Acer's TravelMate series of business-orientated laptops sports a buttoned-down design and normally comes in suitably muted colours. With the ultraportable TravelMate 3020 series, though, the company has let its hair down a little and come up with a striking white system.
This Core Duo-based laptop (we reviewed the 1.66GHz TM 3022WTMi model) is a good performer and has a neat built-in digital camera. However, we'd prefer an integrated optical drive (even at the expense of a little extra weight).
Most passers-by in the office who saw the TravelMate 3022WTMi commented along the lines of: "it's trying to look like the Apple MacBook". In fact, it uses Acer's standard 'Folio' design, as seen in the 3012WTMi that we reviewed earlier this year, only with a white paint job. Like its conventionally liveried stablemate, the 3022WTMi weighs 1.5kg (with the standard 3-cell battery and minus the external optical drive) and measures 298mm wide by 210mm deep by 25-32mm high. With the bigger 6-cell battery, the system weighs 1.65kg.
Thanks to its A4 footprint, the TravelMate 3022WTMi can accommodate a decent-sized screen and keyboard -- always a key consideration with an ultraportable computer. The display is a 12.1-inch TFT with a wide-screen resolution of 1,280x800 pixels (16:10 aspect ratio). It delivers a decent picture, and isn't as reflective as those on many of today's more consumer-focused laptops. Acer's GridVista software lets you setup on-screen grids of two, three or four panes into which you can drag and drop the applications you're working on, helping you to keep your Windows desktop tidy.
The keyboard is an 85-key Acer FineTouch that includes a row of 12 function keys, four cursor keys and an embedded numeric keypad. The keys give decent feedback with their 2.5mm travel, although we found the keyboard itself slightly too flexible for our taste. Navigation is handled by a touchpad with a four-way scroll button nestling between the left and right mouse buttons.
There are four quick-access buttons between the keyboard and the screen, on the left-hand side: one launches Acer's Empowering Technology utility (see below), one is user-programmable, while the remaining two launch the email client and the Web browser. Apart from the power button, which is opposite the quick-access buttons on the right, the only remaining controls are on the front fascia, for turning the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi radios on and off.
Like its 3012WTMi stablemate, the 3022WTMi has a good set of ports and slots. The left-hand side, from front to back, carries a pair of USB 2.0 ports, RJ-11 (modem) and RJ-45 (Ethernet) connectors, and an (analogue) external monitor port. On the right-hand side you'll find a Type II PC Card slot with a 5-in-1 flash card reader (SD, MMC, Memory Stick, MS Pro, xD) beneath it, plus USB 2.0 and FireWire ports. The fascia carries microphone and headphone (with S/PDIF support) ports, plus a Fast infrared port -- the latter is an increasing rarity on laptops these days.
One reason there's plenty of room for connectors is the lack of an integrated optical drive: the external DVD recorder connects to the FireWire port on the right-hand side. Obviously if you don't need to carry an optical drive, this arrangement helps to keep the system's weight down. However, the optical drive is an awkward item to plug in and arrange on a surface if you want to load up software or run a DVD movie when on the road.
The TravelMate 3022WTMi's other noteworthy design feature is the 1.3-megapixel OrbiCam camera built into the top of the screen. This can rotate through 225 degrees, in order to either face outwards or towards the user for video-conferencing. When in the latter mode, the included face-tracking software is reasonably effective.