Priced at an aggressive $649, the Aspire 5740 (6378) combines serious multitasking muscle (thanks to Intel's Core i5 processor) with a rich multimedia experience for considerably less money than Acer's rivals. How much less? A similarly configured 15.6-inch machine from Dell or HP would cost you at least $150 more. This 6.2-pound mainstream notebook also includes a comfortable keyboard and third-generation Dolby Home Theater surround sound. However, Acer's Gemstone design is starting to feel a bit dated, and the battery life is below average. Still, bargain hunters will find a lot to like about the 5740.
Acer has unified the design of its larger Aspire notebooks; from the outside, the 5740 looks identical to the 5738PG, sporting the same glossy blue (and fingerprint prone) lid. On the inside, however, it's reminiscent of the Aspire 8940G. When opened, the 5740 reveals a deck which transitions from a slick matte surface near the screen to a dimpled texture surrounding the touchpad. Blue LED lighting beneath the power button complements a glossy midnight blue lid. The overall look is far from cheap, but it's not exciting, either.
Measuring 15.1 x 9.8 x 1.5 inches and tipping the scale at 6.2 pounds, this notebook is not one you're going to tote around much; it's heavier than such mainstream competitors as the Toshiba Satellite E205 (5.2 pounds). However, the 5740 is easy to move from room to room, making it a good choice for home users.
There are a variety of buttons and controls scattered around the 5740's gunmetal gray deck. The left side of the system houses buttons for power, wireless on/off, Bluetooth, and the Acer Backup Manager. On the right is a touchpad enable/disable button, master volume controls, and the Acer Launch Manager shortcut (which launches an application of your choosing).
During our tests, the 5740 hovered near the edge of being uncomfortably warm. After playing a Hulu video at full screen for 15 minutes, the touchpad measured 94 degrees Fahrenheit; the middle of the keyboard (between the G and H keys) reached 100 degrees, and the middle of the chassis' underside registered 101 degrees. We also measured a small corner near the back left underside of the system, which came in at 118 degrees. (We consider anything over 100 degrees unpleasant.)
Keyboard and Touchpad
Coupled with a spacious lower deck, the 103-key Acer FineTip keyboard was a pleasure to use, offering excellent travel and feedback. Even with a full-size number pad to their right, the flat island-style keys remain large and comfortable.
The slick 3.3 x 2.0-inch touchpad supports multitouch gestures, including pinch-to-zoom and two-finger scrolling. A dedicated scrolling area is integrated into the right side of the pad, which offers little friction. While the single mouse button is large and clicks are simple to register, we always prefer two dedicated buttons.
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Display and Audio
The 5740 features a 15.6-inch CineCrystal display; while the 1366 x 768 resolution is ideal for video playback, both light and dark scenes in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and Captain Ron were generally underwhelming, with fuzzy edges. Nevertheless, the brightness and large screen size mean two or three people can watch movies side by side without complaint.
The 5.1-channel surround sound Dolby Home Theater speakers delivered stellar audio quality for movies and music. At only 50 percent of full volume, The Whigs' "Right Hand On My Heart" easily filled a small conference room. With the volume cranked to the max, this system would be more than adequate for entertaining a small party of guests.
Ports and Webcam
The right side of the 5740 features two USB 2.0 ports, a DVD SuperMultiDrive, a modem jack, and a Kensington lock slot. On the opposite side, users will find Ethernet, HDMI, VGA, headphone, mic, and line-in ports, plus two additional USB ports. Beneath the left front corner is a 5-in-1 memory card reader.
Acer's Crystal Eye VGA webcam captured accurate and detailed still images. During a Skype call, colors remained accurate despite strong overhead florescent lighting.
Click to enlargeA 2.27-GHz Intel Core i5-430M processor and 4GB of DDR3 RAM propelled the 5740 to a strong PCMark Vantage score of 5,243. This tally surpasses the Acer Aspire 5738DG by almost 1,100 points, and decimated the mainstream category average (3,632) by over 1,600 points. The Aspire 5740 fell approximately 150 points shy of the 14-inch Toshiba Satellite E205, which has an identical Intel Core i5-430M processor; however, that notebook costs $849.
The 5740 handled all of our casual tasks with ease. While writing this review, we left multiple tabs open in Internet Explorer. Switching between an episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia on Hulu, a Rolling Stones playlist on Lala, Flash-based games on Newgrounds.com, and The New York Times homepage was seamless. In addition, the 5740 responded without hesitation when we expanded our Hulu video to full screen.
