Acer Aspire 5741G-6983: Closet gaming machine

The Acer Aspire 5741G-6983 is a tweener in the best possible sense of the word. It fits right between a great mainstream unit and a powerful gaming laptop. It has good input ergonomics, a nice 15.6-inch 1366 by 768 display, great everyday performance, and elegant styling. Throw in an AMD (NYSE: AMD) Mobility Radeon HD 5470 for smooth video and decent gaming frame rates and you have a laptop that can handle almost anything.

At the heart of the 5741G-6983–one of the beefier 5741 configurations–is an Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) Core i5 430M running at 2.27 GHz and the aforementioned AMD GPU with 512MB of dedicated memory. The CPU is fed by 4GB of DDR3 and a 500GB hard drive. There’s also a Blu-ray drive/DVD burner on board.

Ports are the usual variety: three USB, HDMI, Ethernet, VGA, audio in/out, and a 5-in-1 memory card reader. The placement of the Ethernet port is not a particularly convenient one: it’s about two-thirds of the way forward on the left side of the unit. Connectivity is top-notch with both Gigabit and wireless b/g/n on board.

The Aspire 5741G-6983 racked up a competent 81 points on WorldBench, and gaming frame rates between 45 and 55 fps at medium resolution. That’s not top-shelf, but fast enough for decent game play. Video playback was flawless, including the high bitrate 720p file that challenges lesser GPUs. The webcam offers up to 1280 by 1024 resolution, though you will see a definite stutter at the resolution. It’s obviously not leveraging the GPU’s video abilities. Sound through the speakers was heavy in the middle frequencies, but listenable with the SRS WOW and TruBass on.

The keyboard, while having a slightly soft feel is quite type-able nonetheless. The touchpad is responsive and the scroll area is marked, unlike the touchpad on the Aspire 7745. There’s just enough room on the deck to rest your wrists comfortably. The only problem with the keyboard is the proximity of the numeric keypad to the main keyboard layout. It’s easy to overshoot the left arrow and Del keys and hit the Home or Ins/0 keys.

The Aspire 5741 is about average in size and weight for a notebook offering this size display. 15 by 9.9 by 1.3 inches and 6 pounds, including the AC adapter. Battery life tested out at three hours and forty-five minutes which is decent for a laptop with this kind of performance.

The 5741G-6983 ships with Windows 7 Home Premium and the software bundle includes useful titles such as Norton Online Backup, NTI Backup 5, PowerDVD 9, and Microsoft Works. Utilities for power management and the Webcam are also provided. Unfortunately, there are several advertising icons on the desktop that you’ll probably want to ditch.You probably won’t run across a better combination of power and features in a mainstream laptop than the Aspire 5741G-6983. It should take care of just about anyone’s needs and is cheaper ($850 at the time of this review) than most Core i7 laptops. However, if you’re not a gamer, you can opt for a cheaper configuration without the dedicated GPU.

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