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Acer TravelMate 8006LMi review

Verdict

An incredibly well-designed notebook, with great performance, solid build quality and a wealth of features.

Review Date: 22 Jun 2004

Reviewed By: Ross Burridge

Price when reviewed: (£1,703 inc VAT); Delivery £6 (£7 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

We've seen some superb notebooks from Acer over the past year. Its Aspire 1502LMi has been on our A List for three months, and previous incarnations of the TravelMate have regularly found themselves taking a place in our Power Notebook category.

The headline change in this latest model is the new 2GHz Dothan Pentium M. The original version of this processor was a revolution for battery life, and its successor has proved no disappointment. Under intensive use, the battery held out for two hours, 45 minutes, and under light use this extended to just over four hours. While we've seen longer, the TravelMate will still be good company during the average train journey or short-haul flight.

Despite its name, this isn't the ideal companion for the habitual traveller. Weighing 3kg, it won't escape your notice, although the 34mm profile is at least slim enough to slip into a largeÊbriefcase.

For the more sedentary, however, there are plenty of compensations. The 2D benchmark score of 1.88 is leagues ahead of most desktop machines from this time last year, so there's little this notebook won't handle.

The 15in TFT is another boon. We've criticised the TravelMate series in the past for its dull screens, but this offers a superb level of clarity and brightness. The viewing angle is better than average and, although brightness tails off beyond an angle of 45 degrees, it's sufficient for a small group to appreciate a PowerPoint presentation. The 1,400 x 1,050 resolution offers plenty of desktop real-estate without becoming crowded, and we were pleased enough with its colour representation and definition to trust it while editing digital photos.

As we've seen on previous models, there's a slightly spongy feel to the TravelMate's keys. It isn't unpleasant during use, but it may take a little getting used to. Touch-typists may also be perturbed by the lightly curved shape of the keyboard, but it's worth persevering with. The layout is sensible, with everything being where you'd expect it. The placing of the Control key on the outside of the keys, in place of the more commonly seen Fn modifier, makes typing surprises less likely, and the dedicated page navigation group is a godsend to web browsing and document editing. The touchpad is responsive and, again, while the mouse buttons lack solidity, they're up to the job.

It's not just work that the TravelMate can handle though, with ATi's hugely capable Mobility Radeon 9700 graphics chipset inside. It's as fast as you'll find in a notebook at present, and our 3D benchmarks indicate that this little powerhouse will relish the challenge from current releases - and some way into the future. Running Halo and Unreal Tournament 2004 at a resolution of 1,280 x 1,024, we achieved 16fps and 41fps respectively.

There's more future-proofing in store too. The 80GB hard disk and multiformat DVD writer provide excellent storage and archival potential, and expansion options are comprehensive too. Four USB 2 ports are neatly arranged on the left side, along with one 4-pin mini-FireWire port. They're joined by a Type II PC Card slot and an audio trio of in, out and headphone sockets. Just under the touchpad, you'll find an infrared transmitter - just where you need it when synchronising a mobile phone to PDA - and a media card reader, again sensibly placed and able to cope with SD/MMC cards, SmartMedia and Memory Sticks.

Communications are covered by gigabit Ethernet and a 56K modem. We also welcome the inclusion of hardware switches and status indicators for the integrated 802.11b/g WLAN and Bluetooth modules - reassuring when in the presence of a publicly shared network. A proprietary smart card reader is also integrated into the side, for when securityÊis vital.

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