Acer TravelMate 803LCi review: Acer TravelMate 803LCi

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent
  • Overall: 8.5
  • Battery life: 8.0
  • Design: 8.0
  • Features: 9.0
  • Performance: 10.0
  • Service and support: 7.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Stellar performance; excellent battery life; curved keyboard; three-year warranty.

The Bad A little big and heavy for a thin-and-light.

The Bottom Line The Acer TravelMate 800 provides everything a nomadic computer user could ever wish for, including peak performance, long battery life, and an extensive list of features.

CNET Editors' Choice Mar '03

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Acer's TravelMate 800 series proves that good things also come in large packages. With a dizzying array of premier components, this wide-body, thin-and-light notebook delivers stellar performance and long battery life but doesn't feel like an anchor when you carry it around. Based on Intel's Centrino technology, which includes a Pentium M (PM) processor, an 855 chipset, and a wireless radio, the flagship TravelMate 803LCi model features a top-speed 1.6GHz PM processor, a 60GB hard drive, and 512MB of memory. For graphics mavens and gamers alike, it boasts a sharp, bright, 15-inch screen and a highly rated graphics chip with 64MB of its own memory. Still, the package comes together in a well-integrated design that might be a bit big for its class but doesn't miss a beat.



The TravelMate 800's unique keyboard curves away from your hands, so it's easier to touch-type.
Don't be fooled by the Acer TravelMate 800's nondescript gray-and-silver case. Armed with the fastest and largest version of every component, this notebook is a computing powerhouse that can go everywhere you go--it's no ordinary machine.

Boasting an all-new design, the TravelMate 800 is squared off with an inlaid oval Acer emblem that imparts a sophisticated and inviting look. At 13 by 10.7 inches, its footprint is similar to that of other notebooks of its class, but it's a tad thinner at 1.4 inches. Our only design qualm is that the bezel around the screen could be slimmer, either to create a narrower notebook or to accommodate a larger screen. Weighing in at 6.1 pounds, the system feels heavy, although it's on a par with Toshiba's Tecra M1, which carries a smaller screen. Add in the 12-ounce AC adapter, and the Acer's travel weight comes to 6.9 pounds, just less than the Tecra's. If you don't need the optical drive, leave it behind, thus dropping the notebook's weight to 5.6 pounds.

When you open the TravelMate 800, you'll immediately notice its unique keyboard, which you'll either love or hate. With keys that curve away from your hands, the keyboard takes some getting used to, but it's easy to touch-type once you have the feel. The keys measure a scant 18mm across--the least of its peers--and actually feel smaller due to the layout but have an abundant 2.5mm of depth. Below the TravelMate's trapezoidal touchpad, you'll find an oval four-way navigation button. It doesn't let you control the scrolling of your cursor, but this button instantly highlights objects or text.


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Need to quickly select text within a document? The oval, four-way navigation button does the trick.
/sc/20949315-2-200-DT3.gif" width="200" height="150" border="0" alt="" />
This right-hand modular bay can hold optical drives or a second battery. Pictured is a CD-ROM/DVD drive.


A single modular bay can hold optical drives or a second battery (Acer doesn't sell a hard drive for the bay). Our test system came with a capable CD-ROM/DVD that tops out at 24X, 10X, 8X, and 8X for CD reading, CD-R and CD-RW writing, and DVD reading, respectively. Acer plans to introduce a DVD-burning module in the coming months, although there's no word on which standard it will use.

With a RealTek audio chip and speakers under the keyboard, the TravelMate 800 produces surprisingly good, realistic sound that's only a little light on bass. Between the speakers are switches to turn on the system's Intel-made Wi-Fi and optional Bluetooth data radio. Underneath is a single fan that almost never kicked in during our tests, making for quiet computing. (The left side of the wrist rest grew warm to the touch after some use, however.) Acer also includes a one-of-a-kind shock absorber underneath the notebook to protect its hard drive.


