Yes, tablets hog the mind share in the mobile computing device area today. However, millions of workers still need to write or modify hundreds of millions of text documents, spreadsheets, and, sorry to say, PowerPoint presentations. For these mobile jobs, a good old-fashioned laptop remains the tool of choice. And for general work on documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, the new Acer TravelMate TMP255-M-5467, aka the TravelMate P2, is willing and able to do the job.
Acer Inc., one of the world's largest manufacturers of laptops, desktops, tablets, and other electronic devices, currently has six laptop families. The TravelMate P2 group is the Goldilocks of midlevel workers and performance range: not too hot, so it doesn’t need extra power for gamers or engineers, and not too cold, so it eschews smaller sizes and older CPUs. This box hits that nostalgic sweet spot for users looking for good power (i5 CPU from Intel), size (15.6-inch screen), and an optical drive (believe it or not). Other P2 models include 14- and 17.3-inch models, and i3 processors to save some shekels.
One piece of assembly is all that's necessary: Attach the battery back to the back of the laptop. Shipping with the battery attached can cause problems on delivery, which is why new owners have to take the extra five seconds to snap the battery to the chassis. Then just charge it up for a bit using the included smaller-than-usual power brick before starting the configuration process.
With an all-black cover and silver letters spelling "acer" on the cover, this is not the laptop for bling-craving executives (below). The 1,366 x 768 nontouch screen provides clear text and good color, as you would expect from a company that manufacturers multiple lines of monitors. There are two USB 2.0 ports and one USB 3.0 port, VGA, headphones, full-size HDMI, Gigabit Ethernet, and an SD card slot. Wireless 802.11a /b /g /n are supported, and the integrated webcam doubles as a security tool with the included face-recognition software.
Our unit included the CD/DVD writer, leaving the only other option: a bump of RAM from 4GB to 8GB. The i5-4200U processor runs at 1.6GHz or 2.6GHz with Turbo Boost, and has dual cores. Last but not least is Bluetooth support, and a two-year warranty for all of these goodies.
Starting up the laptop for the first time, we were pleased to see that it has Microsoft Windows 7 Pro 64-bit installed. Windows 8.1 is included, but so many companies are just now moving to Windows 7 that it's probably smart for Acer to make all of its nontouch-enabled laptops start with Windows 7.
Bloatware? Not really, but there are some extra programs. Acer includes a "Buy Online" icon that goes to its ecommerce site. McAfee's Internet Security Suite and Norton Online Backup trial programs are waiting, as well as Acer's ProShield authentication security tool that includes the aforementioned facial recognition. Additional Acer management tools support ProShield. So there’s not much bloatware at all, compared with past excesses from many vendors.
Acer does include a Welcome Center portal to get everything registered and configured (below). If you have other Acer mobile devices, you can tie this one to your existing AcerCloud and AcerCloud Portal. The facial-recognition authentication process takes little time to configure and worked quickly each time we used it.
Down to Business
To test an office suite, we downloaded LibreOffice 4.3 for free from the not-for-profit organization The Document Foundation. And since this laptop is as fast as or faster than many midlevel desktops today, performance was crisp on documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. Wireless connections latched on quickly, with 54Mbps throughput on our test network, which is full speed.
No useful business applications come with the laptop except for a trail offer of Office 365, which is why we downloaded LibreOffice. Skype is included, and it works fine with the webcam and microphone. The speakers in the machine are worth just as little as most laptop speakers, but if you plug in some earbuds the fine sound quality will mask the barista mangling customer names on your next trip to Starbucks.
Battery life is listed as four hours, and that seemed about right during our usability tests. Again, not too short and not too long, just a good average, much like the rest of the computer. The keyboard causes no finger-twisting to reach all the keys (below), and the 15.6-inch body makes the spacing wide enough for even the fat-handed.
This laptop does weigh just over 5 pounds, however. That's nothing if you plan to carry it down the hall for a meeting or bring it home occasionally. But road warriors will demand a smaller, lighter, 3-pound machine. Everyone else will be well served by the TravelMate P2.
Unless you have employees who require special laptop features, the TravelMate P2 can be your default laptop of choice. Road warriors will want something smaller, gamers and graphics people will want something with extra horsepower, and executives will want more bling. But the large group of people doing the real work will be able to do that work on the Acer TravelMate P2 with ease.
JAMES E. GASKIN is a freelance writer and former reseller based in Mesquite, Texas.
FEATURES (COURTESY OF ACER)
- Operating System: Windows 8.1 Professional 64-bit; Windows 7 Professional 64-bit (available through downgrade rights from Windows 8)
- Processor: Intel Dual-Core i5-4200U
- Processor Speed: 1.60GHz
- Standard Memory: 4GB DDR3L SDRAM (8GB maximum)
- Memory Card Supported: Secure Digital (SD) Card
- Hard Drive Capacity: 500GB
- Optical Drive Type: DVD-Writer
- Screen Size: 15.6-inch
- Display Screen Type: Active Matrix TFT Color LCD
- Screen Mode and Resolution: HD 1,366 x 768
- Backlight Technology: LED
- Graphics Controller: Intel HD 4400
- Wireless LAN Standard: IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n
- Ethernet Technology: Gigabit Ethernet
- Built-in Devices: Webcam, microphone, fingerprint reader, HDMI, 2 USB 2.0 ports, 1 USB 3.0 port, VGA, network (RJ-45), keyboard, touchpad
- Battery Type and Capacity: Lithium Ion (Li-Ion), 2500 mAh
- Maximum Battery Run Time: 4 Hrs.
- Maximum Power Supply Wattage: 40W
- Weight (Approximate): 5.18 lbs.
- Wireless LAN: Acer Nplify 802.11a/b/g/n
- Kensington Lock Slot
- BIOS Passwords: User, Supervisor, HDD
- Two-year Limited Warranty
Street Price: $590 and up