Acer TravelMate 803LCi
At a Glance
The TravelMate 803LCi is nicely equipped, smartly designed, and fast, but it won't weigh you down. High points for this light, handsome, charcoal-and-silver unit include a Smart Card reader for an extra layer of security, built-in 802.11b, an option to add Bluetooth, and four USB 2.0 ports--more than most notebooks have. A sleek, curved array of status lights above the keyboard, as well as a plastic sleeve on the bottom for holding a business card, lend extra flair.
Running Intel's 1.6-GHz Pentium M chip, the 803LCi lasted nearly 5 hours in our battery tests, and it pulled down a top-notch PC WorldBench 4 score of 125--tying Gateway's 200XL for the highest score we've seen to date. At just 6.1 pounds (not counting the power adapter), it's also lighter than most of the notebooks we've tested with a 15-inch screen.
Though the touchpad worked fine for us, typing on the keyboard took some getting used to, due to shallow key travel of only 2.5mm instead of the standard 3mm. The keyboard layout has a slight arc, bending 5 degrees upward on the edges for better ergonomics. While this design may be better for your hands in the long run, it feels odd if you are used to a normal, flat notebook keyboard. Our review model came with an 8X DVD-ROM drive, but the default configuration boasts an 8X DVD-ROM and 24X/10X/24X CD-RW combination drive.
With parallel, FireWire, and S-Video TV-out ports, this TravelMate is ready for you to connect both older and newer peripherals. Four programmable shortcut buttons above the keyboard launch applications or Web sites, and two more nonprogrammable ones on the front turn the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless network interfaces on and off. (A Centrino notebook, the 803LCi comes equipped with built-in antennas and Intel's Pro/Wireless LAN 2100 802.11b radio card. Bluetooth will be available later this year.) The 803LCi's memory slot (one was open in our unit) and its hard drive are located in compartments on the bottom that require a screwdriver to access.
You can't swap out the optical drive for a second battery, but you can add a second hard drive, currently a drive up to 60GB. For desktop use, Acer sells a $124 port replicator that docks to a 100-pin connector on the back of the notebook; the replicator adds two more USB 2.0 ports (for a total of six), as well as a serial port and two separate PS/2 ports for attaching an older keyboard and mouse. The 803LCi's stereo speakers aren't very loud or full-sounding, making them suitable mostly for system audio alerts and low background music. We found the Acer System User's Guide provided on the hard drive in Acrobat format thorough and easy to search, but the printed version was not available at the time this review was written.
Lightweight for its screen size and possessing a Smart Card reader for added security, the TravelMate 803LCi should be high on the buy list for corporate veterans of the road.