Acer TravelMate 3200
The TravelMate 3200, Acer's first credible entry into the crowded thin-and-light category, is neither the thinnest nor the lightest corporate notebook around, but it covers all the essentials at the right price. The fully loaded configuration we tested, priced at $1,899 (as of November 2004), delivers everything a business user will need, including a midrange Pentium M processor, a 14.1-inch screen, 512MB of high-speed RAM, a 60GB hard drive, and a versatile multiformat DVD burner.
We like the TravelMate 3200's latchless lid, which makes it easy to open the case one-handed; however, it could cause problems down the road if the hinge wears out, leaving you no good way to keep the machine closed. Weighing 4.8 pounds and measuring 1.5 inches thick, 13.0 inches wide, and 9.7 inches deep, the TravelMate 3200 is smaller and lighter than the comparably priced IBM ThinkPad T42 and the HP Compaq Business Notebook nx7010, but a half pound heavier than the significantly more expensive . Even with its small 9.0-ounce AC adapter, the TravelMate 3200 has a reasonable travel weight of 5.5 pounds. Our single design quibble: its three-prong plug isn't as convenient as a two-pronger.
Our TravelMate 3200 test unit featured a decent 1.7GHz Pentium M processor, 512MB of 333MHz memory, and a slowish 4,200rpm, 60GB hard drive. In a class dominated by sluggish video engines that use system memory, the TravelMate 3200 is out ahead with ATI's latest Mobility Radeon 9700 graphics card with 64MB of dedicated RAM. The 14.1-inch screen, featuring a 1,024x768 native resolution, is not as bright as other displays we've seen. The TravelMate 3200 has a high-speed FireWire port, which the ThinkPad T42 lacks, but its other connections are standard fare: a pair of USB 2.0 ports and outputs for audio and an external monitor. It also has a flash media reader that's compatible with SecureDigital, Memory Stick, and MultiMediaCard storage media but not the more economical CompactFlash format. To top it off, the system's multiformat DVD drive can read and burn CDs and plus and dash DVDs.