Acer TravelMate 6465WLMi

Summary: Acer's latest offering definitely fits within the desktop replacement category; it's big, has a decent processor and plenty of memory, disk space and connectivity options, but it also comes with a price-tag to match.

Need -- or want -- a new notebook for the office? Either way there are plenty of features to consider when making your choice. For some, a laptop is simply a mobile surrogate for the desktop back at the office; for others, it is a replacement which ensures that all your work goes with you when you travel and reclaims a great chunk of your desk space.

Acer Travelmate 6460
This offering from Acer definitely fits within the desktop replacement category; it's big, has plenty of memory, disk space and heaps of connectivity options from Bluetooth to Firewire and security features include both smartcard and biometrics.

Features
The Acer TravelMate 6465WLMi is quite a large notebook which boasts a 15.4" 1680x1050 resolution screen capable of reproducing 16 million colours and is backed by an ATI Mobility Radeon X1300 graphics card with 128MB RAM; shared system memory can bloat this out to 512MB. The CPU is a 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo. The machine was supplied with 1GB of RAM expandable to 4GB.

The outer screen casing and touchpad surround are silver, with charcoal grey being the dominant shade elsewhere. The touch pad panel also features a fingerprint reader and a second set of buttons to operate with the pointing stick. Overall, the 6465WLMi is a classy looking machine.

The 6465WLMi is supplied with a 120GB SATA hard-drive and DVD burner. The Gigabit Ethernet support is supplemented with inbuilt Bluetooth, 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi and Firewire connectivity. Audio ports and speakers are conveniently placed at the front of the machine along with the switches for Bluetooth and wireless LAN. A small internal microphone is clearly marked with an icon to the lower left of the keyboard. Ports include USB 2.0 and three types of video input (D-sub VGA, DVI and S-Video with dual screen support) as well as SD/xD/Memory Stick, PCMCIA, smartcard and ExpressCard slots.

Acer boasts that almost all management functions are no more than three mouse-clicks away. This is easy to believe given the number of buttons and icons littering the desktop prior to the installation of the user's own software. A dozen icons appear in the system tray plus there is a special Acer eManagement toolbar to handle access to such areas as network, security and screen management.

The 6465WLMi also features active HDD protection features such as shock protection and "Gravisense" which detects movement of the machine and retracts the disk head to prevent scratching.

Build quality
Having studied the construction of the 6465WLMi we found it to be a mixed bag. Rubber plugs protect the SD slot and docking port, but the tethered plug in the former ejects far more easily than it can be replaced. The screen hinges are sturdy, but we have reservations about the plastic latching mechanism. The screen casing does allow some flexing, but is reasonably sturdy, though pressure from behind can cause minor distortions in the LCD panel. We were left with some doubts about the quality of the touchpad keys after one of these failed, leaving it loose and inoperative (no, we weren't conducting any durability tests).

The keyboard is underlaid by a lipped panel which offers good protection to the underlying electronics from dust and moisture. With all the features built into this computer there is a penalty to pay -- this beast weighs in at just over 3.1kg (the specs say 2.85kg, but why would you measure it without the battery?) -- and that's not counting the AC power adaptor.

Useability
Acer has given plenty of attention to user comfort. The size of this machine allows plenty of room for the ergonomically curved keyboard and there is both a pointing-stick and touchpad to cater to user preferences. Palmrests are broad giving plenty of room for the hands and an excellent range of card reader and ports are provided.

Software
Apart from the operating system (Windows XP Professional), other software supplied with the notebook is mainly restricted to hardware utilities such as DVD burning and playback, power management and security tools -- which includes software for setting up smartcard and biometric fingerprint readers. Two smart cards are supplied with the machine. Users wishing to move on to Vista can also purchase an upgrade kit intended to ease the transition. A 90 day trial version of Norton antivirus 2006 is also included.

Upon starting up for the first time it is recommended that the user creates a backup image of the hard-drive using the inbuilt utility. We certainly appreciate the capacity to draw on an earlier functional state when things go wrong, yet it would have been a worthy deed for Acer to offer a pre-burnt factory reset disk rather than relying on the user to create their own.

Screen performance is excellent, with good picture quality and no practical limit on the angle at which the screen can be viewed -- except when facing a bright light source. Sound quality through the inbuilt speakers was fair.

Benchmark results
We struggled to get BAPCO MobileMark 2005 running on this machine. We failed to get the benchmark running on a standard factory installation and thus attempted a fresh install of Windows XP using only basic hardware drivers -- and excluding all the Acer management software. Having done so, the benchmark ran successfully with flying colours. The battery life was just shy of four hours (238 minutes) and the performance rating was a very good 234. Four hours is great for a large notebook like this and any performance scores exceeding 200 are considered satisfactory.

The Sandra Pro File System test gave a result of 35MB/s which, while not blindingly fast, is perfectly acceptable for a modern notebook. (Reading speeds of 30-40MB/s are typical for notebooks and we have recently recorded speeds up to 65MB/s in desktop systems.)

The memory bandwidth test (another test in the Sandra suite) considers the speed at which information can be transferred from to or from RAM and was estimated at 64 percent efficiency, which scored a little below what we might hope for -- we have seen machines with 1.83GHz processors perform a touch better. (The CPU is naturally only part of the story with memory function, but we tend to see a correlation between CPU speed and memory bandwidth.)

CPU arithmetic scores for Dhrystone ALU and Whetstone FPU scored 22768 MIPS (Million Instructions Per Second) and 5932 MFLOPS (Mega Floating-Point Operations Per Second) respectively. These tests consider the CPU's ability to crunch numbers -- they deal with integers (whole numbers) and floating point (decimal) numbers respectively, measuring how quickly the processor can deal with the information passed to it.

Verdict
Are you getting enough advantage in such a mobile package to justify the additional money you would spend on a desktop with equivalent functionality? Personally, I'd say the extra space you'll save is significant!

Customer support is available via phone, e-mail or an online knowledgebase. The 6465WLMi's warranty is 12 months. The difficulty which we found with running benchmark software gives us some concerns about general compatibility, but we also recognise that this test software is particularly touchy. We recommend burning a system restore disk when you first start up the machine -- it will save much heartache later, in the event that something goes wrong. These issues aside the 6465WLMi is generally well provided for in terms of software, functionality and construction.

Product Acer TravelMate 6465WLMi
Price AU$3,499
Vendor Acer
Contact 1300 366 567
Interoperability
3.5 out of 5
Very good port provision and fair effort to improve standard Windows system administration.
Futureproofing
3 out of 5
We have some doubts about the durability of this physical model, but good performance and features.
ROI
3.5 out of 5
The high price reflects processor power and screen performance.
Service
2.5 out of 5
12 month with option for extended warranty with pick-up or onsite service. E-mail and online support at Acer Web site.
Rating
3 out of 5

Topics: Laptops, Hardware, Mobility

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