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on December 7, 2012
"Long and dark, shiny and black ... open up your engines, let `em roar, tearin' up the highway like a big old dinosaur!" said Springsteen about Cadillac Ranch, and the same could be said of this four hundred dollar laptop from Acer. I got it as a desktop replacement to run Windows 8 as well as indie PC games, and I think it's going to work out fine.

It's a big, heavy, shiny black plastic thing, portable but not light. Hinges and latch move well. The screen is bright and sharp, with adequate but not great viewing angles. I wouldn't mind watching a movie on this screen, but it would be difficult to share it with someone else given these viewing angles. I suppose you could consider this a privacy feature. The chiclet style keyboard has full size keys with good tactile feedback and an intelligent layout. The full-size number keys are particularly welcome. I wish it were backlit but that's something for a higher-end machine. Functions such as media playback, volume control, and brightness control require two hands -- one to press the function key on the left side, and another to press the desired action. Not optimal but fair enough considering the price.

There's a webcam with microphone and a "Dolby Home Theater" speaker grille up front, both of which work as expected. The large trackpad is off center with the screen but lines up nicely with the keyboard, and is responsive to touch. The trackpad buttons are easy to hit with your thumbs. Up front is an SD card slot, which SHOT THE COVER ACROSS THE ROOM when I tapped it to eject it. Be careful with your photos when loading them onto this machine!

Ports on the left side of the machine: Power (where it should be, near the recessed power button), gigabit ethernet, a large exhaust vent, a full size VGA port, HDMI out, USB 3.0, microphone, and headphone jacks. Ports on the right side: Kensington security slot (I wonder about its usefulness given the plasticy feel of the machine), a pop-out DVD tray, and two USB 2.0 slots, unfortunately right where a right-handed person would want to use a plug-in mouse.

Wifi-N is superfast, the 500GB hard drive speed is a bit pokey but acceptable, system boot speed is quick, and graphics performance is wonderful for the price. A8 Vision from AMD is considered the budget gamer card of choice, and it does not disappoint. I threw every 3D game from my Steam collection at it, and the only title that required me to turn down the graphical detail was Star Wars: The Old Republic, and then only down halfway while running at full resolution.

The system ships with Windows 8, which is a mixed bag -- check the reviews elsewhere for that. It's as schizophrenic as they say, but it's probably going to get better with software updates. The Acer suite of pre-installed software is innocuous and easy to remove.

Verdict? If you want an inexpensive laptop that can play games and run Windows 8, this is certainly worth a look.

UPDATE: I've added some new hardware to this machine. It's no longer a four hundred dollar laptop, but know this: the machine can take 16GB of 1600MHz DDR3 RAM (despite the manufacturer saying it maxes out at 8GB), which bumps the Windows memory rating up to 7. Add a solid state hard drive and the storage i/o rating goes up to 8. Both upgrades, especially the SSD, really make this machine /sing/.

UPDATE #2: The Wifi driver is inexplicably set to power down by default, which explains the unreliability some people have reported. Solving this problem requires you to simply uncheck the box in the wireless network interface Properties pane.
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on January 24, 2013
I've spent a few days with this laptop and I absolutely love it. Though it has shortcomings, the outstanding price/performance far outweighs them. I could throw a slew of benchmarks at you that I've done on this laptop, however, that would do little to represent real world performance. I'll try and keep this as short as I can.

Right off the bat I should say that I upgraded to 8 GB of RAM. There are two RAM slots and you can throw up to two 8gb SODIMMs in this thing for a total of 16gb if you'd like. Although, I would recommend just 8gb. If you want to optimize your graphics performance (which uses the system RAM) spend a little extra and get memory clocked at 1600mhz. I always recommend G.Skill memory products and after installing 8gb of it into this laptop, (for gaming) I jumped an entire preset up in most games, sometimes two presets. I mention this right away because I want to make it clear that upgrading the RAM in this machine will make it shine.

The included HDD is 5400rpm. It's passable, but will slow down loading for larger programs where a lot of data is involved like Photoshop, video editing software, and games. I wouldn't necessarily recommend an upgrade to an SSD unless you want to put up the cash for a high capacity drive. I'd stay away from 7200 rpm HDDs unless you want to cut your battery by 20% or if battery capacity isn't important to you.

Speaking of battery life, It's alright. It's average for it's class, getting around 4 hours on a full charge - more if you conserve with no audio, video, or heavy use. Less if you are doing any gaming while not plugged in. Keep screen brightness down for best results.

