If you're in the hunt for a stellar multimedia machine but find 18-inch notebooks to be overkill, turn a sharp eye toward the Acer Aspire 6930G-6723. This smaller brother to theAcer Aspire 8930Gpacks a powerful Intel Core 2 Duo processor, polygon-pushing Nvidia graphics, a Blu-ray drive, and robust sound. At $999, this is a fine machine for multimedia mavens who want a relatively lightweight desktop replacement that's not too expensive.
Similar to the 8930G, the 6930G sports Acer's Gemstone design, which is an attractive mix of varied textures, illuminated buttons, and glossy finishes. The bluish black lid of the 15.7 x 11.5 x 1.7-inch system looks sharp, and we like the silver Acer logo and its white backlighting. It's a fingerprint magnet, so you may want to keep a cloth handy to maintain the pristine out-of-the-box look.
While it weighs 1.8 pounds less than the 8930G, the 6930G checks in at a still-chunky 7.2 pounds. The 16-inchSamsung R610-64G, for example, weighs only 6 pounds. So while the 6930G is somewhat portable, you're not going to want to travel with it.
Upon opening the lid of this notebook, you'll find a glossy black keyboard above a silver, textured palm rest. The full-size keyboard has a good feel and offers plenty of real estate for lion-pawed users, and there's room for a separate number pad to the right. The blue backlit multimedia touch controls are serviceable but sit left of center, so getting accustomed to their location takes a bit of time. Unlike the 8930G, this system lacks a biometric fingerprint reader.
On the right side of the 8930G are two USB 2.0 ports, a Blu-ray drive, modem, and Kensington lock slot, which is slickly built into the hinge. On the left side of the system you'll find ports and connections for the power adapter, Ethernet, DisplayPort, VGA, HDMI, two USB 2.0 (one of which is eSATA-enabled), ExpressCard/54, and headphone and microphone jacks. A 5-in-1 memory card reader is housed in the unit's front edge.
Audio, Video, and Webcam
The glossy 16-inch (1366 x 768-pixel resolution), 16:9-ratio display is bright and colorful, which made watching the Blu-ray version ofTop Gunpleasurable. As the display isn't full HD, we extended the visuals to a 32-inch external monitor using the HDMI port to watch the movie in 1920 x 1080p and enjoyed rich colors and quality skin tones.
Sound mavens will love the system's crisp, rich audio, which comes courtesy of Acer's CineSurround set up (which utilizes virtual 5.1 surround sound) and Dolby's second-generation Home Theater technology. The Tuba CineBass booster provided plenty of low-end thump.
Acer's 1.3-megapixel Crystal Eye webcam is one of the best integrated notebook cameras that we've ever used. Unlike the vast majority of webcams on the market, it delivered a super-crisp image that exhibited natural colors. Users have the option of taking photos or videos in two different resolutions (320 x 240 and 640 x 480), both of which looked sharp even in low light. The included webcam utility is very basic, however, and lacks such extra features as face-tracking and special effects.
The 6930G offers good all-around performance, thanks to a 2.0-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5800 processor paired with 4GB of RAM. The system notched a PCMark Vantage score of 3,252, just below the desktop replacement average, but nearly 900 points less than the HP Pavilion HDX 16, another 16-inch, 16:9 multimedia machine. Still, this notebook was able to output a Blu-ray movie via HDMI in full HD, compress a 4.97GB folder, and stream shows on Hulu.com with only minor visual hiccups.
The 6930G booted Windows Home Premium in a molasses-slow 87 seconds, which is 15 seconds slower than other desktop replacements. On the plus side, Acer includes the 64-bit version of Vista, which enables users to upgrade to a whopping 8GB of RAM.
The system comes with a 5,400-rpm, 320GB Western Digital hard drive, which offers plenty of storage space for photos, music, video, and other files. On the LAPTOP Transfer Test, the drive copied a 4.97GB folder of mixed media in 3 minutes and 58 seconds--a rate of 17.0 MBps, or 8.1 MBps slower than the category average.
The 6930G's Nvidia's GeForce 9600M GS graphics card (with 512MB of memory) performed respectably. It scored a solid 11,835 in 3DMark03, about 1,600 points below average, and 4,275 in 3DMark06, nearly 970 points below average. However, the 6930G notched 74 frames per second in autodetect mode (1024 x 768-pixel resolution) when playing F.E.A.R., and 59 fps at maximum resolution (1366 x 768), which makes the machine suitable for all but the most demanding fraggers. By comparison, the HDX 16 notched frame rates of 77 fps and 27 fps, respectively.
Battery Life and Wireless
Although most desktop replacements with discrete graphics don't make it past the 3-hour mark, the 6930G lasted 3 hours and 33 minutes on a charge, which was nearly one hour longer than the category average. Wireless throughput from Intel's 802.11a/g/n radio was good at 15 feet from our router (20.0 Mbps) and at 50 feet (18.2 Mbps).
Software and Warranty
The 6930G comes with Acer Arcade Deluxe (Acer's multimedia center), Acer Empowering Technology (system backup and management tools), CyberLink PowerDirector 6, the eSobi Lite RSS reader, and a 60-day trial of Microsoft Office 2007. Acer covers the system with a one-year warranty and 24/7 phone tech support.
Priced at a very wallet-friendly $999, the Acer Aspire 6930-6723 provides an excellent all-around multimedia experience for the movie buff, music fan, or gamer. Granted, a full 1080p display would be the optimal resolution for a system with an integrated Blu-ray drive, but even without it, the Acer Aspire 6930G-6723 is a winner.