This is a very feature rich notebook and with the exception of Bluetooth, it offers pretty much everything you could want. That said, there is a button to switch on Bluetooth, but the 661LMi doesn’t support integrated Bluetooth. You can purchase a Bluetooth dongle from Acer, but an integrated option to accompany the button would have been better. At the front of the chassis are the buttons to activate Bluetooth and WiFi as well as an IrDA port. A very welcome addition here is a memory card reader that can accept SD, Memory Stick and Smart Media cards.
The right hand side of the case is taken up by the optical drive, and again Acer has really pushed the boat out. What you get is a DVD writer which will write DVD-R/RW and CD-R/RW discs. So, if you ever find yourself running out of space on the hard disk, or if you just want to back up some data from the notebook, you’re well taken care of.
The left side of the chassis is stacked full of features. There are mini-jack sockets for headphone, mic and line-out. There’s a single Type II PC Card slot above a Smat Card Reader. Acer has always been ahead of the game when it comes to notebook security, and the Smart Card reader will be a very attractive feature for users who have reason to be paranoid about their data. There are also four USB 2.0 ports and a FireWire port. The inclusion of the FireWire port coupled with the DVD writer makes the TravelMate a decent mobile video editing station.
Finally, at the rear of the case things are no less impressive. Here you’ll find a parallel port, a D-SUB port, a modem connector, a 10/100 Ethernet port, an S-Video output and a docking station connector.
Performance wise the Acer is up there with the fastest Centrino based notebooks we’ve seen so far. With a SYSmark score of 161, it’s just one point behind the HP Compaq Evo N620c which also used a Pentium M CPU. Battery life was a very respectable four hours and seven minutes, although the HP Compaq Evo N620c managed a staggering five hours and fifteen minutes. That said, the HP wasn’t a Centrino notebook and lacked the wireless networking capability.
With a notebook like this you’re going to expect to pay a premium for all the features and build quality, not to mention the solid performance. However, I was amazed when I checked the pricing and found that the TravelMate 661LMi is available for as little as £1,183.82 inc VAT. At that price it’s hard to imagine that you could find a better Centrino based notebook than this one.
The Acer TravelMate 661LMi is a truly impressive notebook. The input devices and screen are superb, and it’s got almost every feature you could ask for. Performance is strong and battery life is in excess of four hours. Add to this an incredibly low price and it all adds up to an Editor’s Choice Award for Acer.