Acer TravelMate 290LMi
At a Glance
Editors' Note: At the time of this writing, this particular model was available only through Best Buy. Other variants of the TravelMate 290 are available directly from other retailers.
The Acer TravelMate 290LMi wrung nearly 5 hours of operation out of its battery in our tests--not the best performance we've seen, but still very impressive. The 290LMi, a Centrino Wi-Fi portable, has a hardware switch on the left side that makes it simple to turn the 802.11b wireless network card on and off. Another highlight is the DVD-R/RW drive, which is located on the front of the notebook where it's easy to reach.
We had to strain to hear movie dialogue through the weak built-in stereo speakers. Pick up a good set of headphones unless you're a silence-is-golden type.
Equipped with a 1.3-GHZ/600-MHz Pentium M processor, the 290LMi earned a PC WorldBench 4 score of 121--a hair below the average speed that laptops with the fastest 1.6-GHz/600-MHz Pentium M chip have earned in our tests. Business users should like the 290LMi's conservative gray and silver case tones. And its weight won't drag you down, as the notebook weighs just 6.3 pounds (not counting the power adapter).
The connections are fairly comprehensive, including a parallel port, three USB 2.0 ports, a TV-out port, and a FireWire port. The hard drive and memory are easy to access and remove; in the configuration we reviewed, though, both memory slots were filled, so upgrading memory would require you to toss at least 256MB of RAM first. Acer does not offer a configuration through its Web site that uses a single 512MB DIMM (which would leave a vacant slot for upgrading), but you can request it in a customized configuration.
The optical drive is removable, too, and you can upgrade to a rewritable DVD drive, but Acer doesn't sell any other type of device for the modular bay, such as a secondary battery or hard drive. There is also no provision for a docking station.
The keys on the 290LMi's keyboard felt a little wobbly to us, and the layout took some getting used to, as the Page Up and Page Down keys were placed horizontally instead of vertically. However, we found it easy to type on, and it includes two reprogrammable launch buttons. Documentation consists of one thin print manual that covers the basics but not much more, though there is also an extensive online manual.
With its speed, long battery life, wireless readiness, and DVD recorder, the TravelMate 290LMi is an attractive portable for individual consumers and for small businesses who need to handle or create large multimedia files on the go. The lack of a docking station, however, makes it less convenient as a desktop replacement.