Acer 6920G - Overview

Acer has been around pretty much since time immemorial, so if you haven't heard about them yet we might have to strip you of your geek card; hand it over and no one gets hurt…. Seriously though, I remember inheriting my dad's Acer 386 in the mid-to-late 80s. It did pretty well at running Wing Commander and it had a massive 70MB hard drive that occupied two 5.25" drive bays... but I digress. Flash forward to today, and Acer makes a variety of displays, notebooks, and computer systems that are available worldwide. They are one of the top five PC vendors in the world, and they recently acquired Gateway. Acer products definitely cater more towards users looking for a decent product at a reasonable price. They may not be the best/fastest option out there, but most users are reasonably happy with their purchases (judging by Newegg reviews as well as personal experience).

Today we're looking at the Aspire 6920G, a multimedia laptop from Acer. Since there are several different models, however, we need to clarify that we are reviewing the 6920-6422. All of the 6920 laptops look the same, but they have different features. The various models have differing processors, either integrated X3100 or discrete 9500M GS graphics, DVDR or Blu-Ray optical drives, and a WXGA (1366x768) or FullHD (1920x1080) display. What is likely to be one of the major selling points of these laptops is their use of a true 16:9 aspect ratio, which theoretically makes them a better fit for multimedia use. We'll discuss that a more in a minute.

In terms of appearance, the 6920G makes an interesting first impression. The change in aspect ratio along with a 16" rather than 17" or 15.4" diagonal isn't something we've seen before. We were generally pleased with the appearance, but after using the laptop for a while we felt some of the decisions tended to be a case of form over function. The LCD cover has a rounded surface that ends up making the laptop thicker than it needs to be. Also, the hinge looks unique, but in practice we would prefer a more traditional design. When you open the lid, part of the top panel rotates down across the entire back of the laptop. Perhaps some will feel this is more aesthetically pleasing than a traditional hinged notebook, but we prefer that style over this aspect of the 6920G. One interesting feature to point out is that the rounded rear hinge also functions as a sort of subwoofer. Acer calls this their "Tuba CineBass booster", and it does seem to improve bass response over regular notebooks.

Dismantling the Aspire 6920G is relatively simple, as you can see from the above image gallery. You can access two compartments on the bottom of the laptop. In the top-right area are two mini PCI expansion slots, one of which holds a wireless networking adapter. The main compartment is secured by six screws and provides access to the single 2.5" SATA hard drive bay, the SO-DIMM slots, and the CPU and GPU. Exchanging the memory or hard drive is extremely easy - not that it's likely you'll need to do so, since the laptop comes with 2x2GB of memory. (Unfortunately, it only ships with a 32-bit version of Vista.)

If you want to exchange CPUs, that is also possible, although it requires a bit more work. You'll need to disconnect the wires for the WiFi card and route them back through the case, along with a second set of wires that connect to the DC power input. These wires are taped into place at several points, so you'll need to remove the tape as well. With the wires out of the way, first remove the fan (three screws) and then remove the two retention mechanisms that hold the heatsinks in place (four screws). Finally, carefully pry up the two heatsinks that are held in place by thermal paste, and then with a bit of finagling you can remove the heatpipe/heatsink cooling mechanism. Note that this is one large unit rather than two separate heat pipes/heatsinks, so it has to come out in one piece.

Like most notebooks with NVIDIA graphics, the GPU sits on a standard MXM module. Wouldn't it be great if you could upgrade that in the future? Yeah, we think so too, but so far that appears to be a pipe dream. At least you can upgrade the CPU without too much difficulty; the current Aspire 6920 notebooks support 667 and 800 FSB Core 2 Duo processors.

Index Acer 6920G – Features and Specifications
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  • Hrel - Thursday, September 18, 2008 - link

    Midrange graphics are great! Why would you expect to run any game on a laptop at high or max detail settings? Why do you care about detail settings? It doesn't effect how fun the game is. On a laptop, as long as you can run modern games at min-med settings and get decent frames that's all I would ever want. If you want to max everything out use your desktop. However, I would like to see the ability to turn off the discrete card and use integrated graphics become standard. And, in general, laptops need much better LCD's and better battery life, HP has a 24hour notebook, meaning the battery lasts 24 hours, LED backlight, why aren't LED backlights standard place?????
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, September 18, 2008 - link

    The HP "24 hour" notebook includes an extra battery attachment that sits under the notebook and weighs several pounds if I'm not mistaken. If you buy any of these laptops and six to eight extra batteries, you could get 24 hours as well. :-) Yeah, that's sort of extreme, but so is a huge battery sitting under a small laptop.