The keyboard is fine. It's comfortable to type on and the trackpad is well positioned and sized. My only gripe with input devices is the keyboard not being backlit. The numberpad is a nice touch also.

The screen, while average resolution, is pretty nice. Color reproduction isn't very good (for all you artists), however text is very readable and the display generally looks great in most lighting conditions. The viewing angles are just okay, but some may consider that a positive for privacy.

The speakers are above average for laptops in this class, however nothing amazing. The sound is clear and gets fairly loud. However, as is a problem with most laptops, bass is almost non-existent.

Enough ports to get the job done, and USB 3.0 is a nice touch, albeit a little anemic at a single port.

Windows 8 is okay. I'm sure that it will only get better with time, but I've encountered many bugs with the OS so far that have almost made me switch to 7. After getting them fixed though, I'm pleased with how the OS works. The learning curve can be steep if you're used to 7 and not prone to picking things up quickly. Microsoft took 8 out of the oven before it was done, but it's really close to being a great operating system.

A quick note on upgrading. Everything is easily accessible via a removable hatch under the unit towards the front. Good call, Acer.

The processor, while not as powerful per core as a lowly Sandy Bridge Core i3, is actually quite speedy with four cores and "turbo core". I've had no bottlenecks with everyday use and gaming. The only situation where the AMD silicon has let me down is multimedia editing. Photo and video editing is clearly this CPUs shortcoming. While not terrible, the i3 outclasses it by at least 10% under full load. The Intel architecture is simply better and more efficient. Don't let this hold you back from purchasing this if you're on the cusp however. I, myself, am a photographer and use have used this in the field on numerous occasions to great effect.

As I said right off the bat, the graphics performance can be greatly improved with an upgrade to the RAM, as the integrated solution uses the onboard RAM as VRAM. For you gamers on a budget, this is a great buy! But, you should manage your expectations. This is a laptop. The hardware is specifically designed to work with a 1366x786 res screen. If you plan on hooking this up to a 1080p display, remember you might need to back off on the post processing a bit. While I don't have specific benchmarks as I couldn't get my license of FRAPS to play nice with Windows 8, here are a few games and basic presets this machine is capable of with the specified RAM upgrade: Fallout 3 - High (Barely Playable on Ultra) , SW:TOR - Medium , Skyrim - High , Borderlands 2 - Medium , Saint Row/Third - High , Portal 2 - MAX.

I hope this review was helpful. I highly recommend this laptop for almost anyone. With or without a few hardware upgrades, it is worth every bit of the price tag and more.
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on November 14, 2012
I have an older Acer laptop, and it's served me well for about the past 5 years. My wife was finally up for having one of her own. We wanted state-of-the-art, but didn't have an exorbitant budget.
I was hesitant about Windows 8, but she loves it! We're learning through trial and error what programs work with Windows 8 (LibreOffice won't install, yet OpenOffice will).
Still, a real good laptop.
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on December 27, 2012
In a house with over a half dozen computers (iMacs to full blown gaming rigs), two laptops and a few tablets, weaklings are quickly discarded. This little rig runs great, is more than capable of casual gaming, holds a charge and is very easy to get used to. Windows 8 is still a bit frustrating, but we're getting there. Got the Logitech T650 with it, and the two work together perfectly. Learning gestures is something completely new, and is much harder for me than my 9 y/o son who this laptop was bought for. He had limited exposure to Win7, so is taking to Win8 like a duck to water, and once you get over the appearance differences, there is a familiar interface underneath, so I can make adjustments and set some things up for him. The smaller working area of the touchpad is a benefit to his small hands, but often makes my old hands feel like clumsy hams on ropes, and using Win7 since beta, every day, on many different PCs significantly steepened my learning curve for 8. I'll keep Win7 on my workhorse rigs, but for younger, more permeable minds, Win8 really is very slick and works in a fairly obvious fashion.
The laptop itself is very functional, looks great (but is a fingerprint magnet), and so far has no heat issues. Everything works as it should, software installs and uninstalls without a hitch, and there doesn't appear to be an overabundance of bloatware pre-installed. The first couple of hours, as usual, were uninstalling all the "free" junk, setting up his user account, syncing with apps I already had from G Play and Amazon that were compatible, getting a good AV, virtual disk and network/file explorer installed, a media suite (we have a media server for all the household devices and as it has to be cross-platform, no PC will natively be able to play the files), set up his email and online accounts, and he was off to the races.

