The Good: Inexpensive, Easy-to-use, Fast, Good capacity, Good screen, Powerful Wi-fi
The Bad: Battery life is shorter than advertised, No light for keyboard.
The Basics: A truly great laptop for most users, the only serious limitation with the Acer Aspire 5532 is in its battery!
Computer professionals are a very specific lot of people who are exceptionally technically-minded and speak a language that is all their own. This makes communicating between them very precise, professional and jargon-filled. It also makes a lot of reviews done by such writers useless to those who do not know the jargon. Knowing computer language means not only knowing the epitaphs for one company's products, but knowing the related products from other companies and, often, the comparative strengths and weaknesses of them.
This is not that kind of review.
Instead, this is a review by someone who sits down, uses a computer and compares it to other computers in experience ways. If you want the technical data, there is a Death Star's worth of information available by clicking the sales links on this review, which will tell you all of the technical specifications of the Acer Aspire 5532. If you want to know that all of that means in real-world terms and experiences before buying one of these, then this might well be the most helpful review for you!
A month ago, my brother purchased an Acer Aspire 5532 “just because.” His criteria were relatively simple: he wanted a laptop computer with a wi-fi connection and he did not want to spend more than $400 before tax. As it turned out, Best Buy had the Aspire 5532 on sale for $389.99 and that pushed my brother, mother and I out on a comparative shopping adventure. Ultimately, what sold me on the Acer Aspire 5532 (I had my iPod Touch with me and I took notes on all of the laptop computers in his price range) was the amount of RAM and the quoted battery life (almost four hours). There were other laptop computers in the same price range which had more hard drive space, but less RAM and/or battery lives which were drastically shorter (in the one hour to two hour range!).
As a result, my brother – and I, as I have been allowed to poke around on it for the last few weeks helping him set things up and experimenting for the purpose of reviewing – has been generally happy with his purchase and the Acer Aspire 5532 laptop has met most of his criteria, with a few pleasant bonuses. With closed dimensions of 14 ¾” wide (left to right when laying the unit flat and looking at it) by 10” deep (front to back) by 1 5/8” tall (top to bottom), the Acer Aspire 5532 laptop computer is one of the larger laptop computers on the market today. While several computer manufacturers seem to be going for smaller – purse-size and palm-size – computers, Acer seems to want the user to actually be able to see what they are doing with the Aspire 5532 laptop. I tend to like that.
The Aspire 5532 runs on an Athlon 64 processor with an HD3200 Graphics card. What does that mean? Beats me; right now I'm writing on my wife's computer and she has a computer running on a Pentium 4. My brother's laptop computer is faster with booting up and running complex programs. The Athlon 64 seems to be designed to run Windows 7 and it takes less than a minute to boot the computer up, whereas my wife's computer takes a minute and a half to boot up Windows XP. The speed of the Athlon 64 makes it possible to boot the laptop up in about forty-five seconds and while that might not seem significant, every minute counts when one is operating a laptop on a battery. The 3 GB of RAM also insure fast loading and shutting down of the 5532.
To date, the computer has had no crashes and the longest it took to load anything was the initial installation of Windows 7. Since then, adding new programs and using them has been fast and efficient. Perhaps the best example of the impressiveness of the speed of the processor is that it took less than three minutes to run a full antiviral scan on the 160 GB hard drive. My computer, which is five years old, takes over an hour to run a scan of a hard drive that is less than a GB! So, the processor speeds on the laptops have clearly gotten to the point where they are able to do many complex things at one time without slowing down. At most, I've had a game, two internet windows and a word processing/accounting program open without anything freezing up or showing any noticeable lag on the computer!
The 5532 has a 15.6” HD LCD screen and built-in speakers. The 15.6” is the diagonal measurement of the screen and it is a beautifully, glossy LCD screen which has exceptional color differentiation. The current test DVD I use for such things (this comes with an installed CR-ROM/DVD-ROM drive) is “Across The Universe” because it makes fabulous use of lush colors and the sound depth of the movie is also quite extraordinary. Playing the DVD in the Aspire 5532 was actually eye-opening. First, despite the picture being smaller, the resolution was better than on my mother's 40” SONY flatscreen. The difference here is the HD difference and the graphics accelerator. The standard television playing the DVD presents the information from the DVD in a basic way; the information is there, but it doesn't “know” how to make it look better. The DVD player and HD screen in the Aspire 5532 does; the resolution on things like facial stubble are exceptional so whereas stubble looks more like a dark mat on the face on my mother's large SONY, on the Aspire 5532 screen, despite it being smaller, the resolution is so good you can count the individual hairs!
One presumes that this would work at least as well for computer games. The color contrast on the Aspire 5532 is exceptional and when my partner and I looked at some of her photographs on the 5532’s HD screen, we were surprised by some of the color depths that came out which were not evident on her usual computer monitor. This difference can actually make the Aspire 5532 an excellent option for professional photographers who might want a portable digital processing lab; why upgrade your monitor when you can do exceptional work on this inexpensive unit with the fabulous monitor?
