Review: Acer TravelMate P6

Acer's TravelMate P6 is a 13.3-inch, business-rugged laptop that borders on Ultrabook portability.

NameLaptop: Acer TravelMate P6
At a glance:Intel Core i7-3520M dual-core CPU,8GB RAM,256GB SSD,Great wired and wireless connectivity,1.72kg
Summary:Professional, powerful and portable: a great companion for corporate life.

Acer’s TravelMate P6 is a 13.3-inch, business-rugged laptop that borders on Ultrabook portability. It may be thicker than acceptable for an Ultrabook at 25mm, but at 1.72kg, it’s still a lightweight, cartable piece of kit.

The build quality is solid, with metal hinges, a magnesium-aluminium rollcage to protect the internal components, and Lenovo-style keyboard drainage system to limit damage from spilled beverages (trust us, that’s still something you want to avoid). There’s a little more flex in the screen than we’d like, but not enough to be concerning.

The 13.3-inch screen is 1366 x 768 pixels, average for the form factor and low for the price. The screen has a matte finish and reasonably high maximum brightness. It provides comfortable viewing indoors and out, but a1600 x 900 or 1920 x 1080 display would have helped justify the P6’s premium cost.

The keyboard is a variation on the common ‘island’ design, with each square key curved slightly to fit your fingertips and bordered by a narrow plastic flange. Key travel is deep, making for a comfortable typing experience. It’s also quiet, which is essential for open-plan office use unless you really dislike your colleagues. The touchpad is responsive, accurate and supports multi-touch gestures, but its recessed design makes it unsuitable for Windows 8 swipe gestures – it’s clear this is designed for Windows 7.

In spec, the P6 is one of the most powerful laptops we’ve tested for the size and weight. It runs on an Intel Core i7-3520M dual-core CPU, with a clock speed of 2.9GHz (3.6GHz turbo), and 8GB of RAM. Storage is supplied by a 256GB SSD. Intel’s vPro technology is included for remote management by IT departments, and a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) provides enhanced security, in conjunction with the built-in fingerprint scanner.

Performance in our standard benchmark suite exceeded that of all the ultraportables tested in our December 2012 roundup, and also beat many of the ultrabooks and larger laptops we’ve tested previously. In the CPU-based Cinebench and 7-Zip, and in the all-round PCMark 7 benchmark, the TravelMate P6 performs better than any other laptop we’ve tested.

Graphically it’s outclassed by laptops with dedicated GPUs, but it’s still able to outmatch Ultrabooks that use Intel’s HD Graphics 4000 (Ivy Bridge) or the older HD Graphics 3000 (Sandy Bridge). This is not a hardcore 3D gaming laptop, but it would be just fine if you wanted to play Civilization V or XCOM between corporate strategy meetings.

Wired connectivity is great: three USB 3.0 ports, an eSATA port that doubles as USB 2.0, full-sized HDMI, VGA, Ethernet, separate headphone and microphone ports, an SD/XD/MS card reader and an ExpressCard/34 slot provide plenty of scope for accessories or expansion.

You also get 802.11abgn Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, Intel Wireless Display (WiDi) and 3G mobile internet via a full-sized SIM card slot hidden behind the removable battery. Yes, you can remove and replace the battery when it reaches its use-by date.

Battery life in our quick-draining ‘productivity’ test was 2 hours and 54 minutes – not fantastic, but also not too far behind some of the low-power Ultrabooks we tested this month. For a business-oriented, high-performance laptop, it’s a reasonable result and in line with similar models we’ve tested.

The TravelMate P6 is a great piece of hardware that does much to justify its $2,499 price. The only disappointment was the screen resolution – if you can look past that, the P6 is a good choice for the business traveller who needs a little more performance than an Ultrabook can provide.

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Harley Ogier

Harley Ogier

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