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Acer TravelMate 350

June 5, 2001



The first notebook we managed to fetch is the Acer TravelMate 350. According to the manufacturer, this sample belongs to a series created with regard to demands of users that travel much, for whom a compact size of a notebook is of vital importance. At the same time they need a high performance and a full set of functions and possibilities.

What estimation parameters are the most important for such a notebook? It is clear that apart from the high performance the device should be quite small, light, be easy to use in travel conditions, and have a good battery running time.

Now I should digress from the description of the model in order to attract your attention to the testing technique. Since the last time it has undergone some alterations:

  • First of all, a subjective estimation is now equal to 100 scores (100%). They are built of 4 parts - "Complete set", "Appearance and ergonomics", "Convenience of operation" and "User support". Each part has a weight of 25 scores. The sum of the scores of these four parts makes a subjective estimate.
  • Secondly, we have altered the performance testing technique (see the renewed testing technique).

Now let's look at the device outside:

Technical characteristics of the Acer TravelMate 350:

  • Intel Pentium III 650 MHz for mobile systems with the Speed Step technology;
  • 13.3" TFT display with a working resolution of 1024X768, 16,7M colors;
  • Trident Cyber-Blade AGP 2x video system with 4 MBytes SDRAM integrated into the controller;
  • 3D graphics hardware accelerator with AGP 2x mode support;
  • MPEG-2/DVD reproduction support;
  • DualView function and operation with two displays;
  • RAM: 64 MBytes SDRAM (extension up to 512 MBytes);
  • Audio system
    • audio adapter on the PCI bus with 3D effects support, compatible with SoundBlaster Pro and MS Sound;
    • built-in speaker;
    • built-in microphone;
  • Drives
    • HDD with DASP system, 10 GBytes;
    • FDD for 1.44 MBytes 3.5" diskettes and CD-ROM drive integrated into an additional module connected via the EasyLink(TM) interface;
  • I/O ports
    • 2X USB ports;
    • 1X PC Card II slot with Zoomed Video mode support;
    • 1X connector for an external monitor;
    • 1X PS/2 port;
    • 1X FIR (infrared) port;
    • 1x IEEE 1394 port;
    • 1X SmartCard reader;
    • audio ports: linear-out/mic;
    • 1X 100-pin port replicator;
  • Communication
    • integrated network adapter 10/100 Mbit/s (Wake-On-Lan) IEEE1394 FireWire port;
    • integrated fax-modem 56K ITU V.90 (Wake-On-Ring);
  • Dimensions and weight:
    • 292 X 234 X 21mm;
    • 1.86 kg;
  • External drive module weight - 0.4 kg;
  • Power subsystem:
    • 34W Li-ion battery unit;
    • 60W 100-240V AC adapter;
    • up to 3 hours running from battery.

Complete set:

  • Notebook;
  • Power cable with an adapter for certain sockets;
  • User manual;
  • Folders for the notebook and the external drive unit;
  • Mono-headphones with a mic;
  • Adapters for port replicator;
  • Cable for modem connection;
  • Card with a short description of all main hot keys;

  • Installation sets for Windows ME and software for modem, audio etc., and a Recovery CD.

Ergonomics and first impression

First of all, this is a really thin case at the expense of the CD-drive and the FDD being mounted in a separate unit. The model sports a convenient keyboard and a standard touch-pad. The color and the design are quite good.

As for a drive unit, it looks more inconvenient. It includes both a CD drive and a FDD, but what if you don't need one of them in your business trip? Why to carry the unnecessary weight? Besides, it looks not so elegant... The unit ships in a cover.

Besides, a power cable has a non-standard connector for attaching to the notebook, it means that you can't connect a usual "computer" cable, and you need take it everywhere with you.

There is nothing to speak much about the display - it has a standard TFT matrix without burnt-out pixels, without a backlight effect, with a good viewing angle.

We were a bit disappointed with the HDD - although we didn't measure decibels, it, in our opinion, makes quite a lot of noise.

Sound is standard, despite it is 3D. Speakers are built in the case above the keyboard.

