In a mano-a-mano contest among ultraportables, the Acer TravelMate TM3002WTCi is a worthy competitor--when it comes to price, performance, battery life, and connectivity. But the system does have weaknesses: it lacks the handy media bay available with other business ultraportables, such as the ThinkPad X32. More importantly, the TravelMate TM3002WTCi lacks the data-security features that many businesspeople will require, and the company offers subpar support options. If a media bay, hardware data security, or 24/7 tech support are on your list of must-haves, we'd recommend the ThinkPad X32 or the ; if you can live without them, however, the $1,299 (as of June 2005) TravelMate TM3002WTCi is a good buy.
Shaped a bit differently than competing ultraportables, the 3.6-pound TravelMate TM3002WTCi measures 8.3 inches deep, 1.3 inches thick, and 11.7 inches wide--broader than both the Latitude D410 and the ThinkPad X32 but also a few ounces lighter. With the 0.8-pound AC adapter, the TravelMate TM3002WTCi weighs 4.4 pounds, about the same as the ThinkPad X32 but nearly a half-pound less than the Latitude D410.
We mostly like the TravelMate TM3002WTCi's design. We found the wide keyboard comfortable enough for a lengthy stretch of typing. The touch pad is also a decent size, though the mouse buttons are too small, crowded in around a scroll button. The system offers a 12.1-inch wide-aspect display with a 1,280x800 native resolution that's big enough to gaze at for several hours of work without hurting your eyes. Three useful Chiclet-size quick-launch buttons above the keyboard can be configured to start specific programs; a neighboring fourth button launches the Acer eManager utility for manipulating system settings, power management, and backups. On the front edge sit two impossibly small, sliverlike on/off buttons for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
We were impressed by the TravelMate TM3002WTCi's connections. They include three USB 2.0 ports (most ultraportables offer two); Gigabit Ethernet, 56Kbps modem, and headphone and microphone jacks; and six-pin FireWire and VGA connectors. It also features one Type II PC Card slot with an integrated smart-card reader, as well as a 4-in-1 slot that accepts four different types of flash media: SD Card, MultiMediaCard, Memory Stick, and Memory Stick Pro. An external CD-RW/DVD-ROM that connects to the system via a FireWire port is included with the system. We wish Acer offered a port replicator with a swappable drive, as included with the Latitude D410 and (at no extra cost) the ThinkPad X32. Acer does sell a $299 eZ Docking Station, which adds DVI, S-Video, PS/2, and three more USB ports but lacks an optical drive.
The TravelMate TM3002WTCi ships with Windows XP Professional and a smattering of other software, including CyberLink PowerDVD 5.0 for playing CDs and DVDs, and for burning. Aside from the smart-card reader, the TravelMate TM3002WTCi omits security measures found on many of the latest corporate laptops, such as a Trusted Platform Module or a fingerprint reader.
Acer currently sells just one version of the TravelMate 3000 series: the TM3002WTCi that we evaluated. You can buy it through a number of online resellers as well as a handful of local computer stores. Its $1,299 price (as of June 2005) is remarkable, considering its components: a fairly fast current-generation Centrino Pentium M 1.73GHz processor; 512MB of speedy 533MHz memory; an average-size 60GB hard drive spinning at a slow 4,200rpm; an economical Intel 915GM graphics chip that steals up to 128MB of main memory; a typical Intel Pro Wireless 802.11b/g wireless card; and integrated Bluetooth.
The TravelMate TM3002WTCi earned terrific scores in CNET Labs' mobile benchmarks. It sped 8 percent past the ThinkPad X32 and ran just 2 percent behind the Latitude D410--both of which carried faster 2GHz Pentium M processors and cost at least $900 more than the TravelMate TM3002WTCi. Mobile users will rejoice in the fact that the TravelMate TM3002WTCi comes with both a lightweight three-cell battery and a bulkier six-cell battery. We tested the larger battery, which lasted for nearly five hours--26 minutes longer than the ThinkPad X32's and more than an hour longer the Latitude D410's. Between the two batteries, you should have enough battery life to last through any cross-country flight.
Considering the low price of the TravelMate TM3002WTCi, a one-year warranty with carry-in or mail-in service isn't so bad. The laptop's single year of toll-free tech support is standard, but Acer's phone lines are open only Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. CT and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT. Though you can extend the length of your warranty through the reseller where you purchase the system, the weak tech-support hours are nonnegotiable. A search through the lame FAQ database on Acer's support Web site yielded just one result for the TravelMate TM3002WTCi. The site also lacks other convenient support options, such as a user forum, though it does offer e-mail technical support.
|BAPCo MobileMark 2002 performance rating|
|BAPCo MobileMark 2002 battery-life minutes|
Windows XP Professional; 1.73GHz Intel Pentium M 740; 512MB DDR2 SDRAM 400MHz; Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 915GM 128MB; Hitachi Travelstar 80GN 60GB 4,200rpm
Windows XP Professional; 2GHz Intel Pentium M 755; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 915GM 128MB; Fujitsu MHT2040AH 40GB 4,200rpm
Windows XP Home; 2GHz Intel Pentium M 755; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 16MB; Hitachi Travelstar 5K60 60GB 5,400rpm
Find out more about how we test Windows notebooks.