Who would buy a lightweight notebook with Windows XP and a last-generation Centrino processor? A smart buyer who wants to save a bundle. The Acer TravelMate 6291-6753 may not have cutting-edge specs, but it delivers good performance and more than six hours of battery life, thanks to its nine-cell battery. At $1,049, this is one of the best bargain 12.1-inch systems around.
Although it's not nearly as sleek and light as the more expensive Sony VAIO TZ or Toshiba Portg R500, the 4.8-pound TravelMate 6291 is a handsome charcoal-gray-and-black notebook. A mirrored strip shows adds a touch of flair above the comfortable, nearly full-sized keyboard, while the silver outline surrounding the wide touchpad looks a tad retro. Beneath the keyboard is a convenient four-way scrolling button flanked by two solid but quiet touchpad buttons.
A vertical row of quick-launch buttons to the right of the keyboard operates the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections, launches the browser, and fires up your e-mail client. Next to the power button is an "e" button that launches a toolbar for tweaking everything from security settings to power options. Status lights near the hinge indicate Caps Lock, Num Lock, and CPU activity.
Acer includes a generous amount of features for the price, including a VGA webcam above the 12.1-inch display, a 120GB hard drive, and a DVD burner. You also get a 5-in-1 memory card reader and a PC Card slot, ideal for adding the cheaper variety of mobile broadband cards. At first, the matte screen looked small because of the thick bezel surrounding it, but the 1280 x 800-pixel panel was plenty bright and crisp on our tests. Just be prepared to zoom in a bit on Web pages and Word docs.
The TravelMate 6291-6753 offers plenty of pep for an XP machine--even without the latest Centrino chipset. The 1.66-GHz Core 2 Duo T5500 coupled with 2GB of RAM yielded a good PCMark05 score of 3,031. That beats the $899 Averatec 2371 with 1GB of RAM by more than 300 points, although that system runs the more resource-hungry Windows Vista and weighs 0.7 pounds less. The TravelMate 6291 earned 248 on MobileMark 07, a seemingly very good score, but because the test is relatively new, we're hesitant to give it too much weight just yet. Graphics performance was expectedly mediocre, with a 3DMark score of 1,618.
While the processor is so 2006, Acer does include the latest wireless technology, and the 802.11n Wi-Fi connection turned in impressive data rates above 18 Mbps at both 15 and 50 feet away from our access point. Endurance is this notebook's greatest strength; the beefy nine-cell battery (which hangs off the back) provided a very long 6 hours and 18 minutes of power. The TravelMate 6291-6753 lasted for nearly 4.5 hours on our DVD rundown test, which means you should be able to get through a double feature on your next flight.
Assuming you don't have the need--or desire--to run Vista, the Acer TravelMate 6291-6753 is an excellent value for highly mobile users. It's a smart investment for students and frequent flyers on a budget.
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