Acer formally enters the tablet PC fray today with the TravelMate C102TI, a convertible notebook with a folding screen similar to that of the Toshiba PortÃ©gÃ© 3505. We're busy testing this newcomer, but from what we've seen so far, we think it might well contend with the best tablets of the bunch. Check back soon for full review with benchmark scores. But in the meantime, we have the details to satisfy your curiosity.
At 3.2 pounds and 10.2 by 8.6 by 1.3 inches, the TravelMate C102TI is a middleweight; in terms of size, it sits dead center in the tablet lineup. Inside, you'll find a midrange configuration that includes an 800MHz Pentium III-M processor, 256MB of RAM, and a 30GB hard drive--a setup that may struggle to keep up with Toshiba's PortÃ©gÃ© 3505, which uses a much faster 1.3GHz Pentium III-M processor.
Twist and fold
As is the case with all convertible tablets, the TravelMate C102TI's screen is the feature that catches your eye. The 10.4-inch display not only hinges like a traditional notebook's, it can also rotate 180 degrees or fold over, screen side up, to create a passable, though thick, tablet. Unfortunately, this screen is a little more complicated than the PortÃ©gÃ© 3505's. Pop open the lid, push in two spring-loaded latches at the sides of the screen's base, then swivel it; when the screen is in place, press the buttons again to lock. (The Toshiba PortÃ©gÃ© 3505's more elegant arrangement doesn't have two side latches.)
While we're impressed by the TravelMate C102TI's design, it may be a little too ambitious. The latch that holds the display in place during tablet operation refused to fully close in our usability tests, and the two locking latches at the base of the screen take some getting used to. We're also frustrated that, when in tablet mode, the system's screen ends up covering part of the speakers and muffling the sound.
Like the other tablets we've seen, the TravelMate C102TI lets you change the screen's orientation from portrait to landscape, but this tablet makes you press the Function button as well as an arrow key, instead of a single control. But Acer includes its unique curved keyboard, which may make up for those inconveniences. Despite its skimpy keys, it's comfortable enough to use--just don't look at it after you've had a few beers.
Inside, you'll find everything you'd expect from an ultralight notebook, including a Wi-Fi wireless radio; a pair of USB outlets; and modem, LAN, FireWire, and external monitor ports. In addition to its Type II PC Card slot, the TravelMate sports a SmartCard slot. The system also comes with both an external USB CD-ROM and a group of power converters so that you can use the TravelMate in many parts of the world--a nice touch.
Acer's bundled software selection covers just the basics. In addition to the Windows XP Tablet Edition operating system, the TravelMate C102TI comes with Norton AntiVirus and Acer Utilities for the SmartCard reader.
The TravelMate C102TI's service and support features don't stray from the middle of the road, either. This tablet comes with a ho-hum one-year warranty, and the company provides 24-hour support and an informative Web site. Online resources include product-specific resources and driver downloads, as well as articles on configuration and use of its products. The site is light on specific tablet information and advice, but we expect this information to fill out as the TravelMate C102TI starts to sell.