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Acer TravelMate 621XC Notebook Review

September 8, 2002




acer-621-xc

According to the manufacturer, the TravelMate of the 620 series are mobile PCs of the business class with extended functional capabilities. They are meant for users which need mobility together with high performance. Thus, this is a business model with mystical extended capabilities. And certainly I will compare the 621XC with the 610TXV we tested before. 

Technical characteristics of the Acer TravelMate 621XC (specification)

  • Processor - Intel® Pentium® III M 1 GHz 
  • Chipset - Intel® 830M AGPset; 133MHz system bus
  • Display - 14.1" TFT of 1024x768 max., 16.7 M colors
  • From 8 to 32 MB dynamically dedicated video memory (Intel DVMT technology) 
    • DualView technology (supports two monitors)
    • Hardware 3D graphics accelerator and 4x AGP support
    • MPEG2/DVD hardware decoder
  • 256MB PC-133 SDRAM, expandable up to 1024MB (the tested model has 256 MB). 
  • PCI based audio system support 3D sound, SoundBlaster Pro and MS DirectSound compatible
  • Drives. 
    • Ultra ATA/100 hard drive with DASP system, from 20GB. 
    • Built-in 24x CD-ROM, 8x DVD-ROM or DVD-ROM/CD-RW drives (the tested samples has DVD-ROM/CD-RW), in the AcerMedia bay. 
  • I/O ports. 
    • 1 CardBus PC card (I/II Type) supporting ZV (Zoomed Video) 
    • 1 Smart Card connector
    • AC adapter
    • ECP/EPP parallel port
    • PS/2 compatible port for mouse&keyboard 
    • Port for external monitor 
    • Line-in/ Line-out/ mic-in audio ports
    • FIR (Fast Infrared), IrDA compatible
    • RJ 45 network port
    • RJ 11 modem port
    • 2 USB ports
    • IEEE 1394 port
    • Port replicator connector
  • Communication
    • Integrated 10/100 Mbit/s network adapter (Wake-on-LAN supported) 
    • Built-in fax/modem 56K ITU V.90 (Wake-On-Ring supported) 
    • Integrated adapter of wireless network 802.11b (optional, the tested sample doesn't have it) 
  • Dimensions and weight
    • 323 x 265 x 35 mm 
    • 2.54 /2.66 kg depending on the components and model
  • Power subsystem
    • 58W Li-Ion battery pack
    • 70W 100~240V AC adapter
    • Run-down life: 4.5 hours (with ACPI used) 
    • ACPI v2.0 supported
  • Windows XP 

Accessory pack:

  • Notebook; 
  • Power unit with cable; 
  • Cover for the drive bay; 
  • Cable for modem connection; 
  • World-wide warranty; 
  • User manual in English (printed); 
  • Guide for modem (!); 
  • Brief Manual for XP Home Edition (in English); 
  • Manual for Recovery CD (in English); 
  • Technical support reference; 
  • "Just For Starters" Guide; 
  • TravelMate; 
  • Card describing all main hot keys of the computer (typical of Acer); 
  • Envelope with two smart cards
  • Recovery packet in 5 CDs - boot disc with drivers for Windows XP, e-version of the user manual and Help, and two recovery discs for Windows XP Home Edition - in two languages. 
  • CD with Norton Antivirus 2002; 
  • CD with Nti CD-Maker Plus Edition.

First impressions

They look very similar, though the TravelMate 621XC is a little greater (+15 x +18 x +10.5 mm).
 


















TravelMate 620 TravelMate 610

The photo shows a 15" model, and they look like two peas in a pot. The keyboards are identical. Well, they follow their proprietary style which looks rather pleasant. But there are still some differences from the previous review. 




The first one is a different design of the front panel. The IR port is hidden in a groove, the speakers now take their typical place as this model is thick enough. Although I don't find such position of the IR port convenient, it looks nicely.




On the left: 

  • Hard drive cover; 
  • USB port; 
  • SmartCard Reader' and PC Card slot; 
  • Battery compartment cover.
There are also some differences. The display panel have connectors for a camera which are hidden under the covers on the left and right. 



On the back (left to right): 

  • air vent; 
  • power unit connector; 
  • USB port; 
  • PS/2 connector; 
  • external monitor output; 
  • expansion slot (for port-replicator); 
  • parallel port; 
  • audio-out; 
  • audio-in; 
  • telephone line connector; 
  • network connector; 
  • IEEE 1394 connector. 



The right panel, like the left one, is not overloaded - it contains a Kensington lock, power button (!), air vent and AcerMedia Bay. 

First impressions from operation, ergonomics

So, let's open the lid. Well, this is what a test model means - the bezel tends to remain closed. 





And what about the screws on the sides? It turned out that they attach the matrix to the lid of the notebook, while the frame is connected only with plastic clips. Probably it's because of the tests with a 14" matrix, i.e. the frame was too wide. But it happened to only one sample. Acer offered us some other samples to tests and they proved to have no such problems. 

