Acer TravelMate TimelineX 8481T review

29 Nov 2011

Excellent battery life, good performance and a sleek chassis, but weak ergonomics let it down

Price when reviewed: 
763(£764 inc VAT)
4

While it’s rare that business laptops ignite our gadget lust, Acer is keen to buck that trend with the TravelMate 8481T. This millimetres-thick slice of black magic manages to squeeze a 14in display into a smaller chassis than usual, and crams in a Core i5 processor and a whole bunch of business-friendly features. In fact, were it not for the sizable battery propping up its rear, you could almost mistake it for an Ultrabook.

It tapers from only 16mm thick at its front to 20mm at the rear, and the build quality is rather impressive. The slim, flexible lid lets the side down a touch – it didn’t take the hardest of prods on the lid to cause ripples on the display – but the base is absolutely rock solid, resisting our most heavy-handed attempts to flex it to and fro.

Acer TravelMate TimelineX 8481T - front

It weighs 1.78kg, hardly light by ultraportable or Ultrabook standards, but we can forgive the culprit – that heavy 6000mAh battery. The first benefit is one of straightforward practicality: the battery props up the rear, leaning the keyboard forwards into a more comfortable typing position. The second is longevity. With the Acer clocking up 11hrs 27mins in our light-use battery test, it should survive the most epic of meetings.

This stamina doesn’t come at the expense of performance, either. With the same low-voltage Core i5 processor found in many Ultrabooks, the Acer shifts into fifth gear when the occasion demands it. An overall benchmark score of 0.57 showcases the TravelMate 8481T’s ability to plough through intensive applications.

The rest of the Acer’s business credentials are pretty convincing. For security it has a fingerprint reader and TPM 1.2 chip. The single USB 3 port is accompanied by two USB 2 ports, a combined eSATA/USB 2 port, and both D-SUB and HDMI outputs. On the networking front, you get Gigabit Ethernet and single-band 802.11n Wi-Fi. The only thing obviously lacking is an optical drive.

Acer TravelMate TimelineX 8481T - keyboard

We mentioned that the Acer has a 14in screen in a smaller chassis than usual, and that’s thanks to an extremely thin bezel. That’s impressive to behold, but neither the 1,366 x 768 resolution nor the image quality stand out. And while the matte finish all but banishes distracting reflections, the LED-backlit panel is a little dimmer than we’d like: we measured a 217cd/m[sup]2[/sup] brightness and a contrast ratio of only 166:1, making for an uninspired and washed out picture.

The TravelMate’s keyboard is just as mediocre. The wide channels between keys are perfect for dust and debris, and although there’s nothing wrong with the spacious layout – we loved the extra-wide right-Shift key – the slight bounce in the backing and overly springy keys make for a mushy, indistinct feel. If you can get used to it, at least the layout is okay; we didn’t find ourselves making typos or missing keys.

So after an excellent start with the overall design, the dim display and average ergonomics can’t help but knock the Acer’s appeal somewhat. It’s a long way from perfect, but with its long battery life and light weight, along with a reasonable price, it shouldn’t be totally written off by businesses on a medium budget.

Details

Price ex VAT £636
Price inc VAT £763
Overall rating 4
Features & Design 4
Value for Money 4
Performance 4

Warranty

Warranty 1 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 329 x 240 x 22mm (WDH)
Weight 1.780kg
Travelling weight 2.2kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i5-2467M
Motherboard chipset Intel HM57
RAM capacity 3.00GB
Memory type DDR3
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 2

Screen and video

Screen size 14.0in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,366
Resolution screen vertical 768
Resolution 1366 x 768
Graphics chipset Intel HD Graphics 3000
Graphics card RAM N/A
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 1
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 320GB
Hard disk usable capacity 298GB
Spindle speed 7,200RPM
Internal disk interface SATA/300
Optical disc technology N/A
Optical drive none
Battery capacity 6,000mAh
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a support no
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter no
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch no
Wireless key-combination switch yes
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 2
FireWire ports 0
eSATA ports 1
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 2
SD card reader yes
Memory Stick reader yes
MMC (multimedia card) reader yes
Smart Media reader no
Compact Flash reader no
xD-card reader yes
Pointing device type Touchpad
Audio chipset Realtek HD Audio
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 1.3mp
TPM yes
Fingerprint reader yes
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 11hr 27min
3D performance (crysis) low settings N/A
3D performance setting N/A
Overall Real World Benchmark score 0.57
Responsiveness score 0.73
Media score 0.57
Multitasking score 0.42

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
OS family Windows 7
Recovery method Recovery partition
Software supplied N/A