It is all plastic, so time will tell if will hold up, but at this price point, we're not expecting a tank. Have not found any "quirks" like a few of our other laptops have had (Toshiba in particular), and so far, it is reasonably fast, runs like a little top, and is remarkably unremarkable in that it just does what you want it to do without any quibbling. I don't know what else one could ask for without spending a LOT more. Retina? No. Server? No. Tournament FPS gaming rig? Not quite. But for a student/gamer/netizen/app junky on a budget? Perfect.
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on March 29, 2013
I've been debating between Lenovo and Acer, and this laptop was going for a lower price during the Cyber Monday. All my friends were against this company because for some reason their Acer laptops did not work properly. It was also the first computer with AMD processor I was getting. What I'm going to say? I love it so far. I added extra 4 gigs of RAM because I work with music on this little guy.
It is stylish (but attracts dust and fingerprints), not so heavy (for 15-inch), and big enough. The touch pad is comfortable (after using Dell and Sony laptops); it is like Lenovo's.
I'm giving four stars because of the graphic card. I work with Photoshop CS6, and the picture goes black when you select it sometimes. It is a pretty common problem for Radeon cards, as I found out, but it can be fixed, if you switch to lighter settings. Saying more, these lighter settings work for me much better than the fancy ones (I could not get used to them).
Windows 8 is fun to play with. Not a bad system, but I mostly spend my time on desktop without using apps.

So, if you are still thinking about purchasing, I would say do so. AMD is not a bad processor; it is four-core and works pretty fast; however, I would recommend paying $50-60 more and getting some extra RAM for this guy because it can make your life even better!


Update 1/16/2013

So, one week before the warranty supposed to be expired, a charging part got broken. I immediately contacted Acer, and they said they will fix this issue. I mailed the laptop while I was out of the country, and expected it to be fixed by the time I will come back. Nothing was fixed whatsoever! The issue stayed, and now the laptop does not even charge! So, I waisted money for shipping for nothing!
AVOID THIS BRAND AS HELL!!! NEVER BUY ANYTHING FROM ACER!!! Because if you will do, expect little to none customer service regarding your warranty. They don't do their job at all, and you will waste your nerves trying to fix it. I'LL NEVER DEAL WITH THIS BRAND AGAIN!
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on June 23, 2013
Let me start out by saying this is a very good laptop!
With taxes and shipping, the order came out to about $460..And for the specs of this machine, that was a pretty good price. Set up was super easy, only took about 20 minutes and I had it up and running. The speed of the laptop was very fast. The keyboard feels right to type on if that makes any sense. The trackpad is a little stiff in the beginning, but you get used to it. It can also get in the way while typing, and accidentally pressing it happens a lot. This is why I recommend using an external mouse. The screen is nice and bright, but the viewing angles aren't too great, The ports on both sides of the laptop feel like they're in the most useful spots.

The 4gb of RAM and AMD Radeon HD 7640g so far has run every game I threw at it. The 500gb 5400rpm hard drive makes sure you can download all of those games you want.

It comes with a 1.3mp webcam and mic, though I don't have any use for these. But I did test them out with skype, and so far they seem like they aren't too bad. The speakers are what you expect from a built in speaker. They get loud, but they aren't movie quality speakers. If you want an above average listening experience, you might want to buy some external speakers or headphones. Battery life while just surfing the web and listening to music, it's about 4.5-5 hours. If you plan to game, I might just keep it on the adapter since gaming takes a lot of power.

Overall this laptop is a very good buy, and at $419.99 this laptop is a steal. I used to do a lot of my gaming on my desktop, but I'll probably be doing more gaming on this laptop since it's portable, so it's more convenient.


