Acer Aspire AS2003LMi
At a Glance
The Acer Aspire AS2003LMi (one of several models in the Aspire 2000 series) packs a lot of great features into its svelte silver case. First, the screen is a 15.4-inch, wide-aspect, 1280-by-800-pixel WXGA beauty driven by a top-shelf ATI Mobility Radeon 9200 graphics chip and 64MB of graphics memory. On the notebook's left side, a slot-fed DVD-ROM and CD-RW combination drive provides a cleaner look than the usual tray style drives. A four-in-one card reader on the front of the notebook accepts Memory Stick, SmartMedia, or SD (Secure Digital) cards. Two nearby LED-lit buttons control the Bluetooth (not installed in our unit) and 802.11b wireless network interfaces.
The notebook's flashy audio controls, which remain exposed when you close the lid, include an extralarge stop button and an LCD console. The Arcade button lets you listen to CDs without turning on the notebook--a boon for those who travel a lot and want to listen to music in hotel rooms without having to carry a separate audio CD player. When the notebook is running, the button launches Acer Arcade software, an all-in-one multimedia center for burning discs, editing video, and creating slide shows complete with background music.
The AS2003LMi has a good selection of basic connections, too, including three USB 2.0 ports, an S-Video-out port, a FireWire port, and a parallel port. Two memory slots give room for expanding the RAM from the 512MB that was included on our review unit, though one of the slots is located beneath the keyboard and is a pain to access (the other is in the more conventional compartment on the bottom of the notebook). Meanwhile, the hard-drive tray slides out easily from its bottom compartment, and you don't need a screwdriver to remove it. The notebook has a tough metallic skin and sturdy panels covering its compartments, yet for a notebook with such a big screen it's remarkably light, weighing only 7 pounds, or a travel weight of 8.1 pounds including the AC adapter.
The AS2003LMi lasted 4.5 hours on one battery charge and brought home a PC WorldBench 4 score of 126; both results are in the range we've seen for other similarly equipped notebooks. However, though the slot DVD drive looks cool, you can't swap it out and replace it with a second battery for long trips.
The roomy keyboard allows easy typing and has a row of four programmable launch buttons at the top. The stylish black touchpad stands out from the rest of the case and is proportioned similarly to the wide screen. The mouse buttons are oversized to match, and there's a four-way scroll key, but they seem stiffer and more difficult to press than those on most notebooks; we found them a bit of a chore to use.
The only other major disappointment is the sound. Despite having a subwoofer on the bottom and stereo speakers that run prominently down either side of the keyboard, music sounded weak and flat.
A convenient slot-fed rewritable DVD drive and a beautiful 15.4-inch screen are nice touches. The good battery life and performance make this notebook an ideal traveling companion.