I've uploaded my referenced screen grabs here since I ran into difficulties last night. This seemed like the logical solution.
I bought the Acer Aspire 7720-6395 yesterday. I couldn't find any reviews other than those on Best Buy's website (a couple are okay, but none comprehensive), so I hope to contribute to anyone else who might be considering it but unsure. I live an hour from the nearest big city, so any additional details would've made it easier to make the drive.
Forgive me if there are details you don't need or none that you do. I'll do my best.
I won't repeat the specs that Best Buy gives on their website, but I'll shed light on a couple that aren't clear through writing or screen grabs.
It seems that a number of people bought it thinking it had a Blu-Ray writer (BB had something on their site saying so, apparently), but be sure you note that it is only a Blu-Ray ROM drive. I say only...
Oh, and it is also a dual layer DVD writer and CD writer.
It has an integrated webcam and microphone if you're prone to video chatting.
The speakers are in a strip directly under the power and accessory buttons. It boasts "DOLBY DIGITAL LIVE" above the mesh, but they sound like most other decent laptop speakers. Not great, but pretty good all things considered.
Oh, and it apparently has a subwoofer on the bottom. I usually use over-the-ear (isolating) headphones, so I wasn't impressed or disappointed by it, really. Kind of indifferent. But it's there, anyway.
The system has a DVI output so if you buy a $10 cable from Newegg you can hook it up to your HDTV and be fairly well amazed. Add an audio output to a nice home theater setup and you'll do well.
I've watched the Blu-Ray edition of Spiderman 3 on the integrated monitor. It looks spectacular. You can see blemishes on the redhead's face that Hollywood probably tries pretty hard to cover up. The drive is certainly a plus.
As is Vista Ultimate. Or so I'm told. The jury is still out with me since I haven't had it long enough to decide, so I won't discuss that. You'll have to make your own mind up concerning it vs. XP. Or linux, or whatever you might like.
It's still quite fast, though, even with the resource-intensive Vista. Since you have to make your own factory default restore discs I'm tempted to install XP to test the two side-by-side (sort of), reinstalling the favored one after the comparison.
Yes, it is following the route so many manufacturers are taking and not including manufactured CDs or DVDs of the operating system. Not a horrible thing, but I dislike it because factory CDs/DVDs have longer lifespans than DVD-Rs and the like. I suggest burning the restore discs and then making ISOs of them on another hard drive for storage. Redundancy is important for things like this.
See the screen grabs. Too many to list, but I'll tell you what I installed so you'll know to not count them.
AVG 7.5 (free edition)
Lexmark 1200 series
All the rest were included, but a number of them look to be trial or crippleware.
Laptop specifics can be found by reading the PDF guide here:
(rapidshare link)- http://rapidshare.com/files/76647269/Guide.pdf.html
You can't find the model on Acer's website, so it is different than the guides offered there. It's the dirty details instruction manual that includes what all the slots you see in the photo are, etc.
Using the list of suggested questions:
-Why did you buy the notebook?
“Casual” personal use. I use the quotes because I seem to use it constantly. I'm not much of a gamer but have run Portal and a couple of the other Orange Box games in their recommended settings (not the highest, but probably fine for the majority of us- screen grabs in link above). They performed without a hiccup, and looked exceptional.
-What do you use it for?
It's a desktop replacement. Movie and music encoding, the internet, watching DVDs, occasional photo editing (Elements), etc. I'm not a professional photographer, so I don't eke out every bit of processing power, but I'll tax computers occasionally. So far it has performed admirably, but I'm moving up from a 1.8 single core Centrino. That's a pretty big leap in technology. And I haven't messed with any photos.
-Is it easy to carry around?
Yes, but. It's pretty big. It has a 17” screen, which is nice, and an integrated numeric keypad. Also nice when balancing checkbooks or doing taxes. But look at the photo of it with my arm if you need scale. I'm a 6' adult male with probably an average-length arm, and that's a big laptop.
If you're not a roadwarrior than this is a plus. It would be tight using it in an airplane, though. If you need something for business and constant carrying you might want to consider a different system.
-Does the screen look good? How are the viewing angles?
The screen is crisp. And huge. Did I mention how big this thing is? Good visibility from all angles, with text still legible at less than twenty degree angles.
-What's the battery life?
Adjusting the power to conservative settings and it shows a span of 3.5 hours (that's without running the DVD drive or lots of hard drive accesses).
Full power, fastest processing speeds, brightest screen display shows 2 hours and 7 minutes immediately after disconnecting it from the wall socket.
Dimming the display seems to help a tremendous amount on power savings, but I've only had it for a day.
