Aces & Eights
Excellent multimedia benchmark scores; 2GB of RAM; responsive keyboard; screen decently-readable even in sunlight; decent battery life.
Smallish hard drive; comes with Vista Business instead of Home Premium, for some reason.
With a 15.4-inch screen, Acer’s TravelMate 5720 skirts the edge of what qualifies as a mainstream notebook. But at 7.5 lbs. of carry weight, it’s still pleasantly portable for a device that offers respectable multimedia and gaming functionality with a good-size battery.
The TravelMate didn’t ace our benchmark tests across the board, but it put up a strong showing. You won’t be able to max out next-generation games, but the rig holds its own in older titles. The laptop’s 15 frames per second in our FEAR test makes for a “playable” experience, but we shudder at the thought of playing newer titles on this machine.
On the flip side, we saw excellent performance in our application benchmarks. ProShow and MainConcept encodes sped by, both coming within minutes of faster mainstream models we’ve reviewed. For this you can thank the 2.2GHz Core 2 Duo processor: That’s a speedy clock for the laptop’s size, and the CPU’s 4MB of L2 cache helps the TravelMate nail these two encoding benchmarks.
Also aiding the laptop’s performance are two gigabytes of DDR2 RAM. They pushed the TravelMate to peak performance on our Premiere and Photoshop tests. On the former, encoding ran smoothly and quickly, but it was in our intensive Photoshop script that the memory proved its mettle. The Acer sailed through both tasks, pushing out times that were twice as fast as those of a comparable laptop sporting just one gig of RAM.
The TravelMate’s battery isn’t the best we’ve seen, but we appreciate its performance-to-battery-life ratio. With a two-and-a-half-hour time in our rundown test, this laptop should make it through a typical feature-length film before dying out—more, if you reduce the display to its lowest brightness setting.
We love the responsiveness of this laptop’s keyboard. Pressing the keys feels almost like using a desktop keyboard. Function-key hotkeys allow you to pull up your laptop specs and power-management settings at the touch of a button, and you can launch full applications with the laptop’s seven hotkeys.
It’s not a perfect experience, but the laptop’s screen holds its own in outdoor use. Even with the sun beating down on the TravelMate, we were able to see a decent picture with no reflections or annoyances—aside from the glare. Just don’t expect to store much on this machine. While acceptable for this class, we’d prefer a hard drive a bit bigger than 160GB.
The TravelMate’s external connection options are numerous. You get five USB ports and a single mini-FireWire out, as well as a trifecta of video output options: VGA, DVI, and S-Video. The laptop even comes with a built-in SD card reader.
We question Acer’s OS choice though. Since the TravelMate comes with Vista Business, not Home Premium, it lacks multimedia functionality like Windows Media Center and DVD Maker as well as the ability to create high-definition movies in Windows Movie Maker. In place of that, you get Windows Complete PC Backup and Restore—a program that’s rendered irrelevant by Acer’s inclusion of the NTI Shadow backup application.
Minus this lapse, the TravelMate is a strong laptop choice. It presents the best mix of gaming and application performance without suffering critical flaws in either, and its usability and battery life help sweeten the deal.
Next: The Final Word on Mainstream Notebooks
|CPU||Intel Core 2 Duo T7500 (2.2GHz)|
|Hard Drive||160GB, 5,400rpm|
|Screen||15.4-inch TFT (1280x800)|
|Lap/Carry Weight||6 lbs. 9 oz. / 7lbs. 11 oz.|
|Premiere Pro CS3 (min:sec)||38:43||48:38||35:59|
|Photoshop CS3 (min:sec)||5:48||4:12||3:53|
|Quake 4 (fps)||10.3||79.2||29|
|Battery Rundown (hrs:min)||3:26||1:42||2:32|