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It may surprise many, that established in 1976, Acer is currently among the world's top ten branded PC vendors and has operations in more than 100 nations. Certainly if you asked the average person who they are, you would get a blank look. However, over the last few years they have been gaining ground and recognition as their products show that they have the latest technology, good reliability and competitive pricing against Toshiba, Dell and so on. It was because of this word of mouth a couple of months ago I was persuaded by a friend to consider buying an Acer laptop. In the end I plumped for the Travelmate 234FXC. As the 230 series shares many of the same components and the suggest a product has disappeared again I have put the review against this model. Tech Alert! Here some tech stuff to read or skip over now. Here is the spec of the machine I bought. Mobile Intel Celeron Processor 2.2 GHz, 256 MB DDR-266 RAM, ( which can go up to 1024 MB ) Combo Drive (8x DVD 10/8/24x CD-RW) 400 MHz processor system bus Intel 845GL chipset Integrated VGA with DVMT technology 20 GB HDD 14.1" XGA TFT LCD with 1024 x 768 pixels resolution, 16.7 million colours 1.44 MB FDD Type III PCMCIA CardBus slot Built-in 56K Fax/Modem Weight 3.02 kg. Built-in LAN 10/100 Mbps Ethernet 2 USB 2.0 Ports Windows XP Home Norton Anti Virus 2002 Cyberlink Power DVD Free Carry Bag Set up Setting up the laptop was quite easy and was done in the shop, although I later had to take the laptop back to the shop as Windows did not recognise the USB ports for some reason. Since then I have had no problems with the machine at all. Windows XP seems to be an improvement on 98 although some changes are not to my liking ? since this is a review of the machine and not the software I wont go into this. Included Software Apart from XP there was not a great deal included
but Norton Anti Virus always will get a thumbs up as its one of the best virus killers aound. Cyberlink Power DVD is a useful alternative to Media player and it plays VCDs as well ? for those who like to buy their movies in Asia. NTI CD Maker is the software included to make use of the CD burning capabilities. I have used this a couple of times now and found it to be a very good program that is easy and quick to use for beginners ( which I am ) . I am still trying to find out the extent of its capabilities but so far, everything I want to do, it can do ? cant beat that! Additional software added since has been a good experience with everything going on correctly first time. Hardware XP has made adding hardware like printers, USB flash drives and mice a doddle, it recognises almost everything and so far I haven?t had to resort to additional driver disks yet. The Look With its case closed, it certainly looks the part with a shiny brushed silver top and matt charcoal bottom. The top neatly fits against the bottom ( which with a 14inch screen would indicate something very wrong if it didn?t ). The screen lid lock does feel a bit cheap and I suspect that a sharp bang could bring it off. On opening the case, you are presented with a fairly standard layout of a flat full size keyboard and touchpad. The last laptop I had was an IBM with a nipple so I am still getting used to using the touchpad of which more later. There are the usual Windows function keys and 4 programmable function keys, the fifth has been set by Acer for Bluetooth devices. Using it Heres the crunch. What does it do? Well, so far most things pretty well. I have run programs like Adobe Photoshop, MS Word with little problem. Apart from double tapping the touchpad or trying to work out what the combination of drag and select is sometimes, its been pain free. The keys have a nice action although I would prefer a bit more of a ?click? than the rubbery ?thik? sound that
comes out. Because of the touchpad, the keys are quite far up the case which means I am still getting used to a strange position to hold my hands but this is common to all makes with a touchpad. So far, its quite uncomfortable when I am typing for over 30 minutes or so. Like many LCD screens, if you go off a direct look - maybe 15 degrees or so - at the screen you will get screen distortion and colour changes. Which means you really have to be close to someone to share work or watch a DVD. The in built speakers are ok but nothing special and sound a bit tinny, best to stick to your walkman or get externals. Its only when you start to use it for games that the machines limitations start to show. Although the 2.2MgHz is good enough and the 256 Mb RAM is good enough, the video / graphics is frankly not. I am playing Comand & Conquer Generals and its far too jerky and slow, even at low resolutions. If you want to play games, this is not the machine for you and probably only a few laptops are. Buy a desktop is the answer for that. Battery Life Heres a real bug bear with all laptop users. In the manual it claims that the Li-Ion battery will run for ?about 3 hours under most circumstances?. Er, what! The most I have got so far is about 120 minutes working just on MS Word. If you play a DVD or CD, that drains even more power and the worst I have got far is 80 minutes which might not be enough for a full DVD movie. Recharging when not in use is quite quick, around 2 hours although I haven?t times it exactly. When in use, it will depend on how you are using the laptop as obviously the more you use the less is available to charge the battery. Portability The machine weighs just over 3 kg which doesn?t sound much but if you need to use it over any decent period of time, you will need the AC cord or a spare battery and maybe the mouse by which time it starts to feel quite heavy in the supplied bag. Other Stuff
One of the main reasons I bought this was the warranty. Unlike some other multinational companies, Acer offer a 1 year worldwide warranty. Some only cover the country in which you bought the machine. To most people this would be no problem but as I am traveling a lot just now it definitely does matter. Overall Overall, with its design and features, the 234FXC is a really good and cheap alternative to the likes of IBM, Sony, NEC and other brands. Given this all round package it is a good choice for the no nonsense purchaser. If you want a big name machine, this is not for you ( but it might be in a few years ).