Acer Aspire 3003LCi
At a Glance
Acer Aspire 3003LCi Notebook
With built-in WiFi and decent performance, this could serve as a family portable or even a lean desktop replacement.
The Acer Aspire 3003LCi is a great choice for notebook shoppers unwilling to settle for minimal features even at $499 (including rebate and store-specific offers; otherwise, the price is $649). All this Windows XP Home-based consumer notebook lacks is productivity software.
Altogether, this good-looking 6-pound portable (weight is without cables and adapter; travel weight is 7 pounds) offers a lot more than most other $500 notebooks: a 15-inch XGA screen, a big 60GB hard drive, a combination DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive for burning your own CDs, and built-in Wi-Fi with a front LED and an off/on button. The comfortable touchpad-equipped keyboard includes extras usually found on more expensive notebooks, such as a separate mouse button with a center four-way scroll, and user-programmable shortcut keys for launching your favorite applications and Web sites at the press of a button. I would be tempted to buy the 3003LCi for its USB-port layout alone, which includes one of these handy all-purpose connections on the front (there are two others).
On top of everything else, the unit performed well: The 3003LCi's 1.8-GHz Mobile Sempron 3000+ processor and 512MB of RAM helped it edge past two other $500 notebooks PC World tested in early October. Its WorldBench 5 score of 68 is 16 percent faster than a Dell Inspiron 1200's score of 57, and 11 percent better than an HP Compaq M2000's score of 60. The Acer can't match mainstream notebooks, however, lagging the average of recently tested notebooks by about 10 points.
DVD movies looked fine, though the graphics aren't up for serious game play. And battery life will quickly leave you computing on empty: the unit lasted just 1 hour, 19 minutes in our test.
The 3003LCi has a couple of other flaws: brassy-sounding speakers and hard-to-pry-off panels covering the RAM and hard-drive compartments. But that's about it. The system comes with a decent, one-year warranty.
With its 60GB hard drive, 15-inch screen, built-in Wi-Fi, great keyboard, and decent performance, the $499 Acer Aspire 3003LCi could serve as a good family portable or even a lean desktop replacement.