The predecessor to the 5943G was about as a visually exciting as a damp Wednesday, but Acer certainly seems to have learned from its mistakes, because this time around it's come up with a much more striking design.
Available for £1,369 from Laptops Direct, among other vendors, the 5943G doesn't half pack in the features, with a Core i7 processor, a massive 8GB of RAM and a Blu-ray drive.
Suited and booted
If the 5943G was a suit, its tailoring would be courtesy of Savile Row, as its two-tone black and sliver colour scheme manages to look quite sharp, while maintaining a broadly businesslike aura. You won't find any feminine curves here. It's all masculine angular lines, with dashes of cold harsh chrome to add a touch of flash.
As soon as you open the brushed-aluminium effect lid you can tell this laptop is an entertainment machine. Perched above the keyboard there's a pair of larger than usual speakers hiding behind metallic grilles. These help the laptop to produce fairly meaty sound, with much more bass than most laptops can muster.
And along with a fat 640GB hard disk, there's also a Blu-ray drive parked on the right-hand edge you can use to watch movies in high definition. Unfortunately, Acer has dropped the ball somewhat when it comes to the screen, as rather than offering a Full HD 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution, this one tops out at a modest 1,366x768 pixels.
As a result, you won't experience the full sharpness that movies on Blu-ray have to offer. Unless, that is, you hook the laptop up to an external flatscreen TV via its HDMI output.
Heart of a Terminator
Despite this oversight, beneath the grey and silver exterior a raging heart beats, because the 5943G calls on an Intel Core i7-740QM chip for its processing muscle (a model with an i5 chip is also available for around £1,215). The i7 sits towards the higher end of Intel's quad-core line up. It requires more cooling than most of Intel's other quad-core processors, which is why it's only usually found in larger entertainment laptops like this model.
Twinned with 8GB of RAM, however, it certainly shows what it's capable of here. In the PCMark05 benchmark test it rocketed along to a score of 7,533, so there's more than enough power on tap for serious number-crunching tasks such as HD video editing and gaming.
In fact, it turns out gaming is one of the areas where this model really excels. The i7 processor obviously plays its part, but it's the ATI Radeon 5850 HD dedicated graphics chip that gives this laptop its skill in the graphics department. It blitzed our 3DMark06 benchmark test with a score of 10,018, so it'll cope admirably with the likes of Call of Duty: Black Ops.
This is a hefty machine that weights in at 3.3kg, and it's wide too, measuring 382mm from side to side. Suffice to say, if you're constantly on the move it's not going to appeal -- something that's reinforced by its so-so battery life. In the Battery Eater test it managed to keep chugging along for 1 hour 26 minutes, which isn't bad for a 15-incher, but not great compared to thin and light alternatives.
Nevertheless, the 5943G is intended to be used around the home rather than on the move, so this isn't all that big a deal in our book.
Finished in style
Elsewhere there are some smart touches. The silver isolated keyboard is firmly anchored into the chassis, helping to give it a very solid and responsive feel. And because there's quite a lot of space between the keys there's very little chance of accidentally hitting adjacent keys when you're quickly tapping out emails.
The trackpad is very roomy too and Acer has added an additional button between the two trackpad keys. Tap this and the trackpad lights up to show transport controls that can be used for skipping through movies or fast-forwarding through music tracks. It's a neat extra that's handy to have.
The 5943G isn't lacking when it comes to the range of ports on offer, either. Along with the HDMI socket, there are also three USB ports, an eSata port, a D-sub connector and a mini-Firewire port. Naturally there's Wi-Fi and Ethernet onboard too, and Acer has managed to include Bluetooth support. There's even a fingerprint scanner on the front for a little extra security.
The 5943G certainly doesn't come cheap, and it's a shame it doesn't include a Full HD screen given the high price tag. Its combination of blistering performance and slick design, however, still means it's a very desirable machine.
Edited by Nick Hide