Review Acer TravelMate 7740G Notebook
Experiment. Acer attempts an unusual symbiosis between office- and multimedia-notebooks with the TravelMate 7740G. The 7740G is also equipped with a matte display and a suitable graphics card. Whether the attempt is successful or not, you can find out in this detailed review.
The TravelMate 7740G is currently available in several model variations which vary only slightly in terms of their features. Both the processor and the graphic card are the same and the 17.3 inch screen has a resolution of 1600 x 900 pixels for all the models. For the processor, Acer went for the Core i5-430M from Intel. But he display card comes from ATI and goes by the name Mobility Radeon HD 5650. The two lowest priced models, the 7740G-434G50Mnss (starting from 800 Euro) and 7740G-434G50N (starting from 840 Euro), include more than four GB DDR3 memory as well as a 500 GB hard drive. The 7740G-434G64N is available from 860 Euro and includes a four GB DDR3-RAM and the the hard drive capacity increases to 640 GB. The most expensive 7740G-434G64Bn at around 1000 Euro will feature the 640 GB HDD and all six GB of a DDR3 RAM and a Blu-Ray drive.
Acer takes no risks with design and presents an ordinary and modest case. The dark grey case is made from a matte material and leaves you an impression of good quality. A huge advantage of the case being made out of a matte material is its very resistance of dirt. The TravelMate 7740G is surprisingly not as sensitive compared to some notebooks with a high-gloss finish, which tend to get marked easily from dust particles, fingerprints and small scratches. In terms of stability, the usual defects pop up. For instance, the notebook lid is not particularly sturdy and can be easily bent. The topside will cave in when too much pressure is applied to the centre. The base on the other hand gives a strong impression except around the optical drive.
The hinges are less convincing. Firstly, the base unit vibrates when the lid is opened. Secondly, the hinges do not hold the lid firmly in position. When travelling, the lid tends to vibrate noticeably. However, the lid does open to the above average degree of 180. As a mobile companion, the TravelMate 7740G is anything but dainty weighing 2.88kg and measuring to 410 x 275 mm.
Like most current Aspire and TravelMate models, Acer is quite sparing when it comes to connectivity. Whether it is an ExpressCard port, Firewire- or an eSATA-port; many features offerd by competitors of are unfortunately not available with the TravelMate 7740G. There are only three USB 2.0 ports and whoever wants to connect a surround sound system can only do so by using the one and only sound output port, which can only output stereo signals. The image output with VGA and HDMI are nothing to complain about. Internet access is obtained either via a RJ-45 Gigabit LAN cable or wireless through WLAN (a/b/g/n) and Bluetooth (3.0). The connection is a 5-in-1 card reader, which comes in the following formats: SD, MMC, MS, MS PRO, and xD.
Meanwhile, we felt that the port arrangement was suboptimal, as Acer placed most of the ports on the front half on the notebook's sides. This enables the ports to quickly find a connection; however, when there are many cables, they can potentially cause space problems around the front of the notebook, e.g. when using a mouse.
Software and Accessories
The product contents of the TravelMate 7740G are presented very poorly. In addition to the required 90 Watt plug, there is a Quick Start Guide, a quick guide and a warranty booklet. Driver DVDs or data carriers with operating systems are not included in the contents, like what you would usually get from the "bigger" manufacturers, and the user must burn the so-called Recovery DVDs themselves. The software equipment is greatly exaggerated by Acer. The system is packed with numerous and often useless software (bloatware), which constantly brings annoying advertisements to the attention of the user and over time affects the reaction rate of the notebook. Deinstalling the software can works wonders here.
The keyboard proved to be one of the biggest weaknesses of the TravelMate 7740G. The keys, which are not free standing, have an extremely spongy typing feel and the key strokes and pressure points appear much undefined. This is combined with a relatively short key spacing. It also falls short in terms of stability, particularly toward the middle, where a noticeable flex is perceived during normal use. The narrow vertical arrow keys are another flaw which should be mentioned. The well conceived layout is the only aspect we were completely impressed with. Frequent and fast typers should stay away from the TravelMate 7740G. To everyone else, we recommend you test out the keyboard before making any decisions.
