Representing an even better deal than its integrated graphics counterpart, the Acer Aspire 5740G-6979 combines ATI graphics with an Intel Core i5 processor, producing a more-than-adequate gaming rig for just $749. When you consider that similarly configured 15.6-inch machines from Dell or HP cost at least $150 more, this multimedia system--which packs third-generation Dolby Home Theater surround sound--looks even more attractive. While Acer's Gemstone design is starting to feel a bit dated, and the display isn't the best, bargain-hunting gamers and multimedia enthusiasts will find a lot to like in the 5740G.
Editors' Note:Portions of this review were taken from our earlier review of the Acer Aspire 5740-6378.
Acer has unified the design of its larger Aspire notebooks; from the outside, the 5740G 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 5740G reveals a deck that transitions from a 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 feels a bit played out.
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 5740G 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 5740G'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 5740G ran slightly warmer than the 5740-6838, most likely due to the inclusion of discrete graphics. After playing a Hulu video at full screen for 15 minutes, the touchpad measured 99 degrees Fahrenheit; the middle of the keyboard (between the G and H keys) reached 103 degrees, and the middle of the chassis' underside registered 105 degrees.
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.
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The 3.3 x 2-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.
Display and Audio
The 5740G features a 15.6-inch CineCrystal display; while the 1366 x 768 resolution is ideal for video playback, watching movies--both streamed over the Internet and from DVDs--was underwhelming. Light and dark scenes in 24 streamed from Hulu as well as a DVD of Fearless lacked contrast, and colors were somewhat muted. Additionally, everything looked a little bit fuzzy, and there was no control panel or app from which to adjust these settings on the fly. While its brightness and large screen size mean two or three people can watch movies side by side without complaint, the screen's glossy finish resulted in some distracting reflections in brighter rooms.
The 5.1-channel Dolby Home Theater surround sound speakers delivered stellar audio quality for movies and music. At only 50 percent of full volume, music and movies 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 5740G 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.
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Acer's Crystal Eye VGA webcam captured accurate and detailed still images. During a Skype call, colors remained accurate despite strong overhead florescent lighting.
A 2.27-GHz Intel Core i5-430M processor and 4GB of DDR3 RAM propelled the 5740G to a strong PCMark Vantage score of 5,834, about 600 points higher than the 5740-6838 (with integrated graphics). This tally blew past the mainstream category average by about 2,000 points. The Aspire 5740G scored about 400 points higher than the 14-inch Toshiba Satellite E205, which has an identical Intel Core i5-430M processor; that notebook costs $899. The 5740G handled all of our casual tasks with ease; we were able to have numerous tabs open in Internet Explorer, write documents, and play movies from the DVD drive without any hiccups.
The 500GB hard drive (spinning at 5,400 rpm) booted Windows 7 Home Premium in 51 seconds, slightly faster than the 60-second category average. When we ran the LAPTOP Transfer Test (copying a 4.97GB file of mixed media), the 5740G responded fairly well; its transfer rate of 21.8 MBps is just above the category average (20.9 MBps), and similar to the Aspire 5738DG (21.9 MBps) and Toshiba Satellite L505 (20.9 MBps).
Using Oxelon Media Converter, a multithreaded app, the 5740G transcoded a 114MB MPEG-4 to AVI in 1 minute and 11 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 5740G's discrete ATI Radeon 5650 graphics processor and 1GB of video memory returned a 3DMark06 score of 7,166, which is very good for a system at this price. It's more than double the category average (3,246), and slightly better than the pricier and gaming-centric iBuyPower Battalion CZ-10 (6,953).
With the resolution at native, and effects set to ultra, the 5740G turned out 64 frames per second in World of Warcraft, about 23 fps higher than the average, and 4 fps higher than the ASUS UL50Vf. We also had decent success running the graphically demanding Far Cry 2: on autodetect (1024 x 768), we notched frame rates of 72 fps, and 720p HD (1366 x 768) returned respectable rates of 35 fps; the latter is equal to that of the ASUS G51J-A1.
Wi-Fi and Battery Life
The Atheros AR5B93 802.11b/g/n wireless radio onboard the 5740G was superb, pushing data at a rate of 50.3 Mbps at 15 feet from our access point, and 30.3 Mbps at 50 feet. We streamed full-screen episodes of 24 over Hulu without any buffering.
The 5740G lasted 2 hours and 48 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery Test (web surfing via Wi-Fi). While that's about 50 minutes less than the category average, it's only about 15 minutes less than the 5740 with integrated graphics, so to us this trade-off is worth it.
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Acer 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. The 5740-6378 ($649) contains a smaller 320GB hard drive, but a stronger Core i5 processor plus an additional year of warranty coverage. The $749 5740G-6395 features a faster 2.4-GHz Intel Core i5-520M processor than the model we reviewed here, but it has a smaller 320GB hard drive.
While the Aspire 5740G'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 20 minutes to reach 100 percent. During that time, the notebook consumed an average of 54.8 watts. This notebook's LAPTOP Battery Efficiency Rating (total watts divided by battery life) of 26.1 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 models with discrete ATI graphics (5309, 6395, and 6979) include one-year of limited coverage. Our review unit is covered by a two-year
Click to enlargelimited 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 Tech Support Showdown, click here.
Gamers on a budget would do well to consider the $749 Acer Aspire 5740G-6979. While the design of this notebook doesn't thrill, multimedia aficionados and impoverished fraggers looking for an affordable mainstream system with powerful graphics can't do much better than this.