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Acer TravelMate 8100 'Sonoma' notebook

Feature-packed and fast - and a bargain too?

Review Acer must be making life very difficult for other notebook manufacturers. The company has built a solid reputation for manufacturing high-quality portables at very attractive prices, and the TravelMate 8104WLMi is no exception, writes Riyad Emeran.

Acer TravelMate 8104WLMiThe 8104WLMi is Acer's first 'Sonoma' notebook, and it's a pretty good first effort. The brushed silver finish is a bit samey these days, but it still looks good - having the Acer logo placed in the corner of the lid rather than the middle is also commendably different. With dimensions of 36.3 x 26.6 x 3.4cm and a weight of 2.8kg, the 8104WLMi just about falls into the portable notebook category. It doesn't feel like too much of a burden when carried around.

Opening the lid reveals Acer's trademark curved keyboard. Some people hate them, but I quite like the curve. The action of the keyboard is pretty good, although not up to the standard of an IBM ThinkPad - is anything? There's a little flex in the keyboard when typing at speed, but not enough to be annoying. The travel on each key is long enough, and the break and spring back are both well weighted. To be honest, though, I can't be too critical of the keyboard since this is a pre-production sample.

Below the spacebar is a large touchpad, presented in a widescreen aspect ratio to match the screen. There are two selector buttons, along with a scroll button. As touchpads go, there's nothing wrong with this one, although I wish that Acer would go down the trackpoint route.

Acer has pushed the boat out when it comes to the screen. The 15.4in widescreen display has a resolution of 1680 x 1050 which gives you more display real estate than most desktop screens do. You can never have too much screen acreage, and working with the Acer is a joy, especially if you need to have multiple windows open all the time.

But since this is a Sonoma notebook, much of the interesting stuff is under the hood. Beating at the heart of the 8104WLMi is a 2GHz Pentium M CPU, backed up by 1GB of 533MHz DDR 2 memory. The PCI Express support in Sonoma is highlighted by the inclusion of a 128MB ATI Mobility Radeon X700, one of the fastest mobile graphics chips available outside desktop replacement notebooks. The faster Mobility Radeon X800 and Nvidia GeForce Go 6800 chips require significant cooling and power, so appear only in large, deskbound machines.

Acer TravelMate 8104WLMi

Acer has decided not to make use of Sonoma's Serial ATA support, and installed an Ultra ATA hard disk instead. That said, it is a 100GB drive, so it should keep even the most space-hungry user happy. If you do want to offload some data it won't be too much a problem - Acer has also included a DVD writer which will burn to DVD+R/RW, DVD-R/RW, DVD-RAM and CD-R/RW.

Next page: Verdict

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