-How fast does it boot up?
On a new system (you can see my added programs in the screen grabs) it takes ~45 seconds from the press of the power button to the password prompt. After hitting “enter” it takes 7 seconds until you can begin opening programs.
-Does it feel solid? Does the screen ripple if you poke the back of the lid?
It feels pretty well built. The only part that I'm really concerned about is bottom center of the screen area. It doesn't have a support there and will flex if you try it, but that's not a place one should really press hard on. But still. As long as you remember to pick it up by its sides it should be fine.
No rippling from pressing the back. Even slight pressure against the front doesn't discolor it.
Should you buy the extended warranty? Hard to say. I had a Dell (never again) 5150 that developed heat-warping issues right after a year had passed. An extended warranty for that would've been good, but it's not something you can predict.
(An electrical engineer friend told me that most electronics, if they make it past 90 days, will last for a number of years. YMMV.)
After the Dell experience, I buy them on laptops.
I ran the free (nonadjustable) 3DMark05 on it and ended up with a score of 991. That doesn't tell me much other than 990 other folks tried it who had systems slower than mine but likely higher hopes, and a bunch more folks had faster systems. Real-world showed me Half Life 2 Episode 1, full screen at 1024x768 on recommended settings, yielding frame rates in the 60s, with lows in the 30s and spikes up to 100+.
And I thought it looked really nice. Enough eye-candy to be pretty realistic. Casual gamers will likely be pleased, and the hardcore will likely not be considering this laptop to begin with, so it works out well.
The only thing I really don't like is the placement of the power input. It's not bad, really, but it isn't intuitive, and there are few tactile cues that lead you to it. I've had to look behind the laptop each time I needed to plug it back in.
Would I buy it again? Yes.
Did it seem like a bargain? Yes. Comparable prices used integrated graphics and lesser media drives.
(Thanks Dukefrukem. I seem to make a much better lurker than contributor. I appreciate the help.)
I've been able to use it as intended, and have been very pleased with performance and battery life. On "balanced" settings (an option given through the Windows Mobility Center), with the display darkened to its lowest setting, the battery lasted 2 hours and 47 minutes with web surfing and word processing.
Things I've discovered:
I've had to reinstall the audio driver twice for unknown reasons. After reboots the speakers began to pop. They would still reproduce sound, but a conflict had somehow developed even though I hadn't installed anything. Acer's website provides all of the drivers for XP and Vista here, so it wasn't a big problem, but definitely a curiosity. I have, however, decided to stick with Vista after reading a comparison at Tom's Hardware. Vista has it's oddities (like lots of confirmations and verifications even for admins), but the Acer shipped with the top-of-the-line Vista Ultimate, which provides BitLocker (here's Microsoft's page on the different versions), and I decided I liked the idea of it.
And the windows key+tab 3d switching is exceptional. So long as the computer will handle it I don't see why I'd go back.
I'm not greatly pleased with the placement of the audio output/input jacks on the front left of the case (just below and to the right of the two green LEDs). It makes sense there, but it doesn't work for my situation. I don't think they would be a problem if the user had a ninety-degree plug because they're inset a bit, and, really, I think it would be a perfect fit if the ninety-degree plug pointed upwards, but I don't have that type for my earphones and it makes sitting on the couch and using it as a true lap-top a bit awkward.
I have an occasionally-used wired external mouse and have learned that it should be plugged exclusively into the left-side USB ports or else you'll run into the wire/plug when moving excitedly to the left in games.
The SD slot is, for lack of a better word, "sticky." Inserting a card isn't a smooth and positive engagement. If not paying attention the SD card can go in at an improper angle and not engage. I don't think it messes anything up, but the first time you do it you'll gasp and worry until you get the card out and reinserted.
The included backup software is a plus. I'd used Acronis in the past, but this, if stable and reliable, looks to be a decent replacement. It offers incremental backups and the like. A pleasant and free (included, at least) surprise.
Would I still buy this laptop? Yes. I still think it's a strong value.
I used, and was pleased, with the included recovery software (Acer's, not Windows). I have been wrestling with removal of the pre-installed Norton Anti-virus since purchase. I thought I'd successfully removed everything associated with it, but I began having pop-ups at start-up telling me that Norton, which I thought was completely gone, was having some problems finding certain files. I decided I would begin completely over and purge it from the start, so I'm typing this on a freshly restored to as-new settings two-week old system. For what it's worth, Acer's eRecovery program took 13 minutes and 34 seconds to perform the restoration from an image on the drive, with 900-1000mb transfer times listed on the information screen. I mention this all because I'd brought up the pre-installed backup program earlier as a "plus," and it seems to be as good as my old and beloved Acronis True Image. And something that wasn't an additional purchase.
