- ✓Ergonomic keyboard
- ✓Fingerprint scanner
- ✓Built-in webcam
- ✕Low-resolution screen
- ✕Standard battery life could be better
- ✕Webcam lacks sophistication
Earlier this year, Acer announced a new line-up of notebooks to coincide with Intel's Centrino Pro/Duo platform. So far, we've reviewed one system in the business-focused TravelMate range — the (relatively) ultraportable TravelMate 6292. Our second TravelMate is the somewhat larger and heavier 6592 model.
The TravelMate 6592 is relatively bulky for a nominally 'thin-and-light' notebook. At 2.9kg you're unlikely to want to carry it very far or very often, and if you do make it a travel companion you’ll need a pretty capacious bag. It plants a footprint 36cm wide by 27.5cm deep. At its maximum, the TM 6592 is 3.65cm thick.
This notebook’s colour scheme is no great surprise: it has a slate-grey lid section, and black innards with grey highlights that are slightly lifted from the humdrum by a few emerald-green accents.
A solid dual-action clasp keeps the lid and keyboard sections together when the notebook is not in use, and build quality is generally very good. The lid section, in particular, feels reassuringly solid. All this bodes well if you do choose to carry this notebook around.
The 15.4in. matt-finish TFT display on our review sample had a resolution of 1,280 by 800 pixels, which is on the low side. Compare, for example, the recently reviewed HP Compaq 6715b, whose 15.4in. screen has a native resolution of 1,680 by 1,050. If you need the higher-resolution screen, this is available in a different configuration of the TravelMate 6592.
The keyboard is distinctive because of the five-degree curve on which the keys rest. This places the outer keys nearer the screen than the inner ones, encouraging you to hold your wrists at a slightly wider angle than usual. Acer says this helps with user ergonomics, and we can confirm that this design does indeed feel more comfortable for touch typing than standard notebook keyboards.
The spread of keys is wide, with a row of two-thirds-height function keys sitting atop a row of full-sized number keys. When it comes to cursor movement, Acer offers two options. A touchpad has two enormous mouse buttons beneath it, with a central navigation pad for vertical and horizontal scrolling. Alternatively, there's an emerald-green mini joystick nestling between the G, H and B keys. A second pair of mouse buttons, with emerald green accents, sits above the touchpad for use with the pointing stick. The fingerprint sensor sits between this second pair of mouse buttons.
Above the keyboard there's space for four shortcut buttons. Two are preconfigured to launch Outlook Express for email and Internet Explorer for web browsing. You can change these settings and also programme a third personalised launcher button. The fourth button opens Acer’s Empowering Technology utilities, a set of tools for managing things like presentation mode settings, backup, security and password management.
For processing power, our TravelMate 6592 review sample had a 1.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7100, backup by 1GB of RAM (expandable to 4GB). Windows XP Professional was preinstalled on our review sample, although Vista Business and Vista Home Premium are also available.
Wi-Fi (802.11a, b, g and Draft-N), Bluetooth (2.0+EDR), infrared, Gigabit Ethernet and a 56Kbps V.92 modem are all built in.
Graphics were handled by a discrete ATI Mobility Radeon X2300-HD module in our review sample, although other configurations are available. The hard drive, a 160GB unit spinning at 5,400rpm, can be downgraded to 80GB or 120GB if necessary. The optical drive sits in a modular bay that can also accommodate a second battery or a second hard drive.
Acer’s Crystal Eye webcam, which sits above the screen, is welcome — but it's fixed rather than swivel-mounted, which would be preferable. The camera captures stills and video at 640 by 480 and 320 by 240 pixels. It functions adequately as far as it goes, but it lacks features such as the face tracking functionality we saw in the Fujitsu Siemens LifeBook S6410.
The TravelMate 6592 is reasonably well kitted-out with ports and connectors. However, there are only three USB 2.0 ports, two side-by-side on the left edge, and one at the back on the right. The left-hand side also houses a FireWire (IEEE 1394) port, an ExpressCard/54 slot, a PC Card slot, a SmartCard reader and a flash card reader that accepts SD, MMC, Memory Stick and xD media.
At the back, you'll find S-Video, DVI-D, VGA and serial ports, along with modem (RJ-11) and Ethernet (RJ-45) connectors and the power jack. The front houses microphone, headphone and line-out jacks and the infrared port. There are also two mechanical slider buttons here: one toggles Wi-Fi on and off, the other Bluetooth. It's unusual and welcome to see the two wireless radios controllable by separate hardware switches.
Performance & battery life
The TravelMate 6592 is a comfortable notebook to work with, both in terms of general responsiveness and as far as the keyboard is concerned. We would have liked a higher-resolution screen, though, and also feel that Acer could do more with its webcam. Upping the camera resolution, including automatic light metering and adding face tracking would all help.
Acer says the standard 6-cell battery will deliver 2.5 hours of life. You can extend this to 4.5 hours by adding an optional second battery in the media bay. Alternatively, an 8-cell main battery pack will deliver a claimed 4 hours' life with another 2 hours available from a second battery in the media bay.
We ran Battery Eater to test the life of the notebook with just the standard battery fitted, which resulted in 1 hour 56 minutes of life. We suspect that with a less graphics-intensive set of processes running, you may well get the 2.5 hours that Acer claims.
This is an affordable notebook that should suit anyone looking for a capable, mostly desk-bound, system. Although it's fairly basic, the webcam is a nice extra, while fingerprint recognition is fast becoming a 'must have' feature for business users.