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Acer TravelMate 4720 (Core 2 Duo 2GHz review: Acer TravelMate 4720 (Core 2 Duo 2GHz

We recently declared that the HP Compaq 6910p might woo corporate users away from Dell and Lenovo; after spending some time with the $1,049 Acer TravelMate 4720, we think it's a prime candidate to woo users away from HP. The well-designed Acer exhibited admirable performance (which admittedly could be improved by adding RAM) and chart-topping battery life on our benchmarks, and its feature set includes nearly everything a business user will need. What it lacks: enterprise-level features such as a Trusted Platform Module or built-in WWAN, both of which are available on the HP Compaq 6910p and the Dell Latitude D630. Also, the TravelMate 4720's one-year warranty and limited phone support hours will fall short of many corporate users' expectations. However, those shortcomings may be forgiven by small-business buyers and others who want a serious laptop at a low price.

7.2

Acer TravelMate 4720 (Core 2 Duo 2GHz

Pricing Not Available

The Good

Long-lived nine-cell battery; strong performance; sturdy construction; ergonomically curved keyboard.

The Bad

Somewhat heavy for a thin-and-light notebook; dim screen; small touch pad; fingerprint reader decreases mouse button size; limited phone support hours.

The Bottom Line

The Acer TravelMate's lengthy battery life and remarkably low price make it a compelling alternative to laptops from more well-known manufacturers.

With its latest TravelMate laptops, Acer has traded a silver lid for a dark gray that resembles the color of HP's business systems, including the Compaq 6910p. Unlike the HP, though, the TravelMate incorporates rounded edges to keep it from looking too square. Its large nine-cell battery gives the laptop added gravitas, but at 5.8 pounds it's still reasonable to shuttle it from home to office on a regular basis--and it definitely feels sturdy enough to travel beyond the relative safety of your cubicle.

The 14.1-inch display on the TravelMate 4720 features a matte screen finish that's easy on the eyes when working on documents and spreadsheets. Its sharp 1,280x800 native resolution makes for attractive images and video without rendering text and icons impossibly small. It doesn't get quite as bright as other displays we've seen (its maximum brightness in our Labs measured 171 cd/m2), which can cause it to look dim in bright environments; for us this was only problematic when we tried to work next to a sun-filled window. Also worth noting: The wide display bezel lacks the built-in Webcam that's often found on business thin-and-lights.

We mostly like the design of the TravelMate 4720. We found the wide keyboard and quiet keys comfortable enough for a lengthy stretch of typing. In particular, we appreciated the keyboard's slight ergonomic curve. (Acer is the only manufacturer we've seen that incorporates ergonomics into its laptop keyboards.) At times the 1.5-inch-tall touch pad feels cramped, and the mouse buttons are too small, crowded in around a fingerprint reader; the placement would be acceptable if the fingerprint reader doubled as a scroll key, but it does not. Above the keyboard, a narrow metallic trim frames three tiny quick-launch buttons that can be configured to start specific programs. Above these sit four more buttons, this time in black, to launch backup and chat programs, a system password utility, and the Acer eManager utility for manipulating system settings and power management. On the laptop's front edge sit two handy slider switches to control the built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi radios.

The TravelMate 4720's case includes all the ports and connections you'd expect on a thin-and-light, with the exception of an ExpressCard slot; it features only a slot for older (but still ubiquitous) PC Cards. The laptop's four USB ports are scattered around three sides of the base, which makes it easier to plug in lots of peripherals without getting cords tangled. You won't be able to rock out with the built-in speakers, which produce somewhat tinny sound; fortunately there's a dedicated line-out jack that lets you connect the TravelMate 4720 to external speakers.

At $1,049, the Acer TravelMate 4720 costs nearly $900 less than the similarly configured Dell Latitude D630 and $800 less than a similar HP Compaq 6910p. Like the Latitude D630, the TravelMate 4720 runs Windows XP. For the most part, the Acer kept pace with the Dell and the HP on CNET Labs' application benchmarks, even finishing slightly ahead of both other systems on our multitasking test. The key difference came out during our Photoshop benchmark; the Acer dropped behind the more expensive laptops, which include twice as much RAM. The TravelMate 4720 can accommodate up to 4GB of RAM, so you might want to upgrade to at least 2GB if you frequently use Photoshop or other resource-intensive programs; even with a RAM upgrade the TravelMate 4720 is still likely to cost less than its competitors. With just the baseline quantity of RAM, however, we were able to simultaneously surf the Web, work on documents, and stream music without any stuttering--as we'd expect from any laptop based on the latest components.

The TravelMate 4720's battery lasted 4 hours, 41 minutes on our taxing DVD drain test, effectively matching the record-setting life of the Dell Latitude D630. Part of this is because of the TravelMate 4720's nine-cell battery (the only size available for this model), which is larger than you'd typically find on a laptop of this size. Though the bulkier battery adds to the laptop's weight and depth, we think it's a worthwhile tradeoff, especially if your work involves a lot of time on planes and other locations away from a power outlet.

Acer backs the TravelMate 4720 with a one-year parts and labor warranty. Telephone support is toll-free, and runs Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST. On Acer's support Web site, users will find an e-mail form, some basic FAQs, and driver downloads.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Acer TravelMate 4720
991 

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Acer TravelMate 4720
387 

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Acer TravelMate 4720
193 

Microsoft Office productivity test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Acer TravelMate 4720
1,122 

DVD battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Acer TravelMate 4720
281 

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations:

Acer TravelMate 4720
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 378MB Mobile Intel 965GM Express;; 120GB Toshiba 5,400rpm

Dell Latitude D630
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 384MB Mobile Intel 965GM Express; 120GB Hitachi 5,400rpm

HP Compaq 6910p
Windows Vista Business; 2.0GHz Intel Core Duo T7300; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB ATI Mobility Radeon X2300; 120GB Seagate 5,400rpm

Panasonic Toughbook CF-52
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 512MB ATI Mobility Radeon X2300; 120GB Fujitsu 5,400rpm

7.2

Acer TravelMate 4720 (Core 2 Duo 2GHz

Pricing Not Available

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 6Performance 8Battery 9Support 4