Review: Acer TravelMate Makes a Useful Companion
When I unpacked the Acer TravelMate B113, the first thing I noticed was its lightweight, solid construction. The hinged, 11.6-inch, 1366x768 pixel high-definition LCD screen can be bent almost flat. Measuring 11.2 inches wide by 8 inches deep and a little more than one inch thick, the ultrabook weighs a mere three pounds, making it quite portable.
Because the keys are not flush with the keyboard frame, annoying particles can be easily swept away. Measuring 3.5 inches wide by 2 inches deep, the touchpad provides a responsive feel and includes multigesture control, such as pinch to zoom.
Inside the TravelMate, an Intel Core i3-3217U dual-core processor hums along at 1.8 gigahertz. An ample four gigabytes of DDR3 RAM come standard on the B113, with an additional slot available for a maximum of 8GB. The 6-cell lithium-ion battery raises the back of the ultrabook a bit so it’s slightly inclined when resting on a flat surface. That’s OK for me but may not be for everyone. In testing, the battery provides about five and a half hours of continuous use.
The device sports a 1280x1024 1.2-megapixel webcam just above the screen. Video output can be directed through a full 15-pin VGA port or the HDMI port. Connectivity choices include Bluetooth 4.0 for devices such as headsets and full-size keyboards, 802.11a/b/g/n for Wi-Fi, and even an old-fashioned Ethernet port for a wired connection.
Why It Works for IT
Many ultrabooks sacrifice connectivity and available ports, but not this TravelMate. Acer offers two USB 2.0 ports on the right and one USB 3.0 port on the left. The HDMI and VGA ports also reside on the left, joined by a full-size RJ45 port for wired connectivity — a rarity in this space. The network port is especially useful for IT managers to push policies and software before enabling wireless. In a welcome design element, none of the ports are located on the back.
TravelMate hard drive rotations per minute
Many IT managers must choose between the Windows 7 operating system and the new Windows 8 interface. Acer made that decision a bit easier by including both OSs on the 500GB hard drive. To switch between Windows versions, simply run the Acer Backup and Restore Manager from the desktop of either OS; 10 minutes later, the ultrabook will run on the other OS. All user documents and customizations are saved to the hard drive so they can be moved into the user profile of the new OS. This allows the IT department to upgrade users fairly easily at a later date.
The TravelMate B113-M-6825 includes Acer’s ProShield security suite, which offers antitheft protection that can track a stolen device. Acer Office Manager helps enforce security policy, and Backup and Restore Manager can be used to make periodic images of the computer’s hard drive for later restoration. A two-year limited warranty is also included.
While the ability to switch between Windows 7 and Windows 8 seems attractive at first, performing this process is more disruptive than a dual-boot. The ultrabook is literally re-imaged to a fresh copy of either OS, meaning the IT manager must reconfigure or reinstall applications and move the user’s file into their proper profile locations. With some planning, one could smooth the transition by using Backup Manager to revise the images, but the process is still not suited to a daily switch.
The Acer TravelMate B113-M-6825 doesn’t offer a touch screen, which makes the inclusion of Windows 8 less useful. Although the multigesture feature of the touchpad helps, it’s not quite the same. Nevertheless, the flip back and forth may be worth it to see how Windows 8 might perform in the organization.