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Acer Aspire 9504WSMi
To aspire, means to strive towards or to look up to, so it’s quite appropriate that the 9504WSMi sits atop Acer’s range of Aspire notebooks. As a flagship product with a powerful specification, the 9504 is something of a kitchen sink notebook, and can perform a large number of roles. It’s undoubtedly a desktop replacement notebook aimed at entertainment with some business focused tools thrown in as well. You could argue that it lacks focus, but we all like to mix business and pleasure sometimes.
The chassis is large at 402 x 286 x 38.2mm and weighs in a 3.6Kg, which is heavy. But for that you’re rewarded with an impressive 17in widescreen display and a full size keyboard with a dedicated number pad on the right hand side, which is unusual in a notebook. Whether the latter is a good thing is debatable though, as it means that the main keyboard is shifted over to the left compared to the average notebook. Also to accommodate the number pad the arrow keys at the bottom right of the main keyboard have been shrunk, while the right shift key has been seriously shrunk down. Both of these I found quite irritating. I tend to use the right shift more frequently and as I type this review I keep missing the shift key, hitting the arrow key, causing the cursor to shift and type one the wrong line. As an alternative you can turn off Numlock off and use the arrow keys on the keypad on the right. Yet another gripe is that the delete key has been shunted off to the bottom right. I guess these idiosyncrasies are things that you'd get used to but it's not ideal. Beneath the keyboard is a trackpad, with Acer's directional pad between the mouse buttons, which is a handy tool for scrolling through documents and web pages.
Above the keyboard is the 17in widescreen display. This is a good size and the resolution of 1,440 x 900 means that the icons don’t appear too small. However, it does mean that there's not enough resolution to display true 1080p HD content. That said there's not enough raw horsepower to display this smoothly anyway so it's a moot point. The display is dubbed a CrystalBrite screen, which means that it's one of those high reflective types. These boost colour and contrast but under office lights or high brightness you'll be plauged by reflections. Watching a DVD under those conditions I could see myself on the screen more clearly than the movie, which isn't what you’d want. Then again this is an entertainment focused notebook, so it'll look great with the lights down. Viewing angles were also quite acceptable and dual lamps are used to keep lighting even across the screen.