Acer Aspire 9504WSMi Review - Acer Aspire 9504WSMi Review

The Acer has a large number of shortcut buttons. The ones above the keyboard, next to the glow in the dark power button, provide direct links to your email application, web browser, and Acer ‘ePower’ panel, which contains various useful system management tools. More intriguing are the controls on the front of the notebook. The Acer might be quite thick, but with these buttons, at least it’s making good use of the size. There are direct buttons for activating the integrated wireless and Bluetooth and for launching the Acer Arcade software. This is essentially a rip-off of Microsoft’s Media Center Edition of Windows. It might not be original but that doesn’t really matter as it’s really just as good. Acer has supplied not one, but two remote controls so that you watch it from a distance. The larger remote contains more options but you can take the smaller one on the road with you and store it in the PC Card slot – a great idea, assuming you don’t need it for anything else. There are stop, play and wind buttons and a very neat joystick that enables you to quickly and easily navigate the Acer Arcade software.

One thing you might be using the PC Card slot for is to charge the VoIP phone that Acer has included. This connects to the laptop via built-in Bluetooth and in theory enables you to walk around the room and chat using your favourite VoIP app such as MSN Messenger or Skype. However, when I tested it I found that the quality wasn’t fantastic with crackles and interference. Recording my own voice to the PC, indicated that it was the Bluetooth that was at issue here.

Round the left side of the notebook is a slot loading drive, which is always cool, capable of burning dual-layer discs. There are also two of five USB 2.0 sockets. There are two other USB 2.0 slots on the opposite side and one on the back, which is great, as it means that you don’t have to drag cables around if you plug things in on different sides.

The left side contains an Express card slot, the successor to PC Card. Just above this are headphone, microphone and optical line outs. At the rear are both DVI and VGA outputs, along with an S-Video out and a parallel port. There are also composite and S-Video inputs but to save space this is available off a dongle. There’s also a connector for the supplied DVB-T tuner, which connects via a mini jack cable. On the right hand side is a mini- FireWire port and the PC Card slot. All-in-all it’s a wealth of connectivity.

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