THE 5612WLMI IS my first look at the Centrino Duo laptop platform, Intel's umbrella term for its new Core Duo processor coupled with 802.11 a/b/g PRO/Wireless on a Mobile 945 Express chipset. But you knew all that.
As with all other Aspire models, it's good-looking, with an excellent screen and an overall finish which belies the price. But as the second cheapest Centrino Duo notebook in Acer's catalogue - its sibling, which has a smaller hard drive and Intel 945GM graphics, is £100 less - the 5612WLMi isn't the most stellar performer.
What I mean is, it puts value before grunt and isn't cut out for the likes of Oblivion or even 3DMark06. It's the kind of laptop that makes you want to take a gin and tonic outside and reply to all your email and forum posts from the comfort of a sun lounger. And then play Counter-Strike or Peter Stock's superb Armadillo Run.
The CrystalBrite lid on this Aspire offers fast response times and a beguiling picture full of rich colours and dark shadows. As with standalone LCD products featuring the same surface treatment, you may find that the gloss black finish reflects a little too much of your surroundings and distracts you from your game. That said, it's not too much of an effort to shield the screen from external glare, and unless you're playing on the beach in direct sunlight, it's not something that would affect your score.
As for the 1.66GHz dual-core Core Duo, Intel's latest processor is a giant stride on from the old single-core boiler. My everyday notebook uses its forerunner, the 1.6GHz Pentium M chip, and when mucking around in Windows applications, the Core Duo in the 5612WLMi is unquestionably more rapid. When applying Photoshop filters, encoding DivX videos or looking at complex Acrobat documents, the Acer takes half as long to do the job. Seriously.
In CPU benchmark bar charts, it sits right alongside the 3.0GHz Pentium-D 930 desktop product.
The problem we gamers have is that the GeForce Go 7300 graphics engine is no match for modern blasters like Quake 4 or Battlefield 2 - it pretty much grinds to a halt when set to use the lid's widescreen resolution - and in these situations, the Core Duo processor may as well be a plate of rhubarb crumble. And while it plays old Battlefield and Half-Life 2 at 1280x800 with only the odd spell of wooziness, you're never going to be tempted to sell your desktop. So it will only ever be an addition to your family.
If you're looking to keep your PC and want a weight-free laptop that gives you the freedom to move about, the 5612WLMi is an attractive product at an attractive price. I have but a couple of issues: the plastic surrounding the power button bends with a confidence-killing inward motion when you push it, and the short warranty sends out all the wrong signals to potential buyers. But overall, this Acer feels like something that should survive years of use.