Acer TravelMate X349-M review: An economy-class business ultraportable

acer-tm-x349-header.jpg
  • Editors' rating
    7.9 Very good

Pros

  • Competitive price
  • Solid build quality for a budget laptop
  • All-day battery life (just about)
  • Respectable performance

Cons

  • Low-resolution display
  • No build-to-order options (in the UK)
  • Only 4GB of RAM

Apple's competitors have clearly got a bit of an obsession with the MacBook Air. Following the ASUS ZenBook UX330UA, which blatantly copied the fruity ultraportable's design, Acer has now released the TravelMate X349-M, a more affordable alternative with a similarly familiar look about it.

With prices starting at less than £600 (inc. VAT), the TravelMate X349 inevitably lacks some of the finer features and superior performance of the ZenBook, but it could still find a niche as an affordable ultraportable laptop for business users on a tight budget.

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The 14-inch TravelMate X349-M takes its design inspiration from Apple's MacBook Air, offering a good build quality for an affordably priced laptop.

Images: Acer

Travelling light

As soon as you open the box, the tear-drop profile and gently curved edges of the TravelMate X349 make its Apple influence obvious. Even so, the smart and sturdy aluminium chassis provides very good build quality, considering that our Core i3-based review unit costs just £582 inc. VAT (£485 ex. VAT, or $649.99 in the US). We wouldn't have any worries about slipping it into a briefcase or even a backpack when travelling. The keyboard feels firm and responsive too, so you can certainly type up a storm when you need to get some work done.

Somewhat surprisingly, Acer has opted to give the X349 a 14-inch display, which means that it's a little larger and heavier than the many 12-inch and 13-inch ultraportables that it hopes to compete with. It's certainly larger than my veteran MacBook Air, measuring a full 340mm wide, 237mm deep and a more modest 18mm thick. But, to be fair, its weight of 1.53kg is actually quite good for a laptop of this size, and you can still pick up the X349 with one hand and carry it around with very little effort.

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The TravelMate X349-M has three USB ports (one USB 2.0, one USB 3.0 and one USB 3.1/Type C) plus an HDMI connector.

Image: Acer

Unfortunately, that 14-inch display also turns out to be X349's one real weak spot. Its 1,366-by-768-pixel resolution (112ppi) is disappointing even at this price, although the image it produces is quite bright and with good viewing angles in case you need to give an impromptu presentation in a coffee shop, for example. The limited resolution is a problem, though, and often leaves you feeling cramped when juggling multiple open windows or documents. Acer also seems quite proud of the flexible hinge, which allows you to fold the screen right back to 180-degrees (although I confess I can't think of an obvious use for that).

Performance

A Core i3 laptop isn't going to break any speed records, but the X349 can certainly handle mainstream productivity workloads without any problems. Our review unit included a Core i3-6100U processor running at 2.3GHz, along with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. The X349 is sold with a licence for Windows 10 Pro but, for business users, this also includes downgrade rights for Windows 7 Pro.

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That combination delivered scores of 3170 (single-core) and 6000 (multi-core) when running the Geekbench 4 test suite. That's obviously not in the same league as ASUS's Core i7-based ZenBook UX330UA (at 3800 and 7200 respectively), but it's neck-and-neck with the Core i5 processor in the MacBook Air, which is far more expensive at £949 inc. VAT (£790.83 ex. VAT, or $999).

You can't buy direct from Acer in the UK, so there aren't any build-to-order options available, but a number of other fixed configurations are available that provide extra performance and a higher-resolution display. Another £50 inc. VAT (£41.66 ex. VAT) steps you up to a Core i5 processor, or you could go all out with a Core i7, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and a 1,920-by-1,080 display for around £1,020 inc. VAT (£850 ex. VAT or $1049.99 in the US).

The one area where the MacBook Air still holds sway, though, is battery life. The TravelMate X349 managed 6.5 hours of streaming video when using the BBC iPlayer, and you might be able to stretch that close to eight hours for less intensive use. Even so, that's still well short of Acer's claimed 10 hours. By contrast, the MacBook Air, for all its faults, breezes along for almost 11 hours at a time.

Conclusions

Our review unit's low-resolution screen seems like a false economy, even at this price, and may well deter some potential users. Even so, the TravelMate X349-M still delivers good value for money, with modest but still perfectly usable performance and battery life, wrapped up in an attractive, lightweight design. It's very much a budget option, but it could well earn its keep if you need a basic travelling laptop that doesn't cost a fortune.

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Specifications

General
Packaged Quantity 1
Embedded Security Trusted Platform Module (TPM) Security Chip
Operating System Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64-bit Edition + Windows 10 Pro 64-bit Licence
Processor / Chipset
CPU Intel Core i3 (6th Gen) 6100U / 2.3 GHz
Number of Cores Dual-Core
Cache 3 MB
64-bit Computing Yes
Features Hyper-Threading Technology, Intel Smart Cache
RAM
Memory Specification Compliance PC4-17000
Configuration Features provided memory is soldered
Technology DDR4 SDRAM
Memory
RAM 4 GB (provided memory is soldered)
Technology DDR4 SDRAM
Speed 2133 MHz / PC4-17000
Storage
Interface Serial ATA-600
Display
LCD Backlight Technology LED backlight
Resolution 1366 x 768 (HD)
Widescreen Display Yes
Image Aspect Ratio 16:9
Monitor Features Mercury free, Ultra Slim Design, anti-glare
Type LED
Display Resolution Abbreviation HD
Audio & Video
Graphics Processor Intel HD Graphics 520
Memory Allocation Technology shared video memory (UMA)
Integrated Webcam Yes
Sound Stereo speakers, microphone
Features Acer TrueHarmony technology
Hard Drive
Type SSD
SSD Form Factor M.2 2280
Input
Type keyboard, touchpad
Features Acer FineTip keyboard, multi-gesture touch pad, precision touchpad
Communications
Wireless Protocol 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth
Wireless Controller Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7265 - M.2 Card
Processor
Type Core i3
Processor Number i3-6100U
Generation 6
Manufacturer Intel
Optical Storage
Drive Type no optical drive
Type none
Card Reader
Type card reader
Supported Flash Memory SD Memory Card
Battery
Cells 4-cell
Technology lithium polymer
AC Adapter
Input AC 120/230 V (50/60 Hz)
Output 45 Watt, 19 V
Connections & Expansion
Interfaces HDMI
USB-C Gen1
USB 3.0 port with power-off charging
USB 2.0
Headphone/microphone combo jack
Memory Card Reader Yes (SD Card)
Header
Brand Acer
Product Line Acer TravelMate
Model X349-M-35YE
Country Kits United Kingdom
Packaged Quantity 1
Miscellaneous
Color steel gray
Security Trusted Platform Module (TPM) Security Chip, fingerprint reader
Features security lock slot (cable lock sold separately)
Localization United Kingdom
Included Accessories power adapter
Networking
Data Link Protocol Bluetooth, IEEE 802.11a, IEEE 802.11ac, IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g, IEEE 802.11n
Interface (Bus) Type M.2 Card
Wireless NIC Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7265
Monitor
Image Brightness 220
System
Notebook Type notebook
Platform Windows
Embedded Security Trusted Platform Module (TPM) Security Chip
Security Devices fingerprint reader
Environmental Standards
ENERGY STAR Certified Yes
Operating System / Software
OS Provided: Type Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64-bit Edition
Video Output
Graphics Processor Intel HD Graphics 520
Graphics Processor Series Intel HD Graphics
Video Memory
Memory Allocation Technology shared video memory (UMA)
Notebook Camera
Integrated Webcam Yes
Input Device
Backlight Yes

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