As you might expect there’s a full size keyboard with a numeric keypad. Unfortunately it’s not a very good one. Layout is generally fine, but the typing experience is very disappointing. There’s a significant level of flex across the whole keyboard and keys feel leaden and unresponsive, making typing quite arduous – a bit of a problem for a desktop replacement.
Multimedia, then, is clearly this machine’s real strength and to accentuate this, Acer has created what it calls the CineDash, a somewhat fussy looking set of media controls set to the left of the keyboard. When we first saw this and used it, it seemed like an interesting idea, but upon further use it does seem a little over designed. The volume slider arc, for example, is rather fiddly to use and one can’t help but think a novice user will be intimidated by the layout.
It also doesn’t add to the overall look to the machine and in truth the design is nothing to write home about. On the outside it doesn’t look too bad, in fact the dark blue gemstone finish and nifty “holographic” backlit logo is rather smart, but opening the machine reveals a rather less appetising sight. It’s not ugly per se, but the mixture of matte black at the top, a glossy black keyboard, grey wrist rest and the CineDash to the side looks messy and uncoordinated.
If the keyboard and design lack a little attention to detail, though, the features of this machine go some way to redressing the balance. Audio, for example, is truly exemplary – good enough that you could conceivably enjoy a film without the need for separate speakers. Inside its frame it houses six speakers, with three above the keyboard, two in the front edge and a “Tube CineBass” sub-woofer that’s housed in a hollowed out tube between the hinges.
This is, in effect, a 5.1 speaker system, though any pretence to surround sound is a complete misnomer. Nonetheless, the overall effect is very impressive, with clear crisp audio, particularly in dialogue thanks to the dedicated centre channel, though if you want heavy bass separate speakers are still the way to go.
This excellence is matched by the display. Its 16:9 ratio and Full HD resolution obviously helps, but it also sports excellent image quality. Colours are vibrant, if a little over saturated, bringing photos and video to life with great alacrity. Whites are particularly impressive, being very clean and bright and though black levels are nothing to write home about, they’re nonetheless pretty good for a notebook display. Viewing angles are reasonable, good enough that someone could sit alongside you and not be impeded and detail levels are very impressive for a screen that’s still relatively small for Full HD content.