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Acer has always been pretty aggressive with its pricing but even we had to take notice when we found out that the Acer TravelMate 4400LMi could be picked up for less than £700. Yes you can buy cheaper laptops, but will they boast a large 15in screen and ATI Radeon X700 graphics? Not only that but it's the first notebook we’ve seen to feature AMD’s Turion processor. This is AMD's long awaited competitor to Intel's very successful Pentium M. While AMD has been able to consistently match and outperform Intel on the desktop, Intel has pretty much had the mobile market to itself. And at the rate that the portable market is growing that isn’t good news for AMD. The key advantage that Turion offers over Pentium M is that in keeping with AMD’s strategy over recent years, the chip is 64-bit, though you’ll need a new operating system, new drivers and supporting applications to make any use of that.
Taking the Acer out of the box I was immediately impressed by the sleek smooth lines of the chassis. The TravelMate line is aimed at the business user and this notebook will help project a suitable business-like image. Acer places its logo at the top right rather than the centre and very smart it is too. A single sliding hook opens up the laptop to reveal the large screen, and Acer’s trademark curved keyboard. This dips slightly in the middle and tapers upwards with the intention that the keys fall more easily under your fingers. It was indeed pleasant to type on, and the large area under the keyboard means that there’s somewhere to rest your palms. This is pretty firm to the touch and offers full size keys, which makes typing easier. A function key at the bottom left enables the arrow keys at the bottom right to double up as volume and brightness settings. Squeezed in above the left arrow key is a dedicated Euro key, which is useful and above the right hand key, a dollar sign. Above the keyboard are four shortcut button that can be programmed to the applications of your choice but default to email and your web browser. Beneath the keyboard is a square track pad and Acer supplies software to fine-tune how it behaves. In between the two selector buttons is Acer’s own four way rocker pad enabling you to scroll up and down and left to right in web pages. It’s useful but a little awkward to use.
The TravelMate is relatively large and weighs in at 2.84Kg, so it’s no ultra-portable. The main reason for this is because it’s carrying a very large 15in display. This is a standard 4:3 ratio and at the rate things are moving this is going to be the exception rather than the norm before long – though as far as the notebooks in our labs it’s about 50:50 at the moment. However I have to say that I was disappointed to find that the screen is only 1,024 x 768 resolution. On a screen this large I would have hoped for considerably more. While it might make sense for a desktop TFT to run at this resolution your sitting much closer when typing on a notebook, which is why notebook native resolutions tend to be higher.