capsule review

Acer TravelMate 3002WTCi

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Acer TravelMate 3002WTCi Notebook

    PCWorld Rating

    Fully user-upgradeable and comes standard with two batteries, including a high-capacity one that performed well on our tests.

Acer TravelMate 3002WTCi
Photograph: Chris Manners

Despite some admirable qualities, including great battery life, the Acer TravelMate 3002WTCi would not be my first ultraportable choice. It's a snazzy-looking little wedge-shaped unit that weighs only 3.2 pounds and costs just $1199 (as of 6/26/2006). However, a clunky external optical drive and a cramped keyboard layout spoil its appeal.

With its optical drive and power adapter, the 3002WTCi weighs a not-very-ultraportable 5.3 pounds. Not only is that external drive something else to keep track of, but it's a DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive, which offers far less storage capacity than the rewritable DVD drives found in competing models.

I liked the keyboard's slant and its four user-programmable quick-launch keys, but it was hard to type on, mainly due to its half-size punctuation keys. I found these keys hard to hit consistently. Ditto for the Page Up and Page Down keys, which are positioned horizontally in the lower right corner instead of vertically down the right side. The four-way scroll button on my unit was so stiff it was almost unusable.

The 3002WTCi is loaded with features, including a vivid 12.1-inch WXGA screen and both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless communications. Each wireless technology has its own handy button on the front of the notebook that serves as a combination status light and on/off switch. The TravelMate's complement of ports is also generous for a small notebook: Three USB ports, a FireWire port, and a four-in-one-card reader.

The 3002WTCi might be the only notebook on the market right now, ultraportable or full size, that comes standard with not just one but two swappable, rear-mounted batteries, one of which is a high-capacity power pack. Although the three-cell battery lasted only 1.8 hours in our tests, the twice-as-powerful six-cell battery endured an impressive 4.7 hours. The bigger battery extends the back of the unit by an inch but adds only 3 ounces to the total weight. The batteries can't be hot-swapped, unfortunately, but it's still nice to have them.

The unit's speed is decent--the 3002WTCi uses a 1.73-GHz Pentium M processor--but not phenomenal, such as what we've seen from models using newer dual-core chips from Intel. As configured with 512MB of RAM, this Acer earned a WorldBench 5 score of 75. That places it in line with the average of 74 earned by four other laptops we've tested with a 1.73-GHz Pentium M 740 processor and 512MB of RAM. While the notebook is slower at multitasking in multiple windows because of the single-core processor, it's plenty fast enough for most applications.

Although this fact isn't documented, the 3002WTCi is fully user-upgradable: Its 60GB hard drive and two 256MB memory modules are easily accessible via bottom compartments. (The otherwise thorough Acrobat manual omits hard drive upgrades, which led to my removing the wrong set of screws. Hint: The screws are located midcase and labeled with an a??Ha??.) For desktop cable management, a 124-pin connection on the back lets you add Acer's optional $299 ezDock.

The 3002WTCi is nicely designed overall, and hunt-and-peck typists who do mainstream work on the go might be happy with the compact unit. Others looking for a better typing experience in an ultraportable should keep looking.

Carla Thornton

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Fully user-upgradeable and comes standard with two batteries, including a high-capacity one that performed well on our tests.

    Pros

    • Light, highly portable design
    • Has great battery life

    Cons

    • Speakers are poor
    • Optical drive is external
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