Being a Centrino notebook, there’s also an Intel wireless networking card installed, and again this machine scores a first. With Sonoma, Intel included support for 802.11a/b/g, and the TravelMate has the Intel PRO/Wireless 2915ABG card that supports all three standards. If you prefer to connect to your network the old fashioned way, Acer has this well covered with the inclusion of a Gigabit Ethernet controller. Of course there’s a 56K modem included, but more important is the integrated Bluetooth, so you can get online using your mobile phone if you have to.
Having a look around the chassis you’ll see that the DVD writer dominates the right hand side, along with three USB 2.0 ports thrown in for good measure. The front is pretty stacked with features – there are hard switches for both the WiFi and Bluetooth antennas and a memory card reader that accepts SD, MMC, MemoryStick and XD cards. At front you’ll also find a mic port, a headphone socket that doubles as an S/PDIF port, an IrDA port, a power indicator and a battery light.
The left side is populated with a single Type II PC Card slot and a SmartCard slot for added security. Acer will supply two SmartCards in the box with the machine, with one being a master card for creating copies. There’s no sign of an Express Card slot, but since there aren’t any Express Card peripherals available yet, that’s not a terrible issue. Also on the left is a four-pin FireWire port, another USB 2.0 port, modem socket, network connector and a D-SUB port.
At the rear is a bit of a surprise – there’s a DVI-D port to complement the D-SUB port. This means that you can make use of the ATI Dual View feature on the Radeon X700 and drive two external monitors. There’s also an S-Video output at the rear along with a docking connector.
Performance wise, the Acer is seriously quick – the SYSmark 2002 score of 292 is way up there with the fastest Centrino notebooks we’ve seen, while the 3D scores are equally impressive. Running 3Dmark03 returned a score of 6151, while 2374 in 3Dmark05 is also pretty good for a Pentium M based notebook. Both Far Cry and Doom3 turned in scores of over 30fps at 1,024 x 768 – 36fps and 34.2fps respectively. But if Half-Life 2 is your game of choice, you’ll be more than happy with the 66.7fps score at 1,024 x 768, but of course with no FSAA or AF.
Battery life isn’t astounding, but three hours isn’t terrible, especially when the Acer turned in a MobileMark performance rating of 256.
Acer has produced a good looking, very well featured and extremely fast notebook, so you’d expect to be paying through the nose for it right? Wrong. Amazingly, the TravelMate 8104WLMi will only set you back £1,419 including VAT. Also, it’s worth noting that the range starts at only £1,069 inc VAT, so if you don’t need the very fastest CPU and oodles of memory and hard disk space, you could pick up a very similar TravelMate for just over a grand.
A well designed, very fast notebook with a great screen and tonnes of features – what more could you ask for? The Acer TravelMate 8104WLMi is an excellent machine and a complete bargain considering what you get. I’d be tempted to go for the slightly lower spec 8103WLMi and save some cash, but ultimately it looks like the TravelMate 8100 series is going to be a hard act to beat.