Acer Aspire 7745-5632: An Affordable Desktop Replacement, but Not for Power Users
At a Glance
Acer Aspire 7745-5632
Its overall performance is pedestrian, but otherwise this laptop offers you a lot of bang for your buck.
If the most important aspects of a desktop replacement laptop for you are a large screen and a good keyboard, Acer's affordable Aspire 7745-5632 may be the machine you're looking for. Its 17.3-inch display is easy on the eyes and its full-size keyboard is pleasant to type on. Even the power button on this darkly handsome unit is large. But at its price--$600 to $700 at the time of this review--something had to give, and that something was performance.
The Aspire 7745-5632 can readily handle everyday computing chores, but its score of 56 on our WorldBench 6 tests and its integrated Intel graphics mean that you shouldn't throw intensive computing tasks at it, and that you shouldn't expect it to support high-quality gaming. Frame rates were in the mid-teens (in frames per second), which is unplayable by any standard. Numbers aside, the Aspire 7745 felt reasonably snappy during hands-on use.
Video playback was quite nice, though I detected signs that the integrated Intel HD Graphics was straining a bit to drive the 1600 by 900 display. One high-bit-rate h.264 video stuttered ever so slightly I plugged the system in, and the stuttering became even more pronounced when the unit ran on battery power. Otherwise, though, 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 speakers delivered disappointing sound--slightly muddy and very midrange heavy, though the VirtualSurround did give the sound an appealingly spacious quality.
The basic Aspire 7745-5632 components consist of 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 Hitachi hard drive spinning at 5400 rpm. The laptop comes with four USB ports, plus HDMI, ethernet, VGA, and audio in/out ports, and a five-in-one memory card reader. Connectivity is top-flight, with both gigabit ethernet and wireless-N on board. Beefier configurations of the 7745 are available that incorporate more-powerful discrete GPUs for better gaming, and faster CPUs for better general performance.
The Aspire 7745 has the latest black-and-gray Acer styling, and it doesn't compromise in comfort or ergonomics. The full-size keyboard feels a bit soft, but establishing a typing rhythm on it is easy. The only shortcomings are the smallish Delete key and the proximity of that key and the left arrow key to the numeric keypad and navigation buttons, which puts your fingers at some risk of overextending and hitting the Home or Insert key by mistake. Like the keyboard, the touchpad is full-size and responsive.
When you buy a desktop replacement, you don't expect it 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 a bit of a load. That said, this model's battery life of 3 hours, 56 minutes will see you most of the way through 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. No matter which apps you decide to keep around, it's well worth your while to spend a couple of minutes using msconfig.exe and the control panel to trim the fat.
If you aren't a performance hound, you'll find the Acer Aspire 7745-5632 to be a classy-looking desktop replacement laptop with a serviceable blue-collar configuration. The numeric keypad could be better delineated from the rest of the keyboard, but that's a minor issue on an otherwise solid and relatively affordable product.