Acer TravelMate TimelineX 8481T review
Excellent battery life, good performance and a sleek chassis, but weak ergonomics let it down
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.
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.
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.
|Price ex VAT||£636|
|Price inc VAT||£763|
|Features & Design||4|
|Value for Money||4|
|Warranty||1 yr return to base|
|Dimensions||329 x 240 x 22mm (WDH)|
Processor and memory
|Processor||Intel Core i5-2467M|
|Motherboard chipset||Intel HM57|
|SODIMM sockets free||0|
|SODIMM sockets total||2|
Screen and video
|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|
|Hard disk usable capacity||298GB|
|Internal disk interface||SATA/300|
|Optical disc technology||N/A|
|Replacement battery price inc VAT||£0|
|Wired adapter speed||1,000Mbits/sec|
|802.11 draft-n support||yes|
|Integrated 3G adapter||no|
|Wireless hardware on/off switch||no|
|Wireless key-combination switch||yes|
|PC Card slots||0|
|USB ports (downstream)||2|
|PS/2 mouse port||no|
|9-pin serial 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|
|Pointing device type||Touchpad|
|Audio chipset||Realtek HD Audio|
|Camera megapixel rating||1.3mp|
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|
Operating system and software
|Operating system||Windows 7 Professional 64-bit|
|OS family||Windows 7|
|Recovery method||Recovery partition|