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Last week we reviewed the 6920G, the mid-level laptop in Acer’s new Gemstone Blue range. We had come away impressed, with not only its specifications but also its impeccable finish and styling. This week let's check out the 8920G, the flagship model that's aimed at the desktop replacement market.
Keeping in mind the premium positioning of the 8920, we wish Acer had taken the trouble to at least make its flagship model distinctive. The 8920 is similar to the 6920 with regard to its build and finish. There were absolutely no changes that we could discern. The lid and area around LCD panel have the same high-gloss finish, with the Acer logo displayed on the lid.
The area around the keyboard too has remained the same. The speaker grill is present above the keyboard area and, keeping in mind the size of the laptop, has been scaled accordingly. The left side of the keyboard has the CineDash Media console, which gave us a couple of surprises (more about that in the performance section). Compared to the 6920, the keyboard has been expanded to include a numeric keypad. This is a welcome move and one we wish was adopted by more manufacturers. The touchpad is a bit larger and has the same silver finish as the 6920.
As mentioned earlier, the 8920 is a desktop replacement/media center model. For this purpose it’s been given an 18-inch LCD panel with a native resolution of 1920x1080 (16:9 resolution) and a 2x Blu-ray drive. The LCD panel in terms of its usability can be described as simply perfect. Like the panel on the 6920G, it has excellent levels of color and brightness, and actually goes beyond its younger brother by offering excellent side and top-down viewing angles. This was apparent in our gaming and multimedia tests.
The expanded keyboard shines too. Though it has a glossy finish, it has great tactile feedback with recessed keys, ensuring a very comfortable working experience.
Connectivity-wise the 8920 is very well-equipped. It offers a 5-in-1 card reader, 4 USB 2.0 ports, HMDI/ VGA slots, headphone and microphone jacks (with S/PDIF support), Ethernet, Blu-ray 2.0 support, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/bg/g/n,modem, and an ExpressCard slot. The ODD, as we already saw, is a 2x Blu-ray drive.
The 8920 comes with some of the best equipment currently available in the mobile computing market. It has an Intel Core 2 Duo T9300 (2.5 GHz) Penryn CPU, 3GB of system memory, and a 320GB HDD. Its graphics are powered by an Nvidia 9650M GS chipset. The strength of the system was apparent in the Futuremark tests, where it scored 6000 for PCMark05 and 5100 for 3DMark06. These are some of the highest scores we've got over the last year from virtually any laptop.
For our multimedia tests we called in our AV expert Siddharth, and this is what he had to say:
"The screen is 1920 x 1080 to the dot, so that facilitates straight up viewing of HD content, and its pure 16:9 ratio too helps out, as no up, down or 'side' scaling is required. We watched some cool HD clips, ranging from Dark Knight and Hulk 2 trailer to Blu-ray disc content like Independence Day.
The colors were spot on; very vibrant and natural. The screen itself is a reflective, but as I come from the TV realm, where reflectivity is not an issue at all, I will have to give the laptop the benefit of the doubt. Same goes for contrast, which I found only slightly below fantastic; it was really very good. The blacks came out quite well segregated.
The Blu-ray drive performed pretty well. There was no real noise problem, nor any latency in spinning and playing the disc once it was inserted. The sound is quite impressive, considering it's a notebook. I'd suggest using headphones, but this has got some impressive features provided by Dolby, which is at least good enough to stay in the feature list, and not be a total waste."
Our next round of tests was to test the graphical capabilities of the laptop. The games we used were Call of Duty 4, Crysis, and WoW Burning Crusade. Each of these was run at a resolution of 1920x1080 with 2x AA. The results were as expected. In Crysis the game was completely unplayable as it was a crawl show. We had to knock the resolution down to 1440x900 and 'medium' detail before we could achieve any kind of playable frame rate. COD 4 fared a little better, offering gameplay at the native resolution at low fps. We knocked the resolution down one step and switched off AA. This allowed the game to run at an acceptable frame rate of 30.
Our final test was, unsurprisingly, WoW. Despite being quite old, the game has recently gotten some texture upgrades that make it look incredibly sharp and detailed. One such area is the famous dungeon Black Temple, which houses the end-game boss Illidan. In the course of this fight, the amount of detail being pumped out can get really intense and can bring most high-powered rigs to their knees. But here the 8920 shone. It was easily able to keep up with the game, with all features turned up high. There was no lag anywhere.
The battery test held no surprises. The 8920 was able to last around two hours under normal circumstances, and this should come as no surprise keeping in mind its powerful features.
The 8920 costs Rs 79,000 upwards and represents a new breed of powerful all-in-one affordable laptops. Similar configurations from Dell and HP can easily cost over a lakh with the addition of an HD resolution option and Blu-ray. While prices will no doubt fall in future, Acer has to be commended for gaining the first mover advantage.