayly