Is this the shape of multimedia notebooks to come? Acer predicts a wave of larger screens with 16:9 aspect ratios and HD displays.
It’s an interesting counterpoint to the frantic activity in the sub-notebook space, which spans from the portability ‘sweet spot’ of 13-14 inches to the ultra-mobile category of 7-10 inches.
The rationale behind the Acer Aspire Gemstone Blue range is to create a consumer notebook that puts home entertainment front and centre. And home entertainment, Acer reckons, means Blu-ray and a 16:9 aspect ratio HD display. So the 16 inch Aspire 6920G (starting from $2,499) and the 18.4 inch Aspire 8920G (from $2,699) tick both those boxes, making them the world’s first HD notebooks.
Are they portable? It’s more like transportable, given not only their dinner tray footprint but their 4.1kg weight. Ultra-mobile? Not as such, given Acer’s own admission that battery life on the 18.4 inch bruiser would be sufficient to get through a Blu-ray movie, which we take to mean a few hours with the optical drive spinning (and more without, of course, which is helped along by the generous 8-cell battery).
Are we complaining? Not one jot. 17 inch laptops for the consumer market tend to spend almost of their life at home, and the furthest they travel is from the living room to the bedroom or back patio. The new Aspire machines simply upsize the equation, and it’s a trend Acer expects we’ll see more of in the coming year.
Henry Lee, Acer’s senior product manager, says that screen sizes will increase out of necessity as the category of ‘entertainment’ notebooks move to screens with a 16:9 aspect ratio. On a mid-sized notebook that requires 15.6 inches instead of the current 15.4 inch panel, resulting in a laptop that’s slightly wider but no deeper. However, Lee told APCmag that he expected 16 inches to initially become more popular as a new form factor, followed by a slow mid-range transition to 15.6 inches as OEM panel manufacturers start to resize their screens. After all, it took several years for notebook vendors to move from the conventional 4:3 ratio into widescreen panels.
But Acer wants to be the first to march in this parade with these two new luggable laptops. The 6920G’s 16 inch panel runs at 1366x768, which is merely HD rather than the 18 incher’s Full HD of 1920x1080. Blu-ray content is ‘downscaled’ on the 6920G but it’s not as if you’ll notice any difference.
Both models include an HDMI port in case you want to throw the picture onto a bigger TV screen, plus Dolby Home Theatre audio piped through three speakers (two standard cones plus a subwoofer) in the 6920G and six (three behind the keyboard, two up front, and a subwoofer below) in the 8920G. They also introduce a novel touch-sensitive CineDash multimedia controller dial on the left side of the keypad for volume, playback and menu navigation.
Everything else is what you’d expect to find: Intel’s 45nm ‘mighty mite’ Core 2 Duo processor, up to 4GB of RAM, NVIDIA’s 9500M GS with 512MB, quad-band (11abgn) WiFi and a dollop of crapware. At least the hard drive still has plenty of room to spare: 320GB is the standard fitout, with a spare 2.5 inch bay in the 8920G so you can take it up to 640GB. Very handy for making backup copies of your Bu-ray discs.