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Acer TravelMate 270 Notebook Review

November 9, 2002






Attractive appearance, all necessary functions, all-in-one design, high performance, long run-down time and... low price are far not all the advantages of the new mobile PC TravelMate of the 270 series! - this is how this model is positioned by the company. Acer's notebooks always had a pleasing design, but the price.. Let's see how it is achieved. 

Technical characteristics of the Acer TravelMate 272XC (claimed by the manufacturer)

  • Processor - Intel Pentium 4-M 1.6 GHz 
  • Chipset - SIS650, 400 MHz system bus
  • Display - 14.1" TFT with the maximum resolution of 1024x768, 16.7 M colors
  • Video controller - integrated chipset, local memory from 16 to 64 MB 
    • DualView mode
    • 4x AGP 
    • MPEG2/DVD hardware decoder
  • 256MB DDR-266 SDRAM. Expandable up to 1024MB (the tested sample has 256 MB). 
  • Audio system on the PCI bus supporting 3D sound, SoundBlaster Pro and MS DirectSound
  • Drives: 
    • Ultra ATA/100 hard drive, 20GB (the tested model has Toshiba MK2018GAP 20 GB). 
    • Optical disc drive (CD or DVD or DVD-CDRW). The tested model has DVD-CDRW Toshiba SD-R2102 
    • 3.5" floppy disc drive. 
  • I/O ports: 
    • Two connectors for CardBus PC card II (one III)) supporting ZV (Zoomed Video) 
    • ECP/EPP parallel port
    • Serial port
    • PS/2 Keyboard/Mouse port
    • Port for external monitor
    • Line-in / Line-out/ Mic-in
    • RJ 45 network connector
    • RJ 11 modem port
    • 3 USB ports
    • IEEE 1394 
    • S-video output
  • Communication
    • Integrated 10/100 Mbit/s network adapter (Wake-on-LAN) 
    • Integrated fax-modem 56K ITU V.90 (Wake-On-Ring) 
  • Dimensions and weight
    • 322 x 272 x 35.5/38 mm 
    • 2.95 /3.18 kg depending on accessories and model
  • Power subsystem
    • 57W Li-Ion battery pack
    • 70W 100~240V AC adapter
    • up to 3 hours of running from the battery (with ACPI used) 
    • Windows XP 

So, compared to the TravelMate 630XC, the dimensions are almost the same though it has become weightier. As you can see, the company decided to save on a smart card connector, so typical of the previous models, and on an IR port. Also, it uses integrated graphics and doesn't allow replacing the optical disc drive. 

What's in the box:

  • notebook; 
  • power supply unit with a cable; 
  • phone cable; 
  • international 1-year warranty; 
  • printed user manual (in English); 
  • user manual for modem (!); 
  • Windows XP Professional booklet; 
  • user manual for Recovery CD (in English); 
  • Just For Starters guide; 
  • Recovery packet on 4 CDs - bootable disc with drivers for Windows XP, User Manual and Help, and 3 recovery packs for Windows HP Professional (in different languages). 
  • CD with Norton Antivirus 2002; 
  • CD with Nti CD-Maker Plus Edition.

First impressions

The first thing we couldn't find this time was LEDs on the display panel 



TravelMate 272XC


TravelMate 630XC

There are no LEDs on the back panel either. So, to check whether the battery is full you must open the lid and look into the slit between the lid and casing (sometimes it's possible to read the values of the LEDs :). 




In the front we have a floppy drive instead of the "fired" IR port, but I think it's more convenient when a diskette is inserted on the side. The speakers are on their previous place. 




The left panel is not abundant in connectors. Here we have only the optical drive which is located closer to the back panel. I wish the floppy drive were here as well, but there is a hard drive located in front. 




The most connectors are on the back (left to right): 

  • air vent; 
  • Kensington lock connector; 
  • power supply connector; 
  • external monitor output; 
  • parallel port; 
  • serial port; 
  • video-out; 
  • IEEE 1394 port; 
  • 3 USB ports; 



Right View: 

  • mic-in; 
  • headphone out; 
  • PC-card connector; 
  • phone connector; 
  • network connector; 
  • PS/2 connector in the center of the air vent. 

First impressions of operation, Ergonomics

The power button has moved to the left, while it was located on the right on notebooks of the 621 and 630 series:




Now the booting process is not so intriguing any more as nobody asks for a smart card :). The LEDS are grouped in two places - above the keyboard on the right are LEDs for the locks, and below, to the touchpad's right are status LEDs (power, input/output, battery and wireless network) which can be seen only through the slit. In my opinion, the previous solutions were better. 




By the way, a wireless network is mentioned neither in the specs nor in the system devices. But there is the respective button and LED. And when you press the button the LED goes on. Note that neither Bluetooth nor 802.11b devices were able to connect to the TravelMate. 

The keyboard is traditionally curved, and instant keys are on their own places. The touchpad has a similar shape though the design is a little bit different. 

