I have been using my Acer now for a couple of years and it is still going strong. As the 240 series laptop has now been around for a while my review is primarily based on the ease of maintenance and upgrade ability for anyone considering purchasing one these as a second hand laptop.
The laptops are solidly built, and from experience do handle the odd knocks and scrapes fairly well. The keyboard layout is compact and well designed out for ease of use. The screen is a 15" TFT panel, although not in the same league as the newer shiny black screens, it is however very clear and bright. Despite carrying out various upgrades, I have found the laptop to be very reliable and a good strong workhorse.
Fitted as standard is a Celeron 2.6Ghz processor. Despite its age, the processor does cope extremely well with every day usage, it does however struggle with high graphics applications.
Fitted as standard is a DVD/CD-RW combi drive. Although the can record to a blank CD, it can not record data to a blank DVD. When backing up the contents of your hard drive, this can be somewhat of a hindrance as the storage 700mb capacity of CD is nowhere near the more practical 4.7Gb or higher capacity of DVD. However it does allow the playback only of DVD allowing you to watch films on the laptop. DVD playback I have found to be very smooth without any picture lag.
Although small compared to newer laptops, the standard hard drive fitted is 30Gb. Personally I have never found this to be a problem, however it does depend on individual usage. If you like to store a lot of media files, then you will be somewhat limited. I will also add here that there is also a floppy drive fitted as standard....Does anyone still use these?
Here Acer were to say the least very mean. The laptops were fitted with the bare minimum 256mb DDR RAM. Yes it will run Windows XP, but try running more than one application and it's a bit like trying to tow a caravan with a Reliant Robin!
Graphics / Sound
Both of these are on board. Graphics are provided by an Intel chip with shared memory. This means that the graphics card uses a percentage of the main memory and can be pre-set from 8 - 64Mb. Performance wise, it handles most applications well including DVD movie playback.
The sound card I would say is acceptable. The sound at higher volume levels does tend to sound a little muffled.
Considering the age of these machines, the available ports on the laptop is very good. On the rear there are 4 USB ports, ideal if you are using extras such as Wifi or bluetooth dongles, printers, memory sticks etc etc as you don't have to keep on unplugging one for another. Also on the rear is an external monitor port, ethernet port, parallel printer port, headphone and mike port.
Maintenance and Upgrade ability
These machines are now getting on a bit. Consequently the ease of which they can be upgraded and repaired should be considered.
Firstly taking the 240 series apart is very simple. The whole laptop can be completely stripped down to each individual component very easily and quickly. Virtually all parts including keyboards, screens and even outer casings are readily available and cheaply from the likes of ebay.
The reason for highlighting this section is that these laptops can be bought second hand now for around £100 - £150 or even less if you drop lucky. With very little initial outlay, they can be upgraded quickly and easily to a decent specification making them a very cheap option.
The Travelmate 244 will run Vista quite comfortably, however you will need to 1st upgrade the amount of RAM to its maximum. Vista' fancy aero deck feature will not run however as the graphics memory is limited to 64mb. I personally use Vista on mine and If you can live without the fancy graphics, it runs very well. Acer do not provide official drivers for these machines, however Vista identifies and self installs most of the drivers itself. Acer's XP drivers will work with anything Vista does not recognise.
A very easy upgrade which involves removing just one screw on the base of the laptop. The memory can be upgraded to a maximum of 2Gg. If you shop around 1Gb of ram can be picked up for around £20.
This again is a relatively easy upgrade, but does involve opening up the case. The maximum available for the main board is 2.8Ghz compared to the 2.6Ghz fitted as standard. However due to the age, these processors can be picked up very cheaply, I paid a little over £5 six months ago for a Celeron 2.8Ghz CPU from ebay.
OPTICAL / HARD DRIVES>
The DVD drive is a very cheap option, again this does involve opening the case but is very simple. Dual layer DVD-RW and RAM drives can be picked up second hand for a little over £10. The hard drive can also be easily upgraded prices are relatively cheap depending upon the capacity required.
This sadly is the Achilles heel of any brand of laptop. By their very nature, a laptop battery is on its way out the 1st time it is charged. The spec. given as new is around 2.5 hours of usage. In the real world they tend to last around 1.5 hours. Replacement batteries are expensive and tend to retail around £30.
It appears to be a little hit and miss with Acer as to whether these machines were fitted with an internal Wifi antenna. However located just underneath the power panel is a mini PCI socket allowing an internal wireless card to be fitted. The big advantage of this being that you do not need to carry around or have a cumbersome PCMCIA wireless card sticking out the side of the laptop. A word of caution here though, this is not an easy or straightforward upgrade. The wireless switch at the top of the laptop will only work with the original Acer wireless cards which are now virtually impossible to get hold of. However using a process of blanking of two of the connecting pins, this can be overcome allowing Windows to manage the connection. Also if a card was not fitted at the time of manufacture, it is unlikely that an antenna will be fitted, this again can be tricky as it involves dismantling either the upper case or screen assembly. However, although this upgrade sounds a bit scary, it is a relatively cheap option and costs around £8 - 12.
These laptops are available relatively cheaply second hand. As stated above, they can be obtained 2nd hand now for around £100 - 150. Even with the standard specification, they are a good reliable and sturdy workhorse built to withstand the tests of time. Despite the age, they will easily handle every day usage for home or small office usage.
On the other hand, if you are comfortable with tinkering with computers, these are very easily and cheaply upgraded to provide a machine with the same specification as a machine priced around the £150 - 200 mark.