We're not surprised that Acer has the second-largest market share for notebooks worldwide: The company has a knack for churning out low-priced laptops that perform just as well--and sometimes better than--their pricier competitors. That said, we wanted to love the sub-$1,000 Acer Aspire 7520, the company's latest 17-inch desktop replacement. However, the system's sluggish performance and polarizing design take the shimmer off the low price tag.
Aspire 7520 Design
At 7.4 pounds, the 7520 is light for a desktop replacement. It sports the same love-it-or-hate-it Gemstone design as other Aspire notebooks, including the 4710-2013
: a smudge-proof black lid with a gray keyboard underneath, plus black and blue characters that are meant to resemble the leather interior of a BMW.
To us the beige plastic, with its shiny green accents, looks retro--and not in a good way. The keyboard is spacious, but was noisy, as were the touch buttons. Worse, the cursor regularly jumped around the screen to parts of documents we weren't working on.
Display and Audio
The notebook's 1440 x 900-pixel screen looked bright and colorful when we watched Knocked Up, and the viewing angles were versatile, too, except for when we tilted the screen far backward. For a machine this big, the volume was weak; watching a movie with the notebook three feet away from us, we had to set the volume close to the maximum.
The 7520 has four USB ports, plus FireWire, VGA, S-PDIF, S-Video, and IR ports; Ethernet and modem jacks; headphone and microphone ports; and a 5-in-1 memory card reader. We were glad to see that all of these ports were on the front and sides of the notebook, not the back. The built-in 1.3-megapixel webcam delivered blurry, ill-lit still photos with inaccurate color. We wish this notebook had some dedicated multimedia keys to go with its large screen, and an HDMI port would have been a nice touch for outputting audio and video to a TV.
For $949 you get a 1.6-GHz AMD Turion TL-52 processor, 2GB RAM, 802.11b/g, and Bluetooth 1.0. The 160GB hard drive will be plenty roomy for most users, but it won't be enough for those who need lots of video storage. It also has an 8X DVD+/-R drive.
Aspire 7520 Performance
The 7520 was occasionally sluggish during our testing. Sometimes, for instance, Internet Explorer responded slowly when we moved from one tab to another. On several occasions we tried to navigate single windows, such as the Network and Sharing Center, and the window froze before responding. Out of the box it took 1 minute and 17 seconds to boot up (once we removed all the trialware, the boot-up time dropped to a respectable 54 seconds).
On the other hand, it took only 4 seconds to launch Adobe Acrobat Reader, 2 to launch Norton Internet Security, and 7 to launch Windows Media Center.
The 7520's performance scores confirmed our first impressions: It notched 2,112 on PCMark Vantage (versus 2716 for the average desktop replacement) and eked out a paltry 106 on MobileMark 2007. Its Nvidia GeForce 7000M GPU notched a below-average 2,987 on 3DMark03, so gamers should look elsewhere.
The 8-cell battery lasted 2 hours and 49 minutes; that's about 30 minutes below average, but most users will keep this system plugged in. The notebook's performance highlight is wireless. We saw very good throughput of 23.4 Mbps and 21.9 Mbps at 15 and 50 feet, respectively.
Acer Aspire 7520 Verdict
The Acer Aspire 7520 is not for gamers, nor is it a multimedia machine. It's for someone who needs a PC for e-mail, Web surfing, and word processing, and would prefer a larger screen for work and watching movies. If your needs are basic and you're on a budget, this notebook is worth checking out. However, in this size category we prefer the design of the Dell Inspiron 1720 and HP Pavilion dv9700 series.