Acer Aspire 5051 AWXMi - Short review, part 1.

  LastChip 21:05 01 Jul 2007

I have just bought this laptop for £299.99p click here so clearly we are looking at the entry level market.

The machine is well presented, having a 14.1" wide-screen, that is clear and of good colour. It's slimline case is nicely finished in silver and black to a high standard, but the catch is flimsy. Provided it is treated with respect, will probably last longer than I think. I find the keyboard nice, but I'm not a professional typist, so others may disagree.

Inside sports an AMD 64 Turon mobile CPU (2GHz) with 512MB of RAM and a 60GB hard drive. Included is a multi card reader, capable of reading; MS, MS Pro, MMC, SD and XD. An ATI Radion Xpress 1100 takes care of the graphics and also provided are VGA and Svideo ports. Fixed and wireless network capability is included as well as a DVD double layer drive. There are a total of three USB ports and one PC card type ll slot. A built in modem and sound card plus microphone, line in and headphone sockets completes the line-up.

So what is it like? Read that in part 2.

  LastChip 22:28 01 Jul 2007

So, what's it like?

Well, the laptop comes preloaded with Vista Home Basic and a whole host of junk from Acer, including the dreaded Norton anti-virus software. I suppose, although I moan about all the junk, it presumably provides subsidies that help keep prices to this level.

Sadly (although expected) Vista runs like glue! IMHO, manufacturers really shouldn't be releasing computers with Vista that have only 512MB of RAM. Yes, it runs and we all know it looks pretty, but it would be quicker to paint the front room than write a letter. (There is however a good package deal with this computer to upgrade the RAM).

However, my stated intention was to evaluate the feasibility of Linux on a laptop, so with this in mind, the option was clear; get rid of Vista!

Now, even someone like me, who admits to not being a lover of Vista, sometimes has enough common sense to accept I might just need it back.

The laptop DOES NOT come with any form of media backup; no CD, DVD or even hidden partition, BUT, Acer provides some very good software that can not only backup files for you, but can write an image to DVD of the state of the laptop at release from manufacturing; in other words, a recovery disc. So this was the first job to be done. I now have two verified copies, so should I need to put this machine back to "standard", I can.

Once this operation was complete, it was time to look around for a suitable Linux distro to load on to the computer. The original plan was to use Ubuntu or Kubuntu, but when testing, it became apparent these (surprisingly) didn't support WPA-PSK (wireless encryption) out of the box, so I had to look elsewhere. (Vista incidentally, was also very flaky with WPA-PSK).

Recent reports indicated PCLinuxOS was a user friendly distro with excellent hardware support and so I tried it's live CD. Sure enough, it recognized all the hardware and supported my network wireless encryption as well. This is now loaded on this laptop.

Of course, not only is PCLinuxOS a workable alternative to Vista, but as all Linux distros come with a complete suite of programs that makes it an operational sytem from first bootup and of course, it's completely legal (and fee!).

The proof of the pudding is this machine (without any modification) now runs "fast and furious" and indeed, these two Consumer Watch contributions have been written on this laptop, in Linux and transmitted wirelessly to PCA's server.

The challenge was; can Linux be run successfully on a laptop? Clearly it can.

Conclusion. This machine at £299.99p, in this configuration is a winner. If you want to keep Vista loaded, look seriously at upgrading the RAM, but it's still a very good machine for minimal cost and I'm delighted with it.

  walesrob 08:45 02 Jul 2007

I've also bought this laptop, can't argue with the price.

There is a hidden factory image partition of the Vista OS on my Acer, so I'm not sure why yours didnt have one.

I will agree that Acer were wrong to put Vista on such an underpowered machine, and load all that unnecessary extra software. This laptop cannot run any edition of Vista without breaking into a hard sweat, and even when I upgraded with an extra 512 of RAM, there was no noticeable increase in performance. So Vista was ditched, and Windows XP Home was installed, and now the machine works nice and fast. I was getting lots of minor problems with Vista (Acers fault for installing all that "bloat" - for example why include an "Acer wireless networks manager" when Vista already has one??) and going back to XP was bliss, it now works as it should.

  superhoops 11:44 02 Jul 2007

Personally I wouldnt touch Acer with a bargepole. I bought the Aspire 5610Z for £500 a couple of months ago. Right from the start it refused to make the backup disc. When I phoned they said they would send me a recovery disc. When nothing came after 3 weeks I phoned again to be told that I had been wrongly advised and that I had to pay them £50 for a recovery disc even though their machine was at fault.
Never again.

  thrasherbcn 22:00 12 Sep 2007

I managed to wipe out the whole hard disk data and install XP without any of the Acer applications and is working flawlessly.

You can find my progress in my blog

click here

I only had a little problem with the DVD drive, as it was locking when trying to use DMA, but I managed to solve it by installing XP from a USB stick.

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