Acer TravelMate P6 review

Pros

  • Good general performance
  • Decent graphics
  • Excellent battery life for CPU power
  • Good port array (ExpressCard/34 & eSATA)

Cons

  • Slightly pricey
  • Average keyboard

A portable aimed at business is a different beast to one intended for the home. Where a consumer-oriented device will focus on multimedia features and styling, a business machine will concentrate on provide a decent amount of processing power for as long as possible on battery. Acer's attractively named TravelMate P633-V-73528G50ikk illustrates this well. It's a sober black beast that majors on functionality and features rather than appearance, and Acer has made different hardware choices than you would expect for a consumer system aimed at playing games or Internet cafe portability.

The TravelMate uses a relatively compact form factor, with a 13.3in screen and weighing in at 1.9kg. However, the version we tested had a huge 87Wh removable battery, which sticks down at the back to provide an extra foot. This raises the rear of the notebook, providing a more comfortable typing angle, alongside the obvious benefit of extra battery life, of which more later.

The P633-V-73528G50ikk is one of the top members of Acer's TravelMate P6 series and comes with an Intel Core i7 3520M processor. This is a 2.9GHz dual-core CPU from Intel's latest Ivy Bridge generation, and the top dual-core processor in its class, with 4MB of Level 3 cache rather than the 3MB of the Core i3 or i5 alternatives. It supports the usual Intel enhancements, including Turbo Boost 2.0 and Hyper-Threading. In the case of the former, this means a single core can increase to a very healthy 3.6GHz when required (but not both cores at the same time), whilst the latter divides each physical core into two virtual ones for improved multi-threaded performance.

The main thing to note here is that this is not a quad-core processor, but it is a very quick dual-core one, which will be more than ample for most mobile computing tasks. The processor is backed by 8GB of DDR3 memory, which will be sufficient for some years to come. Unlike more consumer-oriented models, the TravelMate also makes do with just the graphics that are integrated into the Intel Core i7 chip. However, as this is the latest Ivy Bridge generation, the graphics are Intel's HD 4000, which have entered the realm of being half decent even for gaming, with almost twice the performance of the previous HD 3000 incarnation.

The 13.3in display sports the usual 1,366 x 768 resolution for this size. It's not the most vibrant and colourful notebook screen on the market, but its matt finish means it has good viewing angles, particularly horizontally, thanks to the lack of reflections. The speakers are rather weedy, though. They don't distort at high volume, but lack more bass than even is usual for notebook speakers. If you were to listen to music or watch a movie on the TravelMate, headphones would be recommended.

Surprisingly, for a business notebook, we found the travel on the keyboard a little shallow. But the keys are a comfortable size, making touch-typing relatively smooth, although the orientation bumps on the "f" and "j" keys are a little too subtle as well. The touchpad is very traditional in design, with a relatively small touch area by contemporary standards and two reassuringly physical buttons at the bottom. A fingerprint reader sits between the two buttons, giving you a greater level of security, in tandem with the trusted platform module built into the underlying hardware.

There's no solid-state disk on hand to help squeeze out extra battery life. Instead, a 500GB Western Digital Scorpio Blue hard disk provides more capacity than you usually get from a SSD. As usual for this form factor, there's no optical drive either. But the TravelMate's range of expansion ports goes noticeably beyond what you would expect from a 13.3in-screened notebook. There are two USB ports on the left, plus one on the right, and all are USB 3.0 speed. Also on the left is a SDXC and MemoryStick Pro-compatible memory card reader. But, much more unusually, there's an ExpressCard/34 slot as well. So if there are any ExpressCard peripherals needed, this is one of the few notebooks this size to offer the facility to add them. On the right, the comprehensive port allocation continues with Gigabit LAN, VGA, full-sized HDMI, plus separate minijacks for heaphones and an external microphone. But there's another unusual inclusion here as well, with a combined USB and eSATA port, should a high-speed external storage connection using this connection type be required. Overall, the only thing missing we can think of is Firewire, and that is rapidly falling out of favour anyway in the Windows PC world.

For its intended use, the TravelMate provides pretty decent performance across the board. The Cinebench R11.5 rendering score of 3.37 places this notebook somewhere in between the top ultrabooks and entertainment-oriented desktop replacements, which will mean plenty of horsepower for business-oriented tasks. Even though this isn't a notebook aimed at gaming (except maybe when your manager isn't looking...), performance in this area is still respectable, showing the grunt available from Intel HD 4000 graphics. The Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL result of 18.51 is respectable, whilst 6,610 in 3DMark06 and 729 in 3DMark11 imply that, whilst this is no gamer's choice, applications requiring OpenGL or DirectX 3D acceleration won't be left chugging.

Perhaps most importantly of all, the TravelMate's large 6000mAh battery pays off in spades for life away from the mains. In our intensive 100 per cent processor and graphics usage test, the TravelMate managed an impressive 145 minutes. This isn't quite what the best Ultrabooks equipped with ultra-low voltage processors can manage, such as HP's Folio 13 or the best netbooks, such as Toshiba's NB510. But it's way ahead of the average desktop replacement, which still often stretch the definition of portable computing. The TravelMate should easily manage a couple of movies on the move, but more crucially will provide most of a full day's work away from the power socket, making it very fit for its business purpose.

Verdict

For the intended business user, Acer's TravelMate P633-V-73528G50ikk is a very functional and versatile laptop. It offers a good balance of long battery life and processing power, and the comprehensive range of ports and expansion possibilities will make it useful for a wide variety of applications. One downside of the TravelMate P633-V-73528G50ikk is its price of over £900, which places it a little above the norm for 13.3in notebooks, although not as much as the most stylish options, such as Toshiba's Portege Z930-10Q. Nevertheless, as a flexible business companion, there's a lot to commend it.

Manufacturer and Product

Acer TravelMate P633-V-73528G50ikk

Processor

2.9GHz Intel Core i7 3520M

RAM

8GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM

Graphics

Intel HD 4000

Hard disk

500GB Western Digital Scorpio Blue hard disk

Optical disc

None

Display

13.3in ComfyView TFT with 1,366 x 768 pixels

Networking

Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0

Interfaces

3 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB/eSATA, VGA, HDMI, LAN, SD card reader, ExpressCard/34, headphones, microphone

Width x Depth x Height

325 x 235 x 24.8mm

Weight

1.9kg

Warranty

1 year collect and return