capsule review

Acer Aspire 8920 Desktop Replacement Laptop

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Acer Aspire 8920-6671 Notebook

    PCWorld Rating

    This big, beautiful consumer notebook’s 18.4-inch screen could be brighter but speed and other features make up for it.

The $2599 Acer Aspire 8920 is a whole lotta laptop, crammed with so many features that we kept checking for a kitchen sink. It has a humongous screen, a Blu-ray drive, six speakers, a giant hard drive, a top-flight processor, and a gadget-laden keyboard. You won't skip the light fandango while carrying this 9-pound monstrosity, but you will get awesome performance (and anemic battery life). In other words, it's a powerful desktop replacement laptop that will take up most of your desktop.

The 18.4-inch screen, with a fully HD-capable 1920-by-1080-pixel resolution, makes the 8920 good for creative types or for a family room. It's a dream screen for watching movies, editing graphics, or engaging in other highly detailed work. The screen is so surreally large that complaining about anything hardly seems fair, but we do wish that it was a little brighter.

Acer offers two fixed configurations of the 8920; we reviewed the beefier AS8920-6671, which includes a 2.6-GHz T9500 Core 2 Duo processor and 4GB of main memory. Given its power, we weren't too surprised when it smoked our performance tests with a score of 97, just one point shy of the Montevina-equipped HP Pavilion dv7t. The 512MB nVidia GeForce 9650M GS graphics card turned in solid gaming scores of 127 frames per second in Doom 3 and 162 fps in Far Cry with antialiasing turned off. One drawback of the 8920: The 2.6-hour battery life will give you more than enough time to move this beast to another room and find a new outlet, but not much else.

Acer switched to a richer-looking, dark-metallic-blue lid and a shiny piano-black keyboard for the 8920, ditching the light case colors of its older Gemstone notebooks. The keyboard has a nice layout, including a dedicated number pad and tons of shortcuts for you to get all sorts of things done with the press of a button. The most conspicuous is Acer's giant 'E' shortcut key in the upper right of the keyboard, shaped and colored like a big fake jewel, which launches Empowering Technology on-screen shortcuts, a drop-down menu for setting sound effects, power management controls, security (file encryption) settings, and Acer eRecovery Management for making full or partial backups to the D: drive. Four long, skinny silver buttons lined up vertically underneath the 'E' handle Wi-Fi and Bluetooth combination power/indicator controls, always welcome conveniences.

To the left of the keyboard is the CineDash Media Console, a large touch-sensitive control pad that resembles a seating chart for a concert hall: The round "stage" area is Enter, the semicircular parts that look like rows are the volume swipe, and so on. It's easy to use once you get your bearings, though it does take some getting accustomed to. (Is that a concession stand or the Pause button?) Too bad the laptop's speakers don't sound better; the bass was so timid that we didn't even know a subwoofer existed until we looked underneath. Still, the speakers are loud and pleasing enough for you to listen to music or watch a movie without headphones.

The 8920 is nearly 2 inches thick, with lots of case space for connections--and this laptop mostly delivers on ports. The stylish dropped hinges leave a clean, port-free rear. A six-in-one card reader and an infrared receiver that works with the included entertainment remote control sit conveniently on the front. The machine has four USB ports--two on each side--and on the left side are an HDMI port and extra audio line-in. Somewhat surprising, though, is this laptop's complete lack of FireWire or eSATA ports.

The 320GB hard drive should be storage nirvana for video fiends. Acer rounds out the package with a set of basic productivity applications, including Microsoft Works 8.5.

If you need a basic, workhorse desktop replacement, you have cheaper, more sensible choices than the Acer Aspire 8920. But if flashy looks and big-screen entertainment are your goals, the 8920 deserves a spot on your short list.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    This big, beautiful consumer notebook’s 18.4-inch screen could be brighter but speed and other features make up for it.

    Pros

    • Giant-sized screen
    • Huge hard drive

    Cons

    • No FireWire port
    • Display could be brighter
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