I must have done something right for a mentor/friend to gift a laptop to me. His instructions were clear: I was to pick whatever stuck my fancy. Without seeming exploitative, I wanted a computer equal to or better than what I currently have – An Acer 5745 (Core i5).
There was an Asus Laptop I was eying; unfortunately that was unavailable at Reliance Digital. The HP Laptop that matched my configuration was 6K more than the Acer. There was a Lenovo (3K more than Acer) and at end, brand loyalty won. Hence I picked the next iteration of my current laptop; the Acer 5755G (Core i5 2nd Gen).
I chose to pick a ‘G’ version. It comes with nVidia 540M Graphics Accelerator (this adds 3K to the non-G version). Out of the box, the laptop featured Intel Core i5 2nd Gen Mobile Processor, 4GB DDR3 RAM, 640GB HDD, DVD-RW, 15.6″ Screen, Win 7 Home Basic x64 OEM Edition.
Acer has made subtle changes to the new version. It has removed a few irritants of the old one and introduced a few.
Look & Feel: The appearance of the laptop has improved slightly. As such, the Timeline and 57xx series laptops are Gray/Black in color with little silver trimmings here and there – very business like. The 5755 design is little more polished with more covered surface, less ridges and eye-catchy elements. In fact, the design changes are so subtle, you won’t even notice that the top cover now features gray lines that pinch towards the Acer Logo (rather than simple parallel lines of the earlier model). The continued use of grainy-grey and black plastic is very pleasing.
Keyboard: The keyboard features chiclet keys, only now that are flushed fit rather than floating (with plenty of opportunity for dust to make itself home as in the 5745). The keys are reasonably quite, smooth and have lasted two years of typing proposals for me. The keys are not back-lit and hence Reliance Digital threw in a USB powered LED light. I have to keep the keyboard clean (regular vacuuming) to ensure that the keys do not begin to stick. Unlike a desktop, a laptop’s replacement keyboard costs upwards of Rs. 2.5K and cannot be simply plugged out and thrown out to be replaced by new. Desktop warriors are advised to connect an external USB keyboard into an USB Hub (again thoughtfully supplied by Reliance Digital) and hammer away.
Heat: The laptop definitely runs cooler than the previous model. While the 5745 revs up the cpu-fan and throws out copious amounts of hot air while viewing RAW images in Picasa, the 5755 seems to handle them better without the stress. In fact, a major annoyance I had on the 5745 was the heating up of the Left & Right side of the Touch-pad (the Palm Rest area) which made typing on the laptop a ‘scalding’ affair. On the 5755, only the right side of the Touch-pad is getting hot.
Microphone: The 5745 featured the Microphone input near the top-left-corner of the screen. The 5755 mic placement is more natural and near the webcam and it is quite sensitive; in fact it maybe too sensitive and it picks up all ambient sound in my house.
Webcam: While both the webcams are equivalent (1.3 MP), the images obtained by from the 5755 Webcam are definitely better in terms of sharpness and ability to handle difficult lighting scenarios such as strong back-lighting or dim lighting. Sample images of Acer 5745 Webcam and Acer 5755 Webcam reveal-all. Note that the low exposure of the Acer 5755 can be fixed in webcam settings.
Speakers: The Speakers on the 5745 are quite loud and have not suffered permanent damage inspite of listening to them at above average volume levels. The speakers on the 5755 are similar sounding but with a little more treble/crystality. Bass is completely missing.
Battery: The battery on the 5755 can be removed by sliding just one switch. This switch requires the use of a sharp screwdriver/ball-point tip to grip and slide. A definite plus to ensure that the battery is firmly held in place and not easily removable by sundry. Battery life is good. Similar to the 5745, the 5755’s battery lasts close-to 3 hours if you are watching movies. Close to 5 hours if you just leave it switched on and maybe downloading stuff. 1.5 – 2 hours if you are working on CPU intensive stuff like PhotoShop.
DVD Drive: The DVD-RW drive features an Eject button on the drive itself (versus an independent button on the laptop in the case of 5745, a-la Macbook). Hopefully this will fix the problem where in the Acer 5745 the DVD drive could not be ejected until BIOS processes were completed.
USB 3: The laptop features a Single USB 3.0 port for attaching High Speed External Storage devices.
Weight: The laptop is reasonably light-weight. It weighs around 2.6 KGs (definitely not as light as Netbooks) but not too much of a weight to keep on the lap or lug around town.
Form Factor: The laptop is sleek and fairly compact. The bezel around the display and the keyboard appears to be the absolute minimum that Acer engineers needed. Folded height is approx. 1″. Against the Acer Timeline series, the 57xx series definitely looks comparable.
Power Supply: The AC Power Adapter comes with a really long mains cable and DC voltage cable. Perfect to suck up some juice when the nearest power-plug is quite far. The extra-long cable can be a packing nightmare for others, but for me it’s a blessing.
Carry Case: Acer bundles functional bag/back-pack to carry your laptop. Amazingly, the Zipper mechanisms of these bags really do last. The 5755 came with a back-pack of nylon.
