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Review: Acer 4530 [by NoCashBob]

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Right off the assembly line
I'll start everything off by saying that the Acer 4530 is a complete sleeper notebook, only lately popping up on some folks radar, but it sure is a good one. Don't be fooled, and don't let the Intel evangelists fool you either, this notebook, provided you get the right deal, is the best bang for your buck you're likely to see in some time! Please excuse the lousy pictures, my digital camera broke, and I had to use a camera phone.

Here in Canada, I bought the 4530 for $650CAD, or roughly RS25900 with the following specs:

AMD Athlon X2 64bit QL-60 @ 1.9Ghz.
3GB DDR667 In Unganged Dual Channel mode
Low Light WebCam
250GB SATA 150 HDD
Atheros a/b/g/n WiFi w/ WiMAX support
Gigabit 1000Mbit Ethernet
9100m-G Integrated mGPU
Vista Home Premium 32bit SP1
4400mAh 6-cell Battery
Sadly, NO BlueTooth in Canada models..

Upon opening the box, the first thing I noticed was the sturdy build quality. Many Acers of the past have been accused of flimsy or dodgy build quality, but let me tell you, this Acer is rock solid (although a few have complained of loose batteries..).
Looks-wise, the Acer sports a beautiful Blue Gem finish on it's top, complete with a matte black interior and a gorgeous, albeit a little over-bright glossy screen @1280x800 [16:10]. In this man's opinion, it is wonderfully understated, without coming off as boring at all. For looks I'm giving it a solid 4.5/5

For features, the Acer 4530 comes with 3 USB 2.0 ports, a VGA-out, Gigabit ethernet port, 56k Modem port, 3 mini-jacks, an Expresscard 54 slot, 5-in-1 Flash Card Reader, a 8x DVD Burner with DL support, and a volume wheel (that actually controls the OS volume mixer!) and a Low Light WebCam. The mGPU is integrated, and relies on system memory, but it's no slouch as it beats the HD3200 and the 8400 G Dedicated card. The feature set is respectable, but warrants a few notes of interest.

Firstly, there is no HDMI port, which some might balk about given the incredible PureVideo HD this mGPU supports. Secondly, found the USB ports can have different throughputs for a given device. This I found very odd, and only occured on a single USB card reader, but nonetheless was very curious.
On the bonus side, the fact there are 3 mini-jacks instead of 2 is a huge plus, although the current drivers do not allow reassignment, future drivers likely will. The trackpad on the 4530 is amazing, and works beautifully. It truly is a joy to manuever around without a mouse, not a pain like one might expect. Lastly, the WebCam is Fantastic! It is very smooth, and there's hardly any grain. Those who are used to Toshiba or HP WebCams will be very happy with this WebCam.
The keyboard is a mostly positive experience, although I personally found the shift button way to small, and putting a backslash key under the 'a' key is absolutely absurd. The keyboard if wonderful to type on if you can put up with that however, and is very tactile if not a little bit audible (but not ever enough to annoy even the most easily irratated).Points were deducted for the lack of HDMI, and for the lack of BlueTooth (feel free to add a half point if your model has BlueTooth, some do).
For features I give this Acer a 3.5/5

The layout is topped-off with an 'empowering' button, which is acers launchpad app, and five hotkeys. I'll note something here that might amaze all of you.. the Acer 'Empowering' launchpad actually doesn't suck! It is unobtrusive, takes nearly no memory, and is genuinely useful! It gives you access to ALL your power profiles and other options in the e-power app, backup options, and others which can be individually in/un-installed at a whim. I liked this app enough in fact, that after doing a fresh reformat and Windows install, I actually wanted to install the empowering launchpad, and did! One unusual thing is the placement of two currency keys on either side of the 'up' arrow.. it's not in the way at all, possibly it's even handy, but it is unusual. Keys are well laid out, especially the home..end setup. For layout I had to take a whole point off for horrendous placement of a backslash key beside the left shift button, killing what coould have been a perfect score. It really takes getting used to; regardless of this the layout still earns an enthusiastic 4/5

Performance wise, the Acer is no slouch, was quick to perform most all tasks I would have need of throwing at it. The fact that this notebook supports unganged Dual Channel mode means that even having a 1GB and 2GB ram setup, I still get to enjoy dual channel mode. When one of the Dimms gets full, it's simply operates in single channel mode from there on, this is something I love.
Games are no problem on this notebook, but don't expect to play Crysis on it, as that can only be done lowest resolution, and details at their lowest setting (although it plays quite fluently at this setting!) I however, personally get more enjoyment playing oblivion,Two Worlds, or Titans Quest on my Acer, so this doesn't bother me much. Value for Dollar, Bang for Buck, I give the 4530 a 4.5/5

Now here comes my overall impression, my tilt, my sway. but first I'll say that overall, based on averages the Acer 4530 earns a 4/5, but that's not the final word. I am going to add a bonus of a full point for overall worth, for overall bang for the buck, for taking the entire package as a whole and judging it. I really am enamoured with this notebook. I've never owned a notebook where the package as a whole seemed so complete, so competent, and at this price I can't help but recommend it, very very highly, to anyone looking for a great noteook on a budget.

Final Score: 4 / 5
My Personal Score: 5 /5

Recommendations: If you're on a budget, and need a good notebook, this one will not disappoint.

Price Point Competition:
HP Q60 series - Nowhere near the quality of the 4530. Sticky trackpad. Garbage WebCam. Good Screen.

Compaq Q50 series - Similar to HP Q60, looks much better (than Q60), costs much less and better value (than Q60).

Toshiba L300 series - Closest to Acer for competition, but the build quality is slightly inferior, and the GPU is far weaker. The screen, while decent, is nowhere near as nice as the Acer.

EDIT: I've decided to run some Doom 3 Benchmarks and post the results:

Here are my results from TimeDemo 1 recorded using FRAPS 2.9.8 Full

Doom 3 High Quality @ 800x600
min: 21fps
max: 91fps
avg: 42.032fps

Doom 3 High Quality @ 1024x768
min: 12fps
max: 65fps
avg: 29.060fps

Doom 3 Ultra Quality @ 1024x768
min: 10fps
max: 63fps
avg: 27.265fps

OS was a fairly well used Vista 32bit, daily use, not fresh formatted.
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Right off the assembly line

Heat hasn't been an issue yet, and I've use it on a bed where the vents are nearly obstructed, to on a table with full ventilation.

Good heat dissipation, warm on the lap when playing Titan Quest, but never uncomfortable.

Use discretion though, two hour Titan Quest binges while vents are blocked is a bad idea :wink:


Bond, Desi Bond!
really great review. I totally agree with you over VFM. my friend has 4520 and both rock. They have best VFM
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