If you do decide to play games, you’ll be very happy to know that the sound is also superb for a notebook. Acer has squeezed three speakers and a subwoofer inside the Aspire 9800 and the result is very impressive. The upshot being that if you want to play a game or watch a movie, you’re not going to have to plug external speakers into this machine.
The most interesting part of the base specification is the storage. Acer has installed two 120GB hard disks and striped them into a RAID 0 array. This basically gives you the full capacity of both drives and potentially a performance increase depending on what you’re doing. Personally I would rather have a RAID 1 array, where all your data is completely safe, even in the event of a hard disk crash, but of course you do lose the entire capacity of one drive as a result. I’m assuming that you have the option of how you want your storage configured at the point of purchase, so it’s up to you whether you want to go with ultimate safety or high performance and high capacity. That said, the base model in the Aspire 9800 range only ships with one hard disk, so if you want to go for a similar specification to this one, you may need to fork out a little more for your storage.
Also hidden inside the large case is a hybrid TV tuner, so you can tune into both analogue and digital terrestrial channels. Of course you can only use either one at a time, but switching between the two is fairly simple using Acer’s Arcade multimedia application. I would have rather seen Windows XP Media Center Edition loaded on the 9800 instead, but at least you can specify it as an option when buying. There’s a TV aerial thrown in with the notebook, but to be honest, you’re unlikely to pick up any digital channels using this, and the analogue reception wasn’t great either. However, when I plugged the 9800 into a decent external aerial, both the analogue and digital tuners provided top notch pictures.
One trick that Acer has learned from HP, is to place symbols on either side of the keyboard indicating the ports that are resident on the sides of the chassis. This makes things far easier when you’re searching for a USB or FireWire port, and saves you inevitably finding it on the last edge that you examine. Talking or ports, the Aspire 9800 is well endowed, as you’d hope considering its physical size. The right is well stacked with three USB 2.0 ports, a four-pin FireWire port, a Type II PC Card slot and an Express Card slot. There’s also a 5-in-1 memory card reader that will accept SD, MMC, MemoryStick, MemoryStick Pro and xD cards.