Acer TravelMate 5720G review
A superb package for the price, with plenty of power. Only the unambitious battery life lets it down.
The quality of budget notebooks keeps rising. Last month, Samsung impressed with its Q70, which managed to combine classy looks with a very acceptable all-round specification. This month, Acer shows its hand with its latest TravelMate.
The 5720G certainly makes a good start: it comes in £200 cheaper than the Q70 and, although its grey exterior doesn't compare with the Samsung's glossy looks, it shapes up much more favourably when it comes to features. At the heart of operations is an Intel 2GHz T7300 Core 2 Duo processor. Paired with a decent 2GB of 667MHz DDR2 RAM, this should be enough to run Vista smoothly for some time to come, even if you like to run all of your applications simultaneously.
It was enough to help the TravelMate sail through our application benchmarks, scoring 1.09 overall - that's 8% faster than the Q70's score and, to keep things in perspective, is faster than the high-end desktops of last year.
Hard disk space is generous, too. Its nominal 160GB capacity is enough to leave more than 125GB free for your own applications and files after Vista has taken its customary allocation, and Acer's restore partition has grabbed 10GB.
And although the TravelMate won't impress hard-core gamers with its ATi Radeon Mobility X2500 graphics chipset, it's perfectly capable of the odd 3D blast and puts in a much stronger performance in our 3D benchmarks than the Q70, which was equipped with Nvidia's GeForce 8400M G graphics: it scored an average of 29fps in Call of Duty 2, to the Samsung's more sluggish 19fps, and is DirectX 10-capable, too. Don't expect to be playing Crysis at high settings, but it will give most titles a run for their money.
The larger 15.4in screen is another improvement over the Q70 and, although the resolution is a bog-standard 1,200 x 800, it's bright and clear. The glossy finish doesn't suffer too badly from reflections, either - we weren't distracted when working on documents and spreadsheets.
The larger screen size also offers a hint that this machine isn't the most portable: 3kg is about all you'd want to carry and it's 360mm wide, 268mm deep and 45mm thick. And it's also here that we discover the Acer's other weak spot: battery life. Intense-use testing ran the 4,000mAh six-cell battery dry in just 51 minutes, and switching over to our light-use test only increased this to 2hrs 20mins.
But it's the only real problem we faced during testing, and there have been no notable corners cut in terms of build quality, with the TravelMate's magnesium alloy substructure lending the chassis a robust and solid feel that belies that price. The curved, supposedly ergonomic keyboard isn't the best we've come across, with a slightly light and insubstantial action and a lack of travel, but it's generously proportioned, with well-sized keys throughout.
The widescreen-aspect touchpad is a pleasure to use, with responsive left and right mouse buttons, and a directional pad for scrolling and panning web pages and documents.
If we had one criticism of the A-Listed Q70 it was a lack of decent expansion ports, but that certainly isn't the case with the TravelMate. Around the edges you'll find four USB ports, one mini-FireWire socket, an RJ-45 port for the Gigabit Ethernet adapter, DVI-D, VGA and S-Video for video output, plus a PC Card slot and ExpressCard/54.
We're also pleased to see some nice extra touches, such as the shortcut buttons below the touchpad on the front edge. Here, you'll find a couple of useful switches for turning the notebook's Bluetooth and Intel 3945ABG Wi-Fi adapters on and off, an infrared port and a 5-in-1 reader that will read SD/MMC, Memory Sticks and xD-Picture cards. Nor does the TravelMate skimp on the optical drive. Built into the right-hand side is a DVD writer that will cater for most types of media, including plus and minus dual-layer discs and DVD-RAM.