Acer TravelMate 8215WLMi
Many notebook users need only run office applications and browse the web, hardly demanding tasks for the latest models.
However, to run complex video-editing or photo-manipulation applications you'll need a powerful processor and a high-resolution display. Acer's TravelMate 8215WLMi has both.
The 15.4in screen's native resolution is a big 1,680x1,050 pixels, so it can display about 72 per cent more information than a standard 1,280x800 display. This could prove essential when running complex applications with multiple toolbars and windows. The screen has an anti-glare coating, so you can use it under well-lit conditions, but its own backlight isn't bright enough, and it lacks contrast as a result.
The 8215WLMi is specified for running the toughest of applications. It has 2GB of RAM, and an Intel Core 2 Duo T7200 processor that runs at a fast 2.0GHz. As you might expect, its performance was excellent in all our benchmarks and it's one of the fastest notebooks we've ever tested.
Acer has given this TravelMate a powerful 3D graphics processor, which has hardware acceleration for HD video playback. It ran our Doom 3 test at a playable frame rate and will handle the latest games, though not at their highest detail levels. If you later upgrade to Windows Vista, It should also be capable of running the 3D Aero interface.
Despite the TravelMate name, this notebook weighs three kilos. It's fine for occasional mobile use, but you'd only want to lug it around every day if you really needed all its computing power. If you do travel with it, you'll appreciate its respectable battery life; it lasted three hours and 49 minutes in our light-usage test.
The keyboard has a slightly curved layout that is intended to reduce wrist ache from long typing sessions. Its layout isn't as exaggerated as Microsoft's split keyboard designs, so it should also suit non-touch typists. Though the touch pad is good, we had to raise Windows' mouse-pointer speed to compensate for the larger desktop. The buttons have a crisp click and there's a four-way scroll controller.
This is a slim notebook, but its base stayed cool throughout our application benchmarks. It feels sturdy, and the big 160GB hard disk has drop sensors to further protect it from damage. All the ports you'll ever need are arrayed around the notebook's edges, with switches to disable the wireless networking and Bluetooth transmitters. Acer also bundles a Bluetooth VoIP phone.
This is an impressive notebook for those that need maximum computing power in a slim chassis, but at this price it should have a brighter display with better contrast.