The Acer Aspire 5920 is a smart laptop which includes Intel's much-vaunted Santa Rosa Centrino chipset.

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Some devices (MP3 players and digital cameras, say) play easily on the idea of style and sophistication. For laptop manufacturers, though, aesthetic appeal tends to be harder to create.

Acer thinks it might have cracked this particular nut with its new range of Aspire laptops, the jewel in its crown being its much-hyped Gemstone concept. Amounting to a look and feel that creates a clear product identity, we weren't totally convinced by Gemstone. The sleek black outer casing of the Acer Aspire 5920 makes it look sophisticated but, although it adds contrast to its appearance, we weren't very keen on the Acer Aspire 5920's off-white interior and keyboard. And since the Acer Aspire 5920 is quite a large laptop, portability isn't going to be one of its major selling points.

But there are other more significant elements to the Acer Aspire 5920 - namely its support for Intel Santa Rosa. Santa Rosa is the fourth generation of Intel's Centrino platform and, as with previous versions of Centrino, laptop manufacturers can use the Intel Santa Rosa branding only if their machine meets certain hardware requirements.

So buying Intel Santa Rosa means you're likely to get some excellent components - an Intel Core 2 Duo chip, a Mobile 965 Express chipset, wireless capabilities that stretch to the Draft 802.11n standard, and a minimum of the Vista-ready X3100 Intel graphics accelerator. There are a few other nice twists as well. The new rendition of Dynamic Acceleration, for instance, ensures that single-threaded applications make better use of the second core built into the Core 2 Duo chips. And, of course, Intel Santa Rosa is carefully designed to boost battery life.

So does the Intel Santa Rosa version of Centrino really work? Well, the initial signs are very good. The Acer Aspire 5920's battery life of 130 minutes isn't the best we've seen, but it is fairly close.

And the Acer Aspire 5920's combination of a 2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300 chip with 2GB of DDR RAM performed extremely well in our WorldBench 6 real-world speed test suite. Its score of 77 was still slower than the exceptional Zoostorm 5-5005 (831), but that laptop was using a far superior T7600 chip. Otherwise, the Acer Aspire 5920 beat everything else, so this particular Intel Santa Rosa laptop seems to pack lots of speed as well as endurance

The Acer Aspire 5920's graphics system wasn't so emphatic, despite Acer putting in a 256MB nVidia GeForce 8600M graphics controller. The Acer Aspire 5920 totted up an average of 25fps (frames per second) in our intensive games tests (including Fear and Company of Heroes), which is decent but not outstanding - the Zoostorm managed 33fps.

But the Acer Aspire 5920's real potential is as an entertainment laptop. The Dolby Home Theater Virtual Surround Sound speakers deliver a full and clear sound that will make the Aspire ideal for watching movies. The Acer Aspire 5920's 15.4in wide CrystalBrite TFT LCD display presents text, images and video clips clearly even though the glossiness of the screen means it suffers from reflections, while the Acer Aspire 5920's 160GB hard drive is very generous given the price - offering lots of space in which to store audio and movie files.

The Acer Aspire 5920 also benefits from Intel's new Robson technology. Robson uses a small cache of flash memory to save important and frequently accessed data. Because information stored on flash memory is quicker to access than it would be when saved to a hard drive, Robson can make it faster to boot up the laptop and use Windows programs. The flash memory also retains its contents even when the machine has been turned off, so over time it'll get better at speeding up your PC.

The Acer Aspire 5920 is well equipped when it comes to connectivity options. Besides offering the 802.11n standard demanded by Intel Santa Rosa, the Acer Aspire 5920 also supports 802.11a, b and g. And Bluetooth is a very welcome extra. The 5-in-1 card reader and 0.3Mp camera add versatility, and the Acer Arcade Deluxe software can be launched at the touch of a button, giving you access to such useful multimedia applications as Video Magician and DV Wizard.

Acer Aspire 5920: Specs

  • 2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 2GB DDR2 RAM
  • 160GB hard drive
  • 15.4in Acer CrystalBrite TFT LCD
  • 256MB nVidia GeForce 8600M
  • DVD-SuperMulti optical drive
  • 802.11a/b/g/Draft N
  • Bluetooth
  • 0.3 megapixel camera
  • 1 year Carry In International travelers warranty, 364mm x 270mm x 31mm
  • 3kg
  • 2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 2GB DDR2 RAM
  • 160GB hard drive
  • 15.4in Acer CrystalBrite TFT LCD
  • 256MB nVidia GeForce 8600M
  • DVD-SuperMulti optical drive
  • 802.11a/b/g/Draft N
  • Bluetooth
  • 0.3 megapixel camera
  • 1 year Carry In International travelers warranty, 364mm x 270mm x 31mm
  • 3kg

OUR VERDICT

It's not the most portable of laptops but the Acer Aspire 5920 is powerful, looks smart and offers a decent collection of features for the price. The new Intel Santa Rosa technology looks to be working well, and the impressive audio quality and generous hard drive help make this a particularly strong entertainment notebook.

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