The Acer Aspire 8943G laptop is built to satisfy all your multimedia desires. With its huge, 18.4-inch, 1080p screen, Blu-ray drive, fast graphics chip and beefy processor, it's more than capable of rivalling most desktop PCs when it comes to watching movies and gaming. But, at around £1,200 from SaveOnLaptops and other vendors, these high-end features don't come cheap, so is our configuration of the machine worth the hefty outlay?
It's a whopper
As the laptop packs a huge, 18.4-inch screen, you wouldn't expect it to be very portable. In fact, it's only really portable in the sense that you can carry it from room to room. Weighing in at 4.8kg, and measuring 440 by 44 by 295mm, you certainly won't be packing it in your suitcase to take it on holiday.
Despite its large size, it still manages to look classy. For example, the screen bezel sits flush with the display, giving the effect of there being a single sheet of glass. Liberal use has also been made of a sexy metallic finish on the lid and keyboard surround. The machine feels remarkably solid too. There's very little flex in the chassis when you pick it up.
Open the lid and the first thing you notice is the sheer beauty of the screen. It has a 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution, so text and graphics look absolutely pin-sharp. The LED backlight also helps it to produce remarkably bright and punchy pictures, with the glossy coating making colours look exceptionally vivid. Watching high-definition movies via the built-in Blu-ray combo drive is a real treat.
The sheer size of the chassis means there's plenty of room for a spacious keyboard too. Like many of today's higher-end laptops, the keyboard on this model has isolated keys. The space between the keys, combined with their smooth travel, makes it easy to get up a decent speed when you're touch typing. The layout is also excellent, and there's a full number pad to the right of the main keyboard, which will come in handy if you're a spreadsheet wizard.
The 8943G's large trackpad doubles up as a media-playback controller. If you press a button at the bottom of the trackpad, it lights up to show playback controls that you can use to skip between music tracks or videos in a playlist. This not only looks cool, but also comes in quite handy.
The 8943G certainly isn't lacking ports. Along with five USB ports (one of which doubles as an eSata port), there's also a mini FireWire socket, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and a VGA socket for hooking the laptop up to an external monitor or projector. There's also an HDMI socket that makes it easy to connect the 8943G to an HD Ready TV.
The 8943G has 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. There's even a fingerprint scanner to the right of the trackpad. Sadly, though, it lacks an ExpressCard slot. Nevertheless, the laptop does include a built-in digital TV tuner that you can use to watch live TV in Windows Media Centre or record shows to the 640GB hard drive. There's even a remote control included in the box so you can switch channels from the comfort of your sofa.
Acer has built the 8943G around a quad-core Intel Core i7-720QM processor that ticks over at 1.6GHz. This chip also has a 'turbo boost' feature that can clock it all the way up to 2.8GHz if extra processing grunt is required. There's also a fairly generous 4GB of RAM on-board.
This meaty configuration helped push the laptop to an impressive score of 6,902 in the PCMark05 benchmark test, so this machine will have no problems munching its way through heavy multitasking jobs. It's no slouch when it comes to 3D gaming either, as it uses an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 chip with 1GB of dedicated memory. In 3DMark06, it posted a score of 9,858, so it's more than capable of producing a high frame rate in the latest first-person shooters.
The 8943G isn't a laptop that's likely to be used on the move due to its size, but it's not that bad a performer when running on battery power. In the Battery Eater Classic test, it managed to keep chugging away for 1 hour and 21 minutes. That's a very intensive test, so it'll last much longer with normal, day-to-day use.
The laptop's speakers are disappointing, though. By default, Acer has enabled Dolby surround-sound processing, but, while this adds extra space to the audio, it also makes the sound seem slightly over-processed. When you turn off the processing, it's pretty easy to see why Acer has turned it on by default -- the speakers sound very tinny and hollow.
The Acer Aspire 8943G is certainly expensive, but it packs a knock-out punch when it comes to features and performance. If you're after a desktop-replacement machine for gaming, watching movies and more, it should be near the top of your list.
Edited by Charles Kloet