Editors’ Note: Parts of this article were taken from our Acer Aspire 8920G review.
When the Acer Aspire 8920G debuted earlier this year, it made a big splash for more than just its sexy Gemstone Blue design. The multimedia dynamo packed an 18.4-inch display (in glorious 1080p resolution and 16:9 ratio), True 5.1 Dolby sound, and a dedicated CineDash control panel for multimedia playback. Its follow-up, the Acer Aspire 8930G, ups the ante by including a speedy Centrino 2 processor and a more powerful Nvidia GPU, making an already great machine even better.
Attractive Gemstone Blue Design
As proven with the 8920G, Acer knows how to build a sexy notebook. The 8.8-pound 8930G isn’t very portable, but it delivers a mix of textures and finishes to keep your senses stimulated. The bluish black lid of our 17.4 x 11.8 x 1.5-inch review unit featuring Acer’s Gemstone Blue holographic-like paint looks sharp, and we like the silver Acer logo and its white backlight. The shiny lid is a fingerprint magnet, though that’s not much of of an issue since users likely won’t carry the Aspire 8930G that often.
Upon opening the lid you’ll find a black keyboard above a silver, textured palm rest. The full-size keyboard had a good feel and plenty of travel, and a separate number pad sits to the right. The recessed touchpad, with its separate scroll area discernible by feel, is comfortable to use but a bit on the small side.
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Nestled between the mouse buttons is a biometric fingerprint reader. A 6-in-1 card reader is housed in the Aspire 8930G’s front edge, and on the sides you’ll find four USB ports plus ports for VGA, HDMI, Ethernet, eSATA, modem, and a 54mm ExpressCard.
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As with the 8920G, the 8930G features Acer’s CineDash control system, which is built right into the deck. Positioned left of the keyboard (and pictured below), it allowed us to skip chapters and raise and lower the volume while watching a DVD. Despite resembling the extraterrestrial markings from a prop off the set of The X-Files, the LED-backlit, touch-sensitive console is simple to use.
Click to enlargeThe glossy 18.4-inch (1920 x 1080-pixel) display is bright and colorful, which made watching DVDs quite pleasurable. Watching an HD episode of Fringe streaming on Fox on Demand, we could see sharp details in characters’ faces.
Multimedia mavens will love the system’s True 5.1 Dolby surround, which utilizes six speakers—three in the keyboard deck above the Function keys, two in the palm rest, and a tube-shaped, 10-watt Acer Tuba CineBass subwoofer running along the length of the machine—to deliver powerful audio. Combined with Dolby Home Theater Audio Enhancement technologies, including Dolby Pro Logic II and Dolby Sound Space Expander, movies sounded rich and clear. While watching Iron Man, we were impressed with the robust explosions that frequently punctuated the soundtrack. When we fired up some of our own MP3s, we were pleased that the robust bass didn’t drown out other elements of the soundscape.
Blu-ray Will Cost You
Our configuration came with an 8X DVD drive, but users who want Blu-ray playback should check out the higher-end $2,599 model (available in December), which will include dual 320GB hard drives for a massive 640GB total capacity.
Acer’s 1-megapixel Crystal Eye webcam is simply one of the best integrated notebook cameras that we’ve ever had the pleasure to use. Unlike the vast majority of webcams on the market, it serves up sharp images with excellent, lifelike color balance. Friends and colleagues said we looked remarkably clear and sounded quite crisp. Users have the option of taking photos or video in three different resolutions (320 x 240, 640 x 480, and 720p), all of which look good, even in low-light situations. The included webcam utility is very basic, however, and lacks the extra features (face recognition for security, fun effects, and so on) that we’ve seeing on other notebooks.
Our configuration came equipped with a fast 2.5-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9400 processor and 4GB of DDR3 RAM, which helped the 8930G achieve a PCMark Vantage score of 3,904, which is nearly 600 points above the typical desktop replacement (and more than 400 points better than the 8920G). In our time with the machine, we saw fairly brisk performance as we navigated menus, opened applications, and multitasked.
Although the 8930G’s 3DMark06 score was just 2,491—approximately half that of the average desktop replacement—F.E.A.R. ran at a blistering 109 frames per second at 1024 x 768 with the game’s autodetect settings thanks to the Nvidia GeForce 9700M GT graphics (with 512MB of video memory). When we bumped the setting up maximum resolution (1920 x 1080), the 8930G breezed along at a very playable 53 fps. The 8920G turned in pedestrian frame rates of 28 fps and 25 fps at those respective resolutions. World of Warcraft moved along at a decent 30 fps at 1920 x 1080.
The system comes equipped with a 7,200-rpm, 320GB Seagate Momentus HDD, which offers plenty of real estate for photos, music, video, and other files. On the LAPTOP Transfer Test, the drive copied 4.97GB of mixed media in 2 minutes and 33 seconds—a rate of 33.3 MBps. That’s much faster than the desktop replacement average of 25.1 MBps.
Battery Life and Wireless
As expected from a desktop replacement, battery life for the 8930G was short, though not terrible, given the number of pixels required to light up that big HD screen. It lasted 2 hours and 45 minutes on a charge, which was 6 minutes longer than the category average. Wireless throughput from Intel’s 802.11a/g/draft-n radio was good at 15 feet from our router (20.1 Mbps) and at 50 feet (17.0 Mbps), which are above-average scores for desktop replacements.
A number of applications are preinstalled on the 8930G, including Acer Arcade Deluxe (the company’s instant-on media playback program), Microsoft Office PowerPoint Viewer 2003, and NTI’s multimedia-creation and backup suite. Acer also includes its share of trialware, including space-eating teasers for Microsoft Office, McAfee Internet Security Suite, and a bunch of games (in the Acer GameZone console). Acer backs this model with a one-year warranty and 24/7 tech support.
Naysayers will argue that the $1,699 Acer Aspire 8930G is an incremental upgrade over the 8920G, but when a formula works very well, there isn’t much need for a full-scale change. The system’s powerful processor, improved graphics muscle, and striking design makes it one of the best desktop replacements around.