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Acer Extensa 5220 (and Vista)

Brief Thoughts

This is as much a short review on the notebook as well as a brief review of Microsoft's newest Operating System - Windows Vista.

Part One - The outside

The Acer Extensa 5220 is a mid-range notebook. With laptops, specs are everything - and the Extensa has some respectable figures.

Design-wise it seems decent enough. The body is a mix of a couple of dark greys and black. The outer parts are charcoal grey, and more of the inner sections are darker. The keyboard is black and has no backlighting (bummer). The sides and bottom aren't particularly clean, but that's not to say they're cluttered either. There are a few chrome accents to spice it up but in reality it's nothing particularly inspiring.

Physically, it weighs around 2.8kg, which I found to be quite lightweight. This is probably helped by the fact that it feels extremely balanced - I quite enjoy using it when it's sitting on my lap. It has a standard 1200x800 15.4" LCD. It uses what Acer call their CrystalBrite technology. I personally really enjoy using the screen, and Vista have their screen fonts slightly larger than XP's were for better readability.

The keyboard has an ergonomic perpetual curve which is absolutely love. I got used to the layout in a day and am now typing fairly quickly on it. I find the trackpad to be quite good, especially since it has a scroll wheel on the side.

Part Two - The specs

The all-important specs. If a laptop fails here it simply won't sell.

First off, let me explain that I bought this laptop for simple stuff: emailing, blogging, programming, etc. I wanted a portable workstation, simply an extension to my home computer. As such I didn't need great specs, but Windows Vista demands a minimum level of performance.

It packs an Intel Celeron 1.86 GHz. It's quite good, even though all in all it's nothing special. To compensate for this I got a €60 upgrade to 2GB RAM. It originally had 1GB. I find the computer's multitasking to be more than adequate.

It's got an 80GB hard-drive, which may be considered quite small, indeed I do find it quite limiting, but I plan to add an external USB HDD to compensate.

Part Three - Windows Vista

I was convinced that this was going to be my least favourite part of the computer. I knew Vista to be slow, clunky, and excessively security-oriented - making it extremely annoying to use. However I quickly set about downloading some programs to ease my experience. I highly recommend Tweak UAC.

Very quickly, Vista grew on me. I'm now at the stage where I got used to the interface, and have come to appreciate some of the genuine improvements it offers over XP. I love the new shellstyle(?), and I also like the idea of putting all the networking options in one place. This tripped me up at first but now I prefer it. I managed to connect to the internet just 20 minutes after turning it on for the first time (time includes Vista installation).

Since it's been out for quite a while, there were numerous security updates and other patches to be installed. It was all automated, with Vista installing around 49 updates in total, and I restarted around 4 times, however you could restart at your leisure so it wasn't a problem.

Vista seems to have a bit better memory management than XP. When switching between apps, the machine didn't slowly churn into life; it was a fast and seamless process. I also love the new user log-in page, with the huge user icons.

The eye candy has been kept at a respectable level, the transparency has been disabled (this is Vista Home Basic - no extra eye candy), however I did enable the Aero interface by a little hacking of the registry.


Well, I think that overall I'm extremely satisfied with the Acer Extensa 5220. Now that I've ironed out the workflow bumps and I've taken care of most of the "new computer" bloated pre-installed software, most of which turned out to be really good.

It's a typical mid-range notebook that's not overly capable, and certainly doesn't disappoint. It's a laptop that feels well "sorted". This is supported the very good keyboard and trackpad, as well as the placement of certain elements to enhance usability - including speakers placed in the front, and heat vents in a logical position.

All in all, it's fair to describe it as fairly average, but very useable. I'm certainly very happy with it, and it's not likely to annoy many people.

Rating: Solid Recommendation

Extra: Recommended Programs

Below is a list of programs I recommend to use with Vista. All of them are free downloads. Click on the name to go to their download sites.

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It's been a while

I'm more or less back! It's been a while since I last posted on here. It's also been a while since I've been out of the photography world. It's been over two and half months since I last took some “keepers”. This was probably due to the shock of what happened, but no, I haven't really been thinking about it so much. When something like that happens, it turns you off the subject for a while. A little like losing a spouse - it's gonna take a while till you get back in the game.

The last photography-related post was a brief overview on the Sigma DP1, a compact camera equipped with a sensor as large as an APS-C SLR. Since then , it's gone on sale as originally promised and on time (surely a first for Sigma?).

A lot more has happened in the digital photography world since my time-out. Eventually these will all get covered. However it's going to be difficult to maintain this as much as I used to, at least for the time being. I'm going through a vitally important time in my life and sadly, exams don't allow room for much free time.

A possible change in scope

If I had my way, I'll probably start writing about more topics than photography. I know it's the title of the blog, and in fact this will still remain heavily photographer-biased.

However, probably because photographers spend a lot of time on a computer, the articles will still seemingly apply. I plan to add more computing-related articles. Many photographers dabble in things like web-design, and even computer programming.

I know I said I was going to pick up an Eee PC, but recently I've changed my mind and have swallowed up my pride and ordered a laptop loaded with (!) Windows Vista on it. People who don't know me personally probably don't know of my extreme dislike for Microsoft's newest operating system. Suffice to say I'm not looking forward to working with it. So why buy it? Purely a matter of economics. I was offered a great deal on the laptop. It at least has some good specs to shoulder the burden of Vista's excessive eye-candy. More updates when it arrives.

My thanks goes to those who have stuck by me through the loss of my data. I'm now back and have at least been more active on the photography front. Stay tuned, I'll announce my secret programming mini-website in the next blog post.

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