Acer Aspire 5542 Overview

If the Aspire 5542 seems familiar, the chassis is the same as the Aspire 5740G we reviewed a couple months back. The internals and features are quite different, though, so let's run down the list of detailed specs on the 5542.

Acer Aspire 5542 Specifications
Processor AMD Athlon II M300
(2x2.0GHz, 45nm, 2x512KB L2, 35W)
Chipset AMD RS880M + SB710
Memory 2x2GB DDR2-800 (Max 2x4GB)
Graphics ATI Radeon HD 4200
(40 Stream Processors, 500MHz Core/shared memory)
Display 15.6" LED Glossy 16:9 768p (1366x768)
Hard Drive(s) 500GB 5400RPM (Western Digital Blue WD5000BEVT-22ZAT0)
Optical Drive 8x DVD±RW (Optiarc AD-7580S)
Networking Gigabit Ethernet (Broadcom BCM5784M)
802.11b/g/n (Atheros AR928X)
Audio HD Audio
2 stereo speakers with headphone, mic, and line-out
Battery 6-Cell, 10.8V, 4400mAh, 47.5Wh battery
Front Side Flash Reader MMC/MS Pro/SD/xD
Left Side Headphone, mic, line-out
2 x USB 2.0
AC Jack
Right Side 2 x USB 2.0
56K modem
Kensington Lock
Back Side Cooling Exhaust
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Extras 2MP Webcam
Flash reader (MMC/MS/MS Pro/SD)
Dimensions 15.1" x 9.8" x 1.0-1.5" (WxDxH)
Weight 6.2 lbs (with 6-cell battery)
Warranty 1-year basic warranty
Pricing $499 from Amazon
Note: 320GB HDD on that model

Like most entry-level notebooks, the Aspire 5542 skips out on some of the amenities. All the usual ports are present and accounted for, but there's no ExpressCard, FireWire, eSATA, DVI, DisplayPort, or Bluetooth. That last is a bit interesting, since there's a Bluetooth enable/disable Fn key combination, but all it does it display a "Bluetooth disabled" icon. It does come with four USB ports, and the target market likely won't notice or miss the other features.

The styling is standard Acer Aspire, with a glossy blue exterior that looks quite nice if you can keep it free of fingerprints. Inside things are a bit more tame, with matte gray plastic on the palm rest and black on the keyboard and top panel. The touchpad is centered below the space bar, and there's a full number keypad on the right. We're also pleased with the keyboard layout, as the 10-key doesn't skimp on the arrangement of keys and you still get Home, End, PgUp, and PgDn keys. Perhaps not so pleasing is the feel of the keyboard. Dustin disliked it enough in his review of the 5740G that he recommended trying one in person before taking the plunge. I'm not quite as negative on the keyboard, if only because the layout suits me, but it's certainly not as nice to type on as a ThinkPad or good chiclet design. The keys are flat and closely spaced, and even if the keys are actually full size we'd prefer slightly smaller with larger gaps between the keys. You can certainly use it, though, and for the price we're not expecting a rigid keyboard with no flex and LED backlighting.

The LCD is standard fare as well, with viewing angles typical of TN panels. It's glossy and reflective, as is the bezel, with a native 1366x768 resolution. Contrast is relatively poor, but maximum brightness is decent. The HD 4200 integrated graphics are easily able to handle video decoding tasks, including full screen 1080p Flash video (with Flash 10.1), H.264 decoding, and 1080p HDMI output. What it can't handle in the majority of titles is gaming at native res; 800x600 is usually playable at minimum detail, but it looks lousy at best. Mainstream gaming like Sims 3 and Spore is much better, but the GPU will still struggle with anything beyond low/medium detail.

Like most inexpensive laptops, you get what you pay for. Performance is much faster than any Atom-based netbook, but that's hardly impressive. Windows 7 runs fine, typical applications and multimedia tasks aren't an issue, and usability is good. If you want a laptop for under $500 that will handle typical home and office tasks, the Aspire 5542—and other similarly equipped AMD-based laptops—work well. What they won't give you is impressive battery life or class leading performance. The new Aspire 5551 ships with Athlon II P320 and HD 4250 and should do a bit better, for $50 more. The 10% increase in price should bring a similar boost to CPU, GPU, and battery life, and the basic design is otherwise the same. If you're looking to save money, though, which is the primary reason to get this sort of notebook, we'd recommend trying to find something with the Athlon II M300 on sale for closer to $400. One example, particularly if you like the design of the Intel system from Gateway that we're looking at next, is the NV5378u is currently on sale for $430 right now.

AMD and Intel Mobile Rematch: Gateway NV5933u vs. Acer 5542 Gateway NV5933u Overview
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  • mojtabaalemi - Saturday, June 19, 2010 - link

    I meaned 1005p with 11hrs (6cells, 48W/h) battery nor 3cell .
    could you please say what player you use with coreavc ? WMP ?
    I read that wmp12 in win 7 can play 720p x264 on atom 1.66GHz beacuse of its multithread codeks . is it right?
    mojtaba alemi from iran
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, June 19, 2010 - link

    I used Media Player Classic Home Cinema in my more recent testing. I think I tried WMP11 in the past and it worked as well (maybe?), but I don't think I've ever tested with WMP12 and x264. I don't have any Atom laptops right now either, so I can't retest. :-|
  • IntelUser2000 - Friday, June 18, 2010 - link

    Vantage delivers a theoretical 86% lead. We find that last a questionable result, and it indicates that Intel may have spent more time working on 3DMark optimizations than on actual gaming compatibility and performance.

