The Acer TravelMate 610TXVi builds on the strengths of its predecessor, the TravelMate 351TEV. Despite a fairly short battery life and limited graphics capabilities, the 610TXVi is still a good choice for businesses that have other priorities, such as security; it has the same password and smart-card access features we liked on the previous model. Plus, connection options have improved; the new model includes built-in 802.11b for wireless networking. The Acer TravelMate 610TXVi builds on the strengths of its predecessor, the TravelMate 351TEV. Despite a fairly short battery life and limited graphics capabilities, the 610TXVi is still a good choice for businesses that have other priorities, such as security; it has the same password and smart-card access features we liked on the previous model. Plus, connection options have improved; the new model includes built-in 802.11b for wireless networking.
The fast and the furious
Armed with an 800MHz Pentium III, 128MB of RAM, and Windows 2000, the $2,099 TravelMate 610TXVi rocked CNET Labs' performance tests, surpassing all similarly configured machines by 12 percent or more. Even when we used SpeedStep--Intel's technology for lowering processor speed, thereby achieving longer battery life--the Acer's score was still a tad better than those of the more expensive Toshiba Satellite 2805-S402 and the Sceptre Soundx S69502. (Both come with faster 850HMz PIII processors, but both also run the slower Windows 98 SE operating system.)
Unfortunately, the fast TravelMate 610TXVi dies young. In battery-optimized mode, it survived only 139 minutes, compared to 215 minutes and 170 minutes from the Sceptre and the Toshiba, respectively. The only consolation is the TravelMate's rapid-charge feature, which is capable of fully recharging the machine's battery within 90 minutes. But if battery life matters, snap up a second cell for $180.
Light but heavily equipped
At 6 pounds (with power adapter) and with a footprint of 12.2 by 9.8 by 1.0 inches, the TravelMate 610TXVi is one of the thinnest and lightest machines CNET's tested, yet it still packs plenty of features. Most notably, it's the first machine we've seen that offers all of the communication methods available to notebooks: built-in 10/100 Ethernet, V.90 data/fax modem, infrared, and one Type II PC Card slot. It also features Bluetooth wireless networking capabilities.
But the most interesting feature is the integrated Acer InviLink IEEE 802.11b wireless LAN. You can now access a local network wirelessly at a top (and rarely reached) speed of 1.1MB per second without adding any device to your notebook. During tests, InviLink worked gracefully. No setup was required; we just put the machine in the range of any wireless accessing point and let it do its thing. This feature readies the machine for wireless home networking or for shared broadband connections such as DSL or cable. It is also useful while traveling, as wireless Net access services are increasingly available in public places and airports.
Another notable features is the 8X DVD-ROM drive that's installed in the Acer Media Bay. Ironically, the notebook's multimedia capabilities are limited by its integrated Intel 815 chipset. The chipset displays resolutions up to 1,024x768--a good match for the 14.1-inch TFT display--but its maximum color depth is just 24 bits (as opposed to 32 bits in most high-end notebooks). This, along with a mere 4MB of video RAM, means that games and other graphics-intensive applications will look mediocre on this system. Another drawback: The built-in speakers are so tiny that, in a noisy environment, you'll need headphones. Nevertheless, the system's still able to deliver decent DVD playback.
Multimedia limitations aside, the TravelMate 610TXVi has plenty to recommend it. The Acer Media Bay, in which the DVD-ROM drive is installed, can hot-swap several other devices, including the aforementioned second battery, a combo DVD/CD-R/CD-RW ($500), or a CD-R/RW ($406). You can also install a bootable second hard drive. Not everyone will use this feature, but IS folks will appreciate the potential. If your system goes down, for instance, IS staff could shove in another hard drive, boot from there, and recover data from the failed drive. Although there are other ways to do this, this is a handy alternative. The TravelMate 610TXVi already comes with a roomy 20GB hard drive and a good selection of ports, including two USB, PS/2, VGA, a headphone jack, and a microphone jack. On the display's side edge is a camera connector similar to that of the IBM ThinkPad T20, for direct transfer of digital photos to your system.
To serve and protect
The TravelMate 610TXVi also features the same smart-card security feature as its predecessor. Along with its included software, the smart card protects the system against unauthorized access. Insert the card into the laptop's smart-card slot and boot up; firmware will verify the card's security information before running the system BIOS. The security software, which lets you set the security level and add new users, also makes it impossible to read the hard drive if it's put into another machine. Acer ships the TravelMate 610TXVi with the smart card disabled; you can enable and customize it according to your needs. Each system includes two smart cards: one for regular use, the other for backup.
The TravelMate's second form of protection is the magnesium-alloy chassis with disk antishock protection (DASP), a system that protects the hard disk from drops, shocks, vibrations, and other dangers during transportation.
The TravelMate 610TXVi is comfortable compared to other notebooks, as well. It has a beautifully designed, ergonomic keyboard with a five-degree curve that helps accommodate the natural position of your hands. This makes typing easier and reduces strain on your wrists and hands. Above the keyboard are six quick-launch keys, three of which are user-programmable. Three buttons flank the integrated touchpad, one each for left-clicking, right-clicking, and scrolling.
And what's the use of all these features if you have nothing to do with them? Not to worry: In addition to Windows 2000, the TravelMate 610TXVi's software bundle includes Microsoft Office 2000 SBE, CyberLink PowerDVD 2.55, Trend PC-cillin 2000, PC-Doctor, plus other security and management software.
One of the very few areas where Acer skimps is in service and support. The company backs the TravelMate 610TXVi with a too-short (but fairly standard) one-year limited warranty; during this time, technical support can be reached 24/7. There are good general FAQs on Acer's Web site, as well as an e-mail link for reaching Acer technicians.
The Acer TravelMate 610TXVi is a corporate notebook that sets the standard for must-have features. Be it connectivity, security, or a solid laundry list of useful features, this notebook has it. And what it doesn't have--longer battery life, better multimedia capabilities--is tolerable, given the many other benefits.
Applications: 100=performance of Dell Dimension XPS with a 600MHz Pentium III, 128MB of RAM, and a GeForce 256 SDR graphics card
Longer bars indicate better performance
Battery life test
Time is measured in minutes; longer bars indicate better performance
Acer TravelMate 610TXVi
Windows 2000; Pentium III-800; 128MB RAM; Intel Graphics Chip 8MB; IBM 20GB 4,200rpm
Sceptre Soundx S69502
Windows 98; mobile Pentium III-850; 128MB RAM; Rage Mobility 16MB; Fujitsu 20GB 4,200rpm
Toshiba Satellite 2805-S402
Windows Me; mobile Pentium III-850; 128MB RAM; Nvidia GeForce2 Go 16MB; Toshiba 18.6GB 4,200rpm
Running Windows 2000, the Acer TravelMate 610TXVi is faster than both the Toshiba and the Sceptre, even though these two machines sport faster processors. However, the Acer has comparatively short battery life.