I have since bought another 4gb of RAM to have a total of 8gb, and you might see that a lot of the reviewers of this laptop also bought another 4gb. It's a good idea to do so, an extra 4gb doesn't hurt and it makes the machine really shine. Bootup speed has been cut in half, and applications open faster. I highly recommend the extra RAM.
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on August 30, 2014
This is a good solid computer for college. I learned the hard way with a cheap Dell model, taking the time to download all my music and software, to find out within 2 days it wasn't working correctly. This Acer computer is a good buy for the money, not too cheap and not too expensive in cost or quality. I love the ten-key on it too. I added a Wacom Tablet and mouse to give my hand some ease at home from the trackpad. You may want to at least add a mouse.
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on December 14, 2012
I owned 2 Acer Aspires previously. The last one was fully loaded and more then I ever needed, picked it up for around $500. Well it officially was laid to rest last night but the hard drive was still good. I went to Compusa and found this Acer. Another great deal on a BEAST of a computer. I paid $450 ($50 mail in rebate) so $400 after rebate. I have been playing on it for a good 2 hours and love, love, love how fast this system is. I am a big movie downloader and with a 500gig HD this puppy takes whatever I throw at it with ease. Again I am a dedicated Acer customer, its my 3rd laptop in many years and again......great product! Good work Acer!!!
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on March 27, 2013
as a student i find this laptop to fulfill all my needs. as a gamer. i can say it is the perfect laptop for the casual gamer, the quad core and graphics card makes this a perfect cheap laptop yet this is not for the hardcore gamer, don't expect to play terra on this which is why i give it 4 stars not 5,

Here are the benchmarks with the settings i played:
Age of empires III: high with low shades, at least 110 fps
APB reloaded: had to put settings to med yet i played it smoothly
batman arkham city: med-high settings and has good speed
counter strike global offence: high and high fps
far cry 2: high and high fps
Gotham city impostors: med settings with good game speed, you can go high but expect some lower fps but not too drastic
left 4 dead 2: high and high fps
star wars: old republic: high and at least 60 fps.

i will try skyrim and far cry 3 in the future.

overall this laptop works very well and i am glad with my purchase.
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on June 13, 2013
I have purchased every brand of computer out there in my personal capacity, as a business owner, and practice manager of a statewide medical practice and Acer quickly became one of my favorite "go to" brands because they were inexpensive while also being, by far, the best value (as in you get more computer for your money), plus, I never had any problems with any of them--ever (and we had some people who could do a number on computers). Overall, in one capacity or another I've bought five Acer laptops and desktops alone, second only to Apple products (which I started using in 2005 and never stopped).

I say that to premise my experience with my purchase of this, particular Acer because, based on my prior experiences, I think I was incredibly unlucky to get a dud with this computer and therefore would not hesitate to buy another Acer. I would not, however, buy this particular laptop.

I was shocked when I was actually talking to a friend on Skype who, suffice to say, is an "IT person" (it would, in reality, be an insult to call him that), the computer was on standby as we were discussing some configuration options, when there suddenly appeared a message on the screen indicating that the computer was shutting down because it was too hot. When I attempted to restart the computer, it was dead as a door nail (indicative of the motherboard going out, according to my "IT person" who saw what happened and said he had never seen something like that happen in 30 years (hence my conclusion that my experience with this particular laptop is not indicative of Acer's products)).

Unfortunately, I bought the computer when I was in a crunch and therefore was not able to deal with trying to return a computer to Amazon (rather than a "brick and mortar" store) within the 30 days. I have not yet to be able trying to navigate the warranty replacement under Acer and have no idea whether that will be "quick and painless" or whether it will be like dealing with Dell 10 years ago (which was an absolute nightmare curing me of ever being tempted to buy another Dell). As it is now, it's just another problem to deal with for which I have not had time.

That being said, as far as the actual computer goes, I liked it; however--and bear in mind that I used the computer for less than 20 hours and never even had it fully configured, in hindsight I think the Acer Aspire One AO756 that is currently being sold by Amazon for $299 is the best value for money spent. The Aspire One has 8 gigs of memory, dual cores (which is all you need if you won't be running any virtual machines on it, as I was planning to do), Intel, and a 320 or 500 gig hard drive. I forget the speed on the AO756, but whatever it is, I did not notice a difference in performance between the AO756 and this laptop. The most obvious difference between the two is that the AO756 has an 11.6 inch screen, which is preferable to me anyway because if I'm using the laptop's screen as my main screen rather than having it displaying on a monitor, then under almost any circumstances 15 inches is just to bulky and cumbersome.

Theses are two different computers and, looking at the specs, the AO756 might not seem comparable, but I think most people would not detect an appreciable difference. I purchased this laptop because I wanted to run a virtual machine on it and therefore needed the extra power, but I don't think most people do that (I would have no idea how or why I would want to do that absent my friend's suggestion).

I hope this helps someone who might be on the fence trying to figure out the differences between the various models and price points.
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