Earlier in the year, Acer was one of the first companies to take advantage of Intel's new CULV processors in creating affordable ultra-portables. Delivering good performance and outstanding battery life, we were delighted by the Acer Aspire Timeline 4810T and gave it a Recommended Award. However, one thing that struck us about the range, was that it was very conservative - almost business like - in its appearance. Now Acer has translated the formula to a genuine business laptop, it's time to see whether it works just as well.
Although the Aspire Timeline's were already quite restrained, Acer has still seen fit to tweak the design to give it an even more business-like air. It hasn't done anything drastic, it's just made the aluminium lid and plastic body a slightly darker shade of gunmetal grey, tweaked the logo design and removed any glossy touches, but the changes are quite beneficial. There's just something about the darker profile that suits the chassis better.
In common with the 13.3in Aspire version, the 3810T, the TravelMate 8371 doesn't have an optical drive. This could prove a problem for some people, but when USB sticks, online downloads and other forms of media have become so prevalent, not having an integrated optical drive has become less of an issue. If it's really a concern a USB drive might be worth considering, or if you prefer an integrated drive, the 14.1in TravleMate 8471 (cousin of the 4810T) does offer one.
What the 8371 lacks in an optical drive, it makes up for in portability. With its six-cell battery it weighs just 1.65kg which, while not quite featherlike, is a nice weight for any laptop. Clearly its dimensions help portability, too. At 323.6mm across it'll fit into many a messenger bag and it's a reasonable 25.3mm at its thickest point, so is fairly skinny as well.
While the 8731's chassis and basic feature set are broadly similar to its consumer counterparts, there are one or two differences. Most notable is the lack of an HDMI output, ejected in favour of a docking station port. There is one addition, though, in the shape of a fingerprint reader nestled between the two touchpad buttons. This isn't paired with a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) as is common on many business laptops, but this is no doubt due to cost constraints to meet the aggressive price tag - a mere £710.
This is a very good price for a business ultra-portable, most of which have always occupied the premium price ranges above £1,000 and sometimes £2,000 or more. This £700 or so price means the 8731 can be economically distributed to mobile workers who might have once suffered with impractical bricks; people who will doubtless appreciate something a little more refined!