Scott Hanselman

Fixing Quiet or Low Audio output on the PDC Tablet PC - Acer 1420P Convertible

January 13, 2010 Comment on this post [17] Posted in Tools
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I finally got my hands (via eBay) on one of the Tablet PCs that were given away at PDC this year (effectively a custom Acer 1420P Convertible). It's fabulous. I easily upgraded the memory to 4GB for about $40 and that makes little netbook a nice portable developer rig.

One serious point of frustration that I understand may be common on Acer laptops is that the audio output is extremely low. Like really low. Think of quiet, and imagine it quieter than that. It effectively made the regular speakers totally useless for things like movies, etc.

I poked around in the audio settings and came up with these changes to make the audio tolerable.

First, right click on the little speaker near the clock and select Playback Devices:


Double click on the Speakers item:


Then click on the Enhancements Tab. Make sure that "Loudness Equalization" is checked and nothing else.


Also, go to the Custom tab and make sure "Limited Output" is NOT checked.

These changes nearly doubled my speaker output and at least make it possible to watch a web video.


About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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January 13, 2010 23:41
I get the same thing. Not sure if it has anything todo with the fact that old age is catching up on us and we don't like to admit it or the PC/Laptop. Most likely the PC/Laptop.
January 13, 2010 23:55
How much did it go for on ebay?. I want one.....
January 14, 2010 0:02
Oh nice trick. I agree the sound is really low and I can't watch movie when there is some noise around. Will try this evening!
BTW its Acer 1420P :)

@Hector: You can find one on eBay around $900
January 14, 2010 0:11
Thanks benjamin, I was going mad searching for 1240 instead of 1420
January 14, 2010 1:03
Ah, that might explain my pain with my earlier Acer laptop. I always had problems with sound output. HP's audio was so perfect after that one.

Which brings the question: why on the Earth laptop producers do not verify what is the out-of-the box experience look like? I mean, come on: your laptop could be barely heard and you don't care?!
January 14, 2010 1:33
Ha, there's two on eBay right now. I wonder how much more the sellers will get because of the Hanselman bump.
January 14, 2010 2:45
I have found this issue on many laptops in the past especially when playing dvd's which at the same volume level setting are usually much quieter than other sources. This is due to an increase in dynamic range to give them a sound closer to that of the cinema.

The setting is a nice trick but why is an extra volume setting get hidden away from the user, surely there should be only one or one per device.

Also going to the level tab on the speaker properties my current laptop was only set to 25 out of 100. This in my opinion is not reflected in the previous sound dialog, the playback devices appear to have a volume indicator on the right of each one. This doesn't seem to change based on the settings.
January 14, 2010 3:53
Keep this in mind. Maybe it's why they're so quiet.
January 14, 2010 5:01
Hey Scott,

I've heard that in some cases Acer Netbooks have issues with sounds and hard drives. It sounds completely absurd; apparently, however, in the cramped conditions the components in these netbooks are in, the vibrations from the speakers can cause premature hard drive failure...
Oops, I see that whatgoodisaroad already made note of this. Just be careful!
January 14, 2010 9:31
I listed mine here if anyone is interested. It's a fun device, but I already have too many laptops around the house.
January 14, 2010 19:22
I have a laptop with very low sound, I wonder if this is the same for it? I cannot watch a movie on it because I just can't hear well enough from it.
January 14, 2010 23:22
Great tip! Have you only found this to be a problem on these Tablet PCs?
January 16, 2010 5:10
The speakers of my PDC09 laptop are working just fine. Thanks for the link to the memory upgrade. How did you get it so cheap? You didn't buy it at amazon, did you?
January 16, 2010 5:17
Klaus - Yes, $43 at Amazon.

TuneUp - No, only Acer machines, actually.
March 29, 2010 23:21
I wonder, whether I can have one of these laptops too?!
Anyone knows anybody selling it?
June 22, 2010 7:35
I have an Acer laptop with this low audio problem. Thanks for sharing the tip.
July 17, 2010 10:41
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU I have been trying to figure this out for a year! You are the first person with the right answer thus far! Heaven Sent!

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.