Review Price £887.87
As the Aspire Ethos 5951G is a multimedia laptop, it's important to see how it holds up in the audiovisual department. Let's begin with the 2.1 speakers. Overall, they're … competent. They do produce reasonable volumes, decent detail and a modicum of bass, but despite Dolby Home Theatre processing, "professional" tuning and a dedicated subwoofer in its base, treble was overly harsh and the low-end too tinny. So while they'll do fine for the odd movie, for serious entertainment we would still suggest an external solution.
It's not as easy to mitigate for a poor screen. It's a bit unfortunate then that the 15.6in, 1,366 x 768 example found here is, like the audio accompanying it, merely average. Vertical viewing angles are poor (as usual with TN-based laptop panels). Horizontally they hold up better, but significant contrast shift still creeps in when sitting off-centre. Things aren't helped by the reflections galore from the glossy layer that extends over the screen's edges to give it its attractive seamless bezel.
Backlighting is mostly even with no significant bleed, dithering is minimal and there's no sign of banding, which are all positives. However, contrast is relatively poor, with the Ethos unable to distinguish between the three darkest greyshades and lacking in any white purity or differentiation. This means you'll miss out on subtle detail in particularly bright or gloomy scenes in movies and games, an area for which the rest of the laptop seems to be particularly well-tailored.
At least Acer's multimedia machine has all the internals required for a sterling performance. Leading the cast is our mid-range favourite, an Intel Core i5-2410M. This dual-core processor runs at 2.3GHz by default, though it can Turbo Clock all the way up to 2.9GHz. Combined with HyperThreading for up to four virtual cores, it should dispatch most tasks with alacrity.
It's backed by a very generous 8GB of RAM, meaning you shouldn't need to upgrade the memory within this laptop's feasible lifetime. For permanent storage there's an equally munificent 750GB hard drive, though unfortunately this Seagate Momentus model only spins at 5,400rpm and offers 16MB of cache.
Graphics are a pleasant surprise, with Nvidia's decent GeForce GT540M dedicated chip accompanying Intel's integrated HD3000 effort. The GT540M will more than suffice for casual gamers or those who don't mind a few compromises on recent titles. It managed a silky 49.5 frames per second (fps) in Stalker: Call of Pripyat, albeit at 720p and with detail set to Medium. With details turned up to maximum at the laptop's native 1,366 x 768, it still managed a smooth 38.3fps average, definitely putting it into gaming territory.