The keyboard itself is equally hit and miss. The construction is solid and the tactility good as it tends to be on all Acer laptops, but at the same time it suffers from the typical peculiarities of Acer’s haphazardly shifting layout. This time, the arrow keys are at fault, stuffed into the main body of the keyboard yet still protruding, and the impact is to squash the right Shift and right Ctrl key alongside each other with the Ctrl key feeling particularly out of place directly below Enter. Repositioning the Page Up and Page Down keys to straddle the Up arrow key is also an own goal as I found myself continually jumping the cursor up and down pages when reaching for more commonly used buttons. Of course I could get used to this layout, but any length of time on a normal keyboard will send you right back to square one next time you open the 2023WLMi.
I’m also not particularly happy with the quality or positioning of the volume switch, a small feature which becomes a major irritant. For a start, the single plastic button feels loose and insubstantial and while it doesn’t get in the way during typing, you can’t help but graze it time after time when using the touchpad. The indentations on the top of the button scratch your wrist and after just a week I wanted to snap it off. To be honest, I’ve never understood the placement of any switches in this position on laptops, they’re too easily knocked and surely a much better solution is to locate them above the Function keys or on the sides. That said, in this instance, the volume button needs to be accessed when the notebook is closed, which explains its position to some extent – although volume buttons flush with the casing would have saved me some annoyance.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. The 2023WLMi’s speakers come with an integrated subwoofer and consequently sound reproduction is clear, clean and distortion free. They may not be quite as powerful as the JBL Pros fitted into HP’s nx9110 but they are certainly comparable and serve as another reminder that for today’s laptop owners, headphones are no longer the only viable audio option.
When it came to benchmarking, the 2023WLMi continued its inconsistent theme and given its tech specs the majority of scores were a little disappointing – its failure to break the 200 mark in any of the SYSmark 2002 tests being a particular sore spot. Yet in contrast, the 2023WLMi turned up a superlative MobileMark 2002 score of 181, with the battery lasting 290 minutes, or just under five hours. With this kind of battery life and relatively silent running, combined with the 3kg weight, the 2023WLMi has far greater travel options than any multimedia widescreen laptop we have seen. Whether it’s used for entertaining kids on long car journeys with DVDs, or for mobile presentations, such longevity gives the 2023WLMi a real shot in the arm.
Furthermore, the Aspire Arcade mode extends the battery life even more. Using this feature I managed to run DVDs for three hours and then boot into Windows to discover I still had 20 per cent of the battery remaining.
The 2023WLMi is rather a return to the old days of Acer where innovation, value and features are frustratingly hampered by styling and layout flaws. Under and over performing in equal measure, this is not a bad machine at £1180.88 but it won’t suit all users. If you’re tempted, it’s worth taking a look at one first hand before you put your money on the table.