Thank goodness the Acer Aspire 5740 has a great personality, because it sure isn't a looker. The glossy blue lid's curves suffer from the “bulbosity” we mentioned before. While the dark blue is attractive, the glittery texturing is gaudy and the “Signal Up” logo in the corner always looks like a blemish until you look at the lid up close. And because the lid is glossy plastic, it's the kind of fingerprint magnet we've come to expect.

Before we even get to the insides, though, it's worth mentioning that the Aspire 5740 still uses a mechanical latch to hold the notebook shut. This was actually an initial source of embarrassing confusion: most modern notebooks have a mechanism to keep them shut in the hinge and are easy to open and close. You're probably familiar with it.

The inside of the Aspire 5740 isn't unattractive, but elements of it are still a bit ostentatious. The texturing on the gray plastic used for the palm rests and touchpad is comfortable, and the black matte plastic used for the speakers at the top of the unit is unassuming, but the big power button on the left side with the blue LED illumination is too much, and the “P” button on the right side could easily be confused for a power button. The right speaker is also closer to the center than the left speaker, making for slightly off stereo positioning—not that the speakers are worth using for any serious audio, as they tend to distort at higher volume levels. And then there are the power and battery indicator LEDs at the bottom lip,  and the key lock indicators above the keyboard, the wireless toggle button that illuminates next to them...the design feels scattershot, lacking any kind of cohesion.

Click to enlarge

Looks may not be everything, but most damning may just be interfacing with the notebook itself. The screen is adequate for the price range, and the touchpad features multi-touch capability and is smooth and easy to use. Yet the keyboard, despite having an intelligent layout in cramming in the 10-key, wound up being even worse than it looked. Flex isn't an issue, but Acer's bizarre halfway-between-chiclet-and-standard keyboard is staggeringly uncomfortable to use and was enough to turn me off completely from purchasing any unit that uses it. The keys just feel strange and were alarmingly difficult to touch type on. If you're using the notebook principally to game then it shouldn't be a deal-breaker for you, but for any kind of serious writing it's something you will want to play with in the store and make absolutely certain you can live with.

The rest of the build is at least more sensible. USB ports are split evenly between the sides, and heat vents out of the back of the unit instead of on one of the sides and risking warming up the user's mousing hand. If nothing else, the Aspire 5740 is – if a bit cheap looking – a solid machine.

5740G: Starting at just $750 Online—Really! AS5740G: Speedy Application Performance
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  • chicagotechjunkie - Friday, April 2, 2010 - link a proud new owner of a HP Envy 15 I've really gotta speak up here in terms of what you can get for just a shade more cash.

    Right now you can get a i5-430 15.6" 1920x1080 (!) 4GB RAM 320GB 7200RPM HDD w/ ATI 5830 for 949.99. (coupon code NBMY33241knocks $450 off the list price)

    We're talking full HD resolution, faster HDD and one of the best mobile graphics chips for under a grand. Not to mention the 1" thin body that makes it oh so sexy ;)

    Alternately you could swap out the HD screen for the faster i5-520 or 540 and keep it in the same ballpark price.

    I've been very happy with how well the 5830 overclocks as well. From a base 500/800 to 550/1100 totally stable and cool with no voltage bump of any kind. Managed just shy of 10k in 3dmark06 with the overclocked settings.

    I know it's the next step up in price, and admittedly it was more than I was initially going to spend on a new laptop, but now that I have it, I'm so SO glad I did.
  • mfenn - Saturday, April 3, 2010 - link

    Yuck, who wants 1920x1080 on a 15" screen? That resolution is barely tolerable at 17"! IM(NS)HO, the perfect resolution for 15" is 1440x900.
  • austonia - Sunday, April 4, 2010 - link

    you know Windows can scale the dpi right? probably want to set at 125-150% in this case, then you get the same look as a 720p screen with extra sharpness. the full 1080p resolution is useful in apps that have a lot of controls and need a lot of space to display those controls. video editors come to mind.
  • JarredWalton - Monday, April 5, 2010 - link

