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Acer TravelMate 3012WTMi

  • Editors' rating
    7.5 Very good

Pros

  • Built in camera
  • Bluetooth VoIP phone included
  • lightweight
  • supplied with both 3- and 6-cell batteries

Cons

  • External optical drive
  • may be difficult to use all USB ports at once

The second dual core notebook that Acer delivered us for testing is the ultraportable TravelMate 3012WTMi, a svelte 1.5kg system powered by a 1.66GHz Intel Core Duo processor that includes a rotating Webcam built into the top of the screen.

Design

The TravelMate 3012WTMi is both small and light. Measuring just 29.7cm by 21cm by 3.24cm, it occupies the same amount of desk space as a sheet of A4 paper. Usefully for mobile professionals, the system comes with two battery packs, one three-cell, one six-cell. The latter protrudes a little from the back of the chassis, raising the weight from 1.5kg to 1.65kg.

Even with the heavier six-cell battery in place, the TravelMate 3012WTMi should not be a burden to carry, but its chassis does not provide room for an optical drive. An external DVD-RW drive is supplied, which connects to the T3012WTMi via FireWire. If you need optical storage on your travels, you'll need to find space in your bag and allow for a little extra weight.

On its larger notebooks, Acer uses a slightly curved shape for the keyboard, but there's not enough room for this design on the ultraportable 3012WTMi. Instead, there's a standard QWERTY keyboard with a same-height number row and half-sized row of function keys above this. The keys are fine for touch-typing, if a little spongy.

The touchpad has left and right mouse buttons plus a four-way scroll button. Beneath the screen and to the left, immediately above the keyboard, are four function keys. Three of these are configured to launch the Web browser, email and Acer’s Empowering Technology application launcher, while the fourth is user-programmable.

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The 12.1in. screen has a native resolution of 1,280 by 800 pixels. Its wide format makes it feasible to have working windows open at once, and we found it clear and bright.

There may not be space for an optical drive, but Acer has found room for a good array of ports and slots. The FireWire (IEEE 1394) connector for the optical drive is on the right-hand side along with a USB 2.0 port, a single PC Card slot and a card reader that accepts SD, MMC and Memory Stick media.

The left-hand side houses two further USB 2.0 ports; these are arranged side by side, which may make it tricky to use both at the same time if your USB peripherals are awkwardly shaped. The Ethernet and modem connectors are on the left side too, along with the VGA-out connector.

At the front, twin speakers flank separate on/off buttons for the built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth modules, an infrared port and microphone and headset connectors. The removable battery attaches at the back, which is also home to a port for Acer’s ezDock port replicator (which is not supplied as standard) and the mains power connector.

Features

The Acer TravelMate 3012WTMi is powered by Intel’s 1.66GHz Core Duo T2300 processor with 2MB of shared Level 2 cache and a 667MHz frontside bus. The Intel 945GM Express chipset includes Intel’s GMA 950 Graphics Media Accelerator, which can dynamically use up to 128MB of system memory. Wireless networking is provided by Intel’s PRO/Wireless 3945ABG module, while the gigabit Ethernet connection is delivered by Broadcom NetLink.

Our review system came with 1GB of RAM, and this can be expanded to a maximum of 4GB using dual SoDIMM modules. The hard drive was a capacious 100GB unit with a fast spin speed of 5400rpm.

Business users who need to communicate with colleagues while traveling will appreciate two particular features of the TravelMate 3012WTMi.

A microphone is embedded just below the keyboard, while just above the screen -- in the lid section -- sits a 1.3 megapixel camera. Between them these two are ideal for video conferencing using VoIP services -- the camera can be swivelled through 180 degrees so that it either looks towards or away from the notebook user.

Unfortunately, the camera’s on-screen image does not automatically flip as you swivel it round -- you have to do this manually using an option in the camera settings area. You can turn on a ‘face tracking’ tool for either one or multiple faces. This was fairly successful at automatically zooming in and out as we moved around during video calls to get the best possible picture. It's also easy enough to zoom and pan manually using an on-screen control panel.

The other feature that business users might find handy is Acer’s Bluetooth VoIP phone, which we first saw bundled with the TravelMate 8204WLMi. It is PC Card-sized, can be charged via the PC Card slot, and has a flip-out section that holds the microphone. If you have a service configured, you can use this to make VoIP calls. Meanwhile, if instant messaging is your preferred method of communicating, Acer’s IM Voice Connection Manager software may prove useful.

As usual, Acer includes its Empowering Technology suite of tools and utilities. These programs allow you to configure and control the TravelMate 3012WTMi without resorting to the Windows Control panel.

Performance & battery life

Based on other Core Duo systems that we've tested, we expected very good performance from the 1.66GHz T2300-based TravelMate 3012WTMi with 1GB of RAM. Although the system seemed very responsive in general use, we were unable to quantify this impression using our normal MobileMark 2002 benchmark, as this refused to complete on our test system in the time available. Acer claims 5.5 hours of life from the 3-cell and 6-cell batteries, but again we were unable to test this using MobileMark 2002.

To summarise, Acer’s TravelMate 3012WTMi is a small, light and highly portable computer. Its wide-screen format, built-in camera and Bluetooth VoIP phone should all appeal to business users -- especially those who use the Internet for voice and video calling.

If you need an optical drive while on the move, you may want to look for a system with a built-in unit (such as Fujitsu Siemens' LifeBook P7120), as toting the supplied external drive and its cable will quickly become a chore.

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