With all the talk of netbooks and more recently CULV (Consumer Ultra-Low Voltage) laptops it's easy to forget you can still buy portable laptops and not compromise on performance. Samsung's excellent Q320 is a popular example, but another is the Acer Aspire 3935, whose 13.3in form factor puts it in the same bracket as the Samsung, the Dell Studio XPS 1340 and the Apple MacBook Pro 13in and the MacBook.
In pure price/performance terms, though, the Acer has all three trumped. Laptops Direct offers it for just a smidgen under £600, which still nets you a Centrino 2 spec Intel Core 2 Duo P7450 that runs at 2.13GHz on a speedy 1,066MHz front-side bus, along with 3MB L2 Cache. This is backed up by 4GB of DDR3 RAM, though disappointingly there's no 64-bit OS to make the most of the memory. You also get a 250GB hard disk providing ample storage space. In comparison, the Samsung Q320 we reviewed has just 3GB of DDR2 RAM and a slower 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6400 that has just 2MB L2 Cache and narrower 800MHz front-side bus. It costs more, too, at around £650 or more depending on where you look.
This doesn't tell the whole story, though, as there are compromises that have had to be made. Whereas the Samsung comes with an optical drive as standard, on the Aspire 3935 it's optional and this particular version goes without one. This does help keep the weight down to a comfortable 1.9kg, lighter than the Samsung by 300g, but does rather hurt its credentials as an all round computing option. Acer's effort also plumps for Intel's distinctly underpowered GMA X4500M HD integrated graphics, so the Samsung's 256MB nVidia G105M discrete graphics chip gives it another edge.
In a sense, then, we're looking at different horses for different courses. If you're after a complete, affordable all-rounder then the Q320 is still you're best bet. If, however, a little more raw performance and greater portability - not only is the Acer lighter than the Samsung, at 25mm vs 36mm it's also considerably thinner - then the 3935 might be for you.
It helps matters that the 3935 is arguably the prettier of the two. Though the Q320 is no ugly duckling, the brushed metal lid, textured innards and complementary brown and black colour scheme of the Acer make for an attractive, classy looking machine. We can also applaud the complete absence of glossy plastic, ignoring of course the glossy reflective display. One can't have everything, it seems.
It also has a few extra features worth noting, such as the addition of Dolby Home Theatre processing, as well as neat touch sensitive controls above the keyboard for controlling volume and wireless radios. There's also enhanced security in the form of a fingerprint reader nestled between the two touchpad buttons, while a power profile shortcut button in the top right provides quick and easy efficiency savings when on battery.