Anyone whose mouth moistened at the recent news of Intel's $300m slush fund to help produce MacBook Air-style ‘ultrabooks’ can look away now. Acer’s latest luxury laptop, the Aspire Ethos 8951G, is a throwback to a more indulgent age. It's unapologetically out of step with the voguish preference for thin.
It has to be. Although Acer has created a relatively elegant chassis for the 18.4in Gorilla Glass screen, you can't get away from the fact that slipping this into a laptop bag is like carrying a small TV around with you.
Pull out pad
The real innovation here, though, is the trackpad. If you want to listen to music or watch films without sitting at your desk, this lifts out to become a wireless media remote, designed to be used with Acer's own Clear.fi software. There’s a small button in the top right to cycle it into a media mode, which illuminates a set of player control icons underneath the touch screen and disables the mouse.
It’s sublimely brilliant when used from afar. Unfortunately, it also makes it completely retrograde in its function as a trackpad – which we suspect will be 90% of its duties once the novelty wears off. Aside from being slightly unresponsive and a little sticky to the touch, there's no multitouch capability or even a side area for using the scroll bar.
Definitely a desktop replacement, then. And a well specced one at that. With a quad core processor and Nvidia Optimus graphics, there's not much that the Ethos can't handle. It'll do HD video editing like a pro, and is as happy using Photoshop as it is watching movies with the built-in Blu-ray drive. The graphics aren't as good as those in equivalently priced gaming notebooks, but there's only a small number of games this would struggle with.
If you're strong enough to take it out with you, there’s an impressive five to six hours of use to be found in the battery. When you’re plugged into the wall you can flick a switch on the bottom to disable the battery and lengthen its overall lifespan.
The screen’s a good one too. The contrast filter is a little overly reflective, but colours are punchy and text is sharp. Beneath that, the chiclet keyboard is well above Acer's usual standard. It’s both comfortable and well supported for fast typing. If you use the Ethos predominantly as a media centre you'll be making use of some of the best laptop speakers that we've ever heard.
The Ethos is a good all-round desktop replacement machine, and if you need that sort of all-round power in a just-about-portable form it’s a good option, but if you put portability, raw power or gaming skills above other priorities you’ll find alternatives that do a better job in each of those areas.