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Acer has been on a roll of late with its Gemstone series of laptops, which have enjoyed huge popularity in the budget and value segment. Looking at tapping into the higher-end market, the company recently unveiled its 'Gemstone Blue' range of laptops, which is primarily aimed at the mid-level and desktop replacement segments. Acer is offering a few innovations in this range, such as 16:9 aspect LCD panels, Blu-ray drives, and a new touch panel for multimedia management.
We were able to spend some time with the mid-level Acer 6920G. Does this new laptop live up to the hype generated around this range? Read on to find out.
At the launch event of the new series, it was clear from the onset that Acer had consciously decided to step away from its rather drab designs of the past. The 6920G is certainly a step up. It sports a glossy top panel and a well-designed (though highly reflective) LCD panel. The area around the LCD panel is of a similar glossy nature as the lid.
The area next to the keyboard is unique to the new series. Just above the keyboard is a huge speaker grill that forms the basis of the new Dolby 2.0 speaker system. The left side of the keyboard is occupied by the new CineDash Media Console, which Acer has introduced with this series. This touch panel allows you to manipulate Windows Media Player or other compatible players. It also interfaces with Acer’s own version of a media center called Acer Arcade Deluxe.
The keyboard itself has been moved a bit more towards the center. The bottom area of the keyboard has a silver textured finish, which is common to the touchpad as well. The right side of the keyboard sports a series of quick-launch keys, which are reprogrammable.
While this new design does look stunning in its own right, it’s not without issues. Firstly the keyboard is oddly located, causing typing issues. It took a few hours of practice to reduce the typos. Secondly the physical profile of the laptop is, to put it mildly, BIG. The 6920G is aimed at the workhorse market and in this respect it fails. It’s a good deal bigger and thicker than standard laptops in this range and weighs in at a bit more.
However, that’s where the negatives end. Despite being on the thicker side, the laptop is made of solid plastic that does not squeak or flex. The hinges are firm and rock-solid. The heat vents, which many users had complained about in the past, have been repositioned to avoid causing 'laptop rash'.
When it comes to performance, the keyboard and the LCD panel are both a joy to use. The keyboard has smooth glossy keys that making typing a real pleasure. The keys have just the right elevation and more than compensate for the odd keyboard placement. The LCD as advertised is a 16-inch affair with a native resolution of 1366 x 768 (16:9), 8ms response time, and an enhanced color profile that displays about 92 percent of the color gamut.
While all this may seem a lot of technical hogwash, what it means is that the LCD is superbly designed with some of the best color, contrast, and brightness levels one can see in a screen this size. Whether you're into multimedia or just working on a Word document, the screen really shines. The touchpad is of a decent size and thanks to a good textured finish, is easy to use.
The 6920G is fairly well-equipped with regard to peripheral connectivity. It sports a dual-layer DVD writer, 4 USB slots, a VGA port, and the standard array of Ethernet and telephone jacks.
For a sub-Rs 65,000 notebook, this one certainly packs in a lot of juice. It comes with a T7300 (2.0 GHz) Intel C2D processor, 3GB of system RAM, 320GB HDD, and is Bluetooth 2.0 EDR compatible. The only real downside is the use of an Intel GMA 950 chipset which drags down an otherwise excellent laptop.
In PCMark, the 6920G achieved a standard score of 4000, which is very good. However, the 3DMark score was as expected a weak 925. Keeping in mind the fairly powerful processor and power guzzling LCD panel, the battery life was a respectable 3 hours and 23 minutes.
In our final test, we checked out the CineDash Media Console and the speaker system. The panel had some lag, but nothing one can't live with. The Arcade was however a big flop. It kept crashing all the time, and despite resetting the laptop, showed no improvement. An update fixed it, but performance still wasn't up to the mark. It’s not very intuitive and scrolling through it can be a headache.
The speaker system which has been advertised as Dolby 2.0 compatible is quite powerful. It has good bass and treble, with clear output at mid-volumes. Though it does get screechy at very high volumes, it’s still a lot better than what is offered at its price range.
The 6920 represents a positive step forward for Acer. It’s well designed, has good battery life, and is easy on the eye. At its price of Rs 59,000 upward, it’s an intriguing notebook and is easily one of the best choices available right now.