Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi review

19 Jan 2006

A good-looking, amazingly fast laptop. But it's also expensive, heavy and doesn't offer outstanding battery life

Price when reviewed 
1,499
4

Acer has given the veteran TravelMate chassis a spruce up for its first dual-core notebook. The lid has a carbon-fibre finish to it, and the curved keyboard and gunmetal grey colouring lend it a distinctive look.

Inside, the T2500 Core Duo is clocked at 2GHz and aided by a generous 2GB of DDR2 RAM, which makes the TravelMate the quickest notebook we've ever seen: it scored a remarkable 1.11 in our application benchmarks. That's more powerful than our current A-Listed power notebook, the SavRow Blade 75. Amazingly, it's also 11 per cent quicker than a top-of-the-range Intel PC based on the 3.2GHz Pentium D840.

A look at the hard disk brings more good news - a Seagate Barracuda unit with 120GB of space split into two 60GB partitions. Although this isn't as much storage as the impressive 160GB disk from Sony, there's still ample capacity for files and applications. The optical drive is a DVD writer with the capability to write to every single format of writable CD and DVD, including DVD-RAM discs.

The 15.4in widescreen TFT boasts a resolution of 1,680 x 1,050. That provides tremendous flexibility and, as with the Evesham, it will really come into its own under the vector-based nature of the Windows Vista interface. This will render the small-text issue irrelevant should you decide to upgrade later this year.

There's ATi's Mobility Radeon X1600 on graphics duty and, if you're happy to abandon the native resolution in favour of 1,280 x 1,024, you'll get playable frame rates in most current games. But the primary issue is the sheer amount of heat and noise blasting out of the side when the card is working hard, both of which are at the limits of acceptability.

The imperfect power requirements of the TravelMate meant it struggled in our battery tests too. One hour, 36 minutes under intensive use is reasonable, although the light-use test result of two hours, 53 minutes is slightly more disappointing. But it's debatable how much use you'll get out of the TravelMate on the road anyway; a weight of 3kg and hefty physical dimensions mean that it isn't eminently portable.

The 8204WLMi offers power and svelte looks in abundance, and if you need an incredibly powerful desktop-replacement notebook laptop right now, it's very tempting. But it's also expensive: the one-year RTB warranty might be international, but for this much money we'd want longer coverage, and both the Sony and the Evesham here offer tangibly better value for money.