Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Acer Aspire 3935 Review

Woo woo. Or if you prefer, hubba hubba. The Acer Aspire 3935 is a brushed-metal slimline just 1-inch thick and just 4.2 pounds, including the DVD±RW drive missing from ultralight notebooks like Apple's MacBook Air (and the Ethernet port and swappable battery missing from the Air as well).

No, it's not quite as skinny and sexy as the Apple status symbol or Lenovo's magnesium-alloy ThinkPad X301. But this 13.3-inch widescreen traveler is about half the price -- $900 at Newegg and J&R.

And that's not for a stripped-down model, either. The CPU is one of Intel's up-to-date "Penryn" Core 2 Duos -- the P7350, a 2.0GHz dual-core with 1066MHz front-side bus and 3MB of Level 2 cache -- teamed with 3GB of quick DDR3 rather than more mundane DDR2 memory and an ample 250GB Toshiba hard disk, itself a lighter, cutting-edge 1.8-inch compact rather than a more mundane 2.5-inch model.

Both Bluetooth and 802.11 draft-N WiFi wireless are built in, as are a fingerprint reader and Webcam. The 32-bit version of Windows Vista Home Premium anchors a software bundle that includes 60-day trial versions of McAfee Security Center and Microsoft Office Home & Student 2007; NTI Backup Now and Media Maker; the eSobi RSS-feed reader and Orion instant-messaging client; and Acer's (really CyberLink's) Arcade Deluxe, an alternative to Windows Media Center for enjoying DVDs, photos, and music. There's also a handy window-tiling utility dubbed GridVista that makes it easy to arrange, say, one application on the laptop's LCD while two others share a split-screen external monitor.

Lovely to Look At, Delightful to Hold

Acer's press release describes the 3935 -- its official configuration name is the Aspire 3935-6504 -- as a "golden-brown [color] that evokes both glamor and efficiency." It also takes vigorous buffing to remove what you might call a thumbprint-polka-dot pattern after you've picked up and carried the thing a few times, but picking up the 9.3 by 12.7 by 1.0-inch Acer is never a chore, even when lifting the opened notebook one-handed.

There's a Secure Digital/MultiMediaCard/xD/Memory Stick/Pro flash-card slot on the system's front edge, with USB 2.0 and Ethernet ports beside the DVD burner on the right. At the left are two more USB ports, microphone and headphone/SPDIF audio-out jacks, and a VGA port. The Aspire loses points for not providing a more contemporary HDMI port, but Acer's designers presumably thought the system more likely to be plugged into a business-presentation projector than a high-def-video-viewing TV set.

One very contemporary feature is the Aspire's iPhone-style, gesture-enabled touchpad, which combines the usual tapping and dragging with auto-scroll through long documents (a circular motion starting at the top right corner of the pad) and zooming in and out of documents and images (pinching two fingers together or spreading them apart). An adjacent button turns off the touchpad for users who prefer an external mouse.