Acer is not a brand you see a lot in this country but globally it ranks in the top five PC marques. The Taiwanese firm has built its reputation on stylish, well-engineered notebooks sold at prices competitors struggle to match.
The TravelMate 8104WLMi incorporates Intel’s latest multimedia platform, Sonoma, which includes a beefy 2GHz Intel Pentium M 760 processor with 533 MHz DDR 2 memory. This is backed up by a mammoth 100GB hard disk that gives you loads of space for additional software and digital files. Content can also be easily shifted on to external disk via the built-in DVD writer.
Opening the 8104WLMi, the most striking feature of the layout is the ergonomically designed curved keyboard. It may not be to everyone’s liking but we had no problems with it and many users may well find it more comfortable in the long run. Below the
keyboard is a large navigation touchpad, which did its job well.
Another thing we liked was the fact the on button was positioned to the top left of the keyboard rather than being hidden away at the back or side as it is on some notebooks.
Although described as a laptop, it is unlikely the 8104WLMi will spend too much time perched on your knees because of its sheer size — 36.3 x 26.6 x 3.4cm — and weight (2.8kg/6lbs). So it ought to be said that users for whom portability is a deciding factor should look elsewhere. But for others, the size of the machine brings its own rewards — the beautifully sharp 15.4-inch high-resolution widescreen LCD display, for instance. For ordinary drudge work this may not matter too much but it becomes a serious advantage when DVD watching or gaming. This extra space is also useful when you have several programmes running at once and the Acer GridVista software supplied with the machine allows you to conveniently arrange the windows on your desktop and banish clutter.
With any notebook these days, connectivity solutions are a key feature. On this front, the 8104WLMi contains an Intel wireless networking card that supports 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi standards, a Gigabit controller for connecting to a local area network, 56Kbps modem and Bluetooth, which allows you web access through your mobile handset. There are also no fewer than four USB slots plus a card reader that accepts most popular memory card types.
Security, another key area, is well covered too. The machine contains a smart card slot and two smart cards, one of which is a master for setting up extra accounts.
At approximately three hours, battery life is only average but the lightning-processing speed of the machine should be taken into account here — everything comes at a price.
To sum up, not only is the 8104WLMi a great-looking machine that will turn heads wherever you go but it also comes up with the goods in terms of performance. At €2,316 inc Vat, this notebook may not be cheap but it is very good value, which after all is what really matters.
By Brian Skelly