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Acer TravelMate TM3002WTCi review: Acer TravelMate TM3002WTCi

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The Good Lightweight case; fast performance; includes two batteries for extended life; wide keyboard; three USB 2.0 ports.

The Bad Lacks the latest security features; no port replicator included; tiny mouse buttons; limited tech-support hours.

The Bottom Line An inexpensive business ultraportable, the TravelMate TM3002WTCi offers an appealing design, plus lots of speed and battery life, but it lacks some security features and support niceties.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

5.9 Overall

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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 Dell Latitude D410; 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 NTI's CD & DVD Maker 6.7 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.

Mobile application performance  (Longer bars indicate faster performance)
BAPCo MobileMark 2002 performance rating  

Battery life  (Longer bars indicate longer battery life)
BAPCo MobileMark 2002 battery-life minutes  

System configurations:

Acer TravelMate TM3002WTCi
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

Dell Latitude D410
Windows XP Professional; 2GHz Intel Pentium M 755; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 915GM 128MB; Fujitsu MHT2040AH 40GB 4,200rpm

ThinkPad X32
Windows XP Home; 2GHz Intel Pentium M 755; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 16MB; Hitachi Travelstar 5K60 60GB 5,400rpm

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