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Power house

Acer Aspire 1700

Pentium 3.06GHz, 120Gb hard disk, 1,024Mb memory, nVidia GeForce 5600 graphics card with 128Mb built in graphics memory, four USB 2.0 ports, two FireWire ports and 17-inch LCD screen.

Weight: 7kg

Price: pound;1,200) Acer

Acer Aspire 1700

Fitness for purpose *****

Ease of use ****

Features ****

Quality ****

Value for money ****

Jonathan Boyle finds an Acer up his sleeve as he ends his search for a laptop to handle his CadCam and DV needs

I love video technology. It offers all the thrills and spills of the theme park with both highs and lows. I also have a passion for CadCam (computer aided design and manufacture) and digital video (DV). The integration of DV into the curriculum is perhaps one of the most effective modes of learning for the children that I teach. It offers many advantages. First, videos are bespoke for each project and you can be reassured that the content is appropriate. Second, you can direct your own movies and then produce them.

I first acquired a feel for video editing four years ago using Pinnacle DV.

It soon became apparent that great things could happen with good preparation and a good cameraperson to guide you in areas like lighting and angles.

A variety of different software editing solutions are available, and many at considerably less than pound;100. A good quality DV camcorder, tripod and a quite modest computer will provide you with very pleasing videos. I used a 900MHz computer with a 30Gb hard disk for several years with great results and have only just replaced it. Demand for larger productions as part of the CadCam Cookies series of CDs I created has forced its replacement and what a replacement it is.

As you become more proficient it is important that your computer meets four basic requirements. A capacious hard disk is necessary if you have several projects on the go at once. Good connectivity between your computer and camcorder, such as FireWire or USB 2.0 sockets. DVD burning capability is necessary to burn your masterpieces to one of the many different types of blank disk (see page 26). Perhaps most important, a cracking processor is needed to speed up DV processing time.

In order to satisfy my demands, and after much research, I elected to purchase an Acer Aspire 1700. This is no ordinary computer. It cannot really be classed as a laptop as it weighs 7Kg, but neither is it a desktop computer - I see it as a hybrid of the two. While from a distance it resembles the stereotypical laptop, it possesses components and performance normally associated with a powerful desktop computer.

An Intel Pentium 3.06GHz processor kicks things off, with video rendering times vastly reduced as a result. It has a 120Gb hard disk - spinning at 7,200rpm - and is capable of storing many hours of video at the highest quality setting. The graphics card is no slouch either; an nVidia GeForce 5600 with 128Mb of graphics memory built in. Connectivity is excellent with four USB 2.0 and two FireWire ports. Wireless connectivity provides further benefits and 1,024Mb of desktop memory means it will chomp its way through the most memory-heavy tasks. The LCD screen is a massive 17 inches. While it's still a traditional 4:3 aspect ratio, it is superb for viewing presentations in both 4:3 and 16:9 widescreen.

I selected this machine because it is a beast that can be moved when necessary, has a battery for when power is out of reach and can burn to DVD. Computer prices vary from month to month and specifications improve dramatically with little, if any, increase in price. This specification of the Acer Aspire 1700 model cost just over pound;1,200 and has changed my video life for the better.

There are many factors that contribute to a successful educational video.

The school and teacher need to have the inclination to produce materials that both enhance learning and can be disseminated easily, perhaps online or via the school intranet. Rest assured that the software creates different video formats too. Just select whether the video is heading for DVD, online or even back to tape, and Pinnacle Studio 9 will do the rest.

There are lots of packages out there for you to choose from. Do some research and find the one that suits your needs best.

Jonathan Boyle is a deputy head at Walsall Academy, Walsall

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