Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi Review (pics, specs)

by frankchn Reads (152,903)

by Frank Chen, Singapore

Introduction

Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi (view larger image)

The Acer Travelmate 8200 is a high-end business laptop from Acer, designed with durability and performance in mind with a reasonably light-weight chassis. It has done fairly well in this respect, with Acer using Intel’s new Core Duo processor coupled and an ATi Mobility Radeon X1600 graphics card, all packed into a laptop weighing in at less than 6 pounds.

However, the 8204WLMi does seem to have some heat issues regarding heat dissipation — the heat generated from this laptop vents directly onto the hand I use to move the mouse arround.  Also, I find that Acer’s signature curved keyboard (smile shape) takes some getting used to for first time users.

Acer TravelMate 8200 top view of the lid (view larger image)

Acer 8204 WLMi top view reflecting some ceiling lights (view larger image)

Reason for Buying

I bought the Acer 8200 laptop to replace my aging Dell Inspiron 8600. I needed a machine that could meet all of my computing needs for the next 3 years. I develop applications using PHP and the .NET Framework and also play games on my laptop. I also wanted a reasonably light laptop for travel purposes.

Specifications

The Acer Travelmate 8204WLMi seems to have different specifications in Asia as compared to the model available in North America and Europe. Here are the specifications for the 8204WLMi I purchased in Singapore, in blue are the different specs you’ll get with the 8204WLMi in Europe / North America.

  • Intel Core Duo T2500 (2.0 GHz, 667 MHz FSB, 2 MB L2 Cache)
  • Intel 945PM Chipset
  • 15.4″ WSXGA+ TFT LCD
  • ATi Mobility Radeon X1600 256 MB GDDR3 (upto 512 MB with Hypermemory)
  • 100 GB 5400rpm SATA HDD (120GB in North America / Europe)
  • 1 GB DDR2-667 (2x 512 MB sticks with dual channel support) (2GB in North America / Europe)
  • Intel Pro/Wireless 3945ABG + Bluetooth
  • Intel Pro/1000 Ethernet
  • Bluetooth VoIP phone
  • SG$3998
  • Product Page: http://www.acer.com.sg/products/travelmate8200/p_travelmate8200.asp

Ports

The ports available are adequate for my use as both my phone and my PDA can be synchronized with Bluetooth built into the system. I would have rather preferred the use of 6-pin Firewire rather than 4-pin, although most laptops I have seen use the 4-pin version. I would also have preferred the Ethernet port to be on the back of the machine.

  • 4 USB 2.0 Ports (2 left, 2 right)
  • Modem Port (left)
  • VGA Out (right)
  • Ethernet Port (right)
  • 1 Smartcard Reader (right)
  • 1 ExpressCard/34 slot (left)
  • 1 S-Video out (back)
  • 1 DVI-D out (back)
  • 1 Acer ezDock slot (back)
  • Microphone, Line In and Headphone (front)
  • IrDA Port (front)
  • IEEE 1394 Port (front)
  • Built-in 1.3 MP Web Camera
  • 5-in-1 memory card reader (front)

Above is an example of a picture taken with the built-in 1.3MP web camera

Build and Design

The design was very nicely done, with the carbon fiber cover for the screen lid and the elegant curves of the main chassis, winning the iF Design Award for 2006. When pushing in on the lid there of the 8204WLMi there is no rippling of the screen whatsoever — obviously the carbon fibre lid provides excellent protection.

The overall build is generally solid with very little flex on the screen and the fit between the various components that make up the chassis is tight.  The smiley design keyboard was also solid with no flex.

Front right side view of 8204 (view larger image)

Front view of Acer 8204WLMi (view larger image)

Acer 8204 WLMi (view larger image)

Heat Dissipation

The only heat dissipation vent that I can find on this laptop is on the right hand side of the laptop, where unless you’re left handed, you’d normally be using an external mouse. This caused some minor discomfort on my hand due to the relatively hot air being blown out through the exhaust vent.

