Acer TravelMate 3000
At a Glance
Acer TravelMate 3000
Inexpensive model comes with two batteries, a four-in-one media-card reader, and an external optical drive.
The Acer TravelMate 3000 comes with two batteries, is small enough that you can pick it up with one hand, and costs a reasonable $1299. On the other hand, it lacks a built-in optical drive, and the keyboard is uncomfortable.
Unlike most notebooks, the TravelMate 3000 comes standard with two interchangeable (though not hot-swappable) batteries. To minimize the machine's weight and bulk, use the three-cell battery, which sits flush with the case. Unfortunately, this battery lasted only 1.8 hours in our tests, about 1.5 hours less than the average ranked laptop in our Top 15. For more juice, use the six-cell battery, which extends the back of the unit by about an inch and adds a little over 3 ounces of extra weight. This battery lasted just shy of 4 hours--more than twice as long as the three-cell battery.
With the three-cell battery, the TravelMate 3000 has a minimum travel weight (without cords or external pieces) of 3.2 pounds, but this figure reflects the absence of a built-in optical drive. The TravelMate 3000 comes bundled with a handsome black-and-silver external USB DVD-ROM and CD-RW combo drive; the drive, whose color scheme matches that of the notebook, attaches to the right-side FireWire port. A built-in optical drive would have made more sense, though it would have raised the minimum travel weight.
I liked the touchpad-equipped keyboard's four user-programmable hot keys for launching applications, but I had trouble hitting the half-size punctuation keys. The two mouse buttons and the four-way scroll button were too small and too close to the edge of the keyboard to be comfortable. Another quibble: The TravelMate 3000's stereo speakers were so weak that at first I thought the laptop was a single-speaker model.
I did like several things about the design. The TravelMate 3000 has a latchless 12.1-inch wide screen that closes short of the front edge for protection against bumps. You can monitor Bluetooth and 802.11g Wi-Fi wireless communications from front-mounted LED buttons. Acer's delightful GridVista software increases wide-screen productivity by letting you drag and drop application windows into one of four preset grid windows. No more manually sizing windows to fill the screen. The TravelMate 3000 boasts a four-in-one card reader, a PC Card slot, and a 124-pin backside connection for attaching the optional $299 EzDock for desktop cable management. (Our test unit lacked the ExpressCard slot advertised in the marketing brochure.)
Our test unit came with a 1.73-GHz Pentium M 740 processor and 512MB of RAM, and it achieved a WorldBench 5 score of 78--performance on a par with that of the other four laptops we've tested with this processor and amount of RAM.
Finally, the TravelMate 3000 is upgradable: Both memory slots and the hard drive are easy to access, though the procedure for reaching the latter is not documented. This led to my removing the wrong set of screws at first. (Tip: You don't want the ones located next to the hard drive, but the two midcase screws labeled with an "H.") Aside from missing information on how to upgrade the hard drive, the printed and Acrobat manuals are thorough and easy to search.
The lack of a built-in optical drive and the so-so keyboard mar this lightweight notebook; however, the price is reasonable for an ultraportable.