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  Computers > Computer technologies > Laptops
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Acer Aspire 1714SMi

Think of the £1,199 (ex. VAT) Acer Aspire 1714SMi as a notebook possessed by a desktop. In other words, expect brute-force performance but don't plan on jumping hurdles at airports with it tucked under your arm, or taking it away from a power plug for long. This notebook is big, powerful and heavy, but its high-end components do help to future-proof it. Whereas a low-end notebook can quickly become outdated, the power under the 1714SMi's surface will help you keep up with Microsoft's upgrade curve. We think the 1714SMi strikes one of the best price-performance balances of any desktop replacement.

At a whopping 7.1kg, the Aspire 1714SMi is a behemoth even for a desktop replacement, and the power brick that comes with the unit increases its total travel weight still further. The full-size keyboard with separate number pad and the ample real estate of its 17in. screen make the Aspire 1714SMi feel more like a portable desktop PC than a bulky notebook.

The 1714SMi has a nice set of integrated speakers, including a separate bass-boosting subwoofer in the unit's base. Unfortunately, the speakers are hard to appreciate when the system is running because of the 1714SMi's loud cooling fan. Fortunately, the system comes with Acer's Audio DJ feature, which lets you play CDs and MP3s without booting the notebook and starting the fan. A set of volume-control buttons line the front edge of the system, and you can access them even when the lid is closed.

Acer's 1714SMi is much easier to upgrade than most notebooks. A single removable panel on the bottom of the unit gives you access to the system components and makes it a simple matter to swap out the hard drive, the memory or the processor. This flexibility helps future-proof the system and makes the 1714SMi a smart long-term purchase.

The right edge of the Acer Aspire 1714SMi contains two FireWire and two USB 2.0 ports, as well as a pair of audio mini-jacks. A combo DVD+RW/CD-RW drive graces the unit's left side, along with three expansion card slots covering PC Card, CompactFlash and Memory Stick/SmartMedia/SD/MMC. The rear panel houses a PS/2 connector, a parallel port, a Gigabit Ethernet port, a modem port, an S-Video port for connecting the 1714SMi to a TV and two additional USB 2.0 ports, bringing the total number of USB ports on the system to four.

You can outfit the 1714SMi with either Windows XP Home Edition or XP Pro (our review unit came with XP Home). You also get CyberLink PowerDVD for playing movies, RealTek Sound Manager for organising and playing digital audio, NTI's CD & DVD Maker, which together make for a respectable software offering.

Our top-of-the-range review unit, the Aspire 1714SMi, was powered by a 3.4GHz Pentium 4 with Hyper-Threading; 1GB of system RAM (upgradeable to 2GB); a 120GB, 7,200rpm hard drive; and an Nvidia GeForce FX Go5700 graphics card with 128MB of dedicated RAM. In short, the 1714SMi is a powerhouse. Its performance running mainstream office applications is on a par with Dell's similarly specified Inspiron 9100, these desktop replacement systems delivering Office Productivity scores of 210 and 203 respectively under BAPCo's SYSmark 2002. However, when it comes to 3D graphics, the Inspiron 9100 has a considerable edge, thanks to its state-of-the-art ATI Mobility Radeon 9800 graphics processing unit.

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