- Very good performance
- decent battery life
- slimline but solid design
- extensive set of features
- one-year warranty
Acer's new TravelMate 8000 series updates the successful TravelMate 800 range of business-oriented Centrino notebooks. The top-end 8006LMi model reviewed here uses Intel's flagship 2GHz Dothan-core Pentium M processor. The £1,499 (ex. VAT) TravelMate 8006LMi is nicely designed, packed with features, performs very well and delivers decent battery life. Overall, it's an excellent choice for business users.
The TravelMate 8006LMi is a two-spindle 'thin-and-light' system weighing just under 3kg (2.88kg) and planting a footprint (33.2cm by 28.1cm) big enough to accommodate its 15in. screen. Considering the features that are packed inside, it's relatively slim at between 3.3cm and 3.6cm high. The design is very similar to that of its TM 800 predecessor, the main point of difference being the front-mounted 4-in-1 flash memory card reader, which accepts SD/MMC, SmartMedia and Memory Stick media. Despite its slimline design, the TravelMate 8006LMi feels very solidly built. There's very little flex in the screen or keyboard, for example – two areas where flimsiness often shows up in other notebooks. The screen hinge and lid-locking mechanism also inspire confidence in their ability to stand up to repeated use. Underneath, Acer's rubberised Disc Anti-Shock Protection (DASP) helps to cushion the hard drive from any untoward bumps when you're on the move. The curved Acer FineTouch keyboard has 85 keys that are generally sensibly laid out, although the Home and End keys are accessed via an Fn key combination, which not all users will appreciate. The pointing device is 2-button touchpad with a useful four-way scroll button. Between the screen and keyboard there are four quick-launch buttons, two of them user-programmable; the fascia also has buttons for turning Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on and off.
The TravelMate 8006LMi is built around Intel's flagship 2GHz Dothan-core Pentium M 745 processor with 2MB of Level 2 cache, and has a feature set to match. The chipset is Intel's latest 855GME, which supports DDR333 RAM -- the 8006LMi has 512MB, expandable to 2GB. Main storage is provided by an 80GB, 4,200rpm Ultra-ATA/100 hard disk, while the optical drive is a multi-format DVD burner that can handle all of today's leading writable and rewritable media (DVD+R/RW, DVD-R/RW and CD-R/RW). The modular AcerMedia Bay on the right-hand side accepts a number of options in place of the optical drive, including a second hard drive and a second Li-ion battery. With just the standard battery fitted, Acer claims 5 hours' life, rising to 8 hours with a second one added. The graphics subsystem is one of the TravelMate 80006LMi's strengths, being based around ATI's top-end Mobility Radeon 9700 chip supported by 128MB of DDR video RAM. With full DirectX 9.0 support and hardware-assisted MPEG-2 decoding for superior DVD playback, this GPU will do justice to demanding graphical applications, games and movies. The internal display is a high-quality 15in. SXGA+ (1,400 by 1,050 pixels) TFT, and you can plug an external monitor into the VGA or DVI-Digital port at the back and spread your Windows desktop over two screens. There's also an S-Video TV-out port, primarily for playing DVD movies. The TravelMate 8006LMi is a well-connected notebook: not only is it equipped with Intel's latest PRO/Wireless 2200GB 802.11b/g wireless networking module, but it also has built-in Bluetooth for wireless cable replacement and Gigabit Ethernet for very fast wired networking. As far as ports and expansion is concerned, there's a row of four USB 2.0 ports on the left-hand side, along with a single Type II PC Card slot, a smartcard reader, a FireWire port and a trio of audio connectors. At the back, there are VGA and DVI-D monitor ports, the S-Video port and RJ-45 Ethernet plus RJ-11 modem connectors. The fascia carries the above-mentioned flash card reader and an infrared port.
Performance & battery life
As you'd expect from a 2GHz system with 2MB of Level 2 cache and 512MB of DDR RAM, the TravelMate 8006LMi is a very good performer, scoring 191 on MobileMark 2002. That's well ahead of the most of the previous generation of Banias-core Pentium M-based notebooks, although it's actually only 4 per cent quicker than its 1.7GHz TravelMate 800 predecessor. When it comes to 3D graphics, the TravelMate 8006LMi's state-of-the-art 128MB ATI Mobility Radeon 9700 GPU propels it to a 3DMark 03 score of 2,839. That compares pretty favourably to the fastest notebook graphics we've seen to date – from Dell's desktop-replacement Inspiron 9100, which uses the same GPU and scores 3,373. Battery life is reported by MobileMark 2002 as 3 hours and 38 minutes – not the 5 hours claimed by Acer, but a decent result nonetheless. However, our testing is performed in desktop mode with relatively high screen brightness; you could easily extract more uptime with more conservative power management settings. We did not test the system with a second battery.
Service & support
The TravelMate 8006LMi comes with a one-year international warranty, which isn't that generous. However, you can extend this via the AcerAdvantage program if need be – albeit at a price. Telephone support is available from 9am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday, at a cost of 50p per minute. You can also get email support, driver downloads utilities and user guides via Acer's Web site.