    As someone that uses a 30" LCD with a 120dpi setting, I can attest to the fact that using anything other than the default 96dpi has some oddities with some applications, and you'd be better off not having to change it. Most of the time, it works well enough that I can live with it, but sometimes I'll have programs where the text scales to a larger font with 120dpi and it wraps to the next line... except it's not visible because the rest of the application didn't scale at all. Anyway, for 15.6" I'd certainly say 1600x900 is very usable, and even 1080p is fine though a bit small at times. It is unfortunate that so many laptops use 1366x768 panels, whether they're 11.6", 13.3", 14.0", 15.6", or 16.0" LCDs.
  • chicagotechjunkie - Monday, April 5, 2010 - link

    Well, I did mention you could swap out the HD screen for a better component, if that wasn't your cup of tea.

    I personally enjoy the higher resolution, and yes the text is smaller, but as was pointed out, dpi settings can help with a lot of it if it bothers you, and honestly I use the default settings, and don't experience any eye strain after extended use.

    The whole point was that you could get a much better gaming machine than the one reviewed for not all that much more cash. That was the point I was trying to make.
  • ap90033 - Friday, April 2, 2010 - link

    Does this guy game at all? 19FPS? Seriously? If this thing cant average 50 or so its not worth trying. (keep in mind that averaging 50fps means under some heavy areas in game it will drop to 30 or so)
    For people looking for a REAL GAMER LAPTOP for a DECENT Price look at the ASUS G60 or G72 at best buy for $999 they play Dirt 2 at around 50FPS most settings maxed...
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, April 3, 2010 - link

    Just because it runs at sub-30 FPS with maxed out settings hardly makes it unfit for gaming. It's ludicrous to suggest that all games need to be run at even high quality. Having played plenty of games on the 5740G before sending it on to Dustin, I fully agree that it can play games better than the vast majority of laptops, and certainly better than any other $750 laptop. Can you find faster laptops for gaming? Of course you can, but they cost quite a bit more. Barring crazy sales (i.e. the Envy 15 for under $1000), this is a laptop that competes against laptops that typically cost $250 more.

    Case in point, the G72 at Best Buy costs $1000, has half the battery life, and weighs almost 3 pounds more. Yes, the GTX 260M is about 40% faster on average, but then with a 1600x900 LCD (37% more pixels) you're going to need the extra performance, and you still won't max out everything. I wouldn't say either laptop is clearly superior, but the 5740G at 1366x768 is going to offer similar performance to the GTX 260M at 1600x900.
  • tuskers - Tuesday, April 6, 2010 - link

    The Envy isn't so much a "crazy sale" as much as what that machine typically costs these days. HP regularly offers coupons on their machines that discount the Envy into the ~$1000 price range. If you didn't know that, you don't know the market.
  • ap90033 - Tuesday, April 6, 2010 - link

    Bull, I bought the 16 inch Asus from Best Buy. Has the GTX260 which is 40%+ faster (That is a huge diff....) Plays Dirt 2 maxed and looks awesome, Plays COD6 maxed (I did turn down AA a notch) looks awesome etc etc. Paid $250 more for TONS more performance. They sold out of this but now have which looks pretty decent. 16 inch Geforce GTS 360 1 gig and Core i5 for $999. Of course if you are like me and wait a bit, there will be a better one to come out and the prices will drop. My laptop dropped to $799 which was an AMAZING PRICE for a 40% faster gaming laptop (by the way it has built in overclocking that works great!) Plus I got a free game with my Reward Points :)
    Asus makes a very nice laptop to boot...
  • synaesthetic - Monday, April 19, 2010 - link

    I'm a gamer and I flat refuse buy any of the Asus gaming laptops. They're just too ugly, too gaudy and they absolutely do not look professional. I can't afford to own one computer for gaming and one for work, so I have to consider these things. The blinking lights and glowing ROG logo isn't exactly professional, you know.

    I'll settle for weaker GPU performance in the Gateway NV5925u (identical to this Acer, only prettier and not blue) for something I can use in class or at work without people looking at me like I'm crazy.

    ... why can't someone put gaming guts in a Thinkpad chassis? =(

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