Acer TravelMate C202TMi

  • Editors' rating
    7.3 Very good

Pros

  • Good performance
  • robust hardware
  • extra software for data and system security
  • supplied with two batteries

Cons

  • Non-standard screen conversion method may not appeal to all
  • poor battery life with 3-cell battery
  • no wrist rest
  • expensive

Convertible Tablet PCs usually have a screen that swivels around a central hinge, allowing you to work in conventional clamshell notebook and tablet modes. However, Acer’s TravelMate C202TMi eschews this system in favour of a unique sliding screen mechanism. It's a clever piece of design, but will it appeal to everyone?

Design

The TravelMate C202TMi is a solid piece of hardware. It comes with two batteries, and when fitted with the smaller and lighter 3-cell unit plus an optical drive it weighs in at 2.35kg. With the larger 6-cell battery fitted the weight rises to 2.5kg.

For a Tablet PC with a 12.1in. screen, the TravelMate C202TMi is bulkier than you might expect, measuring 31.5cm by 23.8cm by 3.5cm. These dimensions make the system a little awkward to hold in the crook of an arm and use in tablet mode for any length of time.

The TravelMate C202TMi's screen conversion method is unique. With the display in tablet mode, lain flat on the keyboard, you push the 'open' latch and, with minimal encouragement, the screen slides upwards and away from you, rolling along tracks on the left and right edges of the system and revealing the keyboard. The screen comes to a halt at an angle of about 125 degrees; to lay it flat again, you give a gentle pull at both sides, and it glides downwards and locks into position.

The system works smoothly and seems robust. Because you can’t have the screen facing inwards, as on a conventional convertible Tablet PC, Acer provides a clip-on screen protector for use when the TravelMate C202TMi is in transit. Unfortunately we weren’t given one of these as part of our review package so can’t comment on its effectiveness.

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For the screen mechanism to uncover the whole of the keyboard, the keyboard needs to be at the very front of the system, leaving no space for a wrist rest. We generally find wrist rests are vital to notebook use, but others may not miss this feature. The keyboard itself is very tactile, although heavy-handed tappers might find it somewhat squidgy. The function key row accommodates half-sized keys. There is no touchpad: instead, there's a pointing stick between the G H and B keys, with left and right mouse buttons located beneath the keyboard.

Features

The TravelMate C202TMi is powered by an Intel Pentium M 740 processor running at 1.7GHz. Graphics are provided by a dedicated module in the shape of Nvidia's GeForce Go 6200 with 64MB of VRAM. There is 512MB of DDR2 RAM, expandable to 2GB. Our review unit was supplied with a 60GB hard drive, which is not a configuration option on Acer's Web site -- as standard, an 80GB drive is installed.

Wireless networking is handled by Intel’s PRO/Wireless 2200BG module, which supports 11Mbps 802.11b and 54Mbps 802.11g, while wired Ethernet connections are catered for by Broadcom’s NetLink Gigabit Ethernet adapter. Bluetooth is also included.

As already noted, the TravelMate C202TMi is supplied with two batteries – 3-cell and 6-cell. These are easily fitted and are both the same size, so that they fit flush to the edge of the system.

The hardware design is optimised for right-handed users. With the TravelMate C202TMi in notebook mode, the right edge of the screen houses the on-off switch, a button that acts as a shortcut to the Task Manager, a screen orientation toggle, access to Tablet and Pen Settings and an Esc button. To the right of the keyboard is a column of four buttons, three of which give quick access to email, the Web and an Acer software utility called Empowering Technology (of which more shortly). The fourth button simply lets you configure the other three.

There is a small scroll wheel on the bottom right-hand corner of the keyboard area. This is ideal for moving through long documents or Web pages when working in either Tablet PC or notebook mode. Both the scroll wheel and the left and right mouse keys are accessible in Tablet PC mode because the screen section is slightly smaller than the base unit; when the screen is lain flush, around 25mm of the base section remains exposed.

On the left edge of the system is a slot-loading DVD-RW/CD-RW drive, a PC Card slot and a 4-in-1 card reader that accepts SD, MMC, Memory Stick and Memory Stick Pro cards; the left edge also houses the RJ-45 Ethernet and RJ-11 modem jacks.

The right edge is home to three USB 2.0 ports, a VGA connector, a FireWire (IEEE 1394) port plus headphone and microphone jacks. At the back there's a connector for Acer’s ezDock, an optional extra that provides a range of additional ports and connectors. The front edge houses buttons for turning on and off the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections, as well as an infrared port.

The digitiser pen for the active TFT touch-screen lives in a slot in the base section of the TravelMate C202TMi. Acer has built fingerprint recognition into this Tablet PC: the reader sits near the screen so that you can log in when working in Tablet PC mode.

You get a lot of software with the TravelMate C202TMi, much of it clustered in the Empowering Technology window mentioned earlier: Acer eData Security Management (file encryption); Acer eLock Management (locking for all removable data devices attached to the notebook); Acer ePerformance Management (performance monitoring and system tweaking); Acer eRecovery Management (system recovery and backup); Acer eSettings Management (tweaking various security and system settings, including boot options and BIOS settings); Acer ePower Management (sophisticated power scheme management) and Acer ePresentation Management (rapid screen resolution adjustment).

Performance & battery life

As far as performance is concerned, the 1.7GHz Pentium M-powered TravelMate C202TMi with 512MB of RAM acquits itself well. The application-based MobileMark 2002 benchmark reports a Productivity score of 224, which is among the fastest we've tested. The C202TMi's discrete graphics module helps here, and if you need to run more demanding applications than those in MobileMark 2002, a RAM upgrade to 1GB should do the trick.

