64-bit Acer's just OK

Box Score

Acer Aspire 1520

Advanced hardware is going to come out of the air-conditioned server rooms and make its way into the average user's hands in 2005 as 64-bit computing makes its debut in notebook computers. Both Intel Corp., which plans to bring a 64-bit processor to the desktop and notebook market and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. of San Jose, Calif., which is already shipping a 64-bit Athlon processor, will compete in this area.

Aspiring to greatness
Always on the cutting edge, Acer America of San Jose, Calif., already has an AMD-backed 64-bit notebook. The Aspire 1520 runs on the Athlon 64-bit 3000+ processor. Packing 512k double-data-rate RAM and an 80G hard drive, this monster seems poised for greatness.

But it only scored 3,866 on the GCN/Alterion benchmark scores, which is several thousand points lower than some of the fastest Pentium 4 notebooks we tested with similar specs and 32-bit processors. So what gives?

The fact is that our benchmarks'and most people's productivity suites'use common 32-bit applications such as Microsoft Excel and Adobe Photoshop to test performance. And you don't get much of an advantage using a 64-bit processor for 32-bit applications. When more 64-bit processors start filtering into the hands of everyday users, companies will create 64-bit enhanced programs that can take advantage of the extra power.

The word on the street is that 2005 is the year that Microsoft Corp. will release Windows XP 64, an operating system designed specifically for end-user 64-bit machines. When that happens, even the fastest 32-bit processors won't be able to keep up.

The 1520 will be in position to make a splash. It has a stunning 15.4-inch display and a sleek, metallic case.

Built-in 802.11g gets a boost from Acer's SignalUp technology, which is designed to improve the notebook's range and signal quality and complies with standards of the WiFi Alliance. Wired users can connect to their LANs via the built-in Gigabit Ethernet port. There's also a multipurpose card reader than can handle Secure Digital, SmartMedia and Sony's Memory Stick.

Overall, the Aspire 1520 is an impressive notebook, but even at the reasonable price of $1,200 we can't get behind it until its 64-bit processor has applications to work with.

About the Authors

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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