For the past month I’ve had the chance to try out the Acer Aspire 5542, a notebook computer featuring AMD’s Vision technology. The Aspire 5542 is not a new notebook, but to get a feel for what a Vision Notebook PC offers, we were offered a few samples to test for ourselves. Josh Smith shared the background on AMD VISION last month. The three VISION branding monikers are designed to help a notebook computer buyer better understand what he or she is getting.
VISION Premium for demanding users who want to play games, do some video and picture editing, watch HD movies and the standard emailing, office tasks and surfing. VISION Ultimate is for the high end notebook user who does intense games, record live TV and watch HD movies or listen to music in 5.1 surround sound. The third category, VISION, is where the notebook I am reviewing sits.
Acer Aspire 5542
For the budget minded computer user, an AMD VISION machine like the Acer Aspire 5524, is designed for basic computing needs like web surfing, email, light gaming and watching movies or other video.
The 5542 is not a speed demon nor is it a turtle. The Athlon II Dual-Core M300 processor and 4 GB of DDR2 memory make it more than capable for handling most of the tasks I threw at it. I am not a heavy gamer, but was able to play some online flash games as well as sampling the free weekend of Call of Duty: World at War that Steam recently offered. There was no lag and while ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4200 card did fine in my short test, I would not want to do heavy gaming on this system. That’s okay because it’s not designed for that. The screen is bright and clear and has a decent viewing angle. When I was watching a movie, my wife was sitting next to me and she couldn’t see it that well, but I was able to move about 30 degrees in either direction and still get a decent picture. The display is a reflective so it made seeing what I was during under sunlight a challenge. Strangely enough direct sunlight pointed right at the screen was not that bad. The usability diminished when the sun was coming in at an angle.
The Synaptics Multi-Gesture touchpad is responsive. I do not like trackpads, but this one functioned fine. Manufacturers are starting to go with one long button instead of a separate right/left button on their trackpads. I don’t like this at all, and the Acer has one. On the positive side, the buttons for volume control, toggling Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and accessing the quick launch software are handy and positioned just above the keyboard.
I tested the 5542’s video capabilities by watching an episode of Roswell on Netflix. It handled the task alright. There was a stutter or two early in the video and sound was a little tinny. The volume from the Virtual Surround Soundâ€ speakers was too soft. But the picture quality was good and since most online video stutters on occasion, I think it could have just been network lag as much as the PC’s fault. Sadly no computer can give you back the hour you lose from watching a show like Roswell.
I tested the battery life by playing a DVD. It lasted just under 2 hours at about 1:55 while watching the DVD The Hurt Locker. And there were a couple of times that the picture froze for a brief second. If you want something to play DVDs a lot, look elsewhere. But for the occasional one while on the road will do just fine.
One other little thing that really was annoying was the latch to open the notebook. You had to exert a little effort to open it an I found it nearly impossible to do one handed, which I am used to doing with my own system.
Currently you can get an ACER Aspire 5542 for as little as $529 from Amazon and other outlets.
If all you want is a basic notebook computer and you won’t need to be unplugged that long, this might be a decent choice. The keyboard really hampers it, however; for those plugged in and needing a simple computer to surf the web and do a little bit of writing it will work. For people who write a lot or are on the go; look for another option with longer battery life or a more responsive keyboard.
- Bright display
- Perfect for simple computer needs
- Not too heavy for a computer with a full-sized keyboard
- Handy complement of ports, multimedia buttons, webcam
- Keyboard is subpar
- Glare on screen in sunlight
- Poor battery life
- Latch to open it sticks
Here are the detailed specs for the Acer Aspire 5542 Notebook PC:
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Bit|
|Processor / Graphics||AMD Athlon II Dual-Core M300 2.00 GHz |
ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4200 Series
|Memory||4 GB Dual-Channel DDR2 SDRAM 667 MHz|
|Hard drive||SATA 500 GB HDD 5400 rpm|
|Display / Resolution||15.6-inch HD 1366×76 resolution high brightness Acer CineCrystal TFT LCD, 16:9 aspect ratio, 8 ms response time, 60% color gamut|
|Removable Storage||8X DVD-Super Multi double-layer drive|
|Wireless Support||Atheros AR5B93 Wireless Network Adapter 802.11 n, b, g|
|Communications||Broadcom NetLink Gigabit Ethernet, HDAUDIO Soft Fax Modem with SmartCP, Acer Video Conferencing with Integrated Acer Crystal Eye Webcamer featuring 640×480 resolution, Bluetooth 2.1|
|Input Devices||Full-size keyboard including number pad, Synaptics touchpad with Multi-Gesture support|
|Power||6-cell Li-ion with up to 3 hours of battery life|
|Accessories||Extra battery, external USB floppy, extra AC adapter|
|Security software/features||Acer Backup Manager1, Acer Bio-Protection1, Acer eRecovery Management, McAfee® Internet Security Suite 2009 Trial, MyWinLocker®, Nortonâ„¢ Online Backup|
|Other Software||Acer Arcadeâ„¢ Deluxe featuring Acer CinemaVisionâ„¢ and Acer ClearVisionâ„¢ technologies, Acer Crystal Eye, Acer GridVistaâ„¢, Acer Launch Manager, Adobe® Flash® Player, Adobe® Reader®, EarthLink®1, eSobiâ„¢, Google Toolbarâ„¢, Microsoft® Works with Office Home and Student 2007 Trial, NetZero®, NTI Media Makerâ„¢, Oberon GameZone, WildTangent®|
|Memory card reader||Media Card Reader supporting SD, MMC, RS-MMC, MS, MS Pro, xD|
|Accessible memory slots||2 slots|
|Maximum Memory Expansion||Up to 4 GB|
|Ports||Headphone/speaker/line-out jack with S/PDIF support, Microphone-in jack, Line-In jack, Ethernet (RJ-45) port, Modem (RJ-11) port, DC-in jack for AC adapter|
|Audio||Dolby®-optimized surround sound system with two built-in stereo speakers, Optimized 3rd Generation Dolby Home Theater® audio enhancement, featuring Dolby® Digital Live, Dolby® Pro Logic® IIx, Dolby® Headphone, Dolby® Natural Bass, Dolby® Sound Space Expander, Dolby® Audio Optimization, Dolby® High Frequency Enhancer technologies10, True 5.1-channel surround sound output |
High-definition audio support S/PDIF (Sony/Philips Digital Interface)11 support for digital speakers, MS-Sound compatible
|ENERGY STAR Qualified||Energy Star 5.0|
|Weight||6.16 lbs (2.8 kg) with battery|
|Dimension||15.1 x 9.9 x 1.03 to 1.5 inches, 383 x 250 x 26 to 37 mm|
|Thinness||1.03 to 15 inches, 26 to 37 mm|
|Network Card||Broadcom NetLink Gigabit Ethernet, HDAUDIO Soft Fax Modem with SmartCP|
|PC Card Slot||None|
|Webcam||Acer Crystal Eye Webcamera featuring 640×480 resolution|
|Multimedia and Entertainment||Acer Arcadeâ„¢ Deluxe featuring Acer CinemaVisionâ„¢ and Acer ClearVisionâ„¢ technologies, Acer Crystal Eye, Adobe® Flash® Player, NTI Media Makerâ„¢, Oberon GameZone, WildTangent®|
|Warranty||Limited 1-year and 90 day warranty options available depending on country, 1-year limited warranty on primary battery. Optional HP Care Pack Services extended warranty|