Acer TravelMate 3200 review: Acer TravelMate 3200

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The Good Reasonable price; decent performance; adequate battery life; high-end graphics card for a thin-and-light; classy and light design.

The Bad Badly placed Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on/off switches; only one year of warranty protection.

The Bottom Line The Acer TravelMate 3200 hits the mainstream business market dead center, delivering performance and features in a portable, well-priced package.

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7.3 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7
  • Battery 6
  • Support 7

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 Fujitsu LifeBook S7010. 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.

The TravelMate 3200 provides a variety of ways to get online, including a gigabit network card, a V.92 modem, Bluetooth, a 802.11b/g data radio, and an infrared data sensor. On the downside, the front-mounted Bluetooth and Wi-Fi switches are easy to turn off inadvertently.

In CNET Labs' tests, the TravelMate 3200 proved capable of demanding computing tasks. It outperformed the ThinkPad T42 and came up just behind the HP Compaq nx7010, even though each has a faster 5,400rpm hard drive. The TravelMate 3200's 4,800mAh battery pack gave it 3 hours and 28 minutes of life on a charge, which is good but about an hour less than the ThinkPad T42 and the HP Compaq Business Notebook nx7010 achieved.

The TravelMate 3200 ships with Microsoft Windows XP Pro and Acer's new eManager software, which consolidates the settings and the management of the machine. eManager isn't as robust as IBM's menagerie of Access utilities, but it's much simpler to use. Unfortunately, Acer's one-year warranty on parts and labor comes up short (many competitors offer three years), although the company will support the laptop for as long as you own it. The company provides toll-free 24-hour phone support and anytime e-mailing for on-the-spot help. Putting in a test tech-support call, we received a helpful answer from a technician within two minutes.

Mobile application performance
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo MobileMark 2002 performance rating  

Battery life
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo MobileMark 2002 battery life in minutes  

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