Wrapped in Acer’s new magnesium alloy "ProFile" chassis, the TravelMate 5720 can be equipped with a solid selection of Intel Centrino Duo mobile processors and enough conveniences to make your mobile computing a little more enjoyable. In this budget notebook a worthwhile purchase compared to low-priced offerings from HP and Dell?
Through an excellent online deal with TigerDirect.ca, I managed to get the Acer TravelMate 5720 for less than $900 with taxes and shipping included. The TravelMate 5720 features the following specs:
- Intel Core 2 Duo Processor T7300 2.0GHz
- 15.4" WXGA LCD
- 1GB DDR2 533MHz RAM
- Integrated Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3100
- 100GB 5400RPM SATA Hard Drive
- 8X DVD +/- dual layer recorder
- 53 watt-hour 6-cell battery
- 802.11 a/b/g WLAN
- XP Professional, SP2
- Ports/Slots: 1 IEEE 1394 (FireWire); 4 Universal Serial Bus (USB 2.0); 5-in-1 memory card reader; VGA monitor out port; S-Video out; RJ-45 Ethernet LAN; RJ-11 modem; PC card slot; ExpressCard 54mm; DVI-D; headphone/speaker jack; microphone; Bluetooth
In case you didn’t know, the TravelMate is the business side of Acer’s line of portable computers. Judging by its design and business software package, it seems to be a poor man’s IBM Thinkpad, but more on that later.
(view large image)
Build and Design
I have a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde syndrome in regards to the design. The TravelMate 5720, with its sleek black and grey business design on the outside, is much nicer than I expected. It practically screams no-nonsense without looking like your grandfather’s hardware. Very sexy. Inside, there is an interesting metallic strip around the touch-pad and a shiny metallic strip which houses your typical LED indicator lights. At first, I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the lid, since the shine added some much needed glamour to a plain design. However, as I continue to use this machine, I find the metallic strip to be a bit tacky, and with time, it will look even more dated as it will surely get scratched.
On the bright side, the main build is solid. It’s made of magnesium-alloy, and it was clear after I took it out of the box that there would be no flex in the frame or the hinges. The 5720 also comes with something called DASP technology (Disk Anti-Shock Protection) which is a rubber damper under the hard disk. Apparently the newer models (like mine I would assume) include the newer DASP technology, if we can call it that, which is a complete rubber shell around the hard drive. I have searched online, but I had some trouble finding any documentation from Acer on DASP or someone or some computer magazine willing to test the benefits of DASP. This worries me a bit, but hopefully I will never have to test this feature.
Front view: headphone line-out ports, microphone port, Bluetooth sensor, switches for Bluetooth and wireless, respectively.
(view large image)
Back view: three USB ports, modem port, power jack
(view large image)
Left side view: Kensington lock slot, Ethernet, VGA / Monitor out port, DVI-D port , S-Video/TV-out, one USB 2.0 port, 4-pin FireWire, Media Card Reader, ExpressCard accessory slot on bottom, Type II PC Card Slot on top, button for slot to the right.
(view large image)
The right side simply houses the optical drive, no surprises there.
Ah, yes, the screen. Someday, perhaps, Acer will have laptops that can compete with the big boys in screens, but for now, there is nothing we can do but sigh and squint a bit. The screen is an LCD, and a faded one at that. It’s even more muted than the Aspire LCD, which I didn’t think would be possible. When I compare it with an Acer glossy screen, the difference is immediate. I find my eyes get very tired very easily looking at this screen.
On the not so bright side (no pun intended), this screen can really do the twist. This is a constant problem with Acer; their screens are not high quality. With even just a little force, the screen seems to bend and warp into ways I didn’t realize were possible. I was a little scared the first time I tested the flex because I thought the screen would break in half. If I ever want to put my TravelMate in the next Laptop Olympics, gymnastics has a clear winner.
In terms of audio, the speakers are amazingly great. The bass is serviceable, and the sound is not tinny at all. I can listen to radio on the web with the same clarity I would get from the typical factory speakers in your car. I am surprisingly impressed with the speakers in this unit, and while the volume can only go so high with these speakers, they’re clear and pleasant to listen to, even at max volume.