In contrast to the Acer keyboard, the Acer Touchpad is outstanding. The handling of the Touchpad is pleasant to use due to its very smooth surface design. Thanks to its size of 90 x 47 mm, this allows one to control the pointer with no problem, even on larger display screens. The marked inlay also allows one to orient themselves well enough. Other strengths of the touchpad are its high precision, impeccable scroll function and reliable multi-touch features. In short, the touchpad is fantastic from the first second, setting the TravelMate 7740G one step ahead of its competition. The feedback of both touchpad buttons could certainly be somewhat more defined, but otherwise, there is little to criticize.
The 17.3 inch display of the type AUO129E has a screen size of 43.9 cm and is equipped with LED backlighting. It resolves with 1600 x 900 pixels, which represents a good compromise between work space and resource requirements (computer expense in 3D applications). Overall, the display picture quality leaves us with mixed feelings.
On the upside, the average luminance of 195.2 cd/m² is more than enough. In fact, for office tasks it is advisable to temper the lightness. On the other hand, a mediocre illumination of 77% (subjectively hardly perceptible) as well as a relatively high black level of 1.25 cd/m² which appear greyish overall. A contrast of 177:1 is also very poor. The colours make a disappointingly vague impression of brightness and light and colour transitions appear undefined. Games and films lose their atmosphere due to the already mentioned weaknesses; a mirrored screen surface would make this imperfection not half as bad.
However, the TravelMate 7740G is suitable to use outdoors due to its anti-glare screen. Even with strong daylight, the user can still recognize things on the screen and is not disturbed by hefty light reflections. Whoever has time to enjoy outdoors, on their balcony or in the garden, will soon not want to do without the advantages of a matte screen.
However, we could do without the limited viewing angle stability of the TravelMate 7740G. Horizontally and vertically, even the smallest changes in position cause changes in illumination and color distortions. This shows itself among other things during films, when one of the two black bars becomes a grey streak. On the whole, if the user is looking to use this notebook mainly for playing video games and watching films, they should think twice about buying this particular laptop. But office and internet users won't suffer as much from the modest picture quality and still benefit from the advantage of an anti-glare screen.
The processor, along with the Intel Core i5-430M, is one of the most popular mid-range models. The two cores of the i5-430M normally clock with 2.26GHz, but are partly over clocked up to 2.53 GHz with Turbo Boost technology. The hyperthreading technology allows for the simulation of two additional CPU cores (found in the task manager) and makes it possible to process up to four threads at the same time. Because gamers hardly have benefited from Hyperthreading up till this point, the advantages are limited except with optimized application. Another feature of the CPU, finished in 32 mm structure width, is a 3072 KB large L3 cache, just like with the GMA HD graphic chip. The TravelMate 7740G does not have a changeover function between the integrated and the dedicated graphics device, like for example with the Timeline X series. Meanwhile, the current consumption of the Core i5-430M is anything but low, yet acceptable considering to the integrated graphic chip.
A mid-range model also takes care of graphic processing. The ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 is a 40nm graphic card which is DirectX 11 ready, and with 400 unified shaders, 627 million transistors and 1024 MB video memory. The clock speeds of 550 MHz (core) and 800 MHz (shader) are within the specification from ATI and is on level with the HD 5650. The biggest pitfall of the ATI card is its small memory interface of 128 bit, which in combination with the DDR3-VRAM limits the performance noticeably. The relatively low energy requirement of 19 Watt is somewhat of a consolation for this fact. The rival Nvidia hardly has an offering to compete with the Radeon HD 5650 in the mid-range segment; the similar GeForce GT 335M doesn't stand up well against the HD 5650 in terms of performance technology.
Thanks to the efficient architecture and the modern features of Intel´s Core i5-430M, such as hyperthreading and turbo boost, it offers decent application performance. Both 3435 Points in single-core rendering and 7890 points in multi-core rendering are respectable values for the Cinebench R10. For comparison, the entry-level quadcore Core i7-720QM ciphers on average 3690 points in single-core rendering which is only marginally faster (turbo boost up to 2.80 GHz); whereas multi-core rendering outcrops a much bigger difference in performance with 9938 points (eight threads through hyperthreading).
|PCMark Vantage Result||5188 points|
|PCMark 7 Score||1876 points|
The graphics performance of the Radeon HD 5650 is on a similarly good level. The GPU score in the 3DMark Vantage goes to work with a respectable 2967 points. That is around 13% more than a GeForce GT 335M (ex. mySN QMG6), which masters an average of 2625 points. Compared to the previous Radeon HD 4650, which is now somewhat dated, the HD 5650 can lead by around 35% at 2967 vs. 2207 points.
