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Acer Aspire 5536-744G50Mn - 15.6in Laptop - Acer Aspire 5536-744G50Mn
As if to make up for the slightly underperforming CPU, the rest of this laptop's specifications are fairly generous. There's a full complement of 4GB of DDR3 RAM on board, though the 32-bit version of Windows Vista Premium won't take full advantage. Hard drive capacity is also plentiful, with a 500GB drive spinning at 5,400rpm. And though the absence of Bluetooth is regrettable, at least Wi-Fi is up to Draft-N speeds.
Usually graphics is the single major strong point of AMD configurations, but with the integrated Radeon HD 3200 on offer here that's not the case. While it's better than Intel's equivalent, you still can't really play games: our standard TrackMania Nations Forever test on Medium Detail stuttered along at 19 frames per second (fps), while Call of Duty 4 managed a mere 11fps at the screen's native 1,366 x 768 resolution.
On the upside battery life - traditionally a weakness of AMD-based mobile machines - is better than usual. We got just six minutes short of three hours in the semi-intensive Productivity test from the 4,400mAh (49Watt Hour) battery and two hours in the DVD test should be enough for most films.
Ultimately though, this laptop is still outperformed both in battery life and CPU grunt by most Intel platforms and its small edge in graphics over an Intel Integrated solution is simply not worth the downsides.
Despite these weaknesses, however, the 5536 still offers reasonable value for money thanks to its generous feature set. Samsung's R522 offers a faster processor, better connectivity and far superior battery life for only £5 more, while if it's graphics you're after (with battery performance not an issue), the HP Pavilion dv6 1210sa is a good alternative at only £480. However, neither of these offer Draft-N Wi-Fi, nor can they match the Aspire 5536-744G50Mn's hard drive capacity, not to mention niceties such as Dolby sound processing and a multi-touch touchpad.
A jack of all trades but master of none, Acer's Aspire 5536-744G50Mn is worth considering if you're after a budget laptop, but depending on your needs the competition may offer better alternatives.