How cheap can the average notebook get? As little as 12 months ago, you’d have been hard pushed to find a notebook that would meet even basic needs for less than a grand. Today we’re falling over machines that cost almost half that sum but can they really live up to expectations?
The TravelMate 2403WXCi is the current model in question. Costing £510, including VAT, this isn’t so much a super-computer as a super-priced consumer notebook - you’ll pay just as much for good quality.
Don’t expect cutting-edge technology, as the Acer is kitted out with the Intel Celeron M 370 processor, which is strictly budget in terms of price and performance. While it’s adequate for word processing work, you wouldn’t want to run anything too complex on it.
With 56MB of memory in support - the minimum you should expect - at least it’s DDR2, which is quick and responsive. The 40GB hard drive is adequate and is sufficient for most needs. Celeron M based systems run with a 400MHz Front Side Bus, which is the slowest speed currently available in notebook form, so don’t expect it to compete with a notebook twice the price. This FSB also limits the performance of the integrated graphics, so don’t expect it to handle anything other than Solitaire.
If performance isn’t its strong point, you have to wonder if there is anything to recommend in this notebook? Well, the build quality is great and given that it weighs 2.4kg, could easily be used for getting that report written on the way home. Students, or their parents paying for a notebook, will like the price and with nearly 4 hours of usable battery life, it’ll get the job done. So, it’s a case of not comparing it to the latest desktop but taking it for what it is - an affordable solution.
Where the TravelMate excels is in the build quality of the chassis. The 14.1-inch screen has plenty of protection behind it and the body of the machine is rigid. With curved edges, it’ll hold up to knocks quite well. You can tell Acer offers this machine in a variety of guises and specifications, making the build quality as strong as on more expensive versions. The keyboard has a five-degree curve to it, making it more natural to use than a straight on keyboard. That said, it does take a little time to get used to. The keys are well spaced and have a comfortable typing action. The touchpad and small buttons are small but firm but more important, responsive.
When it comes to budget notebooks you pays your money and you takes your chances. If you approach the Acer for what it is - a cheap machine designed as a second home computer, then you can’t go wrong. The chassis is great and Acer offer the machine in a variety of guises, with prices creeping ever upwards. We’d suggest spending a little more and opting for a higher spec - you won’t be disappointed.