TravelMate 8000 series
Last year's successful TravelMate 800 range of professional notebooks has been superseded by the similar-looking but beefed-up TravelMate 8000 series. This includes the Acer's first Dothan-core Pentium M-based notebook, the 2GHz TravelMate 8006LMi, which will cost £1,499 (ex. VAT).
Built around the latest Intel Centrino technology with 512MB of RAM as standard, the TM 8000 series will use a 1.5GHz Banias-core Pentium M processor for the entry-level 8002LCi model, which will initially be priced at £1,099 (ex. VAT). Acer's Notebook Business Manager David White said that the company would like to get the base price for the TM 8000 range down to £999 (ex. VAT), and we wouldn't be surprised to see that happen before too long. All TM 8000 models use Intel's latest wireless module, the 802.11b/g PRO/Wireless 2200BG, which operates at 2.4GHz and has a maximum throughput of 54Mbps. For wireless personal area networking, you get Bluetooth built-in. High-speed wired Gigabit Ethernet is also supported as standard. Both the TM 8000 series and the special Ferrari 3200 model (see next page) benefit from Acer's SignalUp technology, which maximises wireless signal strength via efficient antenna design and positioning in the top of the LCD panel. The TM 8000 is a two-spindle 'thin-and-light' design, weighing just under 3kg and offering hard disks of 60GB (TM 8002LCi) or 80GB (TM 8006LMi) capacity. Optical storage resides in a hot-swappable bay in the form of a DVD/CD-RW combo for the entry-level model and a DVD Super Multi drive (a multi-format DVD burner) at the top end. The AcerMedia Bay will also accept a second Li-ion battery, among other things: with the standard battery Acer claims 5 hours' battery life, rising to 8 hours ('all day computing') with the second unit fitted. The TM 8000's 15in., 1,400-by-1,050-pixel display is driven by ATI's state-of-the-art Mobility Radeon 9700 chip, supported by 64MB of video RAM at the low end and 128MB at the top of the range. You can attach an external monitor via a digital DVI-out port, and manage a desktop spanning two screens. DVD playback benefits from hardware-assisted MPEG-2 decoding on the ATI chip. Other notable features on the TM 8000 series include a front-mounted 4-in-1 flash card reader, a smartcard reader, four USB 2.0 ports and a generally sturdy build quality including Disc Anti-Shock Protection (DASP) on the underside of the system. The Dothan-based TravelMate 8006LMi will be available at the beginning of June 2004.
Acer Ferrari 3200
Last year, Acer, as a sponsor of Ferrari's Formula One team, introduced a 'special edition' notebook based on the TravelMate 800 and decked out in the famous red livery with the prancing horse badge. Athough the £1,299 (ex. VAT) Ferrari 3000 was visually arresting and had undoubted 'boy's toy' appeal, Acer didn't expect it to sell in large numbers. However, according to David White, Acer's Notebook Business Manager, the company sold 'a lot', with orders exceeding supply two or three-fold. So now the company has come up with the £1,499 (ex. VAT) Ferrari 3200, which is an even more desirable system. Like its predecessor, the 3200 is based on its high-end TravelMate counterpart (in this case the TM 8000 series), but with a different design (clearly) and CPU. The processor in question is AMD's Mobile Athlon 64 2800+.
Apart from its 64-bit CPU, the other main point of difference from the high-end TM 8006LMi model described on the previous page is the optical drive, which in the Ferrari 3200 model is a convenient slot-loading rather than tray-loading Super Multi DVD drive. There's one other thing: the Ferrari 3200 comes with a matching red optical mouse. We look forward to reviewing this rubicund road warrior at the earliest opportunity.
Acer's latest Pocket PC handheld is the N30, whose design brief, according to the company, was to provide 'the best value for money with Bluetooth built in". At just £199 (inc. VAT), the price is certainly in the right area, and the specification of this pleasingly thin (13mm) and light (133g) device looks pretty useful too.
Aimed at business users rather than consumers, the N30 concentrates on essentials rather than delivering a slew of multimedia features. It's based on a 266MHz Samsung processor, and comes with 64MB of RAM plus 32MB of flash ROM. The OS is Microsoft's Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC Premium Edition, which comes with extra bundled applications like a Terminal Services client and e-Book Reader. The N30's screen is a high-brightness 3.5in. transflective TFT unit, expansion is via an SDIO-compatible SD/MMC slot and extra applications include a backup utility. Among the options are a car charger and a Wi-Fi SDIO card, and there's talk of a Bluetooth GPS navigation solution to follow in due course. Acer says that it expects to reduce the price of the N30 to £179 (inc. VAT) 'very quickly' after launch -- probably as early as the beginning of July.