New laptops based on Intel's Core i5 CPUs are rolling in like a swarm of summer grasshoppers. The Acer Aspire 5740G laptop falls squarely in the conservative middle of these units, stuffing a next-generation Core i5-430M processor and ATI Radeon Mobility 5650 graphics hardware into a bulky, last-generation laptop chassis.
Although the case is an attractive cobalt blue, the unit screams "average" when you factor in its 1.5in thickness and 2.8kg weight. The Acer Aspire 5740G laptop is a tight fit in our LowePro FastPack 250 backpack - the power brick needed to go into a separate compartment.
The Acer Aspire 5740G's performance is pretty standard for a laptop in this class, earning a slightly better than average WorldBench 6 score. Gaming results were also acceptable, with the Acer achieving 30fps in Far Cry 2 with optimal settings in DirectX 10 mode, while the more-demanding Stalker: Call of Pripyat needed to be set at moderate settings to hit over 30fps (but that included enabling DirectX 11.0 tessellation).
The display resolution is a middling 1366x768. While it is bright and saturated, the 60 percent colour gamut means that you wouldn't want to do a lot of heavy video or photo editing. DVD upscaling looked good, especially after we enabled the additional 'Theater' preset in the ATI Catalyst Control Panel. The 1080p files we viewed in Windows Media Player also looked good, even though the resolution was scaled down. The real drawback of the Acer Aspire 5740G laptop's LCD screen, however, was the vertical viewing angle; even a slight vertical tilt resulted in a muddy, posterised mess of an image.
While the display mostly impressed us, audio playback was awful. The Acer Aspire 5740G laptop's soundstage was muddy, with the stereo image vague at best. The overall tonal quality was too bright, midrange was lost in the mix and bass was utterly lacking. Our advice: use good in-ear or full-size headphones for listening to music.
The Acer Aspire 5740G laptop is a mixed bag when it comes to input/output ports, too. It delivers four USB 2.0 ports, but none are of the combo USB/eSATA variety. The system offers no USB 3.0 support either. The laptop does conveniently place two USB ports on either side, though. The five-in-one flash card reader is mounted in the front of the chassis. Two display outputs (HDMI and VGA), plus analog audio ports and a gigabit ethernet jack, reside on the left side.
Connectivity is average. In addition to the previously mentioned gigabit ethernet jack, an Atheros 802.11n chip is included for fast Wi-Fi connections. However, the Acer Aspire 5740G laptop lacks Bluetooth, a strange omission in today's smartphone world. Also missing is any option for embedded wireless broadband.
Bundled software is limited to trialware (Microsoft Office, Norton online backup, McAfee Internet Security), plus Microsoft Works, NTI backup and some Acer-supplied utilities for Webcam and interface management. Also included are Acer Arcade (actually a media-playback app) and NTI Media Maker for editing. The Acer Aspire 5740G laptop's printed documentation is limited to a quick-reference guide; the online PDF manuals are generic.
The touchpad seemed a little laggy, but it was also too sensitive to perceived pressure, changing modes when we thought we were just moving the pointer. A convenient physical button adjacent to the touchpad lets you easily disable it if you've attached a mouse. The Acer Aspire 5740G laptop's keyboard offers a very good feel, along with a discrete numeric keypad - something that spreadsheet fans will love. The keyboard layout is also quite good for touch typists; if we have a complaint, it's about the half-size directional keys, which seem out of place on an otherwise nearly full-size keyboard.
The Acer Aspire 5740G laptop offers great performance at a good price. The inclusion of a DirectX 11.0-class discrete graphics chip is another plus, providing good gaming performance and video playback. If you're in the market for an affordable laptop with the latest features, and you don't mind the deficient audio playback and the lack of Bluetooth support, this 'average' machine may be just right.