A notebook buff might categorise the Acer TravelMate 342T as a subnotebook/ultra-portable. We'd rather describe it as a laptop version of Gail Porter.
It's cute, stylish, fun to play with, and, like Ms Porter, boasts an elegantly trim figure.
Unlike some of the notebooks we've seen lately, you can also carry the 342T around without the risk of developing a hernia.
Acer reckons the the TravelMate is designed to complement your desktop PC rather than replace it. Refreshing view from a notebook manufacturer, but with only a 12in display, this machine isn't ideal if you're gonna be staring at it for hours. That said, the 800x600 display is sharp and clear, just a bit teeny for any major periods in front of it.
We weren't fans of the touch pad either -- luckily for us there's a mouse port round the back.
To keep the weight down to 1.9Kg and the height of the case to only 25mm, Acer hasn't included a CD-Rom drive in the case. Instead, the TravelMate comes with a 24-speed CD-Rom and floppy disk drive combo, which plugs into a slot in the side. The combo weighs another 900g, so if you're only planning to run programs from the 9Gb hard drive then you can cut back on the amount of weight you're carrying.
A PIII 500MHz processor doesn't make the 342T the fastest laptop around, but it's quite good enough for playing games, and for running all your standard applications. Our main gripe is that you only get 64Mb Ram, although it's technically possible to bump this up to 192Mb. As it is, once you've got a few programs running consecutively there's an annoying lag when you swap between them.
There's a single USB port and one PC Card slot which should be adequate, as you shouldn't want to run all that many peripherals when you're on the move anyway.
Battery life wasn't the best, and a fully-charged TravelMate probably wouldn't cope with much more than two hours of intensive activity. Annoyingly, because you connect the CD-Rom combo onto the left hand side of the laptop, the total unit takes up quite a lot more space -- suddenly, that fold-down table on the train is very crowded indeed.
At under £1,500, the Acer TravelMate makes less of a dent in your wallet than a more cutting-edge notebook. While it's not designed to perform the role of a desktop machine, it does have plenty of functionality, and would probably make an adequate substitute. It's got portability in spades, and some nice touches like a Web cam that fits neatly on the side of the screen, and some LEDs up the side of the screen that shows when the hard drive is spinning, or the battery's being charged.
Conclusion: This notebook knows it's a notebook and doesn't try to be anything else. If you're after a smaller machine with enough guts to get the job done without the gaudy add-ons... this is the one for you!
- Acer TravelMate 342T laptop
- £1467 (inc VAT)
- PIII 500MHz
- 9Gb hard drive, 64Mb Ram,
- 24-speed CD-Rom/floppy disk combination unit
- One USB slot, one PC Card slot
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