    As for midrange graphics and gaming, let me reiterate: running at 1280x800 I couldn't break 20 FPS in Mass Effect or Crysis even at minimum detail, and GRID at medium-low detail was playable but looked like a four year old graphics engine. There are plenty of other games that start looking quite poor before you break 30 FPS. Graphics aren't everything, true, but they do make a difference. That's not to say you can't play any games on these midrange GPUs, but I would hate to give people the mistaken impression that midrange mobile GPUs run most games "fine" when that's simply not true.

    Midrange mobile graphics *aren't* great, and in fact even the fastest mobile GPUs are slower than desktop "midrange" graphics: the 9600 GT costs under $100 and outperforms the 9800M GTS, and the ~$110 8800 GT 512MB is faster than any mobile GPU. (Same for the HD 4670 and even HD 3850.) If you want to play modern games on a notebook, get the Gateway P-7811 or some other more powerful (and larger) notebook. Otherwise, the vast majority of people will be better off with a midrange desktop for gaming and a true midrange solution.
  • strikeback03 - Friday, September 19, 2008 - link

    For this very reason I'm wondering why you bothered running the full gaming tests on all of these. Wouldn't maybe a full test on one game plus minimum settings/resolution for the others be enough to offer a best case ceiling and say "See, don't look to play modern games on these"? Would save you significant time I'd imagine.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, September 19, 2008 - link

    It would save time, but it wouldn't provide a ready comparison to other mobile GPUs, which is one thing I wanted to do. (That's also why I tested the Gateway M-152XL at settings other than 1280x800, just to show how the GPU would run with a different LCD.) If you just want 3DMark scores, you can find that at some other places, but no one plays 3DMark for fun.

    Another problem: if you choose just one game, which one should you go with? Assassin's Creed DX9 is roughly half the speed of the faster 9800M GTS, and while that's a big difference you can easily turn down a few settings and get acceptable performance at 1280x800. On the other hand CoH is about 1/3 to 1/4 the performance of the same GPU. The best characterization of performance requires more testing, so some people would want scores for TF2, HL2, and a bunch of older games as well, but I had to draw the line somewhere.

    At least now I can point to a (relatively large) battery of gaming tests and say, "This is why you shouldn't plan on using low or midrange laptop GPUs for gaming. It's not just one or two games that will struggle, but a large number of newer titles won't run well regardless of settings, and others will only run well when you set the detail levels to 'ugly'." :)
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, September 18, 2008 - link

    Edit: that last line is supposed to say "a true mobile solution".
  • arjunp2085 - Thursday, September 18, 2008 - link

    Why is that i have never seen a Single AMD based laptops on the list....

    780G is one great solution for graphics on laptops.. Y is there no article about PUMA????

    Is it some BIAS??
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, September 18, 2008 - link

    I could forward the list of email messages requesting AMD laptops to you if you'd like. I specifically asked a couple of companies for one of the HD 3200 laptops, because I think it's a very compelling platform. Why haven't I received one yet? No idea... but I'll check back with the contacts and hopefully get one soon.
  • Voldenuit - Thursday, September 18, 2008 - link

    For $1100, you can buy a Thinkpad T400.

    I don't see how anyone would prefer an Acer, Gateway, or AVADirect at these pricepoints.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, September 18, 2008 - link

    It all depends on what you're after, but Lenovo is certainly a viable option. The T400 is good, but you'll probably want to spend more than $1100. I'd get 4GB RAM, 320GB HDD, LED backlighting, 6-cell battery, Vista Home Premium, DVDR, 802.11N WiFi, and Bluetooth. That puts the price at around $1450, which includes $450 savings (limited time offer) and only a 1-year warranty. Bump it up to 3-years and you're at $1550, which is actually still very good. Without the $500 savings it would be difficult to recommend that much, however.
  • Voldenuit - Thursday, September 18, 2008 - link

    You can easily configure a great T400 w/ 2 GB RAM, DVD-burner, discrete Radeon 3470, wireless-N (only $15 extra), LED screen (only $60 extra) and 6-cell battery (only $15 extra) for under $1200.

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