On the surface the Acer TravelMate 3010 looks like a good buy. It’s very neat, it weighs just 1.5kg with the standard battery pack (or 1.65kg with the extended life battery) and it has every connection device you could ask for built into the small chassis (297 x 210 x 24/32mm in size). It’s also one of the first ultra-portables to make use of Intel’s Dual-core processor, the Centrino Duo Mobile.
But there are two major problems with the TravelMate 3010; the Acer Empowering software and the screen. The Empowering technology sits on top of the normal system functions in the control panel and is designed to make setting up your power saving features, networking, performance and security options simple. For those used to the Windows Control Panel it just adds an extra level of complexity, and for everyone else it’s just another tool that can be quite intrusive and a source of irritation.
And the screen is just not up to scratch. It’s 12.1-inches diagonally and boasts an impressive 1,280 x 800 pixel resolution, which is just wide enough to get two applications running side by side; potentially useful. However, in daylight conditions it never seems to be bright enough, and generally gives the appearance of being hidden behind a murky fog.
The power preservation software always seems to set the display at 70 percent brightness, so even when it’s dark you find yourself hitting the brightness keys on the keyboard. To get the best results from the screen it needs to be tilted back past vertical, which is fine if it’s sat on your lap, but it doesn’t look good when it’s resting on a seatback tray on a train or ‘plane. Luckily the laptop is so small that it easily fits on your knee, and the new Intel processors run cool so it never gets anywhere near as hot as standard laptop.
Disappointingly, the Acer lacks thoughtful design; there are two micro-switches on the front, controlling Bluetooth and Wi-fi, that are far too easy to switch on and off by accident. The headphone and microphone sockets also sit at the front and really should be to the side, especially if the laptop’s sitting on your knee.
The main advantage of the Acer TravelMate 3010 is the dual-core processor which lets you do more, yet use less power. The 1GB of RAM and 1.6GHz processor seemed to cope with anything we put their way, running around 40 percent faster than an equivalent single-core processor, plus we regularly got around three and a half hours out of the Acer’s battery. However, the review model came with the optional larger battery pack and we couldn’t test the basic specification model.
The TravelMate 3010 comes with an external DVD writer which plugs into the FireWire port and comes with NTI backup and DVD writing software pre-installed. There’s also an Acer Bluetooth phone, which charges from the PC Card slot and uses a VoIP service to make calls.
Probably the only other plus point of the Acer TravelMate 3010 is the built-in 1.3-megapixel camera that sits just above the screen and uses Acer’s OrbiCam software to turn it from a stills camera to a video camera that can be used for one-to-one video-conferencing.
For an ultra-portable laptop the Acer is quite well connected. On the left-hand side of the TravelMate 3010 there are two USB ports, a network and modem port, plus a standard VGA port. To the front there’s an IR port, built-in speakers and the aforementioned sockets and switches. On the right there’s another USB port, FireWire, a Type II PC Card slot and an SD card slot, while to the rear there’s a docking port. The Acer comes with Windows XP Pro as standard and has an 80GB SATA hard drive.
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