Anyone who knows anything about computers inevitably has the conversation with a friend who’s nervous about buying a new laptop. He knows nothing about computers and is worried to death about getting ripped off. He’s scoured the web for reviews but now he’s shopping around for a good deal. Eventually the question is put to you, “What about Acer?”
Formerly a rock-bottom budget brand, Acer has been clawing its way into the second tier of PC vendors, and with high-quality hits like the Ferrari line, it’s done an admirable job of getting there. And more impressively, Acer has also done good work in keeping costs down, often undercutting the competition so effectively that buyers have to wonder if they’re getting rooked.
Acer’s mainstream Aspire 4820TG represents a solid rung on its quest for upmarket glory, though the computer lacks anything so remarkable to merit overly special notice. A 14-inch (1366 x 768) wide screen with backlit LED is plenty bright, and the 4 GB of RAM and 500-GB hard drive are state of the art for the category. On the other hand, the 2.4-GHz Core i5 CPU turned in the lowest benchmark numbers we’ve seen for computers using the chip — though not by much — while the switchable ATI Radeon 5650 graphics (the system drops down to integrated when you need to save power) were almost exactly on par with other 5650-based computers we’ve tested. The three hours of battery life is good but not exceptional, considering the low-power mode that kicks in when you unplug.
Where does this leave the 4820TG? At $700 this notebook would have been a must-buy, but at $900 (which it actually costs), it flirts dangerously with the premium category, a world where lazy performance and uninteresting, lower-end build quality ensure it can’t compete. The Aspire ultimately lands in an area of no-man’s land where it doesn’t do quite enough to justify its price. Nice little machine otherwise, though.