- Quad-core CPU
- Relatively cheap
- Average performance
- Average keyboard
- Glossy plastic lid
- Review Price: £699.99
- Quad-core AMD Phenom II X4 N930 CPU
- AMD Mobility Radeon HD 5470 graphics
- 4GB RAM, 320GB HDD
- 15.6in, HD Ready screen
To be precise, the 5553G uses an AMD Phenom II X4 N930 that runs at 2.0GHz. On paper that’s not especially fast, but it’s backed up by a plentiful 4GB RAM and an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5470 graphics card that should ensure some gaming ability. This system also features graphics switching, whereby hitting the ‘P’ button to the top-right of the keyboard activates the integrated graphics. This will help increase battery life, but it’s a poorly advertised and implemented system that will doubtless confuse novice users.
We’re a little surprised by the stinginess of the overall spec, too. For the money, the 320GB hard drive is passable, but far from generous – particularly given Acer’s reputation for value. Moreover, though you do get Wireless-N Wi-Fi, Bluetooth is conspicuous by its absence. While £700 is reasonably cheap for a quad-core laptop, some compromises have been made to reach that price.
As a design, the 5553G won’t set any hearts aflutter, but it has its moments. We particularly like the brushed metal palm-rest, whose grey finish chimes nicely with the thin chromed border of the touchpad. It even works well with the glossy black touches around the keyboard and display, but all this is ruined by unimaginative gloss-black lid and its imprinted pinstripe pattern. Acer isn’t the first to attempt such a thing, but Acer’s effort is the least nuanced and does little to assuage the inevitable irritants of greasy fingerprints.
We also have some concerns over the build quality of the lid, as bending it lightly results in unseemly snaps from the where the bezel meets the outer lid. In fairness, though, this is only noticeable issue we found and the 5553G has none of the worryingly flex found in the Acer Aspire TimelineX 4820TG.
Having noted the relative paucity of noteworthy features, it’s a trend continued with the connectivity. All the basics are present and correct, including four USB ports, HDMI, VGA and a memory card reader, but niceties such as FireWire, eSATA or standby charging over USB aren’t supported. None of these are essential features, but they’re found on many similarly priced laptops.
As much as speed and good design are important for any laptop, if it’s horrible to use then no amount of either will redeem it. Nothing is more important here than the keyboard, and though the keyboard on this machine is far from perfection, neither is it an impediment.
Its keys are large and the layout is very good, with no obvious issues. A full number pad is a useful addition, though on a 15.6in laptop like this it does mean the main part of the keyboard sits a little too far to the left for comfort. Things go a little awry with the key actions, which lack the firmness and positivity of rivals, but they’re good enough and flex is kept to acceptable minimum.
A multi-touch enabled touchpad is par for the course these days, and the 5553G is no exception. It supports all the usual gestures, such as pinch-to-zoom, rotate and two-finger scrolling, all of which work very well. We also found the positioning of the touchpad directly below the spacebar ensured it didn’t interfere with typing, a common problem among Acer laptops not so long ago.
Screens on laptops, particularly mainstream ones, are generally fairly basic affairs, and this is true of the 5553G. Viewing angles aren’t prodigious, but are sufficient, while the screen is adequately bright and sharp for home use. For the most part colour production is good too, though some colours – particularly greens and yellows – look a tad pallid compared to similarly priced laptops.
Things are redeemed somewhat in the audio department, though. Despite only having two regular stereo speakers, the 5553G produces admirable mid-range clarity. Things get a bit muddier at the bassier end of the scale, but they’re still perfectly enjoyable and are enhanced with Dolby Home Theatre processing – a suite of technologies that includes the company’s excellent headphone virtualisation.
Being the first AMD quad-core laptop we’ve seen, we were interested to see how it performed compared to Intel’s offerings. In truth, though, we were a little disappointed by the results. While subjectively performance is adequate, in PCMark Vantage the Acer only matches machines like the Sony VAIO E Series and Samsung R580, both which use the cheapest Intel Core i3 processor available and cost around £100 less overall.
This isn’t to say the 5553G performs poorly; its quad-core processor will still give it an advantage in heavily threaded applications. But for most people you’re better off with a faster dual-core processor, such as any of Intel’s Core i3s or i5s, as the Sony and Samsung demonstrate.
If you fancy doing some gaming on your laptop, then the 5553G will only get you so far. In our casual gaming test, TrackMania Nations, it offered up a smooth and playable 44.5fps. This leaves enough headroom to turn the settings up a little bit, and means the likes of The Sims or World of Warcraft should be playable.
STALKER: Call of Pripyat, however, showed the limitations of the ATI graphics chip, returning a mediocre 17.4fps. As such, unless you’re prepared to compromise heavily on image quality, modern and more demanding titles are beyond it.
Thanks to the graphics switching ability, the 5553G manages decent battery life despite its relatively small 4,400mAh capacity battery. In our productivity test it lasted just a shade over three and a half hours, which should be more than enough for most users.
DVD playback at maximum brightness lasted for slightly more than two hours, so you can watch most films without recourse to mains power. At 2.6kg, though, its weight and size means the 5553G is unlikely to venture far from the home unless absolutely necessary.
It might be cheap for a quad-core laptop, but the Acer Aspire 5553G doesn’t deliver outstanding performance or value. It’s a solid laptop, but the price needs to come down further before it’s worth looking into.
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Score in detail
Battery Life 7
Processor, Memory & Storage
|Processor||AMD Phenom II|
|Processor Speed Standard (Gigahertz)||2 GHz|
|Memory (RAM) (Gigabyte)||3 GB|
|Hard Disk Drive (HDD) (Gigabyte)||320 GB|
|DVD Optical Drive||DVD-RAM/±R/±RW|
Graphics & Sound
|Display (Inch)||15.6 in|