by Chris Garrett, Gloucestershire United Kingdom
– Note to readers, the Acer TravelMate 2700 Series is currently only offered for sale in the United Kingdom –
With an aim to make this site both a useful resource for design and hardware enthusiasts alike I figured it’s about time I penned my first product review. Having just received my new Acer Travelmate 2702WLMi I decided to knock up a little review of it, concentrating on both the areas of performance and design. First off I’d like to say that for the very budget friendly price of 549 British pounds ($965 USD) I was not expecting a beastie machine on par with the likes of the Sony Vaio or Apple Powerbook, and was pleasantly surprised with what the laptop did deliver.
Acer TravelMate 2702WLMi Specs
- Intel Pentium 4 processor 3.0GHz (800MHz FSB),
- Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition (SP2),
- 15.4″ WXGA TFT display,
- 40GB HDD
- 256MB DDR (Max 2GB)
- Communication: 56Kbps modem, 10/100 LAN, Integrated wireless LAN (802.11 b/g),
- DVD-RW Dual optical drive
- 8-cell Li-Ion battery
- Ports: 4 USB 2.0, 1 LAN, 1 Modem, 1 IR, 1 VGA out, 1 PC card slot, 1 AC adapter, 1 microphone, 1 line-out (headphones)
- Weight: 7.5lbs
- Dimensions: 14.4″ x 11.4″ x 1.8″ (width x depth x thickness)
- 1 year travellers warranty
Acer TravelMate 2700 Series (view larger image)
First up aesthetics. From the outset the TravelMate’s dimensions suggest that it is anything but a “Travel Mate” but more of a desktop replacement; measuring in at almost 2″ thick. The 15.4″ widescreen configuration is welcome as trying to work on any form of design using lower end 12″ displays is nigh on impossible and the fact that the TravelMate offers widescreen makes it ideal for watching films. Despite being bulky, the laptop’s exterior exudes the infamous Acer style; adopting their glossy silver finish which, from a distance, is indecipherable from aluminium (it is in fact just plastic). The curved edges and sleek lines give the case a suave feel which effectively conceals its budget price.
Notice the curved edges on the Acer TravelMate (view larger image)
Acer TravelMate 2702WLMi keyboard view (view larger image)
Acer TravelMate 2702WLMi front view (view larger image)
The 3.00GHz Pentium 4 Prescott CPU is the main downfall of the laptop. Although it provides a powerful processing base it is also the main cause of the laptop’s portability issues as Acer have had to design the chassis around the oversized heat sinks which are necessary to cool the beastly chip. On the bottom of the case Acer have placed two 40mm fans which were actually not bedded properly upon delivery (I’m currently awaiting a courier to take it back for correction) but the fans will still be irritatingly loud once amended. The Pentium 4’s massive power consumption levels also mean that the life of a fully charged battery is only predicted by Acer themselves to be an hour but, unless left idle, battery life actually only comes in at a measly 40 minutes, enhancing the machines suitability as a desktop replacement.
As standard the machine is only fitted with a very underwhelming 256MB of DDR333 RAM but fortunately the store I bought it from (Shop Acer UK) were running a free upgrade to 512MB (they also threw in a free Belkin carry case). This is definitely adequate for normal computing but if I ever get round to capitalising on the machines power and throw out my desktop I’ll have to ensure I upgrade to a 1GB.
The main difference between the TravelMate and other laptops on the market within this price bracket is the dedicated graphics card. While most laptops suffice with the motherboards onboard graphics, Acer have plumped for the ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 graphics card with 64MB DDR which offers an additional gaming element to the machine (alright, you’re not going to get Doom III out at 1,600 x 1,200 but it’ll handle the occasional game with relative ease).
The core element where Acer has really given themselves a poor showing is in the TravelMate’s storage, offering a puny 40GB hard-disk. Even more annoying is the fact that someone’s gone and partitioned the hard-disk into two 20GB sections which makes organising files a nightmare (urrrg!). Although this partition can be undone, it’s very likely that I will rip out the hard-disk and install a 100GB Toshiba to ensure that my files are safe and organised.
The Dual Layer DVD-RW came as an immense shock as, in slim line form, these little drives can be very pricey. The drive writes at 8x, but I must warn you, do not try and burn a DVD with the machine on your lap. I’m still waiting for the burns to heal up!
The notebook is also wireless ready, offering both traditional 802.11b WiFi reception and Bluetooth. Acer has considered both of these in the design of the case and has placed two large buttons on the front of the chassis which enable you to activate or deactivate the wireless reception.
The speakers that come with the machine are actually very good, built into the curved front edge of the machine they offer excellent bass and sweet sounding treble. Although if you do intend to act upon the suggested use of the notebook as a desktop replacement it would also be advised to purchase a sound system with a subwoofer as these offer superior quality when it comes to music playback.
The inclusion of a windows XP home edition restore disk is not my preference and I fail to see why Acer couldn’t have bundled a full version and maybe even professional instead. SP2 is preinstalled and as of yet I haven’t had any issues and am pleased that all drivers are preinstalled.
Super Pi Test
The P4 3.0ghz processor performs pretty well with a Super Pi 2M time of 1 min 42 seconds but unfortunately this brings with it the undesirable level of fan noise and, depending on what you’re doing, heat levels.
Super Pi (calculating Pi to 2 millions digits):
|Notebook||Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits|
|Acer TravelMate 2702WLMi (Pentium 4 3.0GHz)||1m 42s|
|IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86GHz Pentium M)||1m 45s|
|Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Pentium M)||1m 48s|
|IBM ThinkPad T41 (1.6GHz Pentium M)||2m 23s|
|Compaq R3000T (Celeron 2.8GHz)||3m 3s|
|Dell Inspiron 600m (1.6 GHz Pentium M)||2m 10s|
|Dell Inspiron 8600 (1.7GHz Pentium M)||2m 28s|
Acer TravelMate 2702WMLi above view (view larger image)
Overall the TravelMate is a strong performer for a very competitive price. It has the capabilities and components often associated with higher end systems, but unfortunately lack the portability and quietness to match. The Acer “folio” design packs attractiveness into the machine in usual abundance and gives the impression of much higher value. Unfortunately it is let down by the concord like sound levels and abysmal battery life, but if you’re looking to replace your desktop with a semi-portable system the TravelMate has what it takes, and I’m looking forward to the biceps I’ll reap from lugging the machine around.
Pricing and Availability
The TravelMate 2702WLMi is available from the following UK retailers: