Acer's TravelMate 632XCi is a solid mainstream notebook with scads of state-of-the-art features: integrated 802.11b, a FireWire port, a combo DVD/CD-RW drive, and even smart-card technology for security. It's not the fastest mobile Pentium 4-M notebook that we've tested, but at $1,999, it's among the cheapest, and it has one of the longest-running batteries. The standard warranty is wimpy, but the 632XCi is still one of the sweetest deals going. Acer's TravelMate 632XCi is a solid mainstream notebook with scads of state-of-the-art features: integrated 802.11b, a FireWire port, a combo DVD/CD-RW drive, and even smart-card technology for security. It's not the fastest mobile Pentium 4-M notebook that we've tested, but at $1,999, it's among the cheapest, and it has one of the longest-running batteries. The standard warranty is wimpy, but the 632XCi is still one of the sweetest deals going.
A solid foundation
There's plenty of power under the 632's hood: a 1.6GHz Pentium 4-M processor; 256MB of DDR memory; and a 4,200rpm, 40GB hard drive. There's also plenty of muscle to handle graphics-intensive applications or gaming, courtesy of Nvidia's GeForce2 Go GPU. This low-end graphics card has only 16MB of RAM onboard; while it may not impress the diehards, our testing proved that it's more than quick enough for 3D presentations. A crisp, wide-angle, 14.1-inch, active-matrix display renders the GPU's efforts flawlessly.
The light-gray TravelMate 632XCi has subtly sculpted lines and a unique, 5-degree-arced keyboard that makes it look a bit as if the notebook is smiling at you. Arc or not, the keyboard is easy to type on, though it doesn't have quite the snappy feel of IBM or Dell models. The 632XCi measures 12.7 by 10.4 by 1.38-inches--about average for a mainstream notebook. Its 6.1-pound travel weight (including the AC adapter) is also about the norm for the class. The AcerMedia Bay modular, the notebook's only bay, houses the combo DVD/CD-RW drive and will also take a floppy or a second hard drive. It won't accept an extra battery, but as we've already mentioned, you probably won't need one.
With the exception of Bluetooth, the 632XCi offers almost every other port: modem and Ethernet, ECP-/EPP-compliant parallel, external VGA, infrared, two USB, FireWire, S-Video, and 100-pin docking; you'll also find headphone and microphone jacks. There's also one Type II PC Card slot and, unique to Acer products, a smart-card slot. In conjunction with two provided smart cards and Acer's PlatinumPAS security software, you can lock down your machine so that only someone with your smart card and the proper knowledge can use it.
Long battery life
The TravelMate 632XCi turned in decent--but not spectacular--performance numbers. Its SysMark2001 rating of 136 was 5 points behind that of another mainstream notebook, the Dell Latitude C610, which has a pokier PIII-M processor. The TravelMate also finished 7 points slower than the HP Omnibook xe4500, which sports a faster 1.7GHz CPU and a more plentiful 32MB of graphics memory. But the Acer's score is still solid for a mainstream notebook, and when it came to battery life, the TravelMate 632XCi was exceptional. The 3 hours, 31 minutes of run time provided by its 4,000mAh battery was 2 minutes longer than the Dell's and 24 minutes more than the HP's.
The paper documentation that Acer includes with the 632XCi is well organized and concise, though it's not the most colorful that we've seen. Acer's 24/7 telephone support is free of charge for the duration of the limited one-year warranty. The skimpy coverage is our only real beef about the 632XCi; a three-year policy would've been more reassuring, although you can upgrade. Acer's online support includes product registration, FAQs, tips, and manuals. Unfortunately, online support for the 630 series hadn't been implemented at the time of this writing, but judging from what was available for other machines, it should be top notch when it does arrive.
Outside of the meager warranty and the average keyboard, the TravelMate 632XCi is an excellent mainstream notebook. It's fast enough for all but the most demanding users, has all the latest goodies, and provides extra security via its use of smart cards. At the price Acer is asking, this machine is a bargain and then some.
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 632XCi
Windows XP Pro; Pentium 4-M-1.6GHz; 256MB RAM; GeForce2 Go 16MB; IBM Travelstar 40GN 20MB 4,200rpm
Dell Latitude C610
Windows XP Pro; Pentium III-M-1.2GHz; 256MB SDRAM; ATI Radeon Mobility 16MB; IBM Travelstar 20GN 20GB 4,200rpm
HP Omnibook xe4000
Windows XP Pro; Pentium 4-M-1.7GHz; 256MB DDR SDRAM; ATI Mobility M6 32MB; IBM Travelstar 40GN 40GB 4,200rpm
In terms of performance, the mainstream TravelMate 632XCi nearly matched the Dell Inspiron 8200 and outlasted it by a large margin in our battery testing. Its didn't fare as well against HP's Omnibook xe4500, but once again, it ran for considerably longer sans AC power.