The Acer TravelMate 2480-2153's super-low $539 price tag will shine like a skyward beacon to bargain hunters everywhere. And luckily, said bargain hunters won't be disappointed. You don't get many bells and whistles, but this portable 14.1-inch system delivers a good mix of features and performance for the money.
We found the 2480's silver-and-black case compact and aesthetically pleasing. Flipping open the lid reveals a 14.1-inch, 1280 x 800-pixel widescreen display. As with the TravelMate 8210, the 2480's screen looked a bit washed out and dull, even with the brightness settings cranked. Watching DVDs was less than thrilling, but the matte-finish screen is fine for Word processing and surfing the Web.
Looking further down you'll notice a built-in microphone, ostensibly for voice calling via VoIP, as well as a keyboard and touchpad. The smile-shaped keyboard involves a very small learning curve for touch typists and delivered good tactile feedback. The touchpad was smooth and accurate, and we found the directional rocker control a welcome addition, especially for Web surfing.
Around the edges, the TravelMate 2480 sports a nice mix of inputs and outputs. On the front, the 2480 features three inline audio jacks (mic, headphone, and analog input), plus a Wi-Fi switch. A slot for flash media cards resides on the left edge, standard on all TravelMates, and reads MultiMediaCard, Secure Digital, Memory Stick, Memory Stick PRO, and xD-Picture cards. Below that is an ExpressCard slot.
Further along the edge you'll notice one USB port and an S-Video output. Around back you'll find an Ethernet jack and two more USB ports. The modem jack and a CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo drive are on the right. We found the lack of a DVD writer disappointing but completely understandable for the price.
As far as performance goes, the 2480 runs on a 1.6-MHz Celeron M processor, which sputtered a bit when loading up Internet Explorer, PowerDVD, and Windows Media Player. Similarly, the 2480 turned in a below-average 1,240 on PCMark05. We filed this away as a reasonable sacrifice to the bargain gods; nonetheless, you won't be soaring through any applications with this budget notebook.
For simple tasks, the 2480's 512MB of DDR II SDRAM (expandable to 2GB) performed fine, even with multiple Explorer windows and Web-browsing tabs open and music playing, with little to no slowdown. Add a virus scan in the background, though, and you might as well take your lunch break. The 5,400-rpm hard drive barely made a peep, and we appreciate the 80GB of storage space. The hard drive is protected with Disk Anti-Shock Protection but doesn't include an accelerometer to protect it and your data from falls.
The base model comes bundled with Vista Basic, but tepid buyers can opt for the XP Professional-powered TravelMate 2480-2698, which sports the same specs, for $80 more. As for software, Acer provides its eEmpowering software suite, which includes a variety of applications. Students and businesspeople alike will get plenty of use out of ePresentation, which tweaks settings for displaying the notebook's output on a larger screen or a projector, making for easy connections in the classroom or boardroom. eRecovery sets restore points and backups, and eData Security creates a Personal Secure Disk and encrypts sensitive files. Finally, ePower management lets you tweak your power-consumption options (screen brightness, CPU usage, and network toggling).
While ePower Management does help with squeezing every bit of juice from the 2480's lithium-ion battery, we got only about 1 hour and 44 minutes on a DVD rundown test--below average for a thin-and-light notebook. Even so, you should be able to get about 2.5 hours of life when performing regular productivity tasks.
Better news for students in cramped dorms or businesspeople exiled to coffee shops is that the 2480 performed admirably on our wireless strength tests, especially for a non-draft N system: The 2480 managed about 15.6 Mbps at 15 feet and 13.2 Mbps at 50 feet, which is right on target for a system of this class.
The TravelMate 2480's bottom line will certainly satisfy cash-strapped students or home users on very tight budgets, as the price is among the lowest you'll find. If you don't mind having a slightly smaller 14-inch display, which offers a balance between mobility and screen real estate compared with 15.4-inch models, the Acer TravelMate 2480 is a very good deal.
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