We were pretty impressed by Acer's Aspire 8943G, but it's a rather large and pricey laptop, so we were keen to see how its smaller, 17.3-inch brother, the 7745G, would perform, especially as it's considerably cheaper. Our review model was supplied by SaveOnLaptops, where it costs around £760.
Acer has produced some attractive laptops of late, and the 7745G continues this trend. The lid is finished in the now-standard glossy black, but it's improved by the faint lined pattern that's visible underneath. Open the lid and you'll find that Acer has used a pleasing brushed-aluminium effect on the keyboard surround. It works well with the shiny black paint used on the top half of the chassis. For a 17.3-inch laptop, it's pretty slim too, measuring just over 40mm thick.
We're getting used to 1080p resolutions on laptops with larger screens, but the 7745G's screen doesn't quite stretch to that. Instead, it tops out at 1,600x800 pixels. The display's contrast is also lacklustre and, when you move the screen up or down, you'll notice that there's a pretty drastic change in brightness and colours, due to its poor vertical viewing angle. It's all quite disappointing. Nevertheless, above the screen, Acer has added a 1.3-megapixel webcam, which, although it won't win any awards for picture quality, is handy if you use software like Skype for video calls.
Because the chassis has to accommodate the 17.3-inch display, there's plenty of room to fit in a decently sized keyboard. The keyboard uses isolated keys like those on Apple's MacBooks, and even includes a full numerical keypad on the right-hand side, which will come in handy when working on spreadsheets or doing your accounts. It's pleasingly rigid too, and the keys feel responsive under your fingers.
We also like the large trackpad. Although it has a smooth surface, it doesn't suffer from the stickiness of some other trackpads we've used. It also includes multi-touch support, so you can use the pinch-to-zoom gesture to magnify Web pages and photos.
Specs appealThe 7745G's specification is pretty much in line with other 17-inch models at this price point, such as the Toshiba Satellite L670-17K. It's got a dual-core Intel Core i5-450M processor, clocked at 2.4GHz, that can automatically overclock itself to 2.66GHz when handling particularly demanding tasks. The processor is helped along by 4GB of RAM, which gives the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium some room to breathe.
The laptop returned a score of 6,637 in the PCMark05 benchmark test, which puts it behind Toshiba's Satellite L670-17K in terms of raw pace. But that score still indicates it will happily cope with heavy multitasking.
Its gaming prowess is less convincing, though. Its ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5470 GPU only managed a score of 4,674 in 3DMark06. As a result, you'll either have to turn down the detail significantly in newer games, or put up with a jerky frame rate.
Battery life is reasonably good, though. In the intensive Battery Eater Classic test, the laptop managed to keep running for 1 hour and 8 minutes, which is good for a machine of this size. Under normal conditions, you should get around 2.5 hours out of it.
The 500GB hard drive is roomy enough to store plenty of games and movies, and there's also a DVD rewriter for burning files to disc. The laptop is reasonably well specified when it comes to connectivity as well. There are four USB ports, as well as VGA and HDMI sockets for connecting the laptop to an external display. The right-hand side is home to a five-in-one memory-card reader and, on the rear, there's a Gigabit Ethernet port. Although the laptop supports 802.11n Wi-Fi, it lacks Bluetooth connectivity, which is a shame.
We criticised Acer's larger 8943G for its poor sound quality, but the 7745G performs better. Its audio still won't blow you away, but the sound does have a slightly more solid feel to it, although, if you're using the laptop at home to listen to music, we'd recommend you twin it with a decent set of PC speakers.
The Acer Aspire 7745G may not be the fastest performer, but it's still got enough horsepower under the bonnet to handle heavy multitasking. We also like the classy, business-like design and the impressive keyboard and trackpad. Its Achilles heel is its screen, though. It just doesn't reach the high standards of the rest of the laptop's components.
Edited by Charles Kloet