Acer's TravelMate 6463WLMi is so large it'll probably spend more time on your desk than in your luggage. But it has plenty of features, including a superb high-resolution screen, a built-in swivelling camera and fingerprint recognition -- it also comes at an attractive, affordable price -- around £800 online.
The TravelMate 6463WLMi is a sizeable laptop. It weighs a maximum of 3.12kg with an 8-cell main battery and a second 6-cell battery in the media bay. You can reduce this depending on your choice of battery and media-bay configuration, but only to a minimum of 2.7kg. Its desktop footprint is 360mm wide by 271mm deep and it's 36mm high.
One piece of good news for weary travellers: when you do need to carry this laptop, the two sections of the clamshell are held together by a sturdy clip that leaves no possibility of their being prised apart in transit.
Both the screen and the keyboard are superb. The 15.4-inch screen has a native resolution of 1,680x1,050 pixels, which is easily enough to have two document windows open at the same time. The wide-screen format will be especially attractive for heavy spreadsheet users, as there's a whole 330mm of viewing width.
The keyboard has plenty of space to inhabit, and Acer has used this well. The keyboard has Acer's familiar 5-degree curve, which gives the laptop a characteristic look but doesn't affect its usability in any way -- even when doing fast touch typing.
Above the half-height row of function keys is a bank of five buttons. One is the main on/off switch, while the other four can be used to launch applications. They're pre-set to launch Outlook for email, Internet Explorer for Web browsing, Acer's Empowering Technology toolbar (which accesses a range of system settings and options) and the Launch Manager software (with which you can change the configuration of all four buttons).
Beneath the keyboard sits a touchpad with a pair of left and right mouse buttons beneath it. Between the mouse buttons is a four-way scroll button that's useful for moving through longer documents, Web pages and wide spreadsheets.
Acer provides a second cursor-control mechanism in the shape of the green FineTrack button, which nestles between the G, H and B keys. This can be used with a second set of mouse buttons (handily picked out with a green stripe) sitting above the touchpad. These auxiliary mouse buttons are divided by the fingerprint scanner.
Because the screen is so wide and has such a high resolution, it takes more than two full sweeps of the touchpad to get all the way from the left to the right edge. As a result, we often found the FineTrack button to be a more effective way of controlling the cursor.
Our review sample of the TravelMate 6463WLMi runs Windows XP Pro, although it carries a sticker proclaiming 'Windows Vista Premium Ready' status. Its processor is an Intel Core 2 Duo T5500 running at 1.66GHz. This is supported by Intel's 945PM chipset and 1GB of DDR2 RAM, upgradeable to a maximum of 4GB.
Graphics are handled by ATI's Mobility Radeon X1300 GPU, which has 128MB of dedicated memory and can dynamically use up to a further 384MB of system memory as required. Your mobile data is entrusted to a shock-protected 80GB SATA hard drive spinning at 5,400rpm.