Someday, computer users might forget that desktop systems ever existed. Today's notebook computers, especially models with 17-inch wide-screen displays, are so full of features that no one could ask for anything more. When you stuff everything into a portable package that weighs less than 8 pounds, fear of theft becomes the only reason anyone might opt for a desktop system.
High-end notebooks also are no longer ridiculously exorbitant—at least not when Acer builds them. The new Acer Aspire 9500 starts at just $1,299, and that's for a 17-inch wide-screen monster with a 1.5GHz Celeron M processor, 512 Mbytes of memory, an 80-Gbyte hard drive and a DVD-Super Multi double-layer drive. Users that need more powerful hardware can jump up to a model that contains a 2GHz Pentium M processor, 2 Gbytes of memory, a 120-Gbyte hard drive, a built-in TV tuner, a 5-in-1 memory card reader, wireless 802.11b/g and a host of other features, all for $2,299.
Finished in silver, the Acer Aspire 9500 is designed for SMB and SOHO professionals as well as commercial home users. Its PCI Express architecture, in conjunction with DDR2 533/400 memory, is well-suited for multitasking environments. A built-in ExpressCard expansion slot supports expansion modules based on either USB 2.0 or PCI Express standards.
The notebook's 17-inch WXGA display has a native resolution of 1,440 x 900 pixels. On lower-end models, the display is driven by an Intel 915GM graphics processor, while higher-end models feature ATI's Mobility Radeon X700 graphics adapter with a minimum of 128 Mbytes of video memory. Acer's CrystalBrite color TFT LCD displays a beautiful, crisp and bright image. To enhance productivity, Acer's DualView technology allows the LCD display and an external monitor to be viewed simultaneously. The notebook can be configured with Windows XP Home Edition or Professional, or Windows Media Center Edition; a recovery CD is provided for each.
The Acer Aspire 9500 caters to high-end users and entertainment applications—both of which require a lot of storage. That's why the Aspire 9500 can be had with a 120-Gbyte hard drive; it should provide plenty of space for multimedia authoring, video capture and editing, and employee training materials. Like any high-end system should, this one has built-in Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g dual-mode Wi-Fi and a V.92 fax modem. The notebook also has integrated Bluetooth and Fast Infrared support, as well as five USB 2.0 ports, one FireWire port, one PC Card slot, S-Video/TV-out and a DVI-D port. A built-in 5-in-1 memory card reader is ideal for digital photographers, as it supports MMC, SD, xD-Picture, Memory Stick and Memory Stick Pro standards.
Users with access to VoIP connectivity will like Acer's optional Bluetooth VoIP phone. Coming in the form of a PC Card, the VoIP phone contains a battery that charges when the phone is inserted into a PC Card slot. The phone connects to the notebook via Bluetooth, thus providing cordless operation. Though its features are limited, the phone is so small and thin that it makes any cell phone look hefty.
The Aspire 9500 weighs less than 8 pounds, and its eight-cell Li-ion battery lasts for up to three hours. Whether on battery power or plugged in, the Aspire 9500 excels at entertainment applications. It is compatible with S/PDIF and MS Sound, and its built-in stereo speakers and subwoofer are ideal for digital audio applications. The integrated digital/analog TV tuner is compatible with any receivable signal, and the included Windows MCE remote control turns the notebook into a fully functional television.
The notebook was tested for performance by CRN Test Center engineers using PassMark's PerformanceTest software, which can be used for free for up to 30 days. PerformanceTest measures a plethora of factors including CPU compression/encryption, memory read/write, and many others. The Aspire 9500 earned a very good PassMark score of 385.5 with all tests executed. For comparison purposes, note that in a recent test between otherwise-identical Intel- and AMD-based notebooks, the Intel-based notebook scored 274 and the AMD-based unit scored 228.7; AOpen's mobile-technology-based miniPC scored 290.2.
Acer's single-tier channel program is aimed at VARs solely looking to move volume. The primary onus for support and margin calculation is on Acer's eight distribution partners. The company did not disclose margin ranges or any other channel-related information. Acer boasts that it has more than 8,000 VARs selling its products, which is a significant increase over the 1,500 active partners it had two years ago.