If the most appealing aspects of a desktop replacement laptop for you are the large screen and keyboard, then Acer‘s affordable Aspire 7745-5632 is the machine you’re looking for. Its 17.3-inch display is easy on the eyes and the full-sized keyboard is extremely type-able. Even the power button on this darkly handsome unit is large. However, at this price point–$600 – $700 at the time of review–something has to give, and that something is performance.
The Aspire 7745-5632 is readily capable of handling everyday computing chores, however, a 56 score on our PC WorldBench tests and integrated Intel graphics mean you shouldn’t throw intensive computing tasks at it, or expect good gaming. Frame rates were in the mid-teens which is unplayable by any standard. Numbers aside, the Aspire 7745 felt reasonably snappy during hands-on use.Video playback was quite nice, though there were signs that the integrated Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) HD Graphics is straining a bit to drive the 1600 by 900 display. One high bit-rate h.264 video showed ever so slight stutters when the system was plugged in, and they were even more noticeable while the unit was on battery power. Otherwise, all test files and DVD movies played perfectly. The webcam offers up to 1280 by 1024 resolution, but the image was sluggish at anything higher than 640 by 480. The 7745’s sound through the speakers was disappointing-very midrange heavy and slightly muddy though the VirtualSurround does give the sound a nice spacious quality.
The basic Aspire 7745-5632 components are an Intel Core i3 350M running at 2.27Ghz, 4GB of DDR3 memory running at 533MHz, Intel HD Graphics using main memory, and a 500GB, 5400 RPM Hitachi hard drive. Ports come in the usual array: four USB ports, HDMI, Ethernet, VGA, audio in/out, and a 5-in-1 memory card reader. Connectivity is top-flight with both Gigabit and wireless-N on board. The beefier configurations of the 7745 offer more powerful discrete GPUs that also offer better gaming, as well as faster CPUs for better general performance.
The Aspire 7745 has the latest black and gray Acer styling, and at this size there’s no compromising comfort or ergonomics as with some of the smaller late-model Acers. The full-size keyboard has a soft feel, but it’s still easy to establish a typing rhythm. The only caveats are smallish delete key and the proximity of said Del and the left arrow key to the numeric keypad and navigation buttons. It’s rather easy to over extend and hit the Home or Ins keys by mistake. The touchpad is also full-sized and responsive.
You don’t buy a desktop replacement thinking it’s going to be easy to lug around, and the 7745 model weighs in at just over 7 pounds. For the size–16.1 by 11.3 by 1.6 inches–that’s not bad, but it’s still not something most users will want to fly extensively with. That said, this model’s battery life of three hours and fifty-six minutes will get you through most of a cross-country flight.
This Acer ships with a healthy load of software, and most of it, such as Norton Online Backup, NTI Backup 5, and Microsoft Works is actually useful. Some applications, like eBay and Acer Games, perhaps aren’t so useful. No matter what you keep around, a couple of minutes trimming the fat using msconfig.exe and the control panel is well worth your while.
If you’re not a performance hound, the Acer Aspire 7745-5632 is a workable blue-collar configuration of a classy-looking desktop replacement laptop. The numeric keypad could be better delineated from the rest of the keyboard, but that’s a mild issue on an otherwise solid and relatively affordable product.