The Acer Aspire 9802WKMi (along with its higher-spec sibling, the 9804WKMi -- together, the 9800 series) is the second 20-inch laptop to reach the UK. Like the Dell XPS M2010 before it, it's difficult to imagine a market for such a product. It's too large to be considered a traditional laptop, and it lacks the upgradeability of a desktop PC. However, like the well-received M2010, the Aspire 9802WKMi does have a place. It should appeal to users who want a computer that has a large screen, plenty of power and moderate portability.
Acer hasn't been particularly adventurous with the Aspire 9802WKMi's design. Sure, its 20-inch screen is a novel feature, but the laptop bears more than a passing resemblance to every other laptop in the Aspire range. There's the familiar silver lid with a shiny Acer logo in the centre, and on the inside a black keyboard and mouse touchpad surrounded by smooth and brushed silver-coloured plastic. It's certainly not the most adventurous design we've seen, but the whole thing feels very well put together.
One surprising aspect of its design is the fact that the screen portion of the laptop is thicker than the base section. This design gives the laptop an inherent instability when sat upright, as the screen could cause the entire device to tilt backwards. Acer has tried to prevent this by installing a plastic bracket that sticks out of the back of the base section. It's an effective measure, but it spoils the appearance of the laptop slightly.
The screen is surrounded by a glossy black bezel. Towards the top of it there's a 1.3-megapixel camera, dubbed the Orbicam because of its ability to follow a subject's face around a room. Next to the camera there's a switch for manually adjusting the height of the lens.
The laptop has a large, comfortable keyboard, to the right of which is a dedicated numerical keypard that aids fast input of numerical data. We were also pleased to see the mouse touchpad has a four-way rocker between the two buttons that can be used to navigate through documents.
To the left of the keyboard there's a set of media control buttons for cycling back and forth through audio tracks and adjusting the system volume. These are joined by the Acer Arcade button, which launches a clone of the Media Center portion of the Windows XP Media Center Edition operating system. Above the main keyboard, there are buttons for quick-launching an email client, a Web browser, an application of your choice and putting the laptop into a power-saving hibernation mode. The latter is a nice touch, but most people will prefer to use the cursor buttons on the keyboard.
The front portion of the Aspire 9802WKMi is home to line-in, microphone and headphone audio ports. These are in a great position for attaching a set of headphones, but you'll see plenty of unsightly wiring if you connect a permanent set of speakers. Rear-facing audio ports would have been a better solution.
Happily, the front is also home to two switches for activating or deactivating the integrated Bluetooth and Wi-Fi adaptors. The majority of the front section is covered by a mesh that's somewhat reminiscent of chicken wire, and behind it is a pair of speakers -- one on either side. The bottom of the laptop is home to a subwoofer.