Acer TravelMate 4650
The midsize Acer TravelMate 4650 provides more than enough performance, battery life, and features to satisfy home and small-business users interested in simple tasks such as e-mailing, Web surfing, and document creation. We think its $1,149 price tag is pretty good, though you should know that Acer skimps on phone support. If 24/7 help is important to you, look to slightly more expensive laptops, such as the HP Compaq Presario V4000 or the Gateway M460S.
The TravelMate 4650 falls toward the lighter end of the midsize pack. It weighs 6.4 pounds and measures 13.2 inches wide, 11.2 inches deep, and 1.4 inches thick. By comparison, the HP Compaq Presario V4000 weighs 6.5 pounds, while the Gateway M360X comes in at 6.2 pounds. The TravelMate 4650's three-prong, 0.8-pound AC adapter is about the size of a candy bar cell phone.
The laptop features Acer's signature ergonomically curved keyboard, which makes typing more comfortable. The touch pad is wide enough, but the mouse buttons are uncomfortably small; a large scroll button sits between them. Though the system lacks multimedia controls, it has a handy Wi-Fi on/off button and three configurable quick-launch buttons for applications. It operates quietly, except for the occasionally loud DVD burner and a few noisy spins of the internal fan at bootup.
We liked the TravelMate 4650's large, bright, 15-inch display, but we wish it had a higher native resolution than 1,024x768 (XGA). The system's two speakers on the front edge lacked bass and distorted at full volume.
The TravelMate 4650 includes one of the most complete collections of ports, jacks, and slots that we've seen in a $1,149 laptop. The right edge accommodates an infrared port, one Type II PC Card slot, and a 6-in-1 card reader that supports all of the major flash memory cards. The back edge features a Gigabit Ethernet jack plus ports for four-pin FireWire, S-Video out, docking, VGA, DVI, and USB 2.0. The left edge has headphone, microphone, and 56Kbps modem jacks, three more USB 2.0 ports, and the integrated single-layer DVD burner. This feature selection is slightly better than that of the HP Compaq Presario V4000, which costs $400 more than the TravelMate 4650.
Beyond the Windows XP Professional operating system, you don't get much software with the TravelMate 4650. Acer bundles CyberLink PowerDVD and for disc playback and burning, respectively. The only other application is an Acer utility for managing passwords, power management, and other basic settings. This package is typical for a low-cost laptop.
We tested the TravelMate 4654LMi, one of two preconfigured systems in the. The TravelMate 4654LMi has a suggested retail price of $1,149, though we found that most online resellers have priced it at more than $1,200. Still, that's a pretty good deal, considering the system's respectable mix of components, including a fast 2GHz Pentium M 760 processor, 1GB of speedy 533MHz RAM, a huge 100GB hard drive rotating at a decent 5,400rpm, and an Intel 915GM chipset that borrows a maximum 128MB of main memory to use as VRAM.