Five Multimedia Notebooks, Tested

Acer 8920G

The Acer 8920G combines a sizable 18.4" display in a simple black-and silver interior design package with a glossy black exterior. At 8.9 lbs, it’s not much heavier than most 17" notebooks, though it does offer more screen real estate. Our primary beef with the packaging is one you’ll hear repeatedly in this roundup: like many multimedia notebooks, this one’s exterior has a glossy black finish that’s attractive when clean, but far too good at picking up fingerprints and smudges.

Right side connectors, left to right: ExpressC

The GeForce 9650 GS graphics circuitry and a Blu-ray player let its owners exercise the fullest capabilities of the high-definition 1920x1200 screen. It not only accommodates 1080p video, but also does a good job with broadcast and cable high-definition signal sources (thanks to the ATI TV Wonder HD 650 Combo USB for PC device that nearly every notebook maker in this review sent with their units). We also obtained good results piping audio and video from this notebook into our AV receiver for display on a 42” LG HDTV and multi-channel sound playback via its built-in HDMI port (though audio was limited to 5.1 Dolby or DTS formats, with no support for high-def audio available).

We provide an overview of this notebook’s specifications in Table 1 later in this story, along with the data for the Asus and Eurocom units. The review unit we received included an Intel Core 2 Duo T9300 (2.5 GHz) processor, 4 GB of DDR2-667 RAM, a single 5400 RPM 320 GB SATA hard disk, and both wired 10/100 Ethernet and 802.11a/g/n wireless network connections. The Blu-ray burner is a nice touch, with 25 GB of capacity on a single-layer media blank (it also handles dual-layer DVDs as well).

Of all the notebooks in this review, we came to like using this one the best, because of its high-quality full-size keyboard with a numeric keypad. We also got to like what Acer calls its "OneTouch" media controls (at the left of the keyboard in the preceding photograph), which provide touch-sensitive volume, playback and media selection buttons that all spiral outward from the center in different arcs. Acer also includes a multimedia playback suite called Arcade Deluxe that even incorporates Blu-ray playback. The built-in 5.1 speakers are great for personal viewing and playback, with three speakers mounted along the bezel on the display deck, two above the keyboard and a 10 W subwoofer underneath the system for surprisingly powerful bass. Sound and graphics performance on the 8920G are both very good, which we especially appreciated.

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