Twelve months ago you’d have been hard pushed to find a notebook that offered anything like good all-round performance for less than a grand. Today, they are commonplace and have little to differentiate themselves other than price.
Acer has become something of a specialist in the affordable portable, aggressively targeting the home user and business buyer with a wide range of sub-£1000 machines. Coming in at £765 (Inc. VAT) is the TravelMate 4401Lmi.
Aimed at business users, it stands out from the crowd by being the TravelMate to sport AMD’s latest processor, the Turion 64 ML-28. This is a 64-bit chip that has been designed for use in slim and light systems and is being touted as an affordable alternative to Intel’s Pentium M.
With support for 64-bit processing, the Turion offers a degree of future proofing and with a running speed of 1.6GHz, the TravelMate has sufficient power to run the latest office tasks with ease.
For those sceptical about opting for a budget AMD notebook, we found this system could run for close to four hours without needing to resort to mains power. By making power and battery life a priority, we expect to see more machines using this processor later this year.
Rounding out the main specification of the notebook is 512MB of memory and a 60GB hard drive. While not exactly cutting-edge it’s more than enough to get the job done. In use, we found this to be a quick and reliable system.
At this price point don’t expect anything more than a 15-inch TFT screen. Nor does it come with an anti-glare layer - Acer refer to this as CrystalView - as they save these for the consumer Aspire line. Strange then, the notebook should come with an ATi Mobility Radeon X700 GPU, which is designed for games and fast graphics, making it a little overkill for PowerPoint and spreadsheets. However Acer is probably keeping in mind anyone who may just wack a big enough SODIMM into the laptop to take it to 1GB of RAM or more, and then you have the ideal budget portable light gaming machine.
This PCI-Express based adapter isn’t the most powerful solution on the market, as it is fitted with a mere 64MB of dedicated memory, but it’s sufficiently powerful to handle all 3D tasks with ease. As we said, if the RAM were upgraded, 64Mb of graphics memory would become less of an issue.
With a weight of 3.2kg, you’ll find yourself not taking this system on the road with you too often - unless you have a car that you can carry it around for you. Even so, the build quality is high, with the case having a solid and robust feel to it. The keyboard is also well built, coming with a five-degree curve to make typing easier on the wrists.
With full support for wireless built-in, as well as Gigabit Ethernet, to give you the fastest connection rate possible, you could well use this notebook either for work or as a cheap LAN party machine.
It may look a little plain and come with a less than impressive screen but if you're in the market for a fast and reliable notebook that won't break the bank, Acer has put together a great little machine in the TravelMate 4401Lmi, as its battery life and performance will keep you working while on the go.