Acer Aspire 3693WLMi review
Good build quality and a great screen, but lacking any other features to make up for the lacklustre performance.
Acer has been aggressive with the prices of its notebooks for more than a year now, and the 3693WLMi is a great example of how the company is undercutting just about everyone else.
At £366, the Aspire is the cheapest notebook in this Labs, and yet it still shares a good selection of features with even those costing up to £800. The TFT is one of them - a 15.4in 1,280 x 800 glossy widescreen that rivals the best here for quality.
Acer also manages to include a dual-layer DVD writer, an 80GB hard disk, 802.11g Wi-Fi and a media card reader that's capable of handling xD-Picture cards. The chassis is also more stylish than the others in this price range and is better built. Plus, it includes a webcam and integrated microphone for video chats using MSN or Skype.
Of course, there are compromises in order to meet this price. The most obvious are the core components: a Celeron M 430 CPU, 512MB of memory and Intel's GMA 950 integrated graphics. Not everyone needs blistering performance, and the Overall 2D application score of 0.55 is still fine if you only want to use the internet, write letters, store and view photos, manage your finances and send emails.
The absence of an ExpressCard slot isn't a big drawback and neither is the lack of a FireWire port. It's a shame, however, that Acer couldn't stretch to a copy of Vista Home Premium in the budget, instead opting to bundle its own Arcade software, which replicates the features in Media Center Edition. It doesn't make up for the absence of Aero and all Home Premium's other features, though. Acer doesn't match MSI's two-year warranty either, sticking with a basic, 12-month return-to-base cover.
Battery life is better than the other budget contenders, though. With light use, you should see almost 2hrs 30mins, and around an hour less with heavy use. At 2.7kg, the Aspire isn't hugely portable, but it's the one to choose if you need to be away from mains power regularly.
Ultimately, while the 3693WLMi is a well-built notebook at an attractive price, it's overshadowed by Advent's generous inclusion of Home Premium and MSI's longer warranty.