I've purchased a hard case for it, and it is a well-built and perfect fitting addition. I couldn't be more pleased. It's the VANGUARD Red 17" Notebook Case Model Modern 84T (Newegg link). It's bright red, which is both a big plus (hard to misplace or steal) and a negative (you'd best be self-confident to carry this around- not for shy "don't look at me" types). It makes a nice desk while riding in a car, too. One side has a set of ridges that angle the laptop towards the user, and the other side lacks the ridges, allowing for a writing surface. It's a good design, and a great price.
The last thing to report is an oddity with the touchpad, and it is my only true complaint with the system. It will occasionally become jumpy (the cursor) and unresponsive, almost like the center of the screen is the positive pole of a magnet and the cursor is a negative. Try as you might, you won't get the cursor to go to the center, but it will still move around the screen. Very unusual, but only lasts for a couple of seconds once every day or two. I googled and found some others with similar problems, but no real solution. I'm hoping a driver fix will eventually be released. As it is the problem isn't bad enough to warrent returning the laptop, but it can be annoying for the few seconds that you'll encounter it.
I am still very pleased with the purchase.
This might be outside of the spirit of the review, but I wanted to add it since I had some movie problems with my Aspire 7720 when playing Blu-Ray discs, and it seems like something a consumer should be aware of in the context of the rest of my feelings. The picture is beautiful, but I began having lots of slight frame hangings while playing rented movies (only Blu-Rays, normal DVDs played fine) through the default Windows Media Center (called Acer Arcade Deluxe, but it seems to be the same thing). VLC is my player of choice but it apparently can't handle Blu-Ray playback, so Windows Media Center it is. Media Center starts up when a Blu-Ray disc is inserted by default, so I just got used to playing the movies through it. I think it's overdone and a bit of a clunky interface, but they didn't consult with me in the first place...
Anyway, a driver update didn't help, so I fixed the jumpiness on my 7720-6395 like this (and I assume it would work for other Acers that use the Optiarc BC-5500A or similar drives):
When you insert a Blu-Ray disc it will start playback automatically. Press the stop button in the bottom left corner of the screen and it will offer up a menu of Resume, Restart, etc. Click "Settings" and then "BD Settings."
Under "BD Settings" there is a "Network Speed" option. Apparently Media Center/Acer Arcade Deluxe tries to interact with your network (if you have one) the entire time the movie is playing, which seemed to cause the jerking and skipping. Click on the "Network Speed" bar. In my case "Local Multipoint Distribute System Wireless" was the default. As soon as I chose "Others" and pressed "Apply" (look directly to the left of "others") all the movie playback jitters stopped.
An aside- I wonder if one can play Blu-Ray discs without internet access? I kind of doubt it, but don't know for sure. All I do know is that it wouldn't let me watch a Blu-Ray movie until I allowed Media Center access to the internet.
You might have to start the movie and let Media Center access the internet to go through its barrage of security measures to be sure you're within the realm of the law and can play the movie on your device before performing the above steps. When I denied it access to the internet through Zonealarm it told me it couldn't play "this type of file." Which was funny since I'd just finished the watching the movie (Eragon) and only re-inserted it to verify the menu options for this write-up.
That single "feature" might send me back to XP, especially if I can find a suitable open source alternative for Blu-Ray playback. Media Player Classic nor VLC seem to have worked. I'll search the forums and be googling for a solution until I either find one or give up on Blu-Ray (googling "1 goat, 1 long knife" yields a discussion that makes me think I'll be doing the latter). Any suggestions would, of course, be appreciated.
I still like the laptop, but I'll admit I'm a bit disillusioned. It's my own fault for not researching it a bit more, and I don't really think it would affect the average user, but I still say that user-friendliness should trump most other things, including phoning-home every time a disc is to be played and fouling up the movie's playback. And assuming everyone is a crook and requiring an internet verification each time a disc is played doesn't seem too user friendly, especially when it affects the overall experience. I guess there are a lot of people out there (read as non-geeks who probably don't visit these types of forums) who either don't run firewalls or just press "allow" every time a prompt comes up.
Another victim of the format wars, I suppose. It's just a scratch, but I still feel wounded.
Would I still buy the system? Yes. I still think it's a good value.
Would I be as impressed by the included Blu-Ray drive? Maybe not. If this one has a catastrophic failure and I have to go pick out something else then I'd likely choose a non-Blu-Ray solution. Especially now that Best Buy doesn't seem to be selling this one anymore.