July 28, 2011
- Stylish design
- Best of class performance
- Dual-graphics system
- Wide array of ports
- Above average battery life
- Removable touch pad has some issues
With a detachable touch pad remote, the Acer Aspire Ethos AS8951G is a unique 18-inch desktop replacement notebook. It is really quite a multimedia powerhouse as it has a 1080p display along with an Intel Core i7 CPU, 8GB of RAM and discrete Nvidia graphics.
The Acer Aspire Ethos AS8951G measures 17.3 x 11.6 x 1.6-inches and weighs almost 9-pounds, which is quite a lot, so don't think you'll be able to haul this monster around throughout a long day's work. It has an impressive design, however, that includes a brushed black metal finish that gives it a rather modest look in the end.
The keyboard deck, unfortunately, picked up a lot of stray fingerprints and smudges, but it's quite large even thought the keyboard is full-sized with a number pad as well. The keys are adequately-sized and provided a comfortable typing experience. We noticed the lack of dedicated multimedia buttons for things like volume control and media playback for such a large amount of open space. But some of their lack is mediated by the removable touch pad remote.
To pop out the touch pad, there's a small switch on the front edge that allows you to lift it right out of the deck. Once out, you can hold the touch pad in any orientation, either horizontal or vertical, and it will know which way is "up" because it has a built-in accelerometer, however it's a little less sensitive to quick movements. There's a small button in the upper-right corner that activates some backlit touch buttons embedded in the pad for things like media and volume control. All that cool-ness aside, the touch pad's surface felt tacky and wasn't as frictionless as we would've liked. While it's a cool idea, it might be a little too impractical.
The Acer Aspire Ethos AS8951G has an 18-inch LED-backlit display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080-pixels, which means it's full 1080p high-definition. The screen's edge-to-edge glass is made of the ever-popular Gorilla Glass, which is the same scratch-resistant glass on the Apple iPad. The display had fantastic quality, especially for gaming and video use, and had good viewing angles too. It's definitely one of the best displays that we've seen on a laptop, especially the resolution.
In terms of ports, there's nothing left out. There is one USB 3.0 port, four USB 2.0 ports, one USB/eSATA combo port, one FireWire-400 port, HDMI-out, VGA-out, mini-DisplayPort, gigabit Ethernet and a 5-in-1 memory card reader. There's also a Blu-ray and DVD+/-RW combo optical disc drive and both 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 3.0 wireless connectivity. We were impressed at the wide range of ports, from USB 3.0 to FireWire to DisplayPort.
The internal specifications of the Acer Aspire Ethos AS8951G include a quad-core Intel Core i7-2630QM CPU (2.0GHz), 8GB of DDR3 RAM (16GB upgradable maximum), a 750GB 5400RPM hard drive and Nvidia GeForce GT555 discrete graphics with 2GB of dedicated memory.
The quad-core Intel i7 CPU is a higher-end model of the current second-generation CPUs and in turn, delivers some really impressive performance, especially with 8GB of memory. It's only a slight disappointment that the hard drive is 5400RPM instead of 7200RPM, but the system is definitely way over-powered even for watching HD content. We found performance with this laptop to top any other laptop that we've tested to date, even the HP Envy 17, our previous favorite.
Gaming performance was also above average compared to most other similar laptops, but it's not quite the best in this category. The discrete Nvidia graphics system gives you good performance in most 3D games, but you might find yourself needing to dial down the graphics settings in certain games to get the best performance. There's also a dual-graphics system, so when you don't need the discrete Nvidia system, the laptop automatically switches to the integrated Intel graphics to save battery life.
Battery life was about 3-3.5 hours long, which was actually more than what we'd expected to get. This is because of the switchable graphics that we just mentioned and the astonishing 8-cell battery.