Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/09/30/review_laptop_acer_aspire_5950g/

Acer Aspire 5940G 15.6in notebook

Media takeout

By Shaun Dormon

Posted in Laptops, 30th September 2010 07:00 GMT

Review If you’re after a well-crafted machine, adorned with a range of features from a media controlling touch panel to the old favourites eSATA and ExpressCard/54, then Acer’s Aspire 5940G could well fit the bill. There’s even a fingerprint reader, a 4-pin FireWire 400 port and a whopping sub-woofer.

Aspire 5940G

Home entertainer: Acer's Aspire 5940G

Being a 15.6in model, the 5940G has a surprisingly large footprint of 382mm x 274mm for this screen size. With a scant 11mm width difference over the likes of Apple’s 17in MacBook Pro, one might have expected Acer to ditch the 1366 x 768, 16:9 panel for at least a 1440 x 900 16:10 screen – this is a £1000 laptop, after all.

This is not to say Acer has fitted a bad LCD at all. The colours are vibrant and the glossy finish helps pictures to really stand out. Whilst all this is fairly good for a screen with a pixel density of 100ppi, I found the glossy finish to be too reflective, even with the brightness maxed out. I can touch type just fine, I don’t need to see a reflection of my hands in the monitor.

And talking of typing, despite their flat surface, the keys have a good tactile response with reasonable spacing. The presence of the cluster of media controls shows that at least one part of the design team was making good use of the 5940G's large frame.

Underneath all of this, you will find a quad core Intel Core i7 720QM clocked at 1.6GHz, 4GB of DDR3 SDRAM, an ATI Radeon HD 4650 packing 1GB of GDDR5 and one of Toshiba’s 500GB MK5055GSX hard disks. The configuration I have here is the AS5940G-724G50MN, the cheapest version weighing in at £999. Its bigger brother swaps the DVD±RW drive for a BD±RW drive in the AS5940G-724G50WN configuration and is about £1300 but, as always, shop around.

Acer Aspire 5940G

The dedicated media control keys (right) take advantage of the unit's large frame

Of course it’s nice to have four cores to carry around with you, but running a mobile CPU with a TDP of 45W comes at a great cost; Acer has only managed to squeeze a maximum of 3 hours of battery life out of the Aspire 5940G. I found that two and a half hours is a pretty realistic battery life with the “Powersmart Mode” enabled. Running PCMark Vantage in standard power mode, the machine held up for an hour and ten minutes.

The Performing Charts

Despite the poor battery life when running PCMark Vantage, the scores achieved seem to be in line with a selection of other i7 720QM based notebooks recently reviewed by Reg Hardware. All of these models also feature 4GB of DDR3 SDRAM and similarly spec’d GPUs as well as being priced in the £1000 range.

Benchmark Tests

Battery Life Results

Aspire 5940G

Battery life in minutes
Longer bars are better

Although the Aspire 5940G appears to lose out in the Memory and Hard Disk tests, overall it manages to score the highest whilst being one of the cheapest laptops in the selection. For those interested in the finer details of the PCMark Vantage results, check out the full breakdown.

PCMark Vantage Results

Acer Aspire 8942G

Longer bars are better

Acer Aspire 8942G

Longer bars are better

With the highest scores coming from the entertainment tests, it’s clear that Acer has managed to build a machine deserving of the media control touchpad and the subwoofer which takes up the rear third of the machine. The backlit keyboard is also a nice touch for controlling films in the dark, but it certainly doesn’t help the battery life.

Aspire 5940G

Let Me Entertain You

Strangely though, even with its abilities predominantly planted in the entertainment division, the Radeon HD4650 seems to be somewhat anaemic in the 5940G. Benchmarks from FarCry 2 also confirmed the HD4650’s lack of grunt, managing to average only 23fps on medium settings, without anti-aliasing, at the maximum screen resolution of 1366 x 768. On the high settings, only an average of only 16fps was achieved with significant frame-tearing.

Aspire 5940G

A bit on the large side considering the screen size

Graphics performance aside, the Aspire 5940G packs some nifty features. To the right of the keyboard is the media control touchpad that provides backlit controls for your media player of choice along with a rotating volume control. Also, as a bonus, the mouse touchpad has some basic multi-touch features such as pinch-to-zoom and the option of two finger scrolling even though there is a scrollbar on the side of the pad.

The multimedia functionality is further boosted by the largest subwoofer I have ever seen fitted to a laptop. Nicknamed TUBA, this is the major contributor to the larger than expected footprint. Still, it does deliver fairly impressive sound reproduction with its Dolby Home Theatre Virtual Surround Sound capability. Overall, the sound output from the 5940G puts most other laptops to shame, but is still no match for a decent pair of portable speakers.

Verdict

Due to the sub-optimal use of available space for a bigger and higher resolution screen, along with the poor battery life and somewhat lousy graphics performance this isn't likely to appeal to more demanding users. However, Acer has managed to produce a responsive machine for day-to-day tasks and would likely suit the home user very well. There are plenty of others in the price and spec range, even more from Acer itself, that are certainly worth a look, but you may want to keep the Aspire 5940G in mind – it does what it says on the tin. ®

Thanks to SaveOnLaptops for the loan of the review sample.

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