If you're in the market for a notebook that does double duty as a full-fledged entertainment center, then take a good look at Acer's new Aspire 8943G. We love the minimalist aluminum design, and the beautiful 18.4-inch screen is great for watching Blu-ray movies and TV shows. Plus, the Dolby-powered speakers will allow you to hear both dialogue and explosions from across the room. Worried about power? This desktop replacement sports a quad-core CPU and a whopping 8GB of RAM. But a major flaw in the wireless card brought our esteem for this beautiful $1,599 multimedia machine down a notch or two.
We were immediately struck by the Aspire 8943G's elegant, understated design. The brushed aluminum lid is both handsome and fingerprint-proof, and its only decoration is a tasteful chrome Acer logo. Under the hood this aesthetic continues, with aluminum dominating the upper part of the deck, giving way to a black strip encompassing the palm rest and touchpad area. Coming in at 17.3 x 11.6 x 1.7 inches, this 8.4-pound system has a large footprint but is still relatively easy to carry from room to room.
Acer kept the deck uncluttered only three buttons on the hinge cylinder: quick launch for the Acer Arcade and a user-defined function on the left, and Power on the right. You'll also find two large speakers above the keyboard--part of the Dolby 5.1 Cinematic Surround system--and a fingerprint reader to the far right of the palm rest area.
All of the notebook's ports are on the sides and front; VGA, HDMI, eSATA/USB, USB, FireWire 400, audio-in, mic, and headphone are on the left. Ethernet and the three remaining USB ports bookend the optical drive on the right. Quick launch buttons for Wi-Fi/Bluetooth activation and Acer's included backup software sit on the left edge in the front, a volume wheel is tucked under the touchpad area, and a memory card reader sits in between that and an IR receiver port.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The 8943G's metal, chiclet-style keyboard was comfortable to type on, and there's plenty of room for a full-size number pad. We also appreciated that the Caps and Number Lock keys house a small, blue LED to indicate when they're active.
The most interesting aspect of the 8943G's design is its black touchpad, which converts into dedicated media controls at the touch of a button. The generous 3 x 2.2-inch touchpad has a glossy plastic surface that was relatively easy to use despite some friction. Our biggest complaint is that it attracts fingerprints and smudges quickly. There's a single mouse button bar with generously-sized buttons that have a good amount of spring to them. We had no trouble distinguishing left from right due to the circular button at the center of the bar, but we often pressed this button when we meant to left click.
Pressing the circular button activates the touchpad's secondary media control functionality, lighting up launch buttons for the Acer Arcade Deluxe Movie and Music playback controls. The balance here between aesthetics and function works, as the deck isn't cluttered with buttons users don't always need. When the media controls are active, the touchpad ceases to work normally, which makes sense as you don't necessarily need it for watching a movie or playing music.