The Extensa 5635Z is a business-centric notebook, and like most business models the core visuals take a back seat to functionality. This inevitably leads to a rather plain looking notebook, and there's really nothing in the Extensa's design that truly stands out. The keyboard uses just about every last millimetre of space open to it, which enables Acer to include a number pad on a model with a 15.6-inch display screen. The flip side of that is that some of the keys are very close together, and the cursor keys suffer from being quite small and being stuck under dedicated Euro and Dollar keys.
The one design feature in the Extensa that we did like — and that should appeal to the business crowd — is that it's a solidly build laptop, which should bode well for its ruggedness over time. "Solid" usually equates to "heavy", and with a weight of 2.5kg with the battery installed, you'll quickly feel the Extensa on your shoulder.
Acer sells the Extensa in a variety of configurations, and predictably the "from $1099" price represents the lowest specification machine that Acer sells. Our review sample sported a Pentium Dual-Core T4200 CPU, 2GB of RAM and an internal Intel GMA4500M 64MB graphics chip. Storage is provided via a 250GB SATA drive, and optical duties are handled by an 8x DVD-Super Multi double-layer drive. The Extensa ships with a multi-format card reader, three USB ports, D-Sub VGA output and a multi-touch capable touchpad. On the networking side it's got standard Ethernet, 802.11n and Bluetooth.
On the software side, the review model Acer supplied to us came with Windows Vista Business 32-bit, but you can expect that to flip over to Windows 7 pretty shortly. You also get a 60-day trial version of McAfee Internet Security and Microsoft Office, and NTI's Media Maker and Shadow software packages.
Basic business machines are all about productivity and not necessarily pizzazz, and that's exactly what we got out of the Extensa. For writing or spreadsheet work it functioned well, as you'd expect a system with its core specifications to do. The cursor keys are a bit of a curse, especially if you don't need the extra dollar and euro keys, but they're not an insurmountable problem.
On the pure performance front the Extensa provided few surprises. Intel's in-built graphics solutions are always notably weak, so its 3DMark06 score of 779 was no surprise to us. If your boss buys you an Extensa, don't expect too many sneaky hours playing games with it, unless Solitaire really gets you excited. On the productivity front the Extensa performed well, with a PCMark05 score of 4017.
Acer supplies the Extensa with a six-cell battery life and is astonishingly modest about its battery capabilities. We're very used to the types of spin that vendors put on battery life, rich with qualifiers and often highly suspect battery life testing regimes. Acer's claim for the Extensa is that you'll get up to a two-hour battery life, which isn't much at all in comparison with just about any other modern battery claim. In our DVD playback test with all battery-saving features disabled and screen brightness pumped up to full the Extensa sailed past the two-hour figure, conking out at two hours and 55 minutes. For a system with a screen that large, it's a decent figure. Not the greatest battery life capable for a business machine to be sure, but we've got to applaud Acer's upfront honesty.