Acer Aspire Ethos AS8951G-9630 £900
4th May 2012 | 17:52
Big and powerful, this desktop replacement is no joke
When it comes to unique laptop design, Acer is no slouch. From super-slim ultrabooks to multimedia powerhouses, the Taiwanese company that was acquired by Gateway has been cranking out laptops like crazy. That said, the company's Aspire Ethos AS8951G-9630 breaks the mold.
Not so much a portable, this model is more transportable - meaning it's more like a desktop that's easy to move. Because of its size, you won't want to bring this along on business trips or even to the local cafe. But we'll get back to that.
With its large, 18-inch 1080p display we expected this machine to be great with multimedia. But the design touch that was most intriguing is the removable touchpad that also doubles as a wireless media controller.
Using a slider on the front of the laptop, you release the touchpad. Once you pop it out, the touchpad acts as a media remote.
The problem with it though, is that the touchpad, was quirky when connected to the laptop. And, it was even more quirky when being used as a media remote.
What's worse, is that the media controls on the remote are designed to use Acer's proprietary Clear-Fi technology.
While that's all well and good, we don't necessarily use media that's stored locally. Rather, we use Hulu+, Netflix, Pandora and Zune (which does store media locally but it's designed to work with Microsoft's Zune player).
The media control buttons on the remote control don't work with these applications. So seeing these cool-looking backlit buttons is more like cool technology that we just can't use.
However, criticisms of the media remote and Clear-Fi aside, the Aspire Ethos AS8951G-9630 is a formidable desktop replacement that at around $1,499 is a great machine for anyone who's computing needs require power but aren't necessarily wedded to the idea of a cumbersome desktop rig.
Acer spared nothing when equipping the Aspire Ethos AS8951G-9630, opting for an Intel Core i7-2670QM 2.2GHz Processor (that with Turbo Boost technology can run at up to 2.9GHz), 8GB Dual-Channel SDRAM and an 18.4" 1080p HD LCD display (with a maximum resolution of 1920 x 1080).
Being a desktop replacement, this processor has what it takes to handle pretty much anything that you throw at it.
Gamers will no doubt welcome all of this processing power. Power that along with the 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 555M graphic processor enabled us to play everything from Star Wars: The Old Republic and World of Warcraft to Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 with ease.
Gaming aside, a machine with this much power had no problem dealing with everything from Netflix and Hulu+ to Adobe Photoshop.
Additionally, our test machine ships with Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit version) as well as a 750GB hard drive. While terabyte drives are commonplace with desktops, most users will be hard-pressed to max out this machine's 3/4TB storage option.
Lastly, this model sports a 4X Blu-ray Disc/DVD±RW DL, built-in stereo speakers, Dolby Home Theater Audio Enhancement, webcam, Acer Bio-Protection Fingerprint Reader, 802.11b/g/n WLAN (gigabit LAN), HDMI, USB, Multi-in-1 card reader.
OpenGL: 33.01 fps
CPU: 5.16 pts
3D Mark '11: 1439
Battery Eater Pro '05: 1:07:54
After checking what's inside the Aspire Ethos AS8951G-9630, it was time to put it through its paces. Simply put, in addition to what it's been like to use this beast day in and day out, how did it perform against our standard suite of benchmarks?
Based on the specs alone it should come as no surprise that this baby performs extremely well. And not just for a laptop.
Dollars to donuts says that this laptop will outperform many desktop machines out there.
Shipping with Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit version), basic computing was super-fast. Whether browsing the web, watching streaming video content, we found nothing to complain about with this machine.
And while it ships with multiple HDMI ports, the screen is so large that we didn't even feel compelled to run the video to a larger screen.
Additionally, another task that really tends to test a system's might is using DRM removal software. With this in mind, we performed this task using Audials Tunebite, a memory and CPU hog and found this task to be nearly as fast as it was on most desktop machines.
Long story made short, this isn't something that you're gonna want to do on an ultrabook.
Boot-up from sleep on this machine was plenty fast, but since most users will use this machine more like a desktop than a laptop, we found ourselves putting it to sleep more than completely shutting down.
The Acer Aspire Ethos AS8951G-9630 sports a full-size keyboard that is great to use. That said, this is also where the quirky touchpad tended to get in the way. The touchpad is both big and sensitive. In everyday use we found ourselves accidentally moving the cursor all over the place. This can be a major pain when composing large documents or email messages.
Being a big beast, we expected the speakers to be plenty loud, and in this case the Acer didn't disappoint. There are stereo speakers that were good for media playback. Of course, during gameplay we would suggest using a gaming headset.
Predictably, the battery life on the Acer Aspire Ethos AS8951G-9630 was abysmal. So, because of its size, most people aren't gonna really use this on the go.
We squeezed a pathetic 67 minutes out of this system using Battery Eater Pro, our benchmarking program, that runs a looped 720p high-definition video in the background.
Of course, a machine with this kind of horsepower isn't designed to really be used on battery power for very long.
You can tweak the power settings to get as much battery life as you can. But that's like buying a Porsche and only running it on half the cylinders. If you want battery life, buy a different laptop.
The Acer Aspire Ethos AS8951G-9630 is an excellent desktop replacement that pulls no punches in the power department. And considering how much computing power you get for your money, it's a great machine for a gamer or anyone who needs a lot power in their laptop.
Compared to other laptops by folks like Alienware for example, the Acer Aspire Ethos AS8951G-9630 may not be the most powerful laptop in the world, but the price is reasonable and the design features, even the quirky touchpad, make this machine worth checking out.
The benefit of its 750GB of storage, super-fast CPU and 1GB of video memory mean that using this laptop poses few computing compromises. In plain english, this baby can do pretty much whatever you want.
Add to that, the extremely large 18-inch 1080p HD display and full-size keyboard, this is a very nice machine to use.
Ironically, the very thing that makes the Acer Aspire Ethos AS8951G-9630 an awesome machine is also its biggest drawback: its size.
We mentioned before that this machine isn't so much a portable as it is "transportable." Because of its massive size you'll find yourself reluctant to really move it around much.
We also hoped that the removable touchpad, which doubles as a media remote, was more versatile in that it could work with other media applications. But alas, hope springs eternal.
Acer has put together a great multimedia machine with the Aspire Ethos AS8951G-9630.
With its spacious, full-size keyboard, massive 18-inch 1080p HD display and laundry list of high-end components, this beast has what it takes to handle even the most daunting tasks.
Finally, although battery life was horrible, we expected that from a machine this powerful. And we're willing to sacrifice that in order to experience this level of raw power. And that reasonable price-point of around $1,500 means that you'll be happily computing for some time.