    No, that's because 3DMark Vantage uses the retarded scheme where it includes the CPU scores as part of the final score. 3DMark06 was barely acceptable as a gaming benchmark because it started that, Vantage makes it worse.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, June 18, 2010 - link

    Yes, it includes CPU performance as well, but you'll notice that nowhere in our CPU specific tests do we get 86%. In heavily threaded testing, we can achieve a 76% performance increase, but that's purely CPU based. Vantage includes CPU performance, but it's not as big of a factor as the GPU. 3DMark06 also includes CPU but shows only a 5% lead, which is more realistic.
  • IntelUser2000 - Friday, June 18, 2010 - link

    You should test this out if you have the chance/time.

    The 3 reasons that it has such a vast lead from greatest to smallest

    1. 3DMark Vantage scores=GPU score(which is affected by the CPU like in real games) + CPU score
    2. Some some CPU offloading(Never seen the game do that on the HD Graphics though)*
    3. DX10 behavior on Intel is kinda like Nvidia. There's less loss from DX9 to DX10 code than on AMD.

    *You can test this out by using the graphics control panel and going from Application(hardware mode) and Software Processing(software mode)
  • OldPueblo - Friday, June 18, 2010 - link

    I just picked up a similar tigris laptop, except it had better specs and was only $380. At that price, I don't care if the Intel one wins because I doubt it'll ever compete at that price point. :) I didn't even bother with a warranty, it's disposable basic gaming on the go.

    M320 (2x2.1Ghz)
    3GB RAM
    250GB 7200RPM
    Radeon 4200
    802.11 B/G/N
    8x DVD burner w/ lightscribe
    5-in-1 card reader
  • OldPueblo - Monday, June 21, 2010 - link

    Damnit! >:(
  • JarredWalton - Monday, June 21, 2010 - link

    What size battery is in that? Probably a 48Wh, but I'm curious. Looking directly at Frys, I can't find the laptop listed above. What's the exact Lenovo model? I'm guessing it's the G555, but with some downgrades relative to the Lenovo store model. But yeah, $330 it can break in a year and you still won't care much.
  • Roland00 - Monday, June 21, 2010 - link

    It is a G555, I can't tell you which exact submodel it is, but the chasis/generation model is G555
  • Roland00 - Friday, June 18, 2010 - link

    I know you are at the mercy of what OEM sent you (since you don't want to spend $1000 to $2000 buying hardware for a simple article), but please try to get some of these AMD processors for these are going to be the more competitive AMDs (and more relevant).

    Note all these processors have hardware virtualization unlike the atoms and some of the intel culvs/core 2 offerings. Also note that none of the current AMD mobile processors offer l3 cache

    Nile platform (2010) 9W, 12W, 15W with DDR3 support. All these processors are Champlain processors
    9W, AMD V105, Single Core*1.2 Ghz, 512 kb L2 cache total
    12W, AMD K125, Single Core*1.7 Ghz, 1 mb L2 cache total
    12W, AMD K325, Dual Core*1.3 Ghz, 1 mb L2 cache per core, 2mb total
    15W, AMD K625, Dual Core*1.5 Ghz, 1 mb L2 cache per core, 2mb total
    15W, AMD K665, Dual Core*1.7 Ghz, 1 mb L2 cache per core, 2mb total

    Danube platform (2010) 25W, 35W, 45W with DDR3 support. All these processors are Champlain processors
    25W, AMD P820, Tri Core*1.8 Ghz, 512kb L2 cache per core, 1.5 mb total
    25W, AMD P920, Quad Core*1.6 Ghz, 512kb L2 cache per core, 2 mb total
    35W, AMD N620, Dual Core*2.8 Ghz, 1mb L2 cache per core, 2 mb total
    35W, AMD N830, Tri Core*2.1 Ghz, 512 kb L2 cache per core, 1.5mb total
    35W, AMD N930, Quad Core*2.0 Ghz, 512 kb L2 cache per core, 2mb total
    45W, AMD X620BE, Dual Core*3.1 Ghz, 1mb L2 cache per core, 2mb total
    45W, AMD X920BE, Quad Core*2.3 Ghz, 512 kb L2 cache per core, 2mb total

    While the instructions per clock per core is not going to change much with the
    Champlain processors (Mid 2010 with DDR3 uses K,P, or N monikers) vs
    Caspain processors (Late 2009 with DDR2 uses M moniker, the dual cores come only in 35w tdps).
    The Champlain processors achieve lower tdps, have ddr3 support or have more cores for the same tdp with ddr3 support when compared to the Caspain processors. I did not list the other new Champlain processors (the "value" models) for performance wise they should be similar to the one you demoed today (P520, N530, P320, N330). We won't get processors with more instructions per clock per core until the upcoming Llano (fusion, phenom II based with 1mb l2 cache per core, 10watts and above) and Ontario (fusion, bobcat based, 1-10watts aimed for netbooks, tablets, and other low power devices) . AMD finally has a competitive line of notebook processors on paper, for low tdps they may have something as good or almost as good as intel culv, at higher tdps they may not have as many instructions per clock as intel but then they are fighting that with more cores, or against the i7 720qm an extremly lower tdp.

    (finally I just want to say that I am not an AMD fanboy, the last 4 processors I have bought have been intel. I7 920, Q6600, SU2300 Notebook, T7700 Notebook)

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