Acer Aspire 1802WSMi review

Price when reviewed

Aspire systems form an important part of Acer’s premium products, and the 1802WSMi is the flagship of the Aspire 1800 range, with all the extras as standard. After a succession of Recommended and A-Listed Aspire products, Acer again hopes to impress us.

Acer Aspire 1802WSMi review

The Pentium 4 530 heart of the notebook beats at 3GHz and has 1MB of Level 2 cache. This desktop processor sets the tone for the system: the Aspire 1802WSMi is determinedly a desktop replacement rather than a portable notebook. The 17in widescreen necessitates the 402mm width, and at 3.9kg – with the brick-like power supply adding a further 800g – it’s unwieldy and cumbersome when travelling. Note that you’ll need that power supply too. Battery life is hugely underwhelming, lasting only 45 minutes and 25 minutes in our light-use and intensive tests respectively.

Then again, portability isn’t the point of the Aspire 1800 series; power and flexibility are. The processor provides a lot of grunt for multimedia tasks and other processor-intensive applications, as reflected by the 1.63 score in the Multimedia (music and video encoding) portion of our benchmarks. To put this into perspective, a score of 1.63 means it’s 63 per cent faster than our reference 2GHz Pentium 4 Dell PC. The 512MB of PC2700 RAM helped the 1802WSMi to an overall application benchmark score of 1.45 – very impressive for the £953 asking price.

This notebook will, however, baulk at next-generation games. Our Unreal Tournament 2004 benchmark – based on DirectX 8 – ran with no problems, with an average of 40fps at 1,280 x 1,024 resolution. Halo, incorporating DirectX 9 technology and notoriously greedy of GPU power, strained the four pixel and two vertex pipelines of the 64MB ATi Mobility Radeon X600. At only 18fps at the test resolution of 1,280 x 1,024, it’s practically unplayable. Lowering the resolution to 800 x 600 and turning off all the detail helped, with the rate rising to 45fps. Doom 3, too, is only playable at lower resolutions and detail settings. At 800 x 600 on Low Quality it managed 31fps.

Once you get the frame rates to an acceptable standard, though, you’ll appreciate the screen. Even when frantically gaming there’s little lag, helping to make clear what to shoot and what not – that’s despite the quoted 30ms response time. DVDs also looked slicker than we expected. The 5W internal speakers are surprisingly loud and clear too. The DVD experience is further enhanced by the Arcade Media Player and remote control. Arcade will let you play music and DVDs without booting into Windows (or within Windows if you prefer). For added convenience, the remote hides away in the Type II PC Card slot on the right.

The screen isn’t perfect, with tight viewing angles in both the horizontal and vertical plane; even when sitting directly in front of the screen brightness fades towards the edges. The extra Desktop space that the 1,440 x 900 resolution offers is handy though, and in day-to-day use we didn’t notice the faults. There are also both D-SUB and S-Video outs available if needed.

Other ports are well spaced around the chassis. You’ll find one mini-FireWire and four USB 2 ports across the right and back of the machine, with a 5-in-1 media card reader on the left. Communications are extremely well catered for too, with the usual integrated 56K modem, plus gigabit Ethernet, an 802.11b/g WLAN card and Bluetooth.

It all seems too good to be true at this price, but there are very few sacrifices and certainly none when it comes to storage. There’s an LG DVD writer on the left. Writing at 4x and rewriting at 2x to both DVD+R and DVD-R formats, it will also write to DVD-RAM – useful if you have an external TV tuner. We also appreciate the 80GB hard disk, which is as large as you’ll see in a modern notebook.

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