The 8371 has an adequately large 320GB hard drive. Should your documents contain sensitive information, the 8371's biometric security system -- a fingerprint reader between the mouse selector buttons -- should ensure they stay safe from unauthorised snoopers. The system isn't completely fool-proof -- we've heard stories of determined hackers lifting fingerprints from the surfaces of stolen laptops -- but it's far more convenient than remembering a lengthy password.
The 8371 proudly sports the Intel Centrino logo, a nod to the fact it has strong wireless capabilities. The machine is also fairly versatile in this regard, packing a Wi-Fi adaptor that's capable of connecting to high-speed 802.11n Wi-Fi networks in addition to the more common 802.11a/b/g networks used in most homes and public hotspots. Bluetooth 2.1+EDR also makes an appearance, and there's even an optional WWAN module. This allows users to insert a 3G SIM card into a slot beneath the battery to enable go-anywhere Internet access. That's a useful feature for anyone that doesn't want to use a bulky USB dongle.
We weren't expecting a great deal in terms of the 8371's performance, but it put in a relatively impressive showing. Its 1.4GHz SU9400 CPU scored 2,982 in the PCMark05 benchmark test, which is roughly 33 per cent more than we've seen from the Intel Core 2 Solo SU3500, a commonly used chip in laptops of this class. As a result, the laptop lends itself well to just about anything you can throw at it, barring hardcore video encoding. It scored an embarrassingly low 742 in 3DMark06, though.
Predictably, battery life proved more solid. The 8371 lasted an impressive 3 hours and 48 minutes in Battery Eater's intensive Classic test. It's not quite the 8 hours and 30 minutes that Acer claims it'll last, but it's not bad.
We like the Acer TravelMate Timeline 8371. It's attractive in an understated sort of way, offers strong performance and boasts good battery life. Laptops such as the MSI X340 might suit a more fashion-conscious crowd, but, all things considered, we'd rather spend our money on the 8371.
Edited by Charles Kloet