Following Intel's recent unveiling of the Santa Rosa mobile platform, notebook vendors are busily rolling out their updated product lines. On Monday 14 May, it was Acer's turn, and as well as a refresh of the key internal components — processor, chipset and wireless module — the company presented a brand-new industrial design for its business-focused TravelMate range.
According to Acer's market research, conducted over seven months by BMW Group, business users require 'maximum productivity and minimum fuss' from their notebooks, a directive that the company has distilled into its new ProFile design. In terms of look and feel, the colours are predominantly black, lines are curved and surfaces textured for better grip. Attention has been paid to port placement, bringing selected connectors to a cluster at the front for easy access, while a new magnesium alloy cover provides significantly better protection than plastic yet remains sufficiently lightweight. Data security is obviously an important business requirement, and Acer's new TravelMates incorporate features like fingerprint recognition, smartcards, hard disk anti-shock protection and data encryption.
The first new-look TravelMate to hit the market is the 6292 model, a sub-2kg, 12.1in.-screen ultraportable with an integrated optical drive. Currently there are two CPU choices available: the entry-level Intel Core 2 Duo T7100 with 2MB of Level 2 cache running at 1.8GHz and the 4MB/2.2GHz T7300. The chipset, which includes the GMA X3100 graphics module, is the Mobile Intel 965GM Express, with 1GB or 2GB of DDR2 SDRAM (expandable to a maximum of 4GB). The third element of the core Santa Rosa triumvirate, the wireless module, is the new Intel Wireless WiFi Link 4965AGN, which supports the full range of 802.11 options — a, b, g and Draft-N. Acer's SignalUp antenna design mounts a pair of PIFAs (Planar Inverted-F Antenna) at the top of the screen lid to maximise wireless performance.
For storage there's a massive 160GB shock-protected hard disk (80 and 120GB options are also available), an 8X DVD-Super Multi double-layer drive and a 5-in-1 flash card reader supporting SD, MMC, Memory Stick, MS PRO and xD media.
The 12.1in. Acer CrystalBrite screen has a wide aspect ratio of 1,280 by 800 pixels, while the keyboard (which does not feature Acer's hitherto distinctive curved design for space reasons) provides a full 85 keys including an 'inverted-T' cursor layout. Navigation is via a two-button touchpad with a 4-way scroll function; a fingerprint reader nestles between the left and right mouse buttons.
Elsewhere, there's a (fixed rather than swivelling) Crystal Eye webcam built into the top of the lid, Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth 2.0, a PC Card slot, three USB ports plus FireWire, infrared, VGA and S-Video ports. Battery life is quoted at up to 5 hours with the standard 6-cell battery, 7h with the optional 9-cell battery, and 12h when both are combined. Pricing for the TravelMate 6292 starts at a competitive £899 (ex. VAT).
The new family of Santa Rosa TravelMates will be fleshed out with a 14in.-screen model, the 6492, and a 15in. model, the 6592 — the latter featuring ATI's Mobility Radeon X2300-HD discrete graphics solution. These two models will be fully fledged Centrino Pro systems, incorporating support for Intel's AMT 2.5 management technology. There are also a couple of more SOHO-oriented models, the 15.in. TM 5720 and the massive 17in. TM 7720 with its full-sized keyboard (including separate number pad). None of the new Santa Rosa TravelMates will include 3G connectivity to begin with, but we understand that this will be introduced further down the line. We will supply more details, and full reviews, of these systems as they become available.