- Good application performance
- good 3D performance
- long battery life
- flexible design
- Build quality could be sturdier
Acer's TravelMate 4500 series -- the 4501WLMi reviewed here is the top-of-the-range model -- is a reasonably portable desktop replacement system for business travellers who need to take a fully featured notebook on the road, and are prepared to accept a bit of weight in their luggage. This 2.95kg system is based around a 1.5GHz Pentium M 715 processor and comes with luxuries such as a 15.4in. wide-screen WXGA display, ATI Mobility Radeon 9700 graphics, a 60GB hard drive and a multi-format DVD writer.
The TravelMate 4501WLMi sports Acer's new 'folio' design, which is pleasing enough (although we had nothing against the previous TravelMate look and feel). The system is relatively slim and compact for a desktop replacement, measuring 36.4cm wide by 27.9cm deep by 3.39-3.89cm high. Its weight of 2.95kg is also on the manageable side for its class. The main features of the new design are the concentration of ports and connectors on the right-hand side and the front, leaving the back clear for just VGA and docking station ports and the power connector, and the left-hand side for the media bay drive. At the front you have the audio ports, an infrared port, a switch for the Wi-Fi radio (which flashes when on) and a USB 2.0 port, plus the stereo speakers. There are two more USB ports on the right-hand side, along with FireWire and S-Video out, RJ-45 and RJ-11, and two removable-media drives (Type II PC Card and SD/MMC/SmartMedia/Memory Stick). Visually, the TravelMate 4501WLMi is dominated by its 15.4in. wide-screen display, which has a native resolution of 1,280 by 800 pixels. Lower-spec models in the range have a 15in. XGA screen. Between the screen and the curved keyboard are the power-on button, four quick-launch buttons (browser, email, Acer eKey and user-programmable) and status LEDs. The keyboard is spacious and sensibly laid-out, while navigation is accomplished via a two-button touchpad with a four-way integrated scroll key. The system feels reasonably well built, although there's some flex in both the screen -- which houses the wireless antenna at the top -- and the keyboard. If you're going to lug this TravelMate about, make sure it's in a well-padded bag.
For processing power, the TravelMate 4501WLMi uses Intel's 'Dothan' Pentium M with 2MB of Level 2 cache -- specifically, the 715 model running at 1.5GHz. That's supported by the 855GME chipset and 512MB of DDR memory, which is upgradeable to 2GB. Fixed storage is handled by a 60GB Hitachi Travelstar hard drive with a rotational speed of 4,200rpm -- the capacity is fine, but power users would prefer a 5,400rpm drive. The media bay on the left-hand side is home to a QSI DVD+/-R/RW drive in our review unit, but this will accept a second 80GB hard drive (£199 ex. VAT) or a second 3,800mAh Li-ion battery pack (£90 ex. VAT). The standard battery, which slots into the rear of the system, is a 4,400mAh unit with a claimed life of five hours. The 15.4in. WXGA display is driven by ATI's high-end Mobility Radeon 9700 graphics processor, with 64MB of video memory. This combination of display and GPU makes the TravelMate 4501WLMi a decent DVD-watching and gaming platform (ideal for those gaps in the busy mobile professional's schedule). Wireless connectivity is provided by Intel's PRO/Wireless 2200BG module, which supports 54Mbps 802.11g and 11Mbps 802.11b networking, both at 2.4GHz. The wired Ethernet module is Broadcom's 440x 10/100 controller. For those who still need dial-up, there's an integrated 56Kbps modem too. As mentioned above, you get a good array of I/O ports and expansion slots. And if you need more connections back at the office, Acer supplies an optional port replicator, the EasyPort, for £85 (ex. VAT).
Performance & battery life
If you're going to use the TravelMate 4501WLMi for mainstream office productivity tasks, then you'll find it plenty fast enough. Tested with BAPCo's MobileMark 2002, which uses applications like Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook, along with Netscape Communicator, McAfee VirusScan Adobe Photoshop, Macromedia Flash and WinZip, the system returned a score of 174. This compares well with the current record score -- 216, which is jointly held by Dell's Inspiron 8600c and Acer's own Aspire 1502LMi. As indicated above, this TravelMate is a good graphics platform, as indicated by BAPCo's games-orientated benchmark, 3DMark 03, which returned a score of 2,824. This is only marginally behind the top Pentium M notebook we've tested -- another Acer product, the TravelMate 8006LMi. To round off an impressive set of benchmarks, the TravelMate 4501WLMi delivered just under 4.5 hours life in MobileMark 2002's rundown test. Considering that we test with the CPU running at maximum speed and screen brightness at its middle setting, there's clearly scope for extending this autonomy via the system's power management settings. And if you need battery life more than you need an optical drive, you can always get a full working day's life by opting for a second battery in the media bay.
Service & support
Acer provides a moderate one-year warranty on the TravelMate 4501WLMi, which is extendable -- at a price – via the AcerAdvantage program. Free phone support is available for within-warranty products; if it's out of warranty you'll have to pay 50p per minute. Email support is available, and Acer's support pages host a good selection of downloads, utilities and guides.
|Dimensions (W x H x D)||36.4x3.39x27.9 cm|
|OS & software|
|Operating system||Windows XP Professional|
|Software included||Norton AntiVirus, Acrobat Reader, Cyberlink PowerDVD, NTI CD Maker, Acer Launch Manager, Acer eManager, Acer System Recovery CD, Acer disc-to-disc recovery|
|Chipset & memory|
|RAM installed||512 MB|
|Number of memory slots||2|
|RAM capacity||2 GB|
|GPU||ATI Mobility Radeon 9700|
|Graphics RAM||64 MB|
|Display technology||colour TFT|
|Display size||15.4 in|
|Native resolution||1280x800 pixels|
|FireWire (IEEE 1394)||1|
|Docking station port||yes|
|PC Card||1 x Type II|
|Flash card||SD/MMC, SmartMedia, Memory Stick|
|Ethernet||Broadcom 440x 10/100 Integrated Controller|
|Modem||Soft V92 Fax Modem with SmartCP|
|Wi-Fi||Intel PRO/Wireless 2200BG (802.11b/g)|
|Pointing devices||two-button touchpad with 4-way scroll key|
|Audio connectors||microphone, line-in, headphone|
|Audio processor||Conexant AC-Link Audio|
|Accessories||2nd media bay hard drive £199, 2nd media bay battery £90, EasyPort docking station £85|
|Service & support|
|Standard warranty||1 year|
|Battery capacity||4400 mAh|
|Rotation speed||4200 rpm|
|Hard drive interface||Ultra ATA/100|
|Hard drive capacity||60 GB|
|CD / DVD type||DVD±RW|
|Processor & memory|
|Clock speed||1.5 GHz|
|Processor model||Pentium M 715|
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