Fir the first time I was looking for the power button quite long as I got used to the fact that it's located on the keyboard. But it's not a disadvantage. 

Well, it asks to insert a Smart card. It's the right time to show how information is protected in the notebook. The preinstalled software includes PlatinumPAS(TM), PlatinumSecure(TM) and PlatinumKey(TM). 

The PlatinumPAS protects data on the BIOS level. During the POST procedure the program checks whether a main or emergency Smart card is inserted, and if it doesn't find it the booting process stops. 

The PlatinumSecure extends capabilities of the authentification procedure on the OS level using cryptographic methods. When the card is ejected this program starts up the screensaver and locks the system. The emergency Smart card is necessary to enter the system and disable the protection if a main card is lacking. Besides, the utility allows for encryption of files. 

The PlatinumKey provides auto user authentification on sites which require passwords. 

All those things can be disabled. 

When we inserted the card the computer booted up successfully. The keyboard is very handy. I was never disposed toward TouchPads because you have to move your hands down to position the pointer or press mouse buttons. And here thumbs are right above the pointer management system, and you don't need to raise the base of the palm above the keyboard. The TouchPad of the TravelMate 620 series differs from that of the TravelMate 610. The swing scroller is replaced with a disc which has some more functions (like back-next in the browser). 
 







TravelMate 610 TravelMate 620

I don't know how useful these functions are, but the touchpad itself helps a lot. 

There are no more complains about its operation. Now let's turn to such function as Recovery. This process is implemented ideally in the Acer notebooks. You boot from the system CD-ROM and choose what you need to do. There are the following ways. 

  • You can set it back to the initial state - this option is very useful for resellers as all user information get lost - an image created by the Norton Ghost program is written on the disc. 
  • Reinstall applications - this is a useful function if you have deleted a program and then understand you can't do without it. 




  • At last, driver installation - this is for advanced users who work with discs partitioned to their liking. 

Service and user support

Warranty. The warranty period for the Acer notebooks is 1 year. 

Service. Any of authorized service centers (the list is available on the site) can implement diagnostics of a notebook and, in certain case, repair. But to be repaired a computer gets into the central service center, if the warranty is valid. If not, any Acer's service center can repair it on the spot. 

Site. The design is comprehensive, the descriptions of models are detailed and illustrated, supplemented with a demo program etc. There is a base of drivers and BIOS updates. 

The hot-line support was checked when we tested the TravelMate350 model. Well, it does work. 

Modernization

During the warranty period any modernization must be undertaken in an authorized service center. When it finishes you can expand memory (unscrew the cover on the bottom) and replace a hard drive (unscrew a respective bolt and take out a hard drive unit). But a processor should be replaced by experts from a service center. 

So, the scores: 
 

Scores max. Our mark
Accessories 25  24
Appearance and ergonomics 25  15
Ease in handling 25  25
User support 25  24

Total: 88 scores. 

We lowered the scores for 

"-1" - no floppy disc drive; 

"-10" - for the frame's behavior; 

"-1" - lack of user manuals and description of accessories on some sites in other languages. 

Tests

Unfortunately, we were not able to compare its results with those of the predecessor as the Windows XP and NTFS make them incorrect. Besides, as we found out, many our readers are not interested in figures of separate subsystems as they buy a whole system; that is why we provide scores of just integral tests. But remember that the other results can also be published. 
 
BAPCo/MadOnion SysMark 2002 92
BAPCo/MadOnion SysMark 2002 Office Productivity  105
BAPCo/MadOnion SysMark 2002 Internet Content Creation 81
ZD Content Creation Winstone 2002 18
ZD BatteryMark 4.0 in the highest performance mode 3 hrs 41 min
ZD BatteryMark 4.0 with SpeedStep in the battery saving mode 4 hrs 45 min

The run-down time is really striking! The company mentioned that this base will also be used for models with the P4 processor. That is why this is a very good choice for those who work on the go. The power consumption modes are switched with Fn+F3; apart from the extreme ones there is a presentation mode and some others. 

Let's take a look at the graphics
 

MadOnion 3DMark 2001
(1024x768, 32 bit color, 32 bit Texture Format, 24 bit Z-buffer depth, Frame Buffer - Double buffering, Software T&L)
3DMark Result 829
Details
Game fps
Car Chase
Low Details 13.9
High Details 5
Dragothic
Low Details 16.2
High Details 5.9
Lobby
Low Details 20.1
High Details 5.5

The scores are comparable to one more i830 based notebook - Asus S1. Well, it's not a dream of overclocker. 

General scores

Subjective estimation - 88 scores. 

If it were another sample... the scores could be higher. Nevertheless, this notebook is a worthy extension of the TravelMate line with a surprising run-down time. The tested sample is priced at $2057, its elder brother 621LV (with a 15.1" screen, 30GB HDD and 512MB memory, DVD and built-in 802.11b adapter) costs $2077. The price is a little too high, but it's the Acer's policy. 

Nikolai Dorofeev (niko@ixbt.com
 

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