|3DMark 03 Standard||21014 points|
|3DMark 05 Standard||13356 points|
|3DMark 06 Standard||6713 points|
|3DMark Vantage P Result||3479 points|
|3DMark 11 Performance||1024 points|
Acer equips the TravelMate 7740G with a 500 GB hard drive from Hitachi (HTS545050B9A300) which spins at 5400 r/m and offers an anti-shock protection. The hard drive showed a decent performance in the HDTune and with an average transfer rate of 63.5 MB/s, the HDD positions itself mid-pack. One man's meat is another man's poison: Acer set up only a single (usable) partition on the hard drive, which comprises around 452 GB. But additional partitions can be added later with free tools like the Partition Wizard.
Verdict: Application Performance
The TravelMate 7740G impresses with flawless application performance, which will be more than enough to please the average user. The notebook masters all the normal intended goals with flying colors, from Office, to the web and over to multimedia content.
Because we have already reviewed numerous notebooks with ATI's Mobility Radeon HD 5650, we limited our evaluation of gaming performance to three titles. If interested, the results of other titles are available in our in-depth game list.
Of course we could not get around putting the extremely successful Starcraft II on our benchmarks test list. The fact that 1.5 million copies were sold in the first 48 hours speaks for itself. The strategy game is not particularly demanding in terms of hardware technology, but the very high details still overburden the Radeon HD 5650 in the full HD resolution 1920 x 1080 (16.5 fps). High details can, however, be played acceptably in medium resolution like 1366 x 768. Our test showed 28.0 fps. Tip: As the performance of the various missions varies a great deal at times, we decided on the intro video as the primary challenge for the benchmark.
A whole eight years has gone by since the developer studio Illusions Softworks brought out this action title which was highly acclaimed by both critics and gamers alike. The outstanding mix of an open game world, diverse missions and riveting stories provided a depth of atmosphere unknown at the time. It is now in 2010 finally time, the next generation should appear in stores on August 27th. In order to whet the appetite of the waiting fans, the publisher 2k Games put out a demo-version ahead of time, which practically has its own built-in benchmark. We obviously did not pass up this chance and put the gangster epic to the test with the TravelMate 7740G. While the Radeon HD 5650 in a resolution of 1920 x 1080 is not up to the task to let Mafia II to run in high details to its full potential (22.4 fps), a resolution of 1366 x 768 is enough for a pleasantly usable 36.8 fps.
|1920x1080||high, 0xAA, 16xAF||22.4 fps|
|1360x768||high, 0xAA, 16xAF||36.8 fps|
|1024x768||medium, 0xAA, 8xAF||44.3 fps|
|800x600||low, 0xAA, 0xAF||54.2 fps|
The first person shooter Metro 2033, which is based on Dmitry Glukhovsky's novel under the same name, dethroned Crysis as the game with the highest hardware demands. Full HD resolution, very high details and the DirectX 11 mode do not even run smoothly on the currently fastest single chip GPU GeForce GTX 480M, which only masters 12 fps. On the TravelMate 7740G, Metro 2033 is similarly choppy (14.1 fps) in a native resolution of 1600 x 900, high details and in DirectX 10 mode. Even middle details are too much for the Radeon HD 5650 in a 1366 x 768 resolution and the picture regeneration tends to dip into the critical range under 25 fps, especially on the outer areas. Only when played on low details and in DirectX 9 mode could a fluid image build up of 53.5 fps be got in an 800 x 600 resolution.
