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But if the touchpad can be circumvented, the keyboard cannot and like the touchpad it’s a bit of a nightmare. At this point, I have to say I was actually looking forward to using what Acer claimed was a full size keyboard which also includes a full size numeric pad, but ironically the layout is where all the problems lie.
For a start, Acer’s wording is ambiguous as not all the keys are full size, some have been shrunk to almost half size while others have mysteriously ballooned to nearly double their usual proportions. And what has Acer decided to shrink? Commonly used keys such as Full Stop, Return, Right Shift, Question Mark and the @ key, while on the left hand side of the keyboard the Caps Lock, Tab and the Left Shift are ludicrously big which knocks the whole alignment of the keyboard out. It is a disaster for touch typists, and each time you move for the tiny full stop key it feels like a lucky dip.
Then there is the battery life, and while it may not be the most important feature on a product this size, I was disappointed to see it last under two hours.
So both internally and externally the Acer Aspire 1705SCi is a mixed bag. It offers up excellence and nonsense in equal measures but what is annoying is that all its worst aspects should never have been issues in the first place. Acer got all the difficult bits right.
All of which pains me to tell you that the performance of the Aspire 1705SCi is superb. In PC Mark 2002, the Aspire 1705SCi’s CPU and memory scores were amongst the very highest we have seen with scores of 7196 and 4690 respectively. But this was nothing when compared to the hard drive which scored an incredible 1265, more than doubling anything we have seen in a notebook to date. A remarkable achievement but not enough to offset the poor ergonomics.
Naturally, the SiS integrated graphics in our review model do not match up to the latest mobile graphics chipsets from ATi and nVidia but I can forgive this as it’s clearly not designed for games. And with a retail price of £1,387 you get a lot for your money (no pun intended), although I’m sure the use of so many desktop components has helped Acer to keep the price down.
On reflection, however, I’m still not convinced, had Acer got everything right, that there is much of a market out there for a 7.1Kg hybrid laptop. To me the point of laptops and desktops are that they provide different functions. Sure, you can make a small PC using a Shuttle case, or lug around a 3.5kg performance orientated laptop, but when the gap between the two blurs too much, as in the case of the Aspire 1705SCi, you create a machine that struggles to perform either task well.
For example, had the Aspire been all it promised, it would still have lost the portability of a laptop and the comfortable spacing of a normal keyboard, and though the screen is superb, it cannot be heightened or rotated like a normal TFT. All credit to Acer for trying something very different, but even without its faults, I’m not sure that the cost saving of having a single machine for office and home can justify the ergonomic compromises.
A sumo-sized machine with plenty of kick, that falls over on the fundamentals. With the incredibly low price of basic desktop machines these days having two machines and some form of removable storage wouldn’t cost much more than the Acer.