My wife loaded a photo manipulation program to my brother's laptop and in addition to being quite wild about the color contrasts, she was impressed by the speed of the rendering of images. Both my wife and I have done a bit of digital photography and while she has gone professional with hers, I found myself limited by equipment. In order to take the highest resolution pictures with my digital camera, I would only get a few pictures per picture card before having to upload them to my computer. This had the net effect of me losing a lot of spontaneous image opportunities (the reload time between taking pictures was excessive the greater the picture quality on the digital camera) and getting frustrated when I would go back to my PC to upload images. At the highest image resolution for my cheap digital camera, it took several minutes to render (translate from the digital camera to an image the PC understands and can show) the highest resolution images and, frankly, with my monitor, I did not see much of a difference. But with the Aspire 5532, an objective test made that so clear it was scary. The lowest resolution images looked good, the medium resolution images looked like I was looking through a window as I looked at the screen and the highest resolution images (the ones which took 150 MB to take) were like I was back in the setting. The HD screen on the Aspire 5532 has a hyper-reality sense to the highest quality images. Not only are the color contrasts rich and lush, there is no pixilation when zooming in on this monitor. With the highest resolution of image, the Aspire’s monitor it like an HD window into an alternate reality.
Because my brother is not a very technical-minded or game oriented, the only games we've played on the 5532 are not graphics intensive ones, like Scrabble and Wheel Of Fortune. They loaded in and played without delays or any problems. The graphics moved fluidly (well, Vanna waved and walked well) and moving between programs while the games were running was flawless, without any problems or delays when starting or stopping. The Aspire 5532 seems to be able to multitask exceptionally well.
Opposite the monitor is the base of the computer which has the basic controls. The bottom half has a pretty standard keyboard and after a month of use, none of the keys stick or are in any way problematic to use. What I found a little more difficult was the touchpad mouse. I've gotten used to touchpad mice on my MacBooks, so basic usage is fine for me. The problem I found with the Aspire 5532’s mousepad is the same color and feel of the bottom of the keyboard. It has two buttons right below, but the mousepad is only a slightly raised surface and it feels the same way as the plastic at the bottom of keyboard below the spacebar. Rather annoyingly, because I work in low light a lot, this means I've missed the mousepad a lot and by touch it is a pain to find. As well, the keyboard is only lit by the power button which is a button above the keyboard (it's virtually impossible to accidentally hit the power button to mess up the computer, though it has to be shut off using the software, so it's not much of a risk anyway). Because I work in low light a lot, this makes it difficult to see the keys at times and I would have preferred a keyboard that had keys that light up. This further limits the usage for travelers; it cannot be used on a dark bus or car easily, for example.
The sound system is very average. When I played Across The Universe, the sound was decent stereo sound that came out through the computer's speakers. This is nothing to write home about, but they were on par or better than those of the average television sound system.
The Aspire 5532 comes with 2 USB ports on the left side which allow me to plug things like flash drives and my iPods in to trade information easily between computers. There is also a port which seems designed to allow me to hook the 5532 up to other monitors, but the cords for that did not come with the computer.
But the best selling point (after the fact) for me was the wi-fi connection. My wife and I have a Playstation 3 upstairs in our bedroom and we cannot take advantage of the wi-fi connection, because of where we live. No matter how we orient the Playstation 3 in our room, it just does not connect us to the internet. My brother's Aspire 5532 used in the dining room below our bedroom found not only one wireless server, but two, allowing him to get online. And the speed was something which I was not prepared for. I am used to my dial-up connection and the high speed connection at the local library. The 5532 connects to the internet using a connection that is imperceptibly different from the high speed connection at the library, even with multiple programs running. It astonished me how fast my brother's computer could download programs. The best example I can give was that we caught up with a missed episode of Lost using his laptop. After the initial buffering, there were no delays in playing back a full episode of the program, even though it was downloading it pretty constantly!
The flip side is that the computer does have a drawback that I was a little annoyed by and robs it of perfection for me. The battery life is not as good as promised. When my brother purchased the Aspire 5532, one of the key selling points I used to steer my brother toward this computer was that it claimed to have a battery life of just under four hours. Using the computer on battery power, our experiences put the battery out at two hours, fifty minutes, consistently. This makes it tougher to use for travel, which is the ideal reason to have a laptop in my mind, anyway. On the plus side, when plugged in – even while being used while plugged in – the battery in the 5532 manages to charge back to full power within two hours. For the purposes of testing and review, I've been using this on battery power during the days while my brother plugs it in at night and uses it. Over the last six months, we've found no degradation of the battery with such constant drain and recharging, so that's not bad.
My brother largely uses the Aspire 5532 to play on the internet and play DVDs while traveling and this computer is excellent for that. I've discovered it's great for graphics rendering – more for pictures than homemade movies – and with the monitor quality, it is likely to change the standards by which people with older computers and laptops judge such things. Most people, I suspect, are not using their laptop for advanced warfare or even the most intense games, but for the basics, this is an exceptional, affordable laptop computer which ought to meet the needs of virtually every traveler.
My brother, FYI, is a bit of a klutz at times and he has dropped his 5532 on its side three times now. Despite his initial freak-out, the computer has a decent durability which has allowed it to resist damage by such falls. This, too, makes it ideal for travelers.
For other computer products, please check out my reviews of:
iPad 64 GB
Envision EN-7100si Monitor
HP LaserJet 1200 Laser Printer
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© 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.