With so much choice in the 15.6in laptop sector, it can be quite difficult to stand out. Acer is enthusiastic about trying to provide a choice to suit everyone's taste, and the latest fruit of this effort is the Acer Aspire 5745G, an Intel Core i5-based mobile machine with switchable graphics for a relatively affordable £630.
Specifically, the 5745G uses a 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-450M, which should cope very easily with the average consumer's demands. Strange, then, that Acer has opted for just 3GB of RAM, and a 320GB hard drive for permanent storage. Neither is particularly generous at this price, especially considering the Toshiba Satellite L650-10G costs the same but ups things to 4GB RAM and a 500GB hard drive.
One thing this Acer does have to its advantage, however, is the presence of switchable graphics. This means you can benefit from the low-power draw of Intel's integrated chip when out and about, or the more impressive 512MB Nvidia GeForce 310M dedicated chip for some gaming and CUDA-accelerated applications if near a socket.
Regrettably the 5745G doesn't use Nvidia's Optimus technology, so switching isn't seamless, but it activates automatically depending on whether the laptop is plugged into a power socket or can be activated manually with a small button marked 'P' above the keyboard. Not exactly intuitive marking, we know, but as it's the only other non-keyboard button aside from optical drive eject, it's hardly difficult to find.
Aside from this the specs are what you would expect, with a DVD-Rewriter, Wireless N Wi-Fi but no Bluetooth, and a fairly standard 1,366 x 768 resolution for the 5745G's glossy 15.6in screen. Its design is also nothing extraordinary - anyone familiar with Acer's Aspire or Timeline ranges will feel right at home. Unfortunately, unlike the textured lid found on the Aspire 5553G, here you get the usual glossy finish we love to hate. Thankfully the palm-rests are finished in a non-marking smooth plastic which gives the appearance of brushed metal, but we'd sooner have seen such a finish throughout.
Build quality is generally solid, though there's one notable exception: the lid is too flexible and pushing in the middle of it near the battery when the laptop is open (as you might do while moving it about) results in the bezel separating from the screen. While this might never present a problem, it's not the kind of quality we like to see on any laptop - especially not one costing more than £500.