Battery life is more of a worry. With the 3-cell battery fitted, the system managed just 92 minutes under MobileMark 2002's battery rundown test. Unfortunately, the benchmark repeatedly failed when we switched to the 6-cell battery, but it's clear that you're going to need to carry both units if you want a decent spell of mains-free operation. Some users may need to buy an optional extra 6-cell battery as well.

Not everyone will like the mechanics of this Tablet PC. We found that the absence of a wrist rest made for uncomfortable typing, and might miss the ability to fold the screen away completely when the system is not in use. On the other hand, Acer’s added software features are functional and even where they duplicate services that are already part of Windows, they often deliver them in a more user-friendly way. Finally, if data and system security is a key consideration, then the TravelMate C202TMi's fingerprint recognition and other security systems should appeal.

Specifications

General
Operating System Microsoft Windows XP Tablet PC Edition
Processor / Chipset
CPU Intel Pentium M 740 / 1.73 GHz
Cache L2 - 2 MB
Data Bus Speed 533 MHz
Chipset Type Mobile Intel 915PM Express
Platform Technology Intel Centrino
Features Enhanced SpeedStep technology, Execute Disable Bit capability, power-optimized processor system bus
Storage
Optical Drive DVD±RW (+R double layer) removable
Type none
Type portable
Memory
Max Supported Size 2 GB
Technology DDR2 SDRAM
Slots Qty 2
Empty Slots 1
Display
Resolution 1024 x 768 (XGA)
Widescreen Display No
Diagonal Size (metric) 30.7 cm
Display Resolution Abbreviation XGA
Audio & Video
Graphics Processor PCI Express - NVIDIA GeForce Go 6200 - 64 MB local TurboCache
Memory Allocation Technology TurboCache supporting 256MB
Sound Speaker, microphone
Compliant Standards Sound Blaster Pro
Features High Definition Audio
Input
Type TrackPoint, digital pen, digitizer, keyboard
Communications
Wireless Protocol 802.11a/b/g, Bluetooth
Wireless Controller Intel PRO/Wireless 2915ABG
Wired Protocol Gigabit Ethernet
Features Acer SignalUp
Processor
Type Pentium M
Processor Number 740
Manufacturer Intel
Clock Speed 1.73 GHz
Modem
Features Wake on Ring
AC Adapter
Input AC 120/230 V (50/60 Hz)
Connections & Expansion
Expansion Bays 1 x front accessible
Slots 2 x memory (1 free)
1 x CardBus (1 free)
Interfaces 3 x USB 2.0 4 pin USB Type A
1 x IEEE 1394 (FireWire)
1 x network - Ethernet 10Base-T/100Base-TX/1000Base-T - RJ-45
1 x modem - phone line - RJ-11
1 x display / video - VGA - 15 pin HD D-Sub (HD-15)
1 x infrared IrDA
1 x docking / port replicator 124 pin docking
1 x audio - line-in/microphone - mini-phone 3.5 mm
1 x audio - line-out/headphones - mini-phone stereo 3.5 mm
1 x display / video - S-video output
Memory Card Reader 4 in 1 (SD Card, Memory Stick, Memory Stick PRO, MultiMediaCard)
Header
Brand Acer
Product Line Acer TravelMate
Model C202TMi
Packaged Quantity 1
Compatibility PC
Software
Microsoft Office Preloaded Includes a preinstalled image of select 2007 Microsoft Office suites. Purchase a Medialess License Kit (MLK) to activate the software.
Networking
Max Transfer Rate 56 Kbps
Data Link Protocol Bluetooth, Ethernet, Fast Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet, IEEE 802.11a, IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g
Remote Management Protocol DMI 2.0
Miscellaneous
Features administrator password, security lock slot (cable lock sold separately), system password, wake on LAN
Compliant Standards ACPI 2.0
System
Platform Technology Intel Centrino
Notebook Type notebook
Mechanical Design convertible design
Platform Windows
Hard Drive Capacity 80 GB
Dimensions & Weight
Width 31.5 cm
Depth 23.8 cm
Height 3.5 cm
Monitor
Diagonal Size 12.1 in
Native Resolution 1024 x 768
Colour Support 24-bit (16.7 million colors)
Mainboard
Data Bus Speed 533 MHz
Chipset Type Mobile Intel 915PM Express
Cache Memory
Type L2 cache
Installed Size 2 MB
RAM
Technology DDR2 SDRAM
Installed Size 512 MB
Max Supported Size 2 GB
Slots Qty 2
Empty Slots 1
Physical Characteristics
Weight 2.4 kg
Hard Drive
Type HDD
Capacity 80 GB
Operating System / Software
OS Provided: Type Microsoft Windows XP Tablet PC Edition
Type Acer Empowering Technology, Acer Launch Manager, Acer System Recovery, Adobe Reader, Cyberlink PowerDVD, Microsoft Experience Pack for Tablet PC, Microsoft Reader, NTI CD-Maker, Norton AntiVirus, Windows Journal
Optical Storage
Drive Type DVD-Writer DL
Type DVD±RW (+R DL)
Form Factor removable
Card Reader
Type 4 in 1 card reader
Supported Flash Memory Memory Stick, Memory Stick PRO, MultiMediaCard, SD Memory Card
Video Output
Graphics Processor NVIDIA GeForce Go 6200
Graphics Processor Series NVIDIA Geforce Go
Video Memory
Technology local TurboCache
Installed Size 64 MB
Memory Allocation Technology TurboCache supporting 256MB
Expansion Bays
Total Qty 1
Service & Support
Type 1 year warranty
Service & Support Details
Type traveler warranty
Full Contract Period 1 year
Sustainability
ENERGY STAR Qualified Yes

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