Processor and Performance
Now, for a 2.0GHz modern processor and a 5400 rpm hard drive I really expected better performance from the Acer. However, again, there is something with Acer build quality which doesn’t always translate into high quality. It takes about two minutes to finish starting up with these processes running: Norton Anti-virus, Photoshop Elements 3.0 (the quick boot process), Open Office, Quickstarter, a calendar widget and the Acer business widget (more on the Acer widget later). When dealing with tasks, it is normally snappy. There is only, at most, a two to three second delay between starting programs that are really intensive. Photoshop Elements only takes 15 seconds or less to load. Granted, I only have 1GB of memory, but I assume that would be enough with XP.
Benchmarking didn’t turn out quite as well as I planned. The results show processor performance is on par with similar systems but the graphics performance benchmarked lower than similar configurations. Watching this thing play a movie with 1-2 FPS is sheer pain. wPrime, PCMark05 and 3DMark05 scores are below, as well as the HD Tune hard drive test.
wPrime is a program that forces the processor to do recursive mathematical calculations, the advantage of this program is that it is multi-threaded and can use both processor cores at once, thereby giving more accurate benchmarking measurements than Super Pi. Lower scores mean better performance.
|Notebook / CPU||wPrime 32M time|
|Acer TravelMate 5720 (Intel Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2.0 GHz)||46.226s|
|Dell Vostro 1500 (Intel Core 2 Duo T5470 @ 1.6GHz)||53.827s|
|HP Pavilion dv6500z (AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-60 @ 2.0GHz)||40.759s|
|Systemax Assault Ruggedized (Core 2 Duo T7200 @2.0GHz)||41.982s|
|Toshiba Tecra M9 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @2.2GHz)||37.299s|
|HP Compaq 6910p (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2GHz)||40.965s|
|Sony VAIO TZ (Core 2 Duo U7600 @ 1.20GHz)||76.240s|
|Zepto 6024W (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2GHz)||42.385s|
|Lenovo T61 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz)||37.705s|
|Alienware M5750 (Core 2 Duo T7600 @ 2.33GHz)||38.327s|
|Hewlett Packard DV6000z (Turion X2 TL-60 @ 2.0GHz)||38.720s|
|Samsung Q70 (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2.0GHz)||42.218s|
|Acer Travelmate 8204WLMi (Core Duo T2500 @ 2.0GHz)||42.947s|
|Samsung X60plus (Core 2 Duo T7200 @ 2.0GHz)||44.922s|
|Zepto Znote 6224W (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2.0GHz)||45.788s|
|Samsung Q35 (Core 2 Duo T5600 @ 1.83GHz)||46.274s|
PCMark05 overall performance comparison results (higher scores mean better performance):
|Acer TravelMate 5720 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100)||3,426 PCMarks|
|Dell Vostro 1500 (1.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5470, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS)||3,585 PCMarks|
|Dell Inspiron 1420 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS)||4,925 PCMarks|
|Sony VAIO FZ (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100)||3,377 PCMarks|
|Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS)||4,591 PCMarks|
|Lenovo ThinkPad X61 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100)||4,153 PCMarks|
|Lenovo 3000 V200 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100)||3,987 PCMarks|
|Lenovo T60 Widescreen (2.0GHz Intel T7200, ATI X1400 128MB)||4,189 PCMarks|
|HP dv6000t (2.16GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400)||4,234 PCMarks|
|Fujitsu N6410 (1.66GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400)||3,487 PCMarks|
|Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60, Nvidia Go 7800GTX)||5,597 PCMarks|
|Sony VAIO SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400)||3,637 PCMarks|
|Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400, Nvidia Go 7400)||3,646 PCMarks|
3DMark05 graphics comparison results (higher scores mean better performance):
|Notebook||3D Mark 05 Results|
|Acer TravelMate 5720 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100)||716 3DMarks|
|Dell Vostro 1500 (1.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5470, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS)||2,447 3DMarks|
|Dell Inspiron 1420 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB)||2,840 3DMarks|
|Sony VAIO FZ (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100)||910 3DMarks|
|Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB)||3,116 3DMarks|
|HP Compaq 6510b (2.20GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, Intel X3100)||916 3DMarks|
|HP Compaq 6515b (1.6GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-52, ATI x1270)||871 3DMarks|
|HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400)||2,013 3D Marks|
|Dell Inspiron e1705 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400)||1,791 3D Marks|
|Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB)||4,236 3DMarks|
|Alienware Aurora M-7700(AMD Dual Core FX-60, ATI X1600 256MB)||7,078 3D Marks|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB)||2,092 3D Marks|
|Asus V6Va (2.13 GHz Pentium M, ATI x700 128 MB)||2,530 3D Marks|
|Fujitsu n6410 (1.66 GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB)||2,273 3DMarks|
|Dell XPS M1210 (2.16 GHz Core Duo, nVidia Go 7400 256MB)||2,090 3D Marks|
(view large image)
Heat and Noise
I am genuinely impressed with this machine. The previous Acer had such a high wine that I almost felt strange working on this laptop. This laptop is quiet. The fan usually only runs at an audible level during installation processes that are large and processor intensive and at short intervals during extended use. As for heat, there is minimal warming on the left palm rest. Otherwise, the laptop is virtually silent. Nice!