The TravelMate 800 uses only the latest mobile technology. With a 1.6GHz processor; a 60GB, 5,400rpm drive; and 512MB of 266MHz memory, the high-end TravelMate 803LCi configuration we tested is a screamer. The 15-inch SXGA screen and ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 with 64MB of its own memory are every bit as impressive, pumping out clear and rich video. Unfortunately, there's one exception to this top-notch lineup. While most of the Pentium M notebooks we've reviewed can hold up to 2GB of memory (the limit of the 855 chipset), the TravelMate 800 can accommodate only half as much. Fortunately, this shouldn't cause problems for most of us.

With a quartet of USB 2.0 ports, the TravelMate 800 is connection central, and southpaws will love the fact that all ports live on the left side. Around the rest of its edge, the system has a Type II PC Card, a smart-card reader, and audio connections, including an S/PDIF plug that plugs into a high-end amplifier or set of speakers. There're also slots for S-Video, an external monitor, parallel, and FireWire. Acer covers communications well with a 100Mbps Ethernet V.92 modem and Intel's Wireless Pro 802.11b mini-PCI card, which makes this notebook a true Centrino. (You can substitute Bluetooth for Wi-Fi, if desired.) On the downside, all the ports are open to the environment, as Acer doesn't provide port covers or plugs.

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Southpaws will love the left-side location of the TravelMate 800's PC Card slots and four USB ports.
/sc/20949315-2-200-DT3.gif" width="200" height="150" border="0" alt="" />
Thanks to Acer's Easy Launch utility, you can quickly program the notebook's instant-launch buttons.


Acer provides options galore for the TravelMate 800, from batteries to chargers, but two accessories caught our eye. With the $124 port replicator, you can quick and easily connect the Acer to a desktop, and the $79 four-in-one PC Card flash reader makes it a cinch to shuffle data to and from a digital camera, a music player, or other personal device.

In addition to Windows XP Pro, Acer outfits the TravelMate 800 with a good mix of software, such as a copy of Symantec Norton AntiVirus. The gem is RealTek's excellent audio application, which includes a graphic equalizer, a recorder, and an MP3 player; it makes Windows Media Player (also bundled) look like a dinosaur. Additionally, we really like the Easy Launch utility, which lets you quickly program the notebook's instant-launch buttons.


Mobile application performance
The Acer TravelMate 803LCi is in a class all its own when it comes to mobile performance. It has the highest score of any PM-based system we've tested to date, and it even compares favorably to top-performing desktop replacements with faster Pentium 4-M and desktop Pentium 4 processors. It beat its nearest direct competitor, the Compaq Presario N620c, by 33 points. There isn't much more to say other than reiterate how impressive this score is. The TravelMate 803LCi is truly the new high-water mark when it comes to mobile performance.

Mobile application performance  (Longer bars indicate faster performance)
BAPCo MobileMark2002 performance rating  
Acer TravelMate 803LCi
211 
Compaq Evo N620c
178 
Dell Latitude D600
176 
IBM ThinkPad T40
164 
 
SysMark2002 performance
The TravelMate 803LCi comes in first place in maximum performance, five points ahead of its closest competitor, the Dell Latitude D600. This is great performance for a 1.6GHz system--the best we've yet seen with PM-based systems. Powered by its fast 5,400rpm Toshiba hard drive, the TravelMate 803LCi scores very high in office productivity. Its Internet-content-creation total is impressive, as well, though not dramatically higher than the Latitude D600's. Overall, the TravelMate 803LCi delivers formidable results.

Maximum application performance  (Longer bars indicate faster performance)
BAPCo SysMark2002 rating  
SysMark2002 Internet content creation  
SysMark2002 office productivity  
Acer TravelMate 803LCi
186 
199 
174 
Dell Latitude D600
172 
196 
153 
IBM ThinkPad T40
173 
192 
156 
Compaq Evo N620c
172 
186 
159 
 
To measure maximum notebook application performance, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's SysMark2002, an industry-standard benchmark. Using off-the-shelf applications, SysMark measures a desktop's performance using office-productivity applications (such as Microsoft Office and McAfee VirusScan) and Internet-content-creation applications (such as Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia Dreamweaver).

