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Acer TravelMate 8100 'Sonoma' notebook

Feature-packed and fast - and a bargain too?

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Being a Centrino-branded notebook, there's also an Intel wireless networking card installed with support for 802.11a/b/g. If you prefer to connect to your network the old fashioned way, Acer has this well covered with the inclusion of a Gigabit Ethernet controller. There's a 56Kbps modem included too, but more important is the integrated Bluetooth, so you can get online using your mobile phone.

Acer TravelMate 8104WLMiHaving a look around the chassis, you'll see that the DVD writer dominates the right-hand side, alongside three USB 2.0 ports. The front is pretty stacked with features: there are switches for both the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios and a memory card reader that accepts SD, MMC, MemoryStick and XD cards. You'll also find microphone and headphone sockets, the latter doubling as an S/PDIF port. There's an infrared port too.

The left side is populated with a single Type II PC Card slot and a SmartCard slot for added security. Acer will supply two SmartCards in the box with the machine, with one being a master card for creating copies. There's no sign of an Express Card slot, but since there aren't any Express Card peripherals available yet, that's not a problem. Also on the left is a four-pin FireWire port, another USB 2.0 port, modem socket, network connector and a D-SUB port.

At the rear is a bit of a surprise: there's a DVI-D port to complement the D-SUB port. This means that you can make use of the ATI DualView feature on the Radeon X700 and drive two external monitors. There's also an S-Video output at the rear along with a docking connector.

Acer TravelMate 8104WLMiPerformance wise, the Acer is seriously quick. The SYSmark 2002 score of 292 is way up there with the fastest Centrino notebooks we've seen, while the 3D scores are equally impressive. Running 3Dmark03 returned a score of 6151, while 2374 in 3Dmark05 is also pretty good for a Pentium M-based notebook. Both Far Cry and Doom 3 turned in scores of over 30fps at 1024 x 768 - 36fps and 34.2fps, respectively. But if Half-Life 2 is your game of choice, while you'll be more than happy with the 66.7fps score at 1024 x 768, you'll have to have anisotropic filtering and full-screen anti-aliasing turned off.

The battery life isn't astounding, but three hours isn't terrible, especially when the Acer turned in a MobileMark performance rating of 256.

Acer has produced a good looking, very well featured and extremely fast notebook, so you'd expect to be paying through the nose for it right? Wrong. Amazingly, the TravelMate 8104WLMi will only set you back £1419 including VAT, while the range starts at only £1069.

Verdict

A well-designed, very fast notebook with a great screen and tonnes of features - what more could you ask for? The Acer TravelMate 8104WLMi is an excellent machine and a bargain. I'd be tempted to go for the slightly lower spec 8103WLMi and save some cash, but ultimately it looks like the TravelMate 8100 series is going to be a hard act to beat.

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Acer TravelMate 8104WLMi
 
Rating 90%
Price £1419 inc. VAT
 
More info The Acer site

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