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But the most impressive feature is the keyboard. Laptops in general can suffer from poor keyboards, that’s no secret. So to get a tactile, responsive keyboard on such an inexpensive system is a major bonus. In fact, I have experienced far worse keyboards on laptops costing over twice this much. I simply enjoyed typing on it. Supporting this is a touchpad which seems little different from any of Acer’s more expensive laptops. Below the touchpad you'll find the familiar four way rocker button, while the left and right selector buttons have a solid feel.
The 14.1in screen is more standard, supporting a maximum resolution of 1,024 x 768, but it is bright and clear and not something I would feel justified in complaining about. The display isn’t hard on the eyes even after longer periods, and gets the job done. A more pleasant surprise was the speakers. A few months back, I tested the enormous Acer Aspire 1705SCi and found it a disappointment overall, but its speakers were excellent. Acer seems to have implanted the same speakers here, so even though the sound is still in mono, the volume is satisfyingly loud and the quality crisp. Given that most laptops still don’t sound much better than a digital watch, admitting that I could happily listen to music on this notebook seems like an achievement in itself.
Acer has also done a fantastic job of keeping the noise down. Despite an initial roar when the machine boots, the fans are quiet and only flare up when the system is being worked hard. Which brings me along nicely to the benchmarking.
As a means for comparison, last December we tested Acer’s Aspire 2003WLMI which at the time cost just short of £1,500 yet the Aspire 1355XC beats it comfortably in most respects. In SYSmark 2002, the 1355XC scored an impressive 167 overall with 240 for Internet Content Creation and 116 for Office Productivity; while the 2003WLMI managed just 141, 179 and 111 respectively. This is an important real world test because it gives you an idea how the PC will perform in general Windows and Internet use, which is pretty much where a budget machine is aimed.
Less importantly, the 3DMark 2001SE score of 960 for the 1355XC is fairly poor, but for a machine with integrated graphics this is not surprising. The massive Aspire 1705SCi was in the same situation and similarly only managed 1,136 despite costing over twice the price.
One disappointment, though perhaps not something that was entirely unexpected, was the battery score. The 1355XC only managed to last for 122 minutes in Mobile Mark 2002 with a performance rating of 113. Because the rest of the machine had exceeded my expectations, this did feel like a let down, but thinking realistically, it was never designed for the workaholic road warrior anyway. So, to simplify the statistics, the 1355XC will do everything you expect it do very well, but little else. That said, a good two hours on battery power is reasonable enough for a machine at this price.
Finally, the software bundle. Being a budget laptop, to be honest I was surprised it came with anything. But unlike our review machine, which was installed with Windows XP Professional, you will get Windows XP Home, a copy of Norton Antivirus, PowerDVD and Adobe Acrobat Reader which is better than nothing.
As a package, I have to admit that I am very impressed with the 1355XC. It achieves exactly what it sets out to do – bringing fast, user friendly laptop computing to those on a budget and overall it overachieves this goal. Down the line, you may want to put in another 256MB of RAM, but at this price you really can’t go wrong.
The 1355XC is one of the best low cost laptops around. Some higher-end features have obviously been sacrificed but what is left is still one hell of a bargain for the money. If you are looking for a new laptop and don’t want to spend a fortune, I heartily recommend the Acer Aspire 1355XC.