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Pointer manipulation is also very well catered for with a large touchpad that provides smooth and accurate movement. I actually prefer trackpoints to touchpads, but to be fair, that’s just my personal taste, and the touchpad on display here worked flawlessly. Below the touchpad are three silver buttons. The left and the right buttons replicate the left and right mouse buttons, while the middle, four-way button lets you scroll up/down and left/right through documents with ease.
The final part of the ergonomic puzzle is the screen, and here we’re faced with a bit of a mixed bag. There is nothing wrong with the quality of the screen, in fact it’s an excellent example of a TFT display – there are no dead pixels, the lighting is even across the whole surface and it has an impressively wide viewing angle. However, with a physical measurement of 14.1in, I find the 1,024 x 768 native resolution disappointingly low. Considering that ultra-portable notebooks with 10.1in screens run this resolution, I would have preferred something higher on a display this size – something like 1,400 x 1,050 would have been nice. But I haven’t mentioned the price yet, and when I do you’ll realise that Acer had to make a compromise somewhere, and it looks like the screen represents that compromise.
The TravelMate 3201XMi is finished in titanium grey with a single Acer logo set into the top right corner of the lid. This makes a refreshing change from most notebooks that have a logo sitting dead centre. Acer has also made sure that the logo is orientated so that it’s the right way up when the lid is open. There is no clip retaining the lid, instead the hinge id sprung so that the lid stays closed – the result is that it’s very easy to open, even for someone with only one hand.
Opening the lid reveals more titanium grey finishing, along with the superb keyboard that’s finished in black. Above the keyboard in the top left corner is the power button, while in the top right corner you’ll find four shortcut buttons for quick access to applications like your email and web browser.
The right hand side of the chassis is full to the brim with features. Taking pride of place is the DVD writer, but also present is a memory card reader – this will accept SD, MMC and MemoryStick cards. Also on the right is a single USB 2.0 port, the Gigabit Ethernet port, the power socket and a Type II PC Card slot. On the left is another USB 2.0 port, the modem socket, a four-pin FireWire port, a headphone socket and a mic socket.
At the front is an IrDA port that rounds off an amazing complement of connectivity options, as well as the hard switches for both Bluetooth and WiFi. Finally, at the rear is a D-SUB output for connecting the TravelMate to an external monitor, and a docking station connector.