Acer’s TravelMate 6293 all-purpose laptop

Not all slim and light laptops come off the conveyor belt bursting with sex appeal. Take the Acer TravelMate 6293: Battery life, it has in spades. Everything else? Not so much. This entirely black portable is fairly well packaged as far as all-purpose laptops go, but if this machine were to go on a diet and lose 0.6 pounds, it could qualify as a good deal for an ultraportable. No doubt Acer’s goal was to cut corners–and some standard notebook connections–to a hit a palatable $999 price point, perfectly acceptable for a business budget. But the result is a laptop that’s a tad frumpy.

Don’t get me wrong–performance-wise, the TravelMate 6293 rocks. Its battery life is Energizer Bunny amazing. Equipped with a powerful 7200-mAh battery, the laptop lasted 3 minutes shy of 8 hours in our tests. Just stick this baby in a backpack or briefcase and walk out the door declaring Outlet Freedom Day. The results are far better than what we’ve seen from any other all-purpose portable on the scene. Heck, because of its diminutive size, we were this close to comparing it with a Lenovo ThinkPad X200.

The speed of the TravelMate 6293 is good, too, though not quite as breathtaking. The 2.26-GHz Core 2 Duo P8400-equipped unit with 2GB of RAM turned in a pretty impressive WorldBench 6 score of 90, so it should be able to handle any type of work