A big selling point of the Acer Aspire 5749 is that it offers a Sandy Bridge processor. It may be the low-end i3-2330m model, but it offers similar performance to the previous-gen Intel i5 processor - and better performance than the AMD and Core 2 Duo CPUs many comparable laptops are stuck with.
The i3-2330m is a dual-core processor clocked at 2.2GHz, and it's complemented by integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics and 4GB of DDR3 RAM. As an affordable laptop for those with very general needs, this is easily enough power. Sandy Bridge represents such a boost over previous-gen chipsets that even this low-end model is extremely capable. In the PCMark Vantage Benchmark, it scored 4866 points.
Its capabilities don't extend to gaming, though. The Intel HD 3000 may be an upgrade over previous generations of Intel's integrated chips, but it's still not much cop. It can handle oldies and newer indie titles, but don't expect it to cruise through Batman: Arkham City - the Aspire 5749 will be stopped at the city gates.
It scraped together 39.4fps out of Trackmania Nations and a jerky 17.5fps out of the more demanding S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat. To get decent gaming performance from a laptop, you'd need to spend at least another hundred pounds.
Acer claims that the Aspire 5749 will give you six hours of operation from its 6-cell battery - higher than the average, which sticks around the 4-hour mark at this price and spec. This should have been the feature to differentiate the laptop from its direct rivals, but in our productivity benchmark it conked out after five hours of use. It's a decent result, but is less than the similar Samsung Series 3 - which has a worse screen, but an arguably snazzier design.
This is the Acer Aspire's 5749's problem. It's a well-made laptop that chucks out the right features to lower the price - vanilla in all the right ways, for the most part. However, for just a slightly greater outlay you can get a laptop with a little more style or a longer battery life. If the 5749 had achieved stamina closer to its claimed time, we'd feel much happier recommending this computer. The partnership of a pared-back feature set and the great Intel Sandy Bridge i3-2330m processor is an undeniably good one, though, and a great many older laptops languishing around the £400 mark can't match the level of power it provides.
The Acer Aspire 5749's approach to laptop design is one we like. It has removed any extraneous features many people won't appreciate, such as USB 3.0, instead investing in solid build, a decent screen and a plucky Sandy Bridge i3 processor. It may not have style or grace, but it gets the basics right. Unfortunately, we found the battery life didn’t quite meet expectations, making this a sound, rather than great, buy.