The Acer TravelMate 8200 is one of the first Intel Core Duo laptops out of the gate. In addition to its bleeding-edge Core Duo processor, the midsize portable features a great case design and top-of-the-line components, such as a 256MB ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 graphics chip, a mammoth 120GB hard drive, and a double-layer DVD burner. Though this sweet system delivers on the Core Duo's promise of extremely fast multimedia performance, its performance gain was less pronounced on our productivity benchmarks, making its $2,499 price too expensive for users who just want fast performance for office work. Still, the TravelMate 8200 is worth the price premium if you're looking for a well-outfitted laptop for graphic design, video editing, or heavy-duty multitasking; otherwise, you can likely meet your needs by purchasing a less expensive laptop with a single-core Pentium M processor, such as the Acer TravelMate 4650 or the ThinkPad Z60t.
In terms of design, the TravelMate 8200 is a logo-free, all-black version of the Acer Ferrari 4000. The TravelMate 8200's tough carbon-fiber case lid has a cool kaleidoscopic lattice pattern; the rest of the case consists of sturdy magnesium alloy. The laptop measures a reasonable 14.3 inches wide, 11 inches deep, and 1 inch thick. Its 6.6-pound weight is identical to that of the Dell Inspiron 6000 and about average for a midsize system--the Acer TravelMate 4650, for instance, weighs 6.4 pounds.
Like many Acer laptops, the TravelMate 8200 includes a broad, comfortable keyboard with an ergonomic curve. The crisp 15.4-inch wide-screen display offers plenty of real estate with its high 1,680x1,050 native resolution. As on some Sony VAIO models, such as the BX541B and the FJ170/B, a 1.3-megapixel DV camera sits in the bezel above the screen; unlike the cameras in the VAIO models, the Acer's rotates 225 degrees, allowing you to snap shots in front of, above, or behind the laptop. The rectangular touch pad is nice and wide, as are the two mouse buttons below it; a convenient scroll button sits between the two mouse buttons. Four application-launch buttons sit above the keyboard. Finally, the laptop's front edge offers two handy sliding switches for turning the integrated Intel Pro/Wireless 3945 802.11a/b/g and Bluetooth 2.0+EDR (Enhanced Data Rate) hardware on and off (to conserve the battery when not in use). While we like all these accoutrements, we wish this high-end portable provided multimedia controls, better sound, and other thoughtful touches.
The TravelMate 8200 offers a full complement of ports, jacks, and slots. The left edge includes a 56Kbps-modem jack, two USB 2.0 ports, a PC Card slot, a smart-card slot, and a double-layer DVD burner. A Gigabit Ethernet jack, a VGA port, two more USB 2.0 ports, and an ExpressCard/34 slot are on the right edge. The front edge features S/PDIF, headphone, microphone, and audio-in jacks, four-pin FireWire and Fast IR ports, and a five-in-one flash media slot. Last but not least, the back edge integrates docking, S-Video-out, and DVI ports.
Windows XP Professional is Acer's operating system of choice for the TravelMate 8200; given the laptop's wide screen and fast processor, we were a bit surprised that Windows XP Media Center is not even offered as an option. The company includes the same meager software bundle--just a few disc-burning, video-viewing, and system-management apps--that it includes with most of its less expensive laptops.
We tested the $2,499 TravelMate 8204WLMi, which has a killer list of specs: a 2GHz Intel Core Duo T2500 processor; 2GB of swift 533MHz RAM; a discrete ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 graphics card with 256MB of dedicated GDDR3 VRAM; and a colossal 120GB, 5,400rpm hard drive with antishock protection. As we described in our earlier story on the Core Duo, Intel designed the processor to provide blazing performance on games and multithreaded applications; the Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi delivers on the second half of that promise. While it scored ahead of single-core systems such as the Acer Aspire 1800 and the ThinkPad Z60t on our Doom 3 performance benchmarks, the TravelMate 8204WLMi trailed behind the superspeedy Dell Inspiron E1705; the Dell has the same processor and less RAM but includes the Nvidia GeForce Go 7800 graphics card. However, the TravelMate fared better on the suite of multimedia performance tests that CNET Labs originally developed to test dual-core desktops. Aside from the Sorenson Squeeze video-encoding program, the TravelMate 8204WLMi dispensed with every application in our suite faster--often much faster--than any single-core or other Core Duo laptop we've tested. The TravelMate 8204WLMi also scored well ahead of single-core laptops on the SysMark 2004 Internet-content-creation tests, though its performance gains on office-productivity tasks were not as pronounced.