After a couple of months of imposing Vista as an alternative to the good old XP, we’ve decided to test a reasonably priced notebook that runs on Vista. We’re quite confident that while buying a new laptop many will pay attention to the OS, and getting a newest Microsoft OS will seem like a great deal. As always, some things that look good on paper don’t quite look so in reality.
The matte black lid looks good, and the detail in "piano" black is, of course, a fingerprint magnet.
As soon as we opened the box, in which we’ll find a Vista Home Premium installation DVD, Acer's Aspire 5520 surprised us. The quality and the robustness of the case are much better than we’ve come to expect from Acer. The design is good too, matte black, curved angles and couple of sharp lines, all this breathes some elegance into this notebook. The case dimensions are 426x366x274 mm, and weight is 2.75kg.
Optical drive, two USB connectors and modem RJ-11 are placed on the right side.
Of course, there is always room for improvement. The screen opening mechanism is not that good and you’ll often have to use both hands to open or close the notebook. When closing the screen, the mechanism doesn’t always lock it. However, this should be taken with a grain of salt as the mechanism will surely loosen up with time.
Due to the curved design of the lid and retracted latches, it is not possible to bend the screen all the way.
It looks pretty, but the old hinges were more practical.
The lower ledge of the screen almost completely covers the rear, and due to this, rear side of this notebook doesn’t feature any connectors except for the power one. Therefore, all the connectors, even the rarely used ones as VGA, S-Video and Firewire ones, are spread around the sides.
It won’t go any further, and the connectors that used to be in the back are now on the sides. The audio dial is practical.
The quality of manufacturing, finishing touches and materials are, as we’ve said before, quite good. The machine didn’t heat up too much, hence the cooling itself wasn’t loud. The keyboard is also high quality and easy to use. Compared to the previous generation of Acer notebooks, the keyboard and material quality are somewhat better. The design of the previous model was a bit more conservative and more oriented to business users and practical side. It is interesting to note that the previous model is a couple of millimeters thinner.
On the picture next to the old Aspire 1650 series. Due to the curved lines, the new model looks much fatter, although the difference isn’t that big.
The test model has a dual core AMD Athlon 64 X2 mobile TK-53 processor running at 1.7 GHz with 2x256 kb of cache. Integrated Nvidia GeForce 7000M card is a part of the relatively new nForce 610M chipset, released in May this year. Compared to its stronger brother 7150M graphics, this solution doesn’t offer hardware decoding of MPEG2 1080i / H.264 720p video, and the core speed is 350MHz compared to 425MHz on the 7150M. In 3DMark05 benchmark, the computer scored 612 marks, whereas PCMark5 scored 900 in graphics.
This notebook features 1GB of RAM, or to be more precise 2x512MB of DDR2 running at 533MHz. Out of the box, the graphics are set to use 256MB, so the system is left with about 750MB, and that, as we are soon to see, is not quite the best solution for Vista.
Of course, integrated graphics is a bottleneck.
Hitachi Travelstar SATA disk with 160GB running at 5400rpm and with 8MB of cache, and dual layer DVD-/+RW drive will take care of your storage needs. The screen is a 15.4 inch 1280x800 CrystalBrite and its response is 8ms. We have no complaints for the image quality except maybe for some background light shining trough on the bottom of the scren. The viewing angle is quite sufficient for a laptop.
The machine comes rather well equipped, with Ethernet, Wireless, modem, 4 USB connectors, ExpressCard 54 slot, D-Sub output for the monitor, S-Video out, SPDIF, FireWire, integrated mic, headphone out, mic in, audio out, 5 in 1 card reader, etc. The integrated webcam with 1.3 megapixels with Acers Crystal Eye technology has performed really well. Even with low lighting the results are excellent, the colors are good and there is very little noise.
The integrated camera offered excellent image quality, note the microphone on the right
The first serious disappointment came while booting up. It took over 4 minutes and “feeding” Vista and Aero in idle mode takes up more than 80% of available memory.
Windows experience index gave our notebook a 3.0 score, and mostly thanks to the integrated graphics. All other components scored much better. All the benchmarks scored decent results, considering it is a modestly priced notebook with integrated graphics.
Happy times, idle usage of less than 80% memory.
