World's first 3D-supporting laptop reviewed

Product: Acer Aspire 5738DZG 3D-434G50Mn
Price: £587.97 (inc VAT)

According to many sooth-sayers, crystal ball-gazing IT trend followers and pushy IT product managers, 2010 is going to be the year when 3D comes out of the big budget Hollywood studios and into the home, with 3D TV screens and even notebooks with 3D screens, which brings us to Acer’s Aspire 5738DZG 3D, the world’s first 3D-supporting laptop.

Disregarding the screen for a moment, what else makes the 5738DZG tick? Well, from the outside it looks just like any other of the current Aspire Gemstone models, with its pleasing curves and clean design together with the usual Acer attention to detail and build quality. Internally it’s very much a mainstream laptop. The keyboard is good, with large flat keys which have a good action, making typing a pleasurable experience. Under the trackpad sit two mouse buttons separated by a fingerprint reader.

So back to that screen, the 15.6in (1,366 x 768 native resolution) panel looks like a normal high-gloss finished unit which as usual produces bright, well produced colours but with the downside of being very reflective under bright office lighting or sunny conditions outside.

What makes the screen special and gives the 3D effect is the polarising filter which coats it, which together with the bundled polarised glasses (Acer bundles two pairs, a standard pair and a clip-on pair for people who wear prescription lenses) tricks the brain into seeing 3D images.

Controlling the effect is a tricky piece of software from Dynamic Digital Depth called TriDef 3D which, when enabled spits the display resolution in two, producing alternate horizontal lines for each eye, so when wearing the polarised glasses, each eye sees a different image. However to make it work properly you have to sit so your eyes are around 60cm away from the screen and with the screen at a 120° angle, move around and the effect is lost.

The bundled showcase examples give mixed results, the best of the videos are - surprise, surprise - the computer animated ones, while the photo examples show the effect best when its used to give depth to a photo and in these cases it works rather well.

The TriDef software has another trick up its sleeve as it’s able to transform ordinary 2D content into 3D, but although it does do it, it can be very hit and miss. It can also transform games, and to their credit Dynamic Digital Depth have put a list together of compatible games and although it works well, (we tried it in Far Cary 2 and it added a real sense of depth), the limitations of the technology soon become apparent – try playing a shoot-em up game without moving your head!

More importantly the technology is somewhat hampered by the choice of graphics Acer has chosen for the 5738DZG, namely an AMD Mobility Radeon 4570 (with 512MB dedicated memory). In a normal laptop it struggles to give decent frame rates at high detail levels and resolutions, so it really hampers any 3D game play.

This is one system where Acer should have bit the bullet and stuck in a decent graphics sub system.

At the heart of the review sample sits an Intel Core 2 Duo P7350 processor which is clocked at 2GHz and has a 1066MHz FSB speed and 3MB of cache which is all very nice. Unfortunately the 5738DZG which is available to buy doesn’t have the P7350, instead it has the not so inspiring Pentium Dual Core T4300 (2.1GHz, 800MHz FSB, 1MB cache) which makes any benchmark scores gleaned from the review sample pretty meaningless.

But backed with 4GB of PC2-5300 DDR2 memory, all of which can be accessed by the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium, you’ll still have plenty of grunt to power all your everyday apps without any problems.

For storage you get a 500GB hard drive and there is a dual layer multi-format DVD burner built in as well as a multi-card reader. To hook up to the outside world you get Gigabit wired Ethernet, 802.11n wifi and a 56k modem should everything else fail but there’s no Bluetooth.

Port-wise there are four USB ports together with standard VGA and HDMI output ports. Battery life isn’t that great but when you consider that the 5738DZG weighs in at hefty 2.8kg maybe it’s not that crucial as you’d notice the dent in your shoulder carrying it around all-day. When tested with an everyday workload it gave a life of just under two hours.

Does the 3D technology work? Well, yes and no. But in any case Acer should be congratulated for being the first to put their head above the parapet. As in many cases with new technology its better seen as work in progress and the 5738DZG certainly isn’t helped by the poor choice of graphics subsystem.

If the idea of 3D doesn’t appeal to you then can by the notebook without it for around a hundred quid cheaper.

Specifications (retail model)
Processor: Intel Pentium Dual Core T4300 Clock Speed: 2.1GHz RAM:4GB PC2-5300 DDR2 Hard Drive: Hitachi 500GB Screen: 15.6in Acer CineCrystal LCD with TriDef coating Graphics: ATI Mobility Radeon 4570 (512MB) Networking: Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n WiFi OS: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit Ports: 4 x USB, 3 x audio, 1x LAN, 1 x VGA, 1 x HDMI Security: Fingerprint reader Web Cam: 0.3MP Dimensions (wxdxh): 383 x 250 x 26/37mm Weight: 2.8kg Warranty: One year International Travellers Warranty