Review Price £999.99
Acer Aspire Ethos 8943G - Inputs, Outputs and Audio-Visual
Despite one or two niggles in the design, quality is still abundant elsewhere and the best example of this is the keyboard. Not only do the silver, isolated keys look very cool, they sport outstanding actions that are crisp, deep and reassuring. An excellent layout, which includes a full-size number pad, only help matters further. We can scarcely remember an Acer laptop that was this nice to work on!
We've already highlighted the touchpad and its somewhat discordant appearance, but it's not just the appearance that's lacking. It's highly lacquered finish is rather too sticky. It's also a fingerprint magnet, which isn't a great quality in something you touch with your finger all the time. On the plus side the two buttons have solid, unfussy actions and again those neat multimedia controls make up for a lot.
Where multimedia machines, particularly ones the size of the Acer, must excel is connectivity and their audio-visual performance. On the connectivity front the 8943G doesn't disappoint, offering up all the usual necessities (e.g. HDMI, VGA, and a memory card reader) but adding a plentiful five USB ports - one of which doubles up as an eSATA socket.
There's an IR receiver on the front edge for the provided remote, which is a useable - if rather functional looking - effort, and a TV tuner input for hooking up an aerial feed. A mini-FireWire port is also included; though considering the massive price Acer would have been well-advised to add USB 3.0. Moreover, there's no ExpressCard slot, so you can't add a USB 3.0 adapter (or any other expansion card) - see: USB 3.0: What Is It and Do You Want It? for examples of such adapters.
Initially, the 18.4in, 1,920 x 1,080 resolution display looks promising. It uses two CCFL backlights, as opposed to the usual one, to give a nice strong even lighting to its vastness. The addition of a second lamp also does an excellent job of adding richness to colours and dynamic range to the screen's output. Thanks to the size and resolution of the display, it's also extremely sharp and consequently HD videos and photos look very good. Things are only tarnished by the mediocre viewing angles, which don’t impact normal viewing but are quickly evident for anyone sitting a little off-centre. It's a shame as otherwise the screen does a fine job of showing off Blu-ray content.
More perplexing are the speakers, which despite the touted "5.1 cinematic surround" and addition of a mid-range driver are distinctly underwhelming. Given the right source they produce reasonable clarity and response, but anything remotely challenging quickly generates obvious distortion. Turn off the included Dolby Home Theatre processing and the cause is quickly evident: without it the speakers sound rubbish. Good quality processing can enhance speakers, but the 8943G is far too reliant on Dolby's jiggery-pokery.