The problems arose in regular, day to day work. Vista simply consumes too much resources, and while running more application at once, the system reacts slowly. Program installations were horribly slow, and running the applications once installed wasn't much better.
We tried a couple of games, although the graphics card, as well as the other integrated solutions, doesn’t promis much performance. In FEAR, the best result was 15FPS, but some less resource hungry games didn’t do better either. Of course, we shouldn’t expect much from a notebook so this is not so bad. On the contrary, compared to the most integrated solutions one may say this is good, or at least above average.
The keyboard, compared to some older models, is well made. It is quiet, soft, but at the same time robust, and it doesn’t bend and squeal during use. Acer really took care of build quality this time around and paid a lot of attention to detail. The results speak for themselves and this model doesn’t look cheap at all, quite the contrary. The touchpad was moved a little bit to the left compared to the previous series, it looks nice, but does have some cursor-wandering problems from time to time. Nothing major, but it does happen. Between the left and right buttons there is an additional button that you use to scroll text or web-pages.
Much better than before, although some might find the buttons next to “Enter” unpractical, it only takes a little time to get used to them.
The speakers are significantly improved too, virtual surround is another added feature, and it makes some difference. Of course, don’t expect miracles, there are some low frequencies missing, but the sound is much better than in previous models. All in all, it’s quite sufficient to enjoy music while working or watching a movie on the road.
With the notebook you’ll get Acer's DVD player software, and it is much better than Windows Media Player, and we shouldn’t forget the useful Acer E-Manager.
Battery life is standard for its class. After a couple of measurements we got an average of 2 hours and 10 minutes. Of course, we must note that Vista uses more energy than XP.
|SiSoft Sandra||Overall score|
|Cache and Memory (MB/s)||6558|
|RAM bandwidth (MB/s)||3888|
|Memoy Latency (ns)||181|
|Inter Core bandwidth (MB/s)||1487|
|Dhrystone ALU (MIPS)||11612|
|Whetstone iSSE3 (MFLOPS)||9844|
|Super PI||Overall score (s)|
|Cinebench 9.5||1 CPU||x CPU||Multiprocessor SpeedUp||Overall (s)|
Processor: AMD Athlon 64 X2 mobile TK-53 at 1.7GHz, 2x256kb cache
Chipset: nForce 610M
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce 7000M, 350MHz, up to 896MB shared memory
Memory: 2x512MB DDR2 at 533MHz
Screen: 15.4", 1280x800, 8ms, CrystalBrite
Hard Disk: Hitachi Travelstar SATA 160GB, 8MB cache, 5400RPM
Optical Drive: DVD+/-RW dual layer
1x Express Card Slot
1x IEEE 1394 (FireWire)
1x RJ-45 LAN
1x RJ-11 Modem
1x SPDIF out, headphones, line out, Stereo 3.5 mm
56K V.92 Modem
10/100/1000 MBit/s Ethernet LAN
54 MBit/s Wireless LAN 802.11a/b/g WiFi
Card Reader: 5-in-1 (Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, Secure Digital, Multimedia Card, xD Card)
Battery Life: ca. 2h 10m
In the box you get: user manual, power cable, Windows Vista Home Premium instalation DVD, international 1 year guarantee.
Although this model didn’t really live up to expectations, it is not the hardware that should be blamed. Yes, Vista Home Premium is just too resource-consuming for this machine, and its 1GB of memory. If you’re insisting on Vista then you should seriously think about upgrading and getting one more gigabyte of memory. However we don’t think that Vista alone should justify this expenditure because 1GB of memory on XP is more than enough for most of the users as the applications we most frequently use on notebooks, rarely require more.
As for the hardware, we must say it’s a very good package. A fast dual-core processor, new chipset and new integrated graphics card, excellent hard disk that would put many of its more expensive rivals to shame, and excellent accessories. The only downside is the cover latch, but we do believe it will loosen up in time. Considering the components, the price is good, despite the Vista troubles, we can easily recommend this notebook.
Supplied by: Genelec Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Manufacturers Web-Site: Acer
Price: €720 + VAT
Note: we weren't able to find the exact same model listed in the EU, but a slightly more powerful version, with a TL-56 CPU at 1.8GHz and 2GB of RAM is available at Amazon.de for €799 inc. VAT.
Reviewed and tested by Sanjin Sejdinović, Nermin Hajdarbegović and Nedim Had?ić