We’ve never seen a computer that’s counted a webcam as its most exciting feature, but Acer’s Aspire 5600U breaks the mold thanks to the inclusion of gesture control.
The system used here comes from a third-party developer and, while Sony has previously experimented with basic gesture control, the Acer’s system is far more extensive. Waving an open palm around the screen moves the cursor; pinching two fingers together represents a click; and waving inwards from the right, left and top edges opens up Windows 8’s Charms, previous apps and taskbar menus.
The 5600U is more traditional, using a kickstand to prop up the display
We like the idea, but it’s flawed. Holding and waving a hand in front of the webcam quickly becomes tiring, and the app’s default settings are far too sensitive. Even when we turned this setting down, it’s not the most consistent of systems, with gestures often taking multiple attempts to register.
At least the 5600U improves elsewhere. The Acer’s see through plastic base is a welcome dose of originality that continues to the mouse and keyboard, and the system itself measures just 18mm from front to back at its thickest point. It’s relatively versatile too, with a kickstand that squats down to a shallow angle – ideal for use while standing up and walking around the house.
The 23″ screen shares its 1920 x 1080 resolution with most of this month’s rivals, but quality is middling. Black levels are decent, and the measured contrast ratio of 1194:1 ensures a reasonable color palette, but colors themselves are too insipid to our tastes, especially when compared to the well-balanced Asus.
The rear panel can be removed to provide access to every internal component
The highlight under the hood is the Nvidia GeForce GT 630M. It’s the most powerful graphics core in this group, and it scored 40fps in our 1600 x 900 Medium-quality benchmark – faster than the Asus ET2300, which scored just 13fps in the same test. That tops our tables, but bear in mind it’s still not enough to play high-end games without compromising on quality settings.
Elsewhere, the Core i5-3210M processor returned a mediocre application benchmark score of 0.63, which sits at the bottom of this month’s pack – enough to handle Windows 8 and general-purpose computing, but not the sort of power to tackle more demanding work.
Acer has been more generous with the rest of the specification, with a Blu-ray reader, DVB-T TV tuner, capacious 1TB hard disk and dual-band wireless – a rare sight in this group.
The Acer’s media capabilities are let down by the speakers, however, which lack both bass and volume – there’s not enough grunt to fill a room and, even at top volume, the audio lacks punch and clarity.
The slim, space-saving design of the 5600U/7600U contains a wealth of connectivity options
It’s a mixed set of results, then, for Acer’s Aspire 5600U. It has the beefiest graphics chip here and a smart, slim line design, but its screen, speakers and gimmicky gesture control just aren’t up to task. The Asus is more accomplished and cheaper, as you’re about to see.
§ Website: www.acer.co.uk
§ Ratings: 7/10
§ Screen size: 23.0in
§ RAM capacity: 8GB
§ Resolution: 1920 x 1080
§ USB ports: 2
§ CPU nominal frequency: 2.5GHz
§ Hard disk: Seagate Momentus ST1000LM02