Acer is an unstoppable behemoth when it comes to laptops, constantly bringing out new models to cater for almost every price band. The 15.6in Aspire 5551 is so new it doesn't even show up on Acer's website, and it's powered by one of AMD's latest tri-core Phenom II X3 mobile processors – the N830 running at 2.1GHz.
Aside from this and its textured lid, there's nothing too unsual about the 5551. Naturally it features AMD/ATI graphics in the form of a Mobility Radeon HD 4250, while Windows 7 Home Premium will take full advantage of the 4GB of provided DDR3 memory. You also get a 320GB hard drive DVD-Rewriter. Wi-Fi N is practically guaranteed these days, but Bluetooth is absent.
When it comes to design the Aspire 5551 is unremarkable but generally attractive. It lacks the brushed metal lid of some of its siblings such as the Aspire Timeline 4810T, but at least Acer hasn't subjected us to the usual glossy fingerprint magnet that many rivals possess. Instead it features a heavily textured shiny finish that's remarkably similar and equally rugged to that found on the Sony VAIO VGN-NS20.
This positive design direction continues on the laptop's interior, where the only glossy elements are the screen's bezel (only broken by the unobtrusive, chrome-ringed 1.3MP webcam) and a very narrow strip around the edges of the machine's bottom half. As is so often the case though, the near mirror-like reflectivity of the screen will be a nightmare on sunny days when working on the train, for instance.
Above the matt black keyboard is a black patterned speaker section, while the keyboard's surround and palm rest are finished in faux brushed gunmetal that is both pleasant to the touch and does a good job of hiding fingerprints or marks from sweaty palms. The power button, with its signature power-icon shape, sports a not overly bright blue LED that we rather like, and again highlights the overall understated design.
Like its specifications, this laptop's connectivity is adequate but not exciting. Three USB ports are joined by digital (HDMI) and analogue (VGA) video outputs, 3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks (with the former doubling as a digital audio output), a memory card reader, and a Gigabit Ethernet port.