At the front you’ll find hardware switches for the 802.11a,b and g wireless module, and for the integrated Bluetooth adapter. Next to these are both headphone and microphone ports, along with a line-out that doubles up as an S/PDIF output.
The left is dominated by a slot loading DVD writer, which will happily burn DVD+R/RW, DVD-R/RW, DVD-RAM, CD-R and CD-RW discs. Acer will be offering an HD DVD drive as an option on the 9800 in the future, but unfortunately this wasn’t available to test at the time of writing. Also on the left is a modem socket and another USB 2.0 port.
The rear offers up a mix of old and new, with legacy connectors rubbing shoulders with current standards. Standing out from the crowd is a DVI port – not only will this give you a digital graphics output, but it’s also HDCP compliant, allowing you to stream copy protected high definition video to an external monitor, assuming that the 20in internal screen wasn’t quite large enough for you. There’s also a D-SUB port for outputting an analogue video signal and an S-Video output for connecting to older TVs.
Also at the rear is a network port for the integrated gigabit Ethernet adapter, a serial port, a parallel port, a PS/2 port, a TV aerial connector and the power socket. It’s been some time since I’ve seen this much legacy connectivity on a notebook, but hey, what else was Acer going to do with all that space?
When it comes to performance, the 9800 is faster than its components may suggest. Turning in a SYSmark 2002 score of 324, making it faster than many notebooks I’ve seen sporting 2GHz processors. Of course some of the performance could be down to the fast storage system inside the 9800 thanks to it’s RAID 0 array, but on the whole it’s a very good result considering the CPU and memory. PC Mark showed similarly impressive scores, with the HDD score proving to be significantly better than other notebooks.
I didn’t bother to run MobileMark on the 9800 because, quite frankly, I can’t believe that anyone would ever be using this machine on the move. There simply isn’t a circumstance where I could ever imagine someone taking this machine out with them and opening it up to check their email in a coffee shop or train station. I think it’s safe to say that the Aspire 9800 will spend the vast majority of its operational life tethered to a power socket.