Acer TravelMate 3043WTMi review
12.1 in 1,280x800 display, 1.7kg, 1.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5500, 1.00GB RAM, 120GB disk, Windows XP Professional
If you want a laptop with all the features of a desktop PC, you'll have to settle for something big and heavy.
Small and light computers, though easy to travel with, rarely have the memory, storage space or processing muscle to tackle demanding jobs.But there's an exception to every rule, and Acer's TravelMate 3043WTMi is an ultra-portable with a powerful dual-core processor and plenty of storage.
The 3043WTMi isn't the tiniest notebook we've ever seen, but it's small and light enough that it wouldn't be any trouble on a daily commute. It has a 12.1-inch widescreen display, which is perfect for an ultra-portable machine as it's roughly the same size and shape as a good keyboard and touch pad layout. Unfortunately, there's a comparatively thick border around the screen and keyboard, making the notebook a little larger than ideal. The screen doesn't clip shut, so you need to take care not to pack it in a bag with loose objects that could get inside and cause scratches, but the hinges are stiff enough to stop it flapping around when open.
I'll be seeing you
At the top of the lid is a 1.3 megapixel webcam, mounted in a bar that can rotate to point at or away from you. It's useful for web conferences, but the microphone is at the base of the keyboard, under a typist's right wrist, so if you need to take notes during a chat session you might sound muffled.
It's common to find layout compromises or small keys on an ultra-portable's keyboard, but Acer has kept the TravelMate's straightforward. The only regularly used key that's been shrunk is the left-hand Shift, and touch-typists will quickly adjust to it. All the keys are sensibly placed, including Control, which is at the bottom left. This should suit anyone who uses Windows shortcuts, such as Control-S to save a document. The keys feel as if they'll stand up to a few years' use, though we'd prefer them to reach a more definite stop at the bottom of their travel.
Ultra-portables often use comparatively slow ultra low voltage (ULV) processors, but this one has an Intel Core 2 Duo. Though its 1.66GHz clock speed isn't particularly fast, it gives the TravelMate an impressive amount of processing power for such a compact computer. With plenty of memory, it's able to make short work of heavy-duty jobs, such as video encoding or editing lots of photos at the same time, and it flies through more everyday tasks. As we'd expect, though, there's no powerful graphics processor, so modern games are out of the question.
If you'll be storing large files such as videos or high-resolution photos, you might appreciate the 120GB hard disk. This has enough room for a large collection of media files, though, frustratingly, Acer configures it as two separate volumes, so you need to be organised about which drive you use to store which files. If you run out of space, you can use the supplied external DVD drive to burn copies of files.
The same but different
This notebook comes in two different versions which, unusually, have the same specification. Both models come with both a slimline 3-cell battery and a more heavy-duty 6-cell device. Even using this, battery life isn't great, and you'd need to take both with you for more than four hours' use away from a power socket. On the more expensive model, reviewed here, there's also an excellent Bluetooth phone which you can use for internet telephony services such as Skype. Though both have 1GB of memory, the more expensive model has an extra slot free for future upgrades.