Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi notebook review

Intel has done away with its Pentium line of processors and in one foul swoop moved its mobile computer chips to use the new Core Duo processors. These dual-core chips offer twin cores on the one piece of silicon, which allows you to multitask far easier, so working more efficiently. That’s the theory at least, so how does the Acer handle in use?

The TravelMate is powered by the Intel Core Duo T2500 version, which has a clock speed of 2GHz and is the fastest chip on offer. Paired with the new 945 chipset, you’ll find an improved 667MHz Front Side Bus, so improvements over the old Pentium M are immediately noticeable. Even when running simply applications, this notebook moves. Open multiple applications and you won’t see any serious drop in performance. True, at this price you get 2048MB DDR2, which keeps things ticking over in trim fashion but as an example of what can be achieved using dual-core, Acer has the right idea.

If you think that previous mobile chips have seen a steady but non-spectacular improvement over the last 3 years, dual-core is a real leap, as we found this machine handling tasks almost 50% more effectively than a Pentium M. so, you’ll be able to carry on working while running menial but necessary checks, like anti-virus software, without seeing a slow down, which is the real benefit of having two chips in your notebook.

The fact that Acer has slipped Duo into the same chassis as its Ferrari branded machines is also a plus - sans the Ferrari brand of course. So, you’ll find a carbon fibre lid and a cool finish to a machine sporting a 15.4-inch screen, which doesn’t have a Super-TFT coating, which counts against it. In every other respect this is a proven chassis with a top-notch build quality.

Graphics are handled by ATI’s latest mobile GPU, the Mobility Radeon X1600, which is the 12-pixel pipe replacement for the first generation PCI-Express X700 card. Designed as a mainstream chip it incorporates ATI’s Avivo technology for offering smoother playback of video and offers Nvidia some serious competition in the performance stakes.

Weighing in at 3.1kg, the notebook is lighter than we were expecting and with a footprint of 365 x 263 x 43mm, it’s smaller than most desktop replacements currently on the market. Fitted with a nine-cell battery, we got nearly 4 hours of battery life before having to search out the power brick.

Acer hasn’t scrimped on the other components either. Rounding out the new Centrino package is Wi-Fi for connecting to 802.11a/b/g networks and you get Gigabit Ethernet for hooking up to faster fixed networks.

Verdict

Mobile dual-core processing has arrived and it's hard to imagine anyone wanting to opt for anything slower. Acer has made the right decision by making its first machine a high-end product. True, you have to pay a premium for it but there Acer has married great performance with a great machine, which is hard to beat.