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Acer TravelMate TimelineX 8481T review

Verdict

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

Review Date: 29 Nov 2011

Reviewed By: Sasha Muller

Price when reviewed: £636 (£763 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
4 stars out of 6

Features & Design
4 stars out of 6

Value for Money
4 stars out of 6

Performance
4 stars out of 6

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/m2 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.

Author: Sasha Muller

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User comments

What is wrong with the PC industry?

Only 768 vertical pixels on a 14" display? This is just getting ludicrous! From the screen photo we can see that the screen would be perfectly legible at twice that resolution.

Come on PC makers: laptop LCD displays seem to have got stuck at about 2005 and are completely missing out on the progress and innovation of the rest of the computer industry!

By JohnAHind on 29 Nov 2011

If it were a tablet...

It would have a decent screen. I can only agree with John here. A £130 tablet has the equivalent of a 1600x1200 screen, and it is decently bright. We know from Dell's US website that a proper screen is only about £50 more, and yet we keep seeing crippled laptops here in the UK.
Time for a Gadget Show special?

By tirons1 on 29 Nov 2011

And from AndandTech's review of the $200 Kindle Fire.

"It reaffirms something that we've known for quite a while: to deliver the best user experience you still need fast silicon and a great display."

By tirons1 on 29 Nov 2011

alert("Hei!")

By Heipaadeg on 29 Nov 2011

alert("Hei!")

By Heipaadeg on 29 Nov 2011

alert("Hei!")

By Heipaadeg on 29 Nov 2011

What is it about twisting screens?

For years now PC Pro have been commenting on how easy it is to cause ripples on a laptop's display. What on earth is the point of this? Do you often use a laptop in conditions so crowded someone is likely to lean all their weight on your screen? In which case, won't the lid slam shut before you notice the screen rippling? Why not test laptop screens for whether someone sitting beside you can see what your're doing? A slightly more real-world condition, I'd have thought.

By Noghar on 30 Nov 2011

Build quality

Noghar,

If just pressing on a laptop's lid with a finger is enough to foul the delicate display and backlight inside, then stronger, unintentional impacts - say, when the laptop is dropped - may cause more serious damage.

I've seen enough cracked screens and broken displays to think that the lid is a pretty important part of a laptop.

As for commenting on viewing angles, well, I think you'll have to accept that any laptop display will be visible to someone next to you. Display technology is so good these days that viewing angles are virtually a non-issue.

If you really want privacy, then you need to invest in a stick-on privacy filter. These will completely obscure your display's contents from nosy neghbours.

By SashaMuller on 30 Nov 2011

I really like the look of this and the price/battery life looks pretty good as well. But why is the screen such low resolution?

One single look at that desktop, where the Windows start menu takes up 1/3 of the entire screen, puts me off instantly.

By mikes87 on 30 Nov 2011

Screen resolution

Totally agree with all the comments here, laptop makers need to drag themselves into the 21st century. Lets hope the threat from tablets will force them to do it.

By ChrisH on 3 Dec 2011

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