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Acer fit a lot of usability into the diminutive (11.5 by 9.2 by .8 inches), $2,499 TravelMate 364Eci. Engineers gave the notebook's keyboard a five-degree, smile-shaped curve, attempting to create a more comfortable typing experience. We liked the effect, although the spacebar was a bit too short for our taste. Acer also placed five convenient application quick-launch buttons above the keyboard, along with a tiny button that activates the 802.11b wireless connectivity and an LED that lights up when you have e-mail. A convenient scroll button lies in the center of the wrist rest beneath a standard touchpad, which is flanked by two mouse buttons.
For such a compact chassis, the TravelMate 364Eci offers a relatively big, 13.3-inch active-matrix screen with a native resolution of 1,024x768 and a lot of connectivity options. You get parallel, PS/2, VGA, docking, IEEE 1394, 56K modem, Ethernet, two USB ports, and one Type II PC Card slot. A smart-card slot with a built-in reader piggybacks the PC Card slot, allowing you to access password, credit-card, and other sensitive info you've stored on your smart cards.
A disadvantage of a chassis this size is its lack of an internal modular bay. Acer's solution--an external floppy/optical combo drive, with the floppy stacked on top of the DVD/CD-RW drive--makes for fewer external components to keep track of; it also means a heavier load. Separate floppy and optical drives would have given users more flexibility in choosing what to bring.
Plenty of speed and battery power
The TravelMate 364Eci lacks nothing in the speed and battery-life departments. The notebook runs on a 1.2GHz mobile Pentium III-M, Windows XP, and 256MB of RAM; a big, 30GB hard drive provides plenty of storage room. The lower-end Intel 830 graphics chip, which borrows up to 8MB of video RAM from main memory, saves space and money but can hinder graphics performance. In CNET Labs' performance tests, however, the system kept pace with similarly configured notebooks, such as the larger IBM ThinkPad T23, and it shredded other thin-and-light systems (albeit with lesser specs), such as the Compaq Evo N600c. In battery-life tests, the TravelMate 364Eci achieved a respectable 156 minutes, which is close to the ThinkPad T23's 170 minutes and far behind the Compaq Evo's 223 minutes. Both the ThinkPad and the Compaq have larger batteries.
The TravelMate 364Eci may be well rounded in the hardware realm, but its service and support policies are just average. The one-year warranty is short but sadly typical; Acer's extended warranties cost $99 for an extra year and $198 for two. The free, toll-free phone support lasts for only the length of the warranty. You won't find Acer's Web support of much help either; you can peruse information about the TravelMate 360 series in general, but there's no page dedicated to the 364Eci configuration.
The thin-and-light Acer TravelMate 364Eci has the speed, the features, and the performance to be a capable companion on your next trip. But a clunky, external storage solution and so-so support policies may make you tire of it sooner than you'd like.
100=performance of a test machine with a PIII-800, 128MB of PC133 CL2 SDRAM, Creative Labs GeForce Annihilator 2 32MB, and Windows 2000 (Service Pack 1)
Longer bars indicate better performance
|Battery life test|
Time is measured in minutes; longer bars indicate better performance
|Acer TravelMate 364Eci|
Windows XP Home; Pentium III-M 1,200MHz; 256MB RAM; Intel 830M Graphics Controller-0 8MB; IBM Travelstar 30GN 30GB 4,200rpm
Compaq Evo N600c
Windows 2000 SP2; Pentium III-M 1,066MHz; 128MB RAM; ATI Mobility Radeon 16MB; Toshiba MK2017GAP 18.6GB 4,200rpm
IBM ThinkPad T23
Windows XP Pro; Pentium III-M 1,200MHz; 256MB RAM; S3 Graphics SuperSavage/IXC IBM 16MB; IBM Travelstar 48GH 48GB 5,400rpm
The TravelMate 364Eci kept pace with similarly configured notebooks, such as the larger IBM ThinkPad T23, and it shredded other thin-and-light systems (albeit with lesser specs), such as the Compaq Evo N600c. In battery-life tests, the TravelMate 364Eci achieved a respectable 156 minutes, which is close to the ThinkPad T23's 170 minutes and far behind the Compaq Evo's 223 minutes. Both the ThinkPad and the Compaq have larger batteries.