It was Walt Disney who once said that when you get an idea you believe in, you must stick to it despite the doubters and refine it until it works. With this in mind, it was back in early March when I reviewed a fundamentally flawed desktop replacement notebook. The Acer Aspire 1705SCi was a monstrous machine, squashing the scales at a massive 7.1kg. It was a hybrid mix of desktop and laptop components that succeeded and failed in equal measure. I doubted the logic of such a design, but Acer has clearly been listening to Disney because the refined Aspire 1714SMi really shows the value of perseverance.
Much like its forebear, the 1714SMi has clearly not been slimming for summer, given that it has lost no weight at all. It has the same colossal dimensions - 378 x 320 x 55mm (WxDxH) – as the 1705SCi and continues to test the lower vertebrae of anyone with a bad back with an identical weight of 7.1kg. In fact, at first glance very little seems to have changed at all, but what the 1714SMi lacks in good looks, it more than makes up for with personality.
For a start let’s look under the hood. Though the 1714SMi is no lighter than the 1705SCi it has certainly been working out. Gone is the P4 3.06GHz CPU, having been beefed up to a P4 3.4GHz. Likewise, the DDR SDRAM has been doubled to 1GB and Acer has finally thrown in a decent graphics chipset, replacing the SiS M650 integrated graphics with nVidia’s 128MB GeForce FX Go5700. The original 1705SCi’s stunning 1,280 x 1,024 17in TFT screen and lightening fast Seagate Barracuda 120GB, 7,200rpm Ultra ATA-100 hard drive have wisely been kept.
Elsewhere, the DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive found in the 1705SCi has been upgraded to a DVD writer. Not only will this drive write to DVD+/-R media at four-speed and DVD+RW/-RW at 2.4-speed, but it can also write to DVD-RAM discs. This is the first SuperMulti DVD writer that we’ve seen in a notebook, and Acer should be congratulated for that coup. Also, the rather bulky and unnecessary floppy drive has been canned in favour of a far more sensible 6-in-1 card reader.
Fleshing out the rest of the specs is the now almost obligatory integrated 802.11b/g wireless LAN adapter, a CardBus Type II PC Card slot, V.92 modem, a 10/100 Ethernet adapter and the same high quality stereo speakers that were one of the most surprising aspects of the 1705SCi. Confirming its desktop-like stature you don’t get infrared but you do get the full array of traditional ports: two ps2, two serial and one parallel.
Now you would expect all these improvements to come at some cost, but perhaps one of the most remarkable things about the 1714SMi is that it is actually over £40 cheaper than the original retail price of the 1705SCi back in March. Also on offer is an extended three year warranty for £99. I have to admit, this is a desktop replacement machine that is almost cheaper than a desktop with similar specifications. The price is helped due to the fact that you’re getting a number of full size desktop components in this monster, namely the hard drive, processor and memory but this should not detract from what is a seriously good value piece of kit.