MOBILE COMPUTING thankfully stopped being a workout routine years ago. If you're "lucky" enough to remember the original Compaq Portable (Luggable), you know that when a trip ended, one arm was two inches longer than the other. Modern systems, like the new Acer TravelMate P614-51, are light-years (and we do mean “light”) beyond the old days. Less is more? Yes, if you mean less size and weight and more power.
Acer calls this Ultrabook system ultra-light, ultra-powerful, and ultra-secure. We know it looks ultra-professional in matte black with brushed nickel highlights (the Acer nameplate and two hinges). The back of the unit has a rounded base with a row of vents that looks like a pickup truck grill.
The model we received came in a cardboard box, not a slick retail package. It's an impressive 14-inch laptop, with a large and responsive trackpad and a keyboard that's just under 11 inches across. Not quite full-sized, but plenty large enough for easy typing. The 1920x1080 screen is sharp and clear, with deep blacks and bright colors.
Although it's only 0.65 inches tall, ports on the port side include HDMI, USB 3.0, USB-C, headphone, and a tiny round power port for the non-USB-C charger. Good news: The USB-C port also accepts a charge, so if you lose the small power brick with an odd and nonstandard charger you can use any other USB-C charger as well.
On the right side, the ports include another USB 3.0 and the microSD card reader slot. Between the two, amazingly, is an RJ-45 wired Ethernet port. Yes, on an Ultrabook laptop with a bottom section about the same size as an RJ-45 jack. How did they do it? The bottom of the port hinges down, using the space above the desktop provided by the four rubber feet. Way to go, Acer engineers. Thumbs up to you from all the IT support people who won't have to explain to users why they suddenly need a dongle to connect to Ethernet when their old laptop didn't need one. Of course, the dongle replacement vendors will lose some sales, but that's OK. This is the first thin and light laptop we've seen in several years that directly supports wired Gigabit Ethernet.
Not that you must have an Ethernet port today, of course. Acer's Wi-Fi support is excellent and includes IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, or the full gamut of current options. Blazing fast through the lab's Linksys EA9500 router, it pegged the needle on the full download speed we have of 200 Mbps. Network access via Wi-Fi or the Gigabit Ethernet port was always snappy.
The on/off switch doubles as a fingerprint reader, and the included webcam has a sliding cover to block the lens, two advanced security features. Trusted Platform Module 2.0 and vPro remote technology help this comply with all endpoint management frameworks that rely on vPro client tools.