By July 27, 2009

Acer Aspire 4810T Review

 

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When Matt asked me if I was interested in looking at the Acer Aspire 4810T I did what I usually do and asked if there was anything in particular I should be paying attention to. His answer surprised me to the point that I didn’t really believe him – "It’s got a 9 hour battery" he replied.

Needless to say this was something I was intrigued to test.

What’s in the box

Well as is sometimes the case when we are reviewing devices, we didn’t get a full retail box. The box just contained the laptop with it’s battery and 2 power cables. So there is not really much else I can say on that.

Acer Aspire 4810T Specification:

Operating system

Genuine Windows Vista®
Platform

. Intel® Centrino® 2 mobile processor technology,
featuring:
. Intel® CoreT2 Duo processor*
. Intel® CoreT2 Solo processor*
. Mobile Intel® GS45 Express Chipset
. Intel® Wireless WiFi Link 5100*
. Intel® Wireless WiFi Link 5150*
. Intel® Pentium® mobile processor*
. Intel® Celeron® mobile processor*
. Mobile Intel® GS45 Express Chipset
. Acer InviLinkT NplifyT 802.11b/g/Draft-N*

System memory

. Dual-Channel SDRAM support
. Up to 2 GB of DDR3 1066 MHz memory, upgradeable
to 4 GB using two soDIMM modules*
. Up to 4 GB of DDR3 1066 MHz memory, upgradeable
to 8 GB using two soDIMM modules*

Display

. 16:9 aspect ratio
. 14" HD 1366 x 768

Graphics . Mobile Intel® GS45 Express Chipset
Audio

. High-definition audio support
. S/PDIF (Sony/Philips Digital Interface) support for digital speakers
. MS-Sound compatible
. Built-in microphone

Storage
subsystem

. 2.5" hard disk drive* / solid state drive*
. DVD-Super Multi double-layer drive
. 5-in-1 card reader

Communication

. Integrated Acer Crystal Eye webcam
. Wi-Fi/WiMAX: Intel® Wireless WiFi Link 5150*
. WWAN:
. UMTS/HSPA at 900 MHz/2100 MHz and quadband
GSM/GPRS/EDGE
(850/900/1800/1900 MHz)*
. UMTS/HSPA at 850 MHz/900 MHz/1900 MHz/
2100 MHz and quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE
(850/900/1800/1900 MHz)*
. WLAN:
. Intel® Wireless WiFi Link 5100*
. Acer InviLinkT NplifyT 802.11b/g/Draft-N*
. WPAN: Bluetooth® 2.0+Enhanced Data Rate (EDR)*
. LAN: Gigabit Ethernet; Wake-on-LAN ready

Privacy control

. BIOS user, supervisor, HDD passwords
. Kensington lock slot

Dimensions
and weight

. 338.4 (W) x 240 (D) x 24/28.9 (H) mm
. 1.9 kg (4.2 lbs.) with 6-cell battery pack

Power
subsystem

. ACPI 3.0
. 62.16 W 5600 mAh*
. 62.64 W 5800 mAh*
. 3-pin 65 W AC adapter
. ENERGY STAR®*

Special keys
and controls

. 86-/87-/91-key keyboard
. Touchpad pointing device

I/O interface

. 5-in-1 card reader (SD/MMC/MS/MS PRO/xD)
. USB 2.0 port
. HDMIT port with HDCP support
. External display (VGA) port
. Headphones/speaker/line-out jack with S/PDIF
support
. Microphone-in jack
. Ethernet (RJ-45) port
. DC-in jack for AC adapter

   

General

Let’s do a quick tour around the Aspire 4810T.

acer_left On the left of the laptop is a USB port, VGA connector, HDMI connector, another USB port, and then 3.5mm sockets for microphone and headphones.

acer_right On the right you’ll find the CD/DVD drive, a USB port, an RJ45 network connector, the power socket and a Kensington lock slot.

Nothing much to see at the back apart from the battery, so let’s look at the front.

acer_front

If you look closely at the picture you’ll see that there is a slot in the middle front edge – this is a 5-in-1 card reader, and just above that (looking white in the photo) is a bar that glows amber to show the battery is charging and blue when the battery is fully charged.

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There’s not much to see from underneath, but the things worth noting are the 2 catches to release the battery, and single large removable cover for access to the hard drive and memory sockets.

