February 26, 2010, 10:02 PM — The Acer Aspire 5740-6378 parks itself next to most midrange laptops. It feels fast enough for all common productivity applications; carries a big, 15.6-inch screen; and has nearly all the inputs and outputs you could want. But it never reaches beyond that middle ground. Its big screen makes it a good portable movie player, but without a dedicated graphics processor or 1080p resolution, it balks at gaming and high-end media. If you can get by with only adequate video performance--and matching audio, trackpad, and battery performance for that matter--the Aspire achieves its midrange aspirations: It's not too slow and not too fast. Many will want more, but for some, it will be just right. And at a price around $800, it won't break the bank.
This laptop's case design manages to include a full keyboard--including a number pad--and a 1366-by-768-pixel, 15.6-inch screen without feeling bloated. At 5.8 pounds, it's as comfortable on a lap as on a desk. We're used to bigger-screen laptops elbowing into everything nearby, but this system was surprisingly svelte.
The Aspire's basic performance earned it solid scores for its price level. It earned an overall score of 101 in our WorldBench 6 test suite, putting it on an even footing with many costlier systems. The 2.27GHz Core i5-430m processor and 4GB of RAM provide that speed. A 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium comes preinstalled. In real-world use, we easily rifled through dozens of Firefox windows, worked with Office and other productivity applications, and otherwise used the system for typical multitasking.
Gamers, however, should consider another system. At low resolutions (and expectations), we wrung out just enough speed to play Left 4 Dead 2, but nearly every other recent game was too demanding; as noted, this Aspire lacks a dedicated graphics processor. At least you can fill dull moments in the college dorm or between business meetings with casual, untaxing games.
The keyboard felt tight and responsive, but the trackpad is one of the laptop's biggest flaws. We could never get comfortable mousing around, with fingers regularly drifting off the pad, since we couldn't feel a distinct border at its edge. We also slipped past the scrolling strip, but the raised, plastic divider helped keep us oriented.
The mouse button is also weak, with a single plastic rectangle mounted on a seesaw left- and right-click switch; it takes much more pressure to click near the middle than at the edges. And you can't click on the center inch at all. We'd prefer two different buttons or a mechanism without that flaw.