Is AMD back, baby?
Some architectural updates and a snazzy sticker campaign under its belt, AMD is taking on Intel once again in its first serious bid to regain relevance since the early aughts. The approach is a little different, though: This time AMD isn’t going to power your PC to any new and dazzling heights, but it may very well save you some serious coin.
Witness the Acer Aspire 5538G. On the surface, it is hardly noteworthy. 4 GB of RAM, 320-GB hard drive and a modest ATI Radeon HD 4330 graphics card, and powered by a 1.2-GHz Athlon X2 L310. The 15.6-inch LCD offers a minimum-standard 1366 x 768-pixel resolution with somewhat below-average brightness. It’s a touch above average weight (5.3 pounds) but below average in battery run time (2 1/4 hours). Performance clocks in at the level of the cheapest Intel-based machines in this class, but within the realm of acceptability. If nothing else, having the discrete graphics card is a nice touch that at least makes gaming a possibility, albeit a bumpy one.
With all that said, there’s one devilishly compelling thing about the Aspire 5538G: Its price. Available for a mere $530, this kind of affordability is virtually unheard-of for a new 15-inch notebook. We said notebook here, people, not netbook. A typical Intel-based machine with a similar configuration and an entry-level CPU will typically run $800 or $900 depending on the brand. With this Aspire, Acer offers a substantial savings over the other guy.
Still, sacrifices will have to be made. A 30 percent performance deficit and a weak battery aren’t unsubstantial concerns — but they may not materially impact every user. For web browsing and word processing, the speed issue isn’t very noticeable. And users who leave their laptop plugged in 24/7 won’t register the battery shortage. Will $300 convince you to give up a little oomph on an otherwise capable system?
Well, only you can decide the answer to that one.