3D graphics performance
As always, performance on 3D graphics and gaming comes down to the quality of the graphics adapter as well as the speed of the CPU. In the case of the TravelMate 803LCi, its ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 64MB graphics adapter is enough to put it over the top. Although both the IBM ThinkPad T40 and the Latitude D600 have the same graphics adapter, the TravelMate 803LCi has twice the video memory, and it shows on our tests.

3D graphics performance  (Longer bars indicate faster performance)
Futuremark's 3DMark2001SE  
Acer TravelMate 803LCi
6,365 
IBM ThinkPad T40
4,985 
Dell Latitude D600
4,624 
Compaq Evo N620c
3,871 
 
To measure 3D graphics performance, CNET Labs uses Futuremark's 3DMark2001SE. We use 3DMark to measure desktop-replacement notebook performance with the DirectX 8.1 interface at the 32-bit color setting and at a resolution of 1,024x768.

Find out more about how we test notebook systems.


System configurations:

Acer TravelMate 803LCi
Windows XP Professional; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 64MB; Toshiba MK6022GAX 60GB 5,400rpm

Compaq Evo N620c
Windows XP Professional; 1.5GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 32MB; Hitachi DK23EB-40 40GB 5,400rpm

Dell Latitude D600
Windows XP Professional; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 32MB; IBM Travelstar 40GNX 40GB 5,400rpm

IBM ThinkPad T40
Windows XP Professional; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 32MB; IBM Travelstar 80GN 80GB 4,200rpm


All of the early Pentium M systems we tested exhibited excellent battery life. The Acer TravelMate 803LCi approached the five-hour mark, thanks to its 14.8V, 4,400mAh battery. This score vaulted the TravelMate 803CLi into second place behind the IBM ThinkPad T40, which pulled away from the field with its more powerful 10.8V, 6,800mAh cell. But the TravelMate 803CLi's performance was even more impressive when you consider its top-of-the-class performance and bright, 15-inch display, which take a heavy toll on battery life.

Battery life  (Longer bars indicate longer battery life)
BAPCo MobileMark2002 battery life (in minutes)  
IBM ThinkPad T40
416 
Acer TravelMate 803LCi
289 
Compaq Evo N620c
274 
Dell Latitude D600
242 
 
To measure mobile application performance and battery life, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's MobileMark2002. MobileMark measures both applications performance and battery life concurrently using a number of popular applications (Microsoft Word 2002, Microsoft Excel 2002, Microsoft PowerPoint 2002, Microsoft Outlook 2002, Netscape Communicator 6.0, WinZip Computing WinZip 8.0, McAfee VirusScan 5.13, Adobe Photoshop 6.0.1, and Macromedia Flash 5.0).

System configurations:

Acer TravelMate 803LCi
Windows XP Professional; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 64MB; Toshiba MK6022GAX 60GB 5,400rpm

Compaq Evo N620c
Windows XP Professional; 1.5GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 32MB; Hitachi DK23EB-40 40GB 5,400rpm

Dell Latitude D600
Windows XP Professional; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 32MB; IBM Travelstar 40GNX 40GB 5,400rpm

IBM ThinkPad T40
Windows XP Professional; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 32MB; IBM Travelstar 80GN 80GB 4,200rpm


Acer stands behind the TravelMate 800 series with a three-year parts-and-labor warranty that's good wherever the company has a presence--from Australia to Zimbabwe. In addition to the expected updates and patches for its own software, Acer's Web site provides the latest Windows updates, along with service manuals, FAQs, articles, utilities, and tips. An electronic version of the printed, 81-page manual comes loaded on the system, and there's a toll-free, 24-hour support line and e-mail-response system.

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Where to Buy

Acer TravelMate 803LCi

Part Number: LX.T2506.001 Released: Mar 12, 2003

MSRP: $2,099.00

This product is no longer available. See other notebooks from Acer.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Mar 12, 2003
  • Resolution 1400 x 1050 ( SXGA+ )
  • Installed Size 512 MB
  • Color Gray
  • Weight 6 lbs
  • Optical Drive CD-RW / DVD-ROM combo - removable
  • Graphics Processor AGP 4x - ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 - 64 MB DDR SDRAM
  • CPU Intel Pentium M 1.6 GHz