|1600x900||High DX10, AAA, 4xAF||14.1 fps|
|1360x768||Normal DX10, AAA, 4xAF||25 fps|
|800x600||Low DX9, AAA, 4xAF||53.5 fps|
Verdict: Gaming Performance
So long as one selects a moderate resolution like 1366 x 768 (is not supported by the display of the TravelMate 7740G), the Radeon HD 5650 is strong enough in terms of performance to fluidly play current titles in middle to high details. But, high details are often taboo in the native resolution of 1600 x 900 and there is no getting around the mid level details. The user even has to accept low details on extremely demanding titles like Metro 2033. Ambitious gamers should therefore reach right for more powerful graphic cards like the GeForce GTX 260M or the Radeon HD 5850 (GDDR5)
|Metro 2033 (2010)||53.5||25||14.1||fps|
|StarCraft 2 (2010)||152.5||42.6||28||16.5||fps|
|Mafia 2 (2010)||54.2||44.3||36.8||22.4||fps|
|Fifa 11 (2010)||236.8||137.6||80.1||45.3||fps|
|Call of Duty: Black Ops (2010)||67.8||51.3||40.4||22.5||fps|
|Crysis 2 (2011)||55.8||35.7||26||8.7||fps|
|Dirt 3 (2011)||104.1||52.5||36.5||13.1||fps|
|Deus Ex Human Revolution (2011)||96.5||32.2||13.6||fps|
|F1 2011 (2011)||67||42||36||14||fps|
|Fifa 12 (2011)||210.7||109.3||75.5||47.5||fps|
30.4 / 31.5 / 33.1 dB(A)
||35.2 / dB(A)|
||38.8 / 40.7 dB(A)|
min: , med: , max: (15 cm distance)
The TravelMate 7740G delievers flawless performance in terms of system noise. At idle, the notebook is relatively quiet and the fan wooshes - with the exceptions of momentary changes in revolution speed - in a calm and pleasant way. If the notebook runs a DVD, the sound level rises noticeably for a moment, and then quickly returns to an acceptable level; the movie experience is in no way spoiled. Under load, the TravelMate 7740G was noticeable audible, but we would not describe the sound from the fan as bothersome. Sidenote: As is unfortunately more and more often the case on notebooks, the TravelMate 7740G gives off a light whistling noise around the area the case's fan for a moment.
At idle, the temperatures of both the components as well as the case's surface are okay. The 30°C at the processor and 42°C at the graphic card as well as the 32°C on the upper and lower sides make for an acceptably cool notebook. The verdict is a not as good under load, however, as the temperatures rise quickly. A maximum of 43.9°C around the WASD keys and up to 39.9°C in the left area of the palm rests make using it very unpleasant and one's hands warm up quite significantly. Load operations also quickly make using it on one's lap unpleasant; we could even measure spots up to 44.6°C. In order to squeeze out the maximum form the components, we strained the TravelMate 7740G for several hours with the Tools Prime and Furmark tests. The results of the endurance tests were disappointing. The Radeon HD 5650 warmed up to a maximum of 86°C, whereas the Core i5-430M even got up to 94°C (hardware monitor) or a respective 100°C (Coretemp).
The sound quality is anything but outstanding on most notebooks. The exact same holds true for the TravelMate 7740G: The sound of the two integrated loudspeakers can at best be described as utilitarian. Improvement could be made particularly in terms of base, which is very week and almost never makes itself known. Many tones seem indistinct, weak and spongy. The sounds also give a tinny and artificial impression. External loudspeakers are therefore highly recommended.
Acer equipped the TravelMate 7740G with a six cell battery, which with only 48 Whz is quite weak. Combined with the resource usage typical of multimedia notebooks, the runtimes come up a quite short. In the Classic Test from Battery eater, the screen would go black after just 46 minutes on maximum brightness and the energy saving modes turned off. When playing a DVD with medium energy saving settings, the runtime is still one hour and 50 minutes, which is too short for many films. Surfing the Internet wirelessly via WLAN, you can get around 2.5 hours without the power adapter. Only when used with maximum energy saving options and minimum brightness decent runtimes of four hours are possible in the Battery Eater Reader's Test.
|Off / Standby||0.1 / 0.4 Watt|
|Idle|| 13.9 / 14.3 / 16.1 Watt|
47.5 / 77.5 Watt|
Key: min: , med: , max:
Acer offers an interesting and in this form pretty unique multimedia/office hybrid with the TravelMate 7740G. A combination of matte display and gaming ready graphic card are rarely found in the 17" range and there is hardly an alternative with the exception of the Toshiba Satellite Pro L670 or the Dell Vostro 3700. It makes the decision a bit easier for the potential customer, if one looks beyond its many weaknesses.
Starting with the minimal equipment and the suboptimal arrangement of connections. Further, one can mention the weakly contrasting display with its pale colors, the bad viewing angles and the high black levels. The spongy keyboard also is not likely to impress anyone with its undefined stroke. To that list we can add high temperatures under load as well as arelatively weak battery life.
But, the TravelMate 7740G still deserves a good rating. The reasons for that are among other things the above-average application and gaming performance, the pleasant noise levels at idle as well as the anti-glare feature of the display. The tough and dirt resistant case surfaces are also advantages, as is the impressive touchpad.
Those who have been on the lookout for a balanced mix of office and multimedia notebook can give it a try, despite some diverse drawbacks.