However as with all Acer branded laptops I have seen, and older desktops, they have huge issues with the software for their optical drives. It sounds like someone started up a lawnmower in your office when you pop in a CD or DVD. Strangely, this isn’t a problem of the hardware, but simply the DVD decoder software. I have no idea why Acer uses the decoder they do.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The dreaded Return of the Jedi…err, L-shaped enter key, and an ergonomically shaped keyboard with Acer quick functions buttons on the left.
(view large image)
The touchpad is nice. I have always been a fan of Acer’s multi-directional button for scrolling documents or web pages that sits between the left and right click buttons, and the button sizes are nice for someone with stubby fingers like me.
The keyboard itself is very responsive and not too soft or too hard, but the keyboard layout is absolutely awful. It is a curved keyboard, and I am having extreme problems adjusting from a regular, non-ergonomic keyboard. Also, the enter key is the larger style, which would be fine, normally, but it is so far to the left that after three weeks of owing the machine I am still making a plethora of spelling errors and missing the enter key when typing quickly.
On the other hand, the keyboard includes some really neat keys, like the dollar and euro sign next to the arrows, and the left side of the keyboard includes functionality keys for Acer’s E-Management software, so that everything can be accessed within seconds, without removing your focus from what you are working on.
In short, if you like a curved keyboard, you will certainly like the TravelMate. It has a great feeling keyboard, even if accuracy is an issue.
Acer claims the battery life for the standard 6-cell battery to be about 4 to 6 hours. The first charge gave about 4 hours and 20 minutes, and charges afterwards, with nothing disabled and battery at maximum power allowed for 2 hours and 45 minutes. I’ve watched half a DVD and played Diablo 2 for about two hours and completely forgot I was using my battery. This is decent for 6-cell battery, I’d say. For the daily business user, I would say the battery life certainly would last about 3-4 hours, roughly. Perfectly acceptable.
Operating System and Software
I wanted XP, which is perfect for this machine. It comes with a bunch of trialware, nothing too frustrating to uninstall, and the Acer bundled software. Now, this is a love or hate relationship. Some people will probably really like this software because it takes all the thinking out of computer management. However, for the Windows power user, this software can be extremely frustrating because it is almost too helpful. The best example of this is the Acer E-Management widget that comes pre-installed.
Using the widget, you can do all the management you need for the daily business life: create password protected documentation and administrative settings, change resolution settings when connected to a projector, check your system settings with one click, and one button back-up management. But even simple changes seem difficult. There are no settings for the widget, and minus uninstalling it, the widget seems permanently fixated to your desktop upon start-up. The Acer e-Recovery seems akin to the Thinkpad series ThinkVantage software, making the whole process of recovery very simple and very no-nonsense. People who use this solely as a work laptop will probably be very happy with the bundle.
Acer support has gotten very bad reviews in the past, which is why I bought it from an outlet which offers its own warranty. I will probably be happy with the TravelMate until my next laptop purchase because my Aspire is still working, but the specifications are just too low for today’s market. If you do get an Acer machine, I would make sure you have means and ways of taking it to a local technician, on-site, or simply deal with Acer.
I would certainly recommend the Acer TravelMate 5720 to anyone on a budget who wants a state-of-the-art machine for cheap. There are suspicions, as always with Acer, that the build is not as good as some, and that the productivity is not quite as good as some similar machines, but if price is foremost in your mind, then Acer’s laptops are your best bet. While they often look unremarkable compared to some computer designs, for some people the simple palette will be pleasing, and the Acer TravelMate software will be considered useful for everyone except Windows power users. The Acer TravelMate will be useful for students on a budget, and some small businesses.
- Runs very cool and very quiet
- Good price
- Good interface, useful side panel buttons
- Screen can cause some eyestrain
- The keyboard is curved, enter key is different shape.
- Slower performance than some similarly configured machines