The 320GB hard drive (spinning at 5,400 rpm) booted up Windows 7 Home Premium in 1 minute and 2 seconds, nearly on a par with the 60-second category average. When we ran the LAPTOP Transfer Test, (copying a 4.97GB file of mixed media), the Aspire 5740 responded poorly. This notebook's transfer rate of 18.5 MBps falls 2.0 MBps short of the category average, and behind both the Aspire 5738DG (21.9 MBps) and the Toshiba Satellite L505 (20.9 MBps).
Using the multithreaded app Oxelon Media Converter, the 5740 transcoded a 114MB MPEG-4 to AVI in 59 seconds. By comparison, the Core i5-enabled Satellite E205 completed the same task in 57 seconds, while the ASUS K42F (which has a faster 2.53-GHz Intel Core i5-540M processor) took just 51 seconds. Still, this showing is very good for the price.
The Aspire 5740's Intel GMA HD graphics processor returned a 3DMark06 score of 1,926, which is respectable for a system of this size with integrated graphics. While the similarly equipped Satellite E205 scored an almost identical 1,939, the 5740 falls more than 1,200 points shy of the category average, and around 1,100 points below its older cousin, the Aspire 5738DG. (To be fair, the latter system features ATI's discrete Radeon HD 4570 graphics card.) Consumers looking to do serious gaming should consider the Acer Aspire 5740G-6395, which includes ATI Radeon HD 5650 graphics.
With the resolution tuned down to 1024 x 768, the 5740 turned out 31 frames per second in World of Warcraft. This was similar to the Satellite E205's performance, but falls short of the category average (44 fps). At its native resolution, frame rates fell to an unplayable 9 fps. Running the graphically demanding Far Cry 2 at both autodetect (1024 x 768) and full HD (1366 x 768) returned woeful rates of 12 fps and 5 fps, respectively.
Wi-Fi and Battery Life
The 802.11b/g/n wireless radio onboard the 5740 pushed data at a rate of 37.7 Mbps at 15 feet from our access point, and 27.8 Mbps at 50 feet. Both scores surpass the excellent throughput demonstrated by the Satellite E205 (36.2 Mbps and 20.5 Mbps, respectively) and permitted us to stream full-screen episodes of Three Sheets over Hulu without any buffering.
The 5740 lasted 2 hours and 59 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery Test (Web surfing via Wi-Fi); not only is that about 30 minutes short of the category average, but it's more than an hour shy of Acer's claim as well. Moreover, the 5740's endurance is about two hours less than the Satellite E205's impressive 4:53.
Click to enlargeAcer offers eight configurations of the Aspire 5740. At the entry level, the Aspire 5740-5144 includes an Intel Core i3-330M CPU, a 500GB hard drive, and a one-year limited warranty for $649. (While our similarly priced review unit contained a smaller 320GB hard drive, it featured a stronger Core i5 processor plus an additional year of warranty coverage.) The premium notebook in this product line is the $749 Aspire 5740G (6395), which features an Intel Core i5-520M processor, 4 GB of DDR3 RAM, and a discrete ATI Radeon HD 5650 graphics card.
While the Aspire 5740's endurance left us wanting more, we were pleasantly surprised with its speedy recharge time. The notebook's six-cell battery needed only 1 hour and 42 minutes to reach a full charge. During that time, the notebook consumed an average of 46.2 watts. This notebook's LAPTOP Battery Efficiency Rating (total watts divided by battery life) of 26.3 blew away the mainstream category average (45.5) and nearly equals the thin-and-light average (26.2).
Software and Warranty
Acer includes its proprietary software bundle, which includes the Crystal Eye webcam utility, eRecovery Management (for backing-up and restoring your system), GridVista (for configuring multiple monitors), and Launch Manager. Also included are trials of the McAfee Internet Security Suite and Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007. Rounding out the software front are full versions of Microsoft Works 9.0, Google Toolbar, Adobe Reader 9, Adobe Flash Player, and the MyWinLocker Suite (for system management).
Acer offers two separate warranties for the Aspire 5740 line. The five configurations with integrated Intel graphics (5513, 5749, 5847, 6025, and 6378) have two-year limited warranties, while the three with discrete ATI graphics (5309, 6395, and 6979) include one-year of limited coverage. Our review unit is covered by a two-year limited warranty with toll-free phone support on Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m; Saturday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (EST). To see how Acer fared in our last Technical Support Showdown, click here.
The Acer Aspire 5740-6378 possesses a responsive island-style keyboard, robust speakers, and great performance for a surprisingly low price. Gamers on a budget should opt for the premium 5740G-6395 configuration, which features discrete ATI graphics for just $100 more. While the design of this notebook doesn't thrill, multimedia mavens looking for an affordable mainstream system are wise to consider the 5740.