So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Acer TravelMate TimelineX TM8473T laptop
A 14in business laptop with good features and a competitive price
- Comfortable keyboard and touchpad
- Matte screen
- Good value for money
- Optical drive bay is not modular
- Some bloatware
- Keyboard not backlit
The understated style of the TravelMate TM8473T may not be to everyone's taste, but it's a notebook that offers very good value for money. It's well built, performs as expected and it has a good set of features. Most importantly, it's comfortable to use thanks to its soft keyboard and touchpad and a matte screen.
Price$ 1,199.00 (AUD)
The Acer TravelMate TimelineX TM8473T is a 14in business laptop with an understated style, good build quality and high user comfort. It's based on an Intel Core i5-2450M CPU, has 4GB of RAM and comes with 500GB of internal storage. It's definitely well featured and its price tag is very reasonable. There's actually not much that we don't like about this notebook.
Build quality and features
At 2.35kg, the TimelineX TM8473T feels a little heavy for a 14in model (14in HP Pavilion dm4-3000 is 2kg, for example), but it's well balanced and it won't be much of a chore to carry it to and from the office every day. What helps is that it also comes with a very small power adapter that's only 95x50mm.
The metal lid of the notebook feels sturdy and looks stylish thanks to a brushed finish, and there is more of a brushed look on the panel just above the keyboard. The metal hinges also stand out thanks to their industrial looks and they hold the screen firmly in place. The screen is latch-less and easily opened with one hand when the notebook is resting on a flat surface.
We like the matte screen on this unit, which has enough brightness and contrast to make photo viewing and presentation creation comfortable. It has a native resolution of 1366x768, which is standard and perhaps only just wide enough to allow for two windows to be visible at one time. The bezel around the screen is quite thick and it houses a webcam.
The base of the laptop is approximately 345x250mm, it feels solid and it houses plenty of features as well as a relatively strong configuration. Around the edges you will find a DVD burner, HDMI, Gigabit Ethernet, VGA, headphone and microphone ports and an SD card slot. You also get plenty of USB connectivity — four ports all up. One is USB 3.0, one doubles as an eSATA port and one also supports USB charging while the notebook is asleep or switched off.
The bottom of the notebook has a slot for a docking station and there are a couple of access panels for upgrading and servicing. There's a little panel on its own that provides access to the Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205 Wi-Fi adapter, and there is a larger panel towards the front that provides access to the SATA hard drive, two memory slots (one is free) and also a free PCI Express slot. The DVD burner can be easily removed and replaced if service is needed. Unfortunately, the bay it sits in is not modular, nor does Acer provide a weight saver for it.
There are plenty of ventilation holes and an effective extraction fan on its left side. This keeps the notebook cool in almost any situation and we had no problems whatsoever resting it in our lap for long periods of time, even while streaming videos in addition to typing and browsing the Web. It doesn't get too loud either when the CPU is under a heavy load, which means it won't be the centre of attention while you're giving a presentation in a boardroom.
Keyboard and touchpad
A mostly full-sized keyboard with soft keys makes the TravelMate TM8473T a joy to type on, but it does bounce a little, which can be slightly disorienting at first — we got used to it. The arrow keys are a little small, but still easy to hit, and the Page Up, Page Down, Home and End keys are located on a column to the right of the Enter and Backspace keys. These need some time to get used to; many times we hit Page Down when we were really going for Enter, and Home when trying to press Backspace. The keyboard isn't backlit, which we find disappointing, but since this is a business laptop, take the hint and finish your work during the day so you won't have to continue using the laptop at night.
We really enjoyed using the touchpad, which is 90x51mm, feels smooth, is responsive and supports multi-touch gestures. Its left- and right-click buttons are soft and silent and they surround a fingerprint reader that can be used in conjunction with the installed ProShield software. It provides pre-boot security, as well as BIOS security, and it also allows you to relatively easily encrypt and decrypt files on the hard drive.
Performance and battery life
The TravelMate will easily handle most common office applications thanks to its 2.5GHz, dual-core, Hyper-Threaded CPU, and you'll be able to multitask most of the time without noticing a slow-down in performance. In our Blender 3D rendering test, the machine recorded a time of 41sec, in the iTunes MP3 encoding test it recorded a time of 50sec, while in the AutoGordianKnot DVD-to-Xvid conversion test it recorded a time of 50min. We haven't tested any other notebooks with the Core i5-2450M before, but if we compare its results to a laptop based on the Core i5-2540M, such as the HP EliteBook 2560p, you can see that the TravelMate's results scale very well. It's only 2sec slower in Blender, 4sec slower in iTunes and 1min slower in AutoGordianKnot.
For graphics tasks, the notebook's integrated Intel HD 3000 adapter will do a fine job. It recorded 3691 in 3DMark06, which shows that it's actually quite adept at pushing pixels, even in a 3D setting. You won't want to play games on this notebook though, and that's not what it's designed for anyway. Its hard drive has a 7200rpm spin speed and it recorded a decent transfer rate of 41.56 megabytes per second (MBps) in our file copying tests; meanwhile, it recorded zippy read and write rates of 130MBps and 128MBps, respectively, in CrystalDiskMark.
A 6-cell, 6000 milliamp-hour battery resides in the spine of the notebook. In our rundown test, in which we disable power management, enable Wi-Fi, maximise screen brightness and loop an Xvid-encoded video, the notebook lasted 4hr 13min. This is a great result for a 14in notebook and a lot more life can be obtained when using the notebook with a sensible power scheme, low brightness and when performing tasks that don't tax the CPU too much.
Some people may automatically dismiss the Acer TravelMate TimelineX TM8473T because it doesn't have an exciting or appealing design. Those people will miss out on a laptop that is well built, well featured and comfortable to use. It has a good screen, a soft keyboard and touchpad and its performance isn't sluggish. Best of all, it doesn't cost a lot of money and it also includes convenient security measures such as a fingerprint reader. We think it's a fine notebook to use at home or in the office.
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