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Acer TravelMate 2480-2153 (Celeron M 1.73GHz review: Acer TravelMate 2480-2153 (Celeron M 1.73GHz

Acer TravelMate 2480-2153 (Celeron M 1.73GHz

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
5 min read

The sub-$600 notebook is a rare beast, and the few Windows Vista models we've seen at or around this price have been less-than-stellar performers. For Web surfing, working with office documents, and playing DVDs, however, a budget laptop such as the $549 Acer TravelMate 2480-2153 provides enough power for generally satisfactory computing experience. This 14.1-inch model even manages to add unique design touches such as an ergonomically curved keyboard to help it stand out from other inexpensive systems, like the Gateway NX270S and the Everex Stepnote VA4101M. Though there's a lot to like about the Acer TravelMate 2480-2153, the Gateway NX270S's strong battery life makes it our current favorite for budget laptops.


Acer TravelMate 2480-2153 (Celeron M 1.73GHz

The Good

Inexpensive; sturdy construction; strikes good balance between screen size and overall weight; decent performance for basic use; ergonomically curved keyboard is comfortable to use.

The Bad

Nonconfigurable; no FireWire ports; poor battery life.

The Bottom Line

It looks more expensive than it is, and its performance is in line with other budget systems (read: acceptable for basic use), but weak battery life keeps the Acer TravelMate 2480-2153 from replacing a Gateway model as our favorite low-cost laptop.

Measuring 13.4 inches wide, 9.9 inches deep, and 1.25 inches high, the Acer TravelMate 2480 sits firmly in the thin-and-light category of laptops: small enough to carry around without much hassle, but big enough to work on comfortably for long stretches. The system weighs 5 pounds (5.8 pounds with the refreshingly small A/C adapter), which is pretty much what we'd want to have in our shoulder bag for a daily commute or extensive traveling if a ultraportable less than 3 pounds (say, the Fujitsu LifeBook P7230 ) is out of the question due to its small screen or high price.

The basic silver-and-black chassis looks professional and feels sturdy--you wouldn't be able to tell this was a budget laptop at first glance. One surprising design element was the curved keyboard, bowing the spacebar toward you slightly. We found it easy to use--similar to an ergonomic desktop keyboard--and it allowed the generously sized keys to take up a bit less horizontal space on the keyboard tray. Above the keyboard are four customizable quick launch buttons, and the touchpad features a four-way rocker switch between the two mouse buttons, which makes for easy Web page scrolling.

The 14.1-inch LCD wide-screen display offers a 1,280x800 native resolution, which is the same resolution you'll find on 13.3-inch thin-and-light laptops such as the Apple MacBook. Since you won't be playing back Blu-ray movies or playing games on this system, the lower resolution is fine, and keeps Web-based text and onscreen icons from being too tiny. The screen doesn't have the Crystalbrite glossy coating we saw on another recent Acer laptop, the 17-inch Acer Aspire 9300--but many users prefer a less glossy screen, especially on laptops not intended for extensive multimedia use.

The system supplies a somewhat stingy set of connections, including three USB 2.0 jacks, a PC Card slot, a media card reader, and VGA and S-Video outputs for hooking up an external monitor. There are no FireWire jacks--a big minus--but the headphone and mic jacks are joined by a third S/PDIF audio jack, which can act as a second headphone connection. Networking connections include a modem and Gigabit Ethernet jacks, and integrated 802.11b/g wireless.

The components in this nonconfigurable retail system reflect its budget price. You get Windows Vista Basic, a 1.7GHz Intel Celeron M 430 CPU, 512MB of DDR2 RAM (which is barely acceptable, even for Vista Basic), integrated Intel 950 graphics, a CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo drive, and an 80GB hard drive. Acer offers three other nonconfigurable variations on the system, but the differences are minor. The TravelMate 2480-2705 has Windows XP Pro and a slightly slower Celeron M 410; the 2480-2779 drops the CPU to a Celeron M 420 and has a smaller battery, but is otherwise identical to our review unit; and the 2480-2551 has Windows XP Media Center Edition, a smaller 60GB hard drive, and a Celeron M 420. Retailers generally carry one model, but not the others, usually for within $50 of the TravelMate 2480-2153's price. In the end, the specific configuration we reviewed gets the nod above the others for having a slightly faster processor and Vista Home Basic.

Compared to other similarly configured systems, the Acer TravelMate 2480-2153 performed in line with other budget systems, falling slightly behind both the Gateway NX270S, with an identical Celeron M430, and the Everex Stepnote VA4101M, with an Intel Celeron M410, on CNET Labs' iTunes encoding and Photoshop CS tests. Remember that at this low end of the market, any of these systems will feel pokey compared to more expensive dual-core laptops. The TravelMate 2480-2153 is fine for Web surfing, e-mailing, and other basic apps, but clicking around the Windows Vista system menus left us twiddling our thumbs for a few seconds.

The Acer TravelMate 2480-2153 ran for 1 hour and 15 minutes on our DVD battery drain test, using the included six-cell battery. That's pretty disappointing, especially considering the Gateway NX270S ran for nearly twice that time with a standard six-cell battery. A thin-and-light system, even a budget one, is meant for travel and should have enough battery life for at least a couple of hours of work. Bear in mind, however, that our DVD battery drain test is very demanding, and any system will last longer when used for surfing the Web or working on office documents.

Acer backs the system with an industry-standard one-year parts and labor warranty. Telephone support is toll-free, and runs Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. CST. Good luck, however, navigating Acer's confusing and often nonfunctioning support Web site. We were able to find an e-mail form for contacting customer support, but the actual support Web site would time out every time we tried to access it. A page on the Acer Web site listing various part and service plan upgrades just led up to PDF pages of generic part numbers.

Multimedia multitasking test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance.)
Acer TravelMate 2480-2153

Adobe Photoshop CS2 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance.)
Acer TravelMate 2480-2153

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Longer bars indicate better performance.)
Acer TravelMate 2480-2153

Microsoft Office productivity test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance.)
Acer TravelMate 2480-2153

DVD battery drain test
(Longer bars indicate better performance.)
Acer TravelMate 2480-2153

Find out more about how we test laptops.

Acer TravelMate 2480-2153 Windows Vista Home Basic Edition; 1.73GHz Intel Celeron M430; 512MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel 945GM Express; 80GB Western Digital 5,400rpm

Gateway NX270S Windows Vista Home Basic Edition; 1.73GHz Intel Celeron M430; 512MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 128MB ATI Radeon Xpress 200M; 60GB Fujitsu 4,200rpm

Everex Stepnote VA4101M Windows Vista Home Basic Edition; 1.46GHz Intel Celeron M410; 512MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 128MB VIA S3G UniChrome Pro IGP; 60GB Fujitsu 5,400rpm

Fujitsu LifeBook P7230 Windows Vista Business Edition; 1.2GHz Intel Core Solo U1400; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 224MB Mobile Intel 945GM Express; 60GB Toshiba 4,200rpm


Acer TravelMate 2480-2153 (Celeron M 1.73GHz

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 6Performance 6Battery 3Support 4