Acer TravelMate TM8371 notebook

Earlier in the year, Acer announced its TravelMate 8000 Timeline series - a set of notebooks designed for business users that combine performance, security and battery life.

The TM8371 has a 1.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SU9400 processor, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, a 320GB hard disk and a 13.3-inch 1336 x 768 display. It has Ethernet, a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3x USB 2.0 ports, a card reader, VGA-out and the usual headphone and mic sockets.

It measures 322 x 228 x 23mm, making it impressively compact, but what struck us when we first saw it was that it only weighs 1.6kg - very feathery for a machine of this spec.

Looks-wise, it isn't going to stand out on a commuter train. It could best be described as "functional". It doesn't look terrible, just inconspicuous - which might be what you want from a laptop. The machine feels sturdy - the metal casing looks like it could be bashed about a little before it would suffer too much damage to the innards. It's not officially a "rugged" laptop, though, so don't expect to use it in the bath, or the desert, without things going a little wrong.

The keyboard feels roomy and comfortable, but the keypress action isn't as satisfying as we've felt on other laptop keyboards. The trackpad was roomy and responsive, but you'll still want to plug in a mouse of some sort if you're using the machine for extended periods.

Performance was impressive. We gave it a whole pile of 12-megapixel photographs to resize and apply filters to, and it cranked through them very quickly, even on low-power mode. That low-power mode is labelled as "eco" and lets you eke extra battery life out of the already capacious battery.

With the screen brightness turned down (but still viewable), and eco modes on, Windows told us there were 9 hours of juice in this battery - which is extraordinary for a machine of this weight and power. A more average collection of power settings, with the brightness of the screen up to full, still yielded 3 to 4 hours of power before conking out.

The TM8371 does fall down, however, if you try and run any 3D applications, like games, on it. 5-year-old World of Warcraft crawled along on medium settings, and other titles from the last couple of years also struggled.

Verdict

It's clear the Acer TM8371 is a business-oriented machine. It packs excellent performance and oodles of battery life into a very thin, very light, but very dull frame. It doesn't win any awards for gaming performance, but we don't suspect that's what it was designed to do.

The model we tested comes in, judging from a few retail websites, at around £700 right now. It's possible to get it even cheaper, albeit with a reduced set of specs - down to more like £600. If you're looking for a business laptop around that price then this is an excellent choice.