Acer Turns 'Blue' With High-End Blu-Ray Laptop - InformationWeek

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Acer Turns 'Blue' With High-End Blu-Ray Laptop

In a swipe at HP and Dell's premium business, the blue, black, and silver 8920G is equipped with a TV tuner, six speakers, and support for Dolby Home Theater.

Acer on Wednesday launched a premium entertainment notebook with a high-definition display and optional Blu-ray disc drive, challenging Hewlett-Packard and Dell for the high end of the mobile computer market.

The Aspire Gemstone 8920G is the first of what the company is calling its "Blue" series, which refers to the notebook's blue, black, and silver color scheme and interior/exterior lighting effects. Within the stylish design, Acer has added a variety of entertainment features that would appeal to people looking for more than a business notebook.

The new product has an 18.4-inch footprint that includes a high-definition liquid-crystal display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. Powering the machine is Intel's Centrino-brand mobile platform, comprising a Core 2 Duo processor and PM965 Express Chipset. The notebook also comes with built-in Wi-Fi support.

The 8920G is available with up to two 320 GB hard disk drives, and a high-definition Blu-ray disc drive. A standard DVD drive is also available. In addition, buyers can choose between an Nvidia GeForce 9650M GS or 9500M GS graphics card. Both support HD content and Microsoft's DirectX 10 graphics technology, which is exclusive to Windows Vista.

The notebook also includes an integrated TV tuner, six integrated speakers, and support for Dolby Home Theater sound technology. In addition, there's a touch-sensitive media console for navigating menus and adjusting volume without going through the standard Windows menu.

In introducing the Aspire Gemstone Blue, Acer is trying to up its brand to the high-end of the notebook market, while offering its Gateway, eMachines, and Packard Bell brands to consumers unwilling to pay more for the latest entertainment features, John Spooner, analyst for Technology Business Research, said in an e-mail. The Gemstone Blue would compete with Dell's XPS notebook and HP's Blackbird line.

The recent acquisitions of Gateway and Packard Bell have catapulted Acer to No. 3 in the U.S. computer market behind No. 1 Hewlett-Packard and Dell, according to Gartner. Nevertheless, Acer faces stiff competition in trying to go further up the ladder.

"Acer faces a particularly difficult task in doing so in the United States, where the Acer brand name has largely stood for low-cost brand," Spooner said. "The company also faces stiff competition from HP and Dell, which have also been working to improve the cache of their respective PC product lines."

In January, Lenovo entered the high-end notebook market in the U.S. with a new line of entertainment notebooks under the IdeaPad brand. Acer, however, hopes to pressure on its rivals with price, Spooner said. The Aspire Gemstone Blue, which ships this month, is expected to range from about $900 to $1,700.

"Given the machines' high-end features and pricing, TBR believes that Acer is still aiming to provide a price-performance value," Spooner said.

In addition to the Gemstone Blue, Acer on Wednesday introduced the Aspire 6920 line, which has a 16-inch footprint and high-definition LCD screen. The notebook, which is powered by the same Intel Centrino platform, has half the hard drive capacity, but is also available with a Blu-ray disc drive.

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