Review

Before I get into the review I just want to point out again that we didn’t have a retail box, so some of the things mentioned here might be addressed in the full packages.

The first thing that happened to me on handling the 4810T was that I tried to open it up the wrong way – doh! For some reason the styling made my brain think that the battery area was actually the front – and this was something that I did several times whilst testing it. Don’t think that is something wrong with the design though, it’s more likely something wrong with me 😀

At just under 2kg the 4810T is certainly very portable, and certainly something I could carry with me all day.

The 14" screen is billed as an "HD Acer Cine Crystal LED LCD" – which is nice I guess. But to me it’s a gloss finish widescreen display with a native resolution of 1366×768.

acer_4810t

First off the bat, the 14" screen doesn’t feel at all small and being widescreen certainly helps that.

I do have a personal issue with the fact that the screen is gloss finish – and this is NOT unique to the 4810T, but to all screens – the reflections drive me mad. What was wrong with the matt finish we used to have on laptop displays? It was certainly more suitable for being outdoors with, and meant less fiddling with the screen to find an angle where things were visible. On some laptops this is further exacerbated by the fact that the LCD has poor viewing angles. Thankfully that is not the case here, the 4810T is viewable from a reasonable range of angles, so once you find a position where the reflections aren’t annoying then you are set.

The screen resolution of 1366×768 is another oddity for me -  I guess that’s "just how they come" but it doesn’t seem to be ‘standard’ resolution at all. Not that it affects the usage of the laptop, just seems odd to me.

acer_keyboard acer_keyboard2

The  next thing you notice with the Aspire 4810T is the keyboard. It reminds me of the one you get on some Mac laptops, with the keys being ‘plates’ instead of ‘chunks’. The keys are perfectly responsive, and though your fingers might find the sensation of the new surfaces slightly unusual at first, you will soon get used to them.

The new keys do cause something curious to happen though.

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When you open the laptop you will often find a dust pattern has formed on the screen. If you look closely at the image above you can see what I mean. This pattern appears to be caused by a build up of dust in the keyboard then when the laptop is moved around the dust falls between the keys and adheres to the screen. This just means that the first thing you do when opening your laptop is wipe the screen. Nothing earth shattering, but not something I’ve had happen on laptops with the more ‘traditional’ keys.

So onto actually using the laptop.

[ On the laptop we had for testing the activity lights above the keyboard weren’t working at all. I can only assume this was a glitch on the device we had rather than a more serious design problem. ]

This 48010T came with Windows Vista SP1 pre-installed and boots up fairly quickly. General testing of basic functions showed that the laptop was perfectly capable of performing the normal day to day tasks that you would ask of it with applications opening quickly.

Anyone looking that the CPU speed in the specifications need not worry unless they are running some heavy applications. The 4810T performs just fine with the normal things you’re likely to do on a laptop like office applications, web browsing etc. Obviously if you push your machines with more complex tasks then there is a point where it will slow down, but isn’t that the case on all PCs?

The 500GB hard drive is split into 2 partitions, one being a 10GB recovery partition, leaving 456GB formatted for the OS. So even with the OS on there, there is plenty of space for your files.

Like most PC’s the 4810T comes supplied with various software pre-installed.

The trial software includes McAfee Security Center and a 60 day trial of MS Office 2007. Other software installed include WinLocker, eSobi, Orion and Google desktop.

Acer have also included some of their own applications as well – Acer eRecovery Management, Acer Arcade Deluxe, Acer Backup Manager, Acer Crystal Eye Webcam, Acer GameZone and Acer GridVista.

I want to spend a moment going through the Acer software.

Acer GridVista is a tool for organising applications within a screen – it’s a bit like the Tile Horizontally/Vertically tool within windows itself. It allows you to place upto 3 apps in fixed positions on the screen in a preset grid, a bit like having multiple monitors. It seems to work nicely enough and I can see the benefit for some people.

Acer GameZone – a collection of 19 ‘casual’ games including things like Mahjong and Luxor. Added to the MS games that are part of Vista there is plenty to keep you distracted from your work.

Acer Crystal Eye Webcam is, as it’s name suggests, for the built in webcam.

Acer Backup Manager, again the name is fairly explanatory, for backing things up.

Arcade Deluxe – not more games as you’d think, but an app that is more like Media Center, with a video player, music player, photo viewer and web video browser all controlled from the same interface. I’m not sure who’d use this when all the functionality is already built into Windows, but it’s there if you want to use it.