Reliability: Make no mistake though; the laptop is not built to take brisk handling. It’s shiny surfaces get finger-prints/scratched easily and flimsy plastic body bends slightly and will break with heavy-handed usage or knocks/drops. If you want to declare war on a laptop, Acer is not a worthy adversary for you. On the Acer 5745, vertical lines appear on the LCD if the bottom of the LCD is pressed. I am having to be careful about holding the 5745 only by it’s edges or by battery-side-up orientation. At times, if the LCD lines have appeared, pressing on the bottom of the LCD bezel seems to get rid of them. Probably some loose connection somewhere but it’s gonna cost me Rs. 800 – 1000/- just to have it looked at.
Webcam Active Indicator: Like most of Acer’s other products, the webcam does not feature an active indicator. With hackers trying to snap pictures of you in your underclothes, privacy is now of utmost concern and Acer should either provide a Shutter or install a LED to indicate that the webcam is active.
Caps Lock / Num Lock / Scroll Lock Indicator: While the 5745 had blue LEDs indicating the status of Caps Lock and Num Lock, the 5755 depends on On-screen indication using Software. What if the users choose to install a different version of Windows? Or even Linux?
More Indicators: Even the green LED indicator on the AC Adaptor has been removed.
Digital Audio Out: The 5745 supposedly features Co-Axial Digital Audio Out. While I did not have an opportunity to test it (I generally connect the laptop to my Home Theatre system using HDMI), it is sad to note that the feature has been removed altogether from the 5755. For musicians trying to use the 5745/5755 laptops, an investment in a quality USB Sound Device (for ex: from Creative, M-Audio) is compulsory. With the lack of Firewire ports, Line-In ports or MIDI ports, the Laptop is not suitable for music production Out-of-the-box.
One less USB Port: While the 5755 features a USB 3.0 port, it is sad to note that the laptop features 3 USB ports instead of 4 that the 5745 has. With so many devices connected to my laptop, even God agrees that I need more USB ports directly connected to the motherboard USB Hub.
No programmable Key: The 5745 had an additional ‘P’ button (placed next to DVD Eject button) that could be assigned by users to trigger some program. While I did not use it ever (requires to be configured using some Acer software), a point to be noted is that this key is absent in 5755.
LED Backlit LCD Performance: The 5755 is saddled with less than stellar LCD Display. It is definitely better than 5745 and many other Lenovo/Samsung/Compaq laptops that I checked, it is not on part with HP/Mac LCD displays. A typical indicator is the vertical performance (the colors/brightness changes drastically if your eyes are not exactly perpendicular to the LCD. Try moving your head up or down as you view the display). Other subtle indicators are the color shades that are visible in Red, Green, Blue and Gray shades.
Scratch on LCD: The Acer 5745 display bezel features tiny rubber spacers to keep the LCD Panel from touching the keyboard. In spite of this, the 5745 LCD actually developed abrasion marks from the bottom row of keys. The spacers on the 5755 are very similar. I think I will avoid taking a chance and either enhance the spacers with some home-made strips or apply a Screen Guard to the display. A silicon cover to protect the keys from accumulating dust seems like a good idea too. Both items were supplied by Reliance Digital but I will prefer slightly higher quality product from the after-market.
OS & Drivers CD/DVD: Irritatingly enough, manufacturers no longer bundle CD/DVD copies of the the Operating System Software and additional Drivers & Software installed on the Laptop. Acer is no different. While it offers to create a backup of the factory installed software (4 DVDs required), such backup cannot accommodate the gigabytes of Windows Updates, Additional Software and numerous updates that we install soon after unboxing. I think I am going to pass on Acer’s offer and perform a Ghost backup when I am done installing all the software I need to use. At-least this way, if I ever have to reinstall the OS, at-least it will arrive at a stage where I can get productive right away.
High Capacity Backup: The disc backup wars will eventually culminate in the fall of the behemoth and Sony never learns. Just like the fall of their Betacam format by an inferior but cost-effective VHS format, the Blue-Ray format with it’s zillion licensing restrictions and high cost will be replaced by something which will come out of a consortium and will be cheaper and more ‘Open’ in terms of licensing. The previous battle between HD-DVD and Blue-Ray was lost by HD-DVD because the companies promoting it failed to see it’s potential as a data backup medium and only saw the possible abuse of the format in storing Hollywood movies. Don’t even get me started on the idiocy of it all. The net effect is that this laptop too comes with the dated DVD Format which FYI is older than Windows XP!
I was excited about the use of Intel’s second-gen Core processors. They offer faster performance, lower power consumption and less cooling requirements. The benchmarks do suggest a quantum improvement, the OOBE is not enough to sit up and take notice. While benchmarks suggest up-to 25% improvement, real-world performance in MS Word and Calculator is likely to be minimal. CPU heavy apps like PhotoShop, Premiere are likely to show improved performance.
Quite unfortunately, the main display of the laptop is driven by the on-board Intel Graphics accelerator and the nVidia kicks into action only for external monitors connected to the VGA port. As a result, business graphics and Aero performance is hardly improved and still contributes to the low Windows Performance Score.
I am yet to do comprehensive 3D, CUDA tests to determine if purchasing the ‘G’ version has been worthwhile for me. I am not into gaming but do watch a lot of movies/tv on the laptop and hopefully the 1080p videos will play smoothly on this laptop.