Well the keyboard has all the signs of being a great unit that’s comfortable to use. The keys are full size and the Return and Backspace keys are large. The cursor keys are in their correct configuration and dropped slightly down from the main keyboard. The travel on the keys is good and the break is solid and reassuring. So, on the surface you’ve got a keyboard that should be a dream to type on, but it isn’t. Using the Aspire is without a doubt the most uncomfortable typing experience I have ever had to suffer.
The keyboard itself isn’t the problem; it’s the sheer size of the notebook itself. The chassis is so large that when you’re typing, you’re not resting the heels of your hands, or even your wrists on the area in front of the keyboard. No, with this notebook I ended up with the ends of my forearms resting on the front of the chassis, making it virtually impossible to type. The only other option was to hover my hands above the keyboard, but with no support for my arms this soon got tiring.
Obviously any ergonomic issue can be a personal thing, and I would suggest that anyone considering the Aspire should get a hands-on test before parting with any cash.
Either side of the keyboard is a set of stereo speakers. This set up is very similar to the HP nx7000 although these speakers are not branded JBL. The sound quality is very good however, and I was quite happy listening to music through them or watching a DVD.
The touchpad is a fine example and features a four-way rocker button for scrolling both vertically and horizontally.
The front of the chassis is well featured. You get a memory card reader that will accept SD, MMC, SmartMedia and Memory Stick formats. This will be pretty useful for anyone with a digital camera or an MP3 player that uses any of these cards. The headphone and mic sockets are also at the front for easy connection. Finally there are two buttons to activate the wireless functionality. The button on the right will turn on the WiFi adapter, while the button on the left is for Bluetooth. Unfortunately, as with the Acer TravelMate 661LMi there is no Bluetooth adapter installed, so the button is redundant. I also found it quite annoying that when you boot up the notebook the WiFi adapter is activated by default. This means that unless you remember to turn it off you’ll be running your battery down even when you don’t need WiFi.
At the left hand side is a single Type II PC Card slot and a DVD-RW drive. The latter is always good to see, because you can backup large chunks of data from your hard disk, as well as create your own DVD movies. What makes this drive a little special is that it’s a slot-in model and doesn’t have a disc tray like most optical units. This could be useful if you’re using the Aspire in a confined space, like an aeroplane.
The right of the case is pretty empty apart from an infrared port and the power socket. I personally prefer the power socket to be at the rear of a notebook rather than at the side. It just makes cable routing a little tidier when you’ve got the notebook plugged into the mains.
The rear makes up for the near-barren right hand side. Here you’ll find three USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire port, a parallel port, a D-SUB connector, 10/100 Ethernet port, a modem socket and finally an S-Video output. That’s quite an impressive array of connection options.
The street price of £1,461.16 inc VAT for the Aspire 2003WLMi is quite amazing considering the specification. You’re definitely getting a lot for your money, and it’s also a fair bit cheaper than the HP nx7000. That said, I can’t stress enough how uncomfortable it was to type on this Acer, whereas typing on the HP was no problem at all.
I really didn’t want to be disappointed in this Acer notebook, especially since the Acer TravelMate 661LMi was such a great product. The specification is truly impressive and some of the multimedia features are welcome and well implemented. Unfortunately, having a notebook that you can’t comfortably type on is not ideal, and the Performance and Features scores reflect this.
The Acer Aspire 2003WMLi is a fully featured multimedia notebook at a great price. The front panel display and controls are a nice touch, but the inability to play music without opening the lid is a shame. I really wanted to like this notebook, but the poor position of the keyboard made it almost impossible for me to type comfortably. If you’re considering this machine I strongly suggest that you try it out first.