The notebook is supplied together with a leather folder:

It is not a usual bag, but a beautiful, easy to use, presentable folder. This accessory proves that Acer designed this product to be a convenient tool for everyday business work, which not only works well, but also is meant to favorably represent its owner.

Apart from a standard set of business and system applications there are some specific programs. The first one is Notebook Manager, which allows you to configure your computer, change BIOS settings using a customary graphics interface.

The second one is Launch Manager, it is meant for configuration of a application quick start block.

By the way, we liked this block more than that of the Fujitsu-Siemens Lifebook of B series.

So we have the ultra-thin high-efficient device based on the Intel Pentium III 650 MHz with Speed Step technology equipped with 64 MBytes SDRAM, with 13.3" matrix implemented in an super-thin case 21mm thick, 1.86kg in weights and up to 3 hours of running from battery. Besides, the following technologies and peculiarities are incorporated in this mobile PC:

  • FireWire IEEE1394 an infrared port - wireless data transfer;
  • Smart-card reader implementing the following functions:
    • iSecure - data coding and keyboard and screen locking,
    • iPas - protection from unauthorized switch-connection,
    • Unikey - safety storage of personal data (passwords, logins etc.);

But the card itself is not supplied with the notebook.

  • DASP (Disk-Anti-Shock-Protection);
  • The case is made of aluminum-magnesium alloy;
  • 5 programmable hot keys for quick start up of a browser, post client etc.

Service and User support

We decided to check the hot-line support. In the evening on Friday we sent a letter to the Acer support service. We asked them three questions about some imagined problems connected with purchasing the Acer notebook. On Monday we received the letter where we were recommended to come to the service center of the company with a guarantee coupon. With this coupon we get a free repair. We were glad that the technical support service answered quite fast and correctly despite silly questions.

So, having summarized our subjective impressions, we received the following final estimantion:

Estimation Scores max. Our estimation
Complete set
25
25
Appearance and ergonomics
25
25
Convenience of operation
25
22
User support
25
20

Total: 92 scores.

We lowered scores for:

"-3" - for mounting the FDD and CD drive in a separate unit, it becomes too bulky.

"-5" - lack of wide available service, a scarce web-site in other languages.

Test results

ZD Business Winstone 2001
26.3
ZD Content Creation Winstone 2001
22.7
ZD Winbench 99 v1.2 Business Disk WinMark
2535
ZD Winbench 99 v1.2 Business Graphics WinMark
188
ZD CD Winbench 99 v1.1.1 CD-ROM WinMark 99
1060
ZD BatteryMark 4.0
SpeedStep on
2 h 10 min
SpeedStep off
1 h 40 min

If you want, you can look at the graphs of linear reading of the HDD and CD-ROM drive.

We will leave these figures without comments since there is nothing to compare with. Except batteries.

We tested the time of notebook running from ZD BatteryMark 4.0 batteries twice - with enabled SpeedStep and with disabled. I should remind you that the idea of the SpeedStep technology is the following: when running from a battery the device works at a lower clock speed than when powered from a power grid. Therefore, it consumes less power. So, we decided to find out what benefit we can get with this technology. First we tested the device with this technology enabled (~500Mhz), and then with it being off (650Mhz). In both cases all settings of the Power Management were off.

The result is that the notebook worked 2 h 10 m with this technology and 1 h 40 m without it.

So, it means that the SpeedStep technology increases much the time of running from battery with only a slight decrease in the performance (the time benefit is up to 30% (!)). Besides, a real time of an intensive running from battery is more than 2 hours.

Summary

Subjective estimation is 92 scores.

It should be noted that among all components of the subjective estimate we had no questions to ergonomics, and as for the convenience, we lowered scores only for some design philosophy - an external CD drive and FDD unit. But tastes differ.

On the whole, we liked this model. It looks really great, so that you can boldly hold serious talks, possibilities are enough for working with business applications, Internet, presentations. It has received an average result of operation, but we loaded the processor too strongly, with less utilization the notebook will work longer. The price is hovering around $1,600 on the Europe market.

Conclusion

This is a light and high-efficient notebook for people that travel much.

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