The large heat vent and fan on the right side of the 8204 causes discomfort for the hand holding the mouse as hot air gets blown onto it (view larger image)

Screen

The screen is reasonably bright, with no dead pixels whatsoever. The screen is at 1680 x 1050 and is just the right size (in my opinion) for a 15.4″ screen, much better than some of the 15.4-inch displays that give you a 1,280 x 768 resolution. The screen is a normal matte screen with no TruLife glossy finish (reflective), ostensibly because this is designed to be a business laptop and not an entertainment style consumer laptop

Speakers

I would say that the quality of the speakers is average, and I would recommend decent headphones for listening to music.

Processor and Performance

The laptop is fast and responsive even when doing heavy development work in Microsoft Visual Studio and performs very well in multi-tasking due to the fact it has the new Intel dual core processor (Core Duo). However, Acer’s various drivers and helpers seem to take up more RAM than I expected.

Here’s CPU-Z with processor information for the 8204 WLMi:

Below are the results gained from running Super Pi (ftp://pi.super-computing.org/windows/super_pi.zip), a program that forces the laptop’s processor to calculate Pi to 2 million digits of accuracy.  As you can see, the new Intel Core Duo processor smokes any previous processor at this calculation, no previous notebook reviewed on this site even comes close to the 1m 15s achieved by the 8204WLMi:

Notebook Time
Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi (2.0GHz Core Duo)  1m 15s
 Dell XPS M140 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 41s
 Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 53s
 IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 45s
 IBM ThinkPad Z60m (2.0 GHz Pentium M)  1m 36s
 Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Pentium M)  1m 48s
 Dell Inspiron 6000D (1.6 GHz Pentium M)  1m 52s
 Dell Inspiron 600M (1.6 GHz Pentium M)  2m 10s
 HP Pavilion dv4000 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 39s
 HP DV4170us (Pentium M 1.73 GHz)  1m 53s
 Sony VAIO S380 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 45s

Below are the results gained from running 3DMark05 on the Acer 8204WLMi, again you can see that the Acer beat out all past competitors with higher end cards except for the Dell XPS2 gaming machine with the nVidia Go 6800 Ultra card:

 Notebook  3DMark 05 Results
 Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB)  4157 3DMarks / 4812 CPU Marks
 Lenovo ThinkPad Z60m (2.0GHz Pentium M, ATI X600 128MB)  1659 3DMarks / 3426 CPUMarks
ThinkPad T43 (1.86GHz, ATI X300 64MB graphics)  727 3DMarks / 3414 CPUMarks
 Asus V6Va (2.13 GHz Pentium M, ATI Radeon Mobility x700 128 MB)  2530 3D Marks / 3749 CPU Marks
 Quanta KN1 (1.86 GHz Pentium M, NVIDIA GeForce Go 6600 128mb)  2,486 3DMarks / 4106 CPUMarks
 HP dv4000 (1.86GHz Pentium M, ATI X700 128MB)  2536 3D Marks / 3557 CPU Marks
 Dell Inspiron XPS 2 (2.0GHz Pentium M, NVIDIA GeForce Go 6800 Ultra with 256MB)  5112 3D Marks / NA

Keyboard and Touchpad:

The keyboard is a full-size keyboard with the signature Acer 5 degree curve. It takes some getting used to but is fairly easy to type on. There is not flex with the keyboard. The touchpad is quite good and is wide like the screen, but is nothing spectacular and basically your average touchpad.

Acer 8204WLMi keyboard (view larger image)

Wireless:

The laptop comes with the new Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG with Acer’s SignalUp technology. The card has great reception. The Bluetooth also works as it should.

Battery:

I managed to get 3 hours of battery life working on a Word document and surfing the web via wireless with the 8204WLMi — not bad at all!

Operating System and Software:

The laptop comes with Windows XP Professional, with no bloatware but a lot of Acer’s “Empowering Technology” applications, which is basically a pretty interface for various features of the laptop.

Conclusion

I would recommend this laptop to anyone demanding very high performance and a high quality build at a reasonable price.

Pricing and Availability: Acer Travelmate 8200


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