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Of course, the TravelMate 382TMi would not be an ultra-portable if it didn’t measure up to that category. Weighing in at 1.61Kg, and measuring 274mm wide by 234mm deep and 35.5mm high with the lid closed, it is very small but still bulkier than the likes of Sony's VAIO X505, IBM's ThinkPad X40, and Samsung's Q30. However, those models were £335 to £920 more expensive than the 382TMi when they were launched. At £1,079 this notebook looks like reasonable value for money. Granted, it costs a couple hundred more than MV's Mobeus and Toshiba's Portege A100, but both of those models were award winners with built-in optical drives.
In other words, average price and the external drive keep the Acer Travelmate 382TMi just out of sight of an award, but I have to say it’s a mighty close affair thanks to its build quality and overall performance. While its bulky battery doesn’t make it look as snazzy as some of the other ultra-portables we’ve reviewed, the metal lid and double hinge give a solid feel.
Another area that often distinguishes a decent notebook from the cheaper charlatans is the keyboard. Here, Acer has really delivered the goods in the shape of a firm and responsive set of keys, each with a decent amount of travel. Typing was comfortable and although some of the keys such as those in the top row and the Return key could have been a smidgen bigger, overall I found little to complain about, apart from the touchpad. To be honest, I am not sure if I like the oval design. After all, the screen at which I’m staring is not oval. The four-way scroll keys work fine, but I’d rather use a small wheel mouse, than this touchpad and its buttons.
Above the keyboard, you’ll find a set of six hotkeys, three on either side of the power button. The first of these I’ve mentioned already, turns on the wireless and the “phantom” Bluetooth. Button P1 by default, starts up Acer’s Launch Manager. This little applet allows you to assign any program you want to buttons P1, P2, P3, Internet, and Email. In other words, five of the buttons are customisable. Within the launch manager, you can also choose whether you want the wireless to be on or not after the 382TMi has booted up.
Acer also provides its Notebook Manager software that allows you to control various hardware and software settings in the notebook. Such functions include setting the BIOS boot sequence, selecting various power schemes, creating BIOS passwords and choosing the display device. As for other software, Acer includes CyberLink PowerDVD and NTI CD-Maker which all run under the pre-installed Windows XP Professional Edition OS.
In everyday use, I have to say I enjoyed using the TravelMate 382TMi. With the recent worries concerning the reduction in male fertility as a result of heat emanating from notebooks, I can safely say the 382TMi didn’t get too hot on my lap. The flipside of this was a relatively noisy fan that may annoy some who enjoy total silence when working. The speakers were clear enough but only suitable for subdued volume levels.
Last, but not least, a word on performance. As you can see from the results on the last page, I decided to compare the 382TMi with the similarly specced HP Compaq nc4010, and IBM’s ThinkPad X40. As you can see, the 382TMi is pretty much ahead in all the tests, which isn’t too much of surprise considering that its CPU has twice the cache as the HP Compaq’s CPU and is faster than the IBM's 1.2GHz processor. An overall SYSmark 2002 score of 211, and a PCMark 2004 score of 2,578 are very respectable.
Nevertheless battery life is probably the most important factor to consider when choosing a truly mobile notebook and here the Acer did not let me down. The Acer lasted eight minutes short of four hours, which certainly isn't bad when you consider that battery life and a small size typically oppose each other. All in all, these are a solid set of results which easily make up for the less favoured features, and ultimately the Acer TravelMate 382TMi would make a fine replacement for my dilapidated machine.
So with an acceptable price, decent build quality, responsive keyboard and dependable all-round performance the Acer TravelMate 382TMi is certainly a notebook to consider if mobility is high on your agenda. However, having to carry around the external optical drive, the weak 3D graphics, the lack of Bluetooth, an average screen, a questionable touchpad design and some unusual port locations are some of the factors that will need to be accepted before you part with any cash.
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