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Acer Aspire 1355XC budget notebook

£600 well spent?

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Review It wasn't so long ago that the PC industry made a big fuss about sub-£1000 desktops, machines deemed to be affordable without too much compromise. More recently, we hit the sub-£1000 laptop market, and again these machines were deemed "affordable" yet powerful. But £1000, or even close to that figure, is still a lot of money for the average person to spend on a computer. In real terms, you can pay less for a second-hand car. Thankfully, for those on a tighter budget, desktop bundles are now regularly advertised for less than £500, and laptops are feeling the squeeze too, even if the quality of many of these machines has left a lot to be desired. But is the situation improving? Based on our testing of the Acer Aspire 1355XC, which is available for just under £600, it most certainly is, writes Gordon Kelly.

Acer Aspire 1355XC

Now, because this is a budget machine, I'm going to start off by telling you what you don't get. This should draw some boundaries, and help us be realistic from the start. Perhaps the first and most obvious omission from the 1355XC is wireless. Wi-Fi has really taken off in the last year and, thanks largely to Intel's Centrino platform, it has become a standard feature on most machines costing £1000 or more. It's absent here, but as the 1355XC uses the same chassis as some of Acer's more expensive models there is actually a wireless button positioned above the keys. Just don't let it fool you.

The second omission is a separate graphics card. Playing sophisticated 3D games is becoming a reality with a lot of the latest mobile chipsets, but certainly not for people on a budget. Instead, what Acer has supplied is an integrated S3 Savage 8 graphics core, which shares 64MB of the system memory.

The final compromise is size. You simply are not going to get a thin'n'light system at this price. The reduced-size components required for such a machine are still too expensive and consequently the 1355XC measures up at a rather hefty 33.4 x 28.6 4.9cm . Despite its large frame, at 3.6kg it weighs little more than your average desktop replacement. The 1355XC will still sit comfortably on the knee.

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