I was at the Acer launch of their Aspire Gemstone laptop line in New York and was very impressed with their new showing. Of course the fact they started with one of my favorite driving tunes (eiffle 55s Blue – which my wife hates) helped a lot.
Acer made a lot out of their relationship with Dolby, in fact they are one of the first manufacturers to use Dolby’s enhanced Home Theatre and Sound Room offerings.
When in use, these notebooks rank up there with the best I’ve ever heard and it actually has a built-in 5.1 sound system with more speakers (5 plus a real subwoofer) than most people probably have in their cars. Without the Dolby stuff I doubt this would work very well but with Dolby they actually create a sound depth that is impressive for such a small product.
One of the unique aspects of the offering is a touch sensitive control they call the CiniDash allowing you to control the multimedia experience without the menus that typically pop up to break the movie experience. It is actually a rather cool physical interface and sits at the opposite end of the keyboard from where the number pad typically is.
Apple has been all about sound and video as of late but their laptop lines don’t really embrace the playback side as aggressively as this line from Acer does.
Screens are impressive as well and the high-end 8920G has a whopping 1920×1080 HD resolution on an 18” screen and the 6920G has the option of a similar resolution on a 16” screen. (Apple’s Macbook Pro gets really close with 1280 by 1050 native resolution and has the advantage of being LED backlit).
Safest Blu- Ray
Even though Apple is a supporter of Blu-Ray, they have yet to deliver a Blu-Ray solution, and those in the know realize that Blu-Ray decks are basically incomplete, waiting for the 2.0 versions to arrive late summer. Until then, only the PS3 and PC products are protected from being prematurely obsolete and this the one of the few laptop lines that has a Blu-Ray drive option.
The advantage to a Blu-Ray laptop is that you can not only update it, you can take it with you so that Blu-Ray movies aren’t just a single room experience. Let’s say you have a Blu-Ray deck and want to finish or watch a movie in the car or in your bedroom. You’ll typically have to buy or rent a regular DVD because you aren’t likely to pull a deck or PS3 out of the living room nor are you likely to wire your car for a Blu-Ray player but a laptop is portable and can even go with you on vacation. This makes a laptop Blu-Ray solution one of the most versatile and least risky of the set (for those not into gaming it probably is a better investment than a PS3).
Coupled with the Dolby based multimedia features, this makes this product a rather decent entertainment machine.
Blue is probably my favorite color. One Christmas shortly after buying a white MR2 I saw a blue one and, without telling my wife (something I wouldn’t recommend by the way), I traded in this almost new white car for a much hotter ice blue version. I told my wife, after the fact, that I needed it to match the color of my eyes. She wasn’t impressed.
Jokes aside, the color of these Acer notebooks is incredibly close to the blue of that MR2 which I still remember as one of my favorite cars. The Acer logo is in raised relief and backlit much like the Apple is on the back of many Apple products. Not only is this good branding but it is visually stunning and I often wonder why more companies don’t do this.
You have to see this color in person as photographs don’t really convey its depth. This is one place where I often think Apple falls short because they offer, at least on their PC products, only silvers, whites and blacks. The Macs actually look really good in color, and ColorWare specializes in fulfilling that demand but they are really pricey .
While not copying Apple on design, with this line, Acer is showing a similar focus on it and the result really is very nice.
User Experience – The Longest Yard
Where Apple excels is in the user experience and part of the reason they excel is they own the OS and most of the core applications they deliver on the Mac. This is a huge gap to close because Microsoft typically guards their UI and keeps firms from making significant changes. However there are several manufacturers indicating they are planning on challenging this strongly in the future and Acer, at the launch event, seemed to suggest they are as well.
You will see that with this product they redid the interface for the Dolby sound system and made it their own suggesting they are seriously looking to go where only Apple, at least recently, has gone before. This is one area where Apple continues to stand out and one that every Windows vendor would like to be able to improve sharply.
Whether or not you are in the market for a notebook computer (at 16” and 18” these really aren’t road warrior boxes) this line is worth seeing much like it is worth going to check out hot new cars at the dealership even if you don’t want to buy one. These are products taken nearly to the level of art, something you historically didn’t see much of outside of Apple, and as a result they are very easy on the eyes.
It’s nice to see this focus on design move between vendors with HP, Dell, and now with Acer raising the bar as competition moves from who can build the cheapest box to who can build the most beautiful. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder but I’m just pleased to be seeing more of it.
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