TravelMate 272XC TravelMate 630XC

There is no more a DASP protection fitted to the base (that's one more thing they are saving on), but there is a fan of the processor's cooling system. 




The Recovery features were fully described in the review on the Acer TravelMate 630 - and it's all the same here. 

Well, I didn't feel any difference in operation. But there are two complains about the computer, and they concerns the indication units (the lower one is covered by the hand at that) and the floppy drive's location. Lack of an IR port is not a downside for a business model. 

Service and user support

Warranty. Acer notebooks have a one year warranty. And starting from November a user can buy one more year of warranty for a mobile computer (not valid for batteries). In case of the TravelMate 270 it equals $80 by retail (fixed price). 

Service. Today any authorized service center (the list of them is available on the site) can carry out diagnostics of the notebook and repairs in certain cases. But in the end a computer will anyway get into the central service center, if the warranty period is not over. If it's over, a notebook can be repaired on the spot. 

Site. The site is quite unsophisticated, descriptions of notebooks are detailed, illustrated and have a demo program. There is a base of drivers and BIOS updates. 

The hot-line support was checked in the review of TravelMate350. In short, it works. 

Upgrade

During the warranty period any upgrade can be done only in the authorized service center. After that you can add memory yourself (by unscrewing the lid on the bottom) and replace the hard drive (by removing two screws and taking out the HDD unit). The processor should be replaced by professionals from the service center, though you can also do it yourself (as you can see it on the photo). 

So, the scores are:   

Scores max. Our mark
Accessories 25  25
Appearance and ergonomics 25  22
Ease of handling 25  25
User support 25  25

Total: 97 scores. 

We lowered the scores for 

"-2" - the floppy drive's location; 

"-1" - design of the LED units. 

Tests

The TravelMate 272XC will certainly be compared with the TravelMate 630XC. The video memory of the 272XC will be set to 32 MB.   

  Acer TravelMate 630XC Acer TravelMate 272XC
BAPCo/MadOnion MobileMark 2002 Productivity workload (Performance rating)  99 111
BAPCo/MadOnion MobileMark 2002 Productivity workload (Average response time, sec)  1.99 1.77
BAPCo/MadOnion MobileMark 2002 Productivity workload (Battery life rating, min)  205 199
BAPCo/MadOnion MobileMark 2002 Reader workload (Battery life rating, min)  238 217
BAPCo/MadOnion SysMark 2002 124 135
BAPCo/MadOnion SysMark 2002 Office Productivity  88 94
BAPCo/MadOnion SysMark 2002 Internet Content Creation 195 105
ZD Content Creation Winstone 2002 18.2 20.2
ZD Winbench 99 v1.2 Business Disk WinMark 2270 2520
ZD Winbench 99 v1.2 High-End Disk WinMark 8580 8160 
ZD Winbench 99 v1.2 Business Graphics WinMark 210 331
ZD Winbench 99 v1.2 High-End Graphics WinMark 611 733

Well, the more powerful processor (1.6 against 1.4 MHz) shows higher scores even with the integrated graphics system. I just don't understand clearly why the Ziff-Davis Disk WinMarks tests have so different results on the same disc, but it can be caused by the different chipsets. 

Let's see whether the new-comer is still stronger in the MadOnion 3DMark 2001. The scores of the TravelMate 630XC are given in parentheses. 
 

MadOnion 3DMark 2001
(32 bit color, 32 bit Texture Format, 24 bit Z-buffer depth, Frame Buffer - Double buffering, Hardware T&L for TravelMate 630XC, Software T&L for TravelMate 272XC)
Resolution 640x480 800x600 1024x768
3DMark Result 1912 (2807) 1573 (2093) 1160 (1397)
In detail
Game fps
Car Chase  
Low Details 33.1 (47.8) 27.6 (34.7) 20 (23.4)
High Details 12.2 (20.9) 11 (17.7) 9.3 (12.5)
Dragothic  
Low Details 29.4 (45.7) 24.6 (34.2) 17.6 (22.8)
High Details 11.8 (22.7) 10.8 (17.6) 8.6 (12.5)
Lobby  
Low Details 40.3 (48.2) 29.2 (32.2) 19.7 (19.8)
High Details 20.2 (26.4) 16.1 (18.9) 11.4 (11.8)

Well, lack of the hardware support of Transform&Lighting can't be made up for by two hundreds of megahertz. However, it's not a gaming solution but a business model where 3D is not supposed to be outstanding. 

Summary

Our mark is 97 scores. 

Well, it's now clear what they have saved on. Now let's see what they managed to reach. The recommended retail price for the model with a 15" matrix is $1870, for the model with DVD it makes $1770 and the tested sample is around $100 cheaper. Taking into account that the TravelMate 630XC in not on the sale anymore and the recommended retail price for the TravelMate 634LC lying on the shelves is $2300, you can calculate the difference yourself. I think that it overlaps minor disadvantages if a smart card reader is not crucial for you. However, I'm not pleased with current prices for Acer's notebooks contrary to their desktop computers. 
 
 

Nikolai Dorofeev (niko@ixbt.com
 

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