Acer eRecovery Management is another backup tool, though it’s primary function is to allow the user to reset the laptop back to factory settings. Here is where I found some problems with the way the laptop was setup. In theory the recovery tool let’s you set the laptop back to factory conditions by rebooting from the recovery partition on the hard drive. In practise it doesn’t work, at least not on this laptop.

I clicked the button to recover the drive, agreed which drive I was recovering to and nothing happened. So I tried making sure the app was running as administrator and tried again, same thing. So I thought, I’ll go into Safe Mode and try from there, but the laptop wouldn’t boot into Safe Mode – it just crashes mid boot and restarts the laptop.

Depending on what is in the retail packaging this could be a major problem for the user.

If there is no Vista disk or other recovery disk included, then the user could find themselves with a machine that won’t boot and won’t let them into Safe Mode to fix the problem.

When you first start the 4810T it does encourage you to create a backup disc, but that’s not really an answer as the user that may not have writeable discs handy.

I could live without the recovery tool if the package contained a reinstall disk (though that does mean the 10GB recovery partition is not needed), but not being able to boot into Safe Mode could lead to big problems for the user and most users will only discover it when they need it most.

Certainly the first thing I’d be looking at if the laptop was mine was how to get Safe Mode working, just in case.

Another installation glitch I found was that a link to the ‘Acer Quickstart Guide’ actually pointed to a document that wasn’t installed. Not as serious obviously, and might even be a result of being a review device, but without being able to recover to factory settings I can’t tell.

Whilst I’m discussing things that irritated me, the network connector is arranged so that the ‘locking clip’ is on the underside as you are using the laptop. Which means that when you want to disconnect the cable you have to lift the laptop first – surely it would make more sense for the connector to be the other way up so that the user can release the cable without moving the laptop. You can see this is you look at the photo of the right hand side of the laptop above.

With the complaints over, let’s get onto the more positive aspects of the Aspire 4810T.

acer_ejectThe eject button for the CD/DVD drive is above the keyboard instead of being on the drive face itself. This is a great idea and saves it being nudged accidentally – though I did press it instead of the power button a couple of times 😀

acer_trackpad There is a button beside the trackpad that allows you to turn it on and off, and the button lights up when the trackpad is off. Normally this is a function key, but here Acer have opted for a separate physical button. So if you find you are touching the pad whilst typing you can just press the button to disable it. The light is a bit brighter than I think it needs to be though.

When playing back audio I was pleasantly surprised by the audio separation of the stereo. Sounds were very obviously left and right when watching movies, not something that all laptops can say.

And talking of movies we get to the test that I ran to see how good the battery really was – I played some DVD movies. Normally this is a bad idea on laptops as spinning the drive and doing the decoding really eats battery power.

After 2 full movies, totalling over four hours of playback, there was still battery to spare! I’m convinced – the battery life on the 4810T is stunning.

The 9 hours that has been talked about for the battery life on the 4810T obviously depends on what you are doing, but I can well believe that if you are just doing some text based work or web browsing that the 9 hour life is possible. In reality most people don’t need 9 full hours as they are likely to be able to put some charge in at some point in their day, but it certainly stops you having to worry about your battery.

It certainly takes a little getting used to the fact that when the battery life is at 25% it’s still saying 2 hours life left 😀

 

Highlights

– Without question, the battery life
– drive eject button being on the main keyboard area

Lowlights

It’s hard to be accurate on this not knowing the retail box contents

– software setup
– gloss screen (yes I know it’s a personal choice, but for me it’s a negative)
– network connector ‘upside down’

Conclusion

If you just want a laptop that runs all day then this is well worth looking at, the battery life will not disappoint.

For me though the battery life alone doesn’t justify the price. Laptops are getting ever cheaper, and if I was to purchase a similarly spec’d one elsewhere and bought a second battery to extend the usage time, then I’d still be saving money for the same sort of package.

But one thing is for certain, this battery technology will be used in other laptops before very long.

The glitches with the software setup are a real concern, the inability to get into Safe Mode in particular. Reading some forums they suggest that this can happen on PC’s where the hardware is causing the Safe Mode boot to fail, and if that’s the case here then that’s a deal breaker for me. I would certainly be trying a clean Vista install from scratch and seeing if that can get into Safe Mode. I don’t need Safe Mode that often, but when I need it, I really need it to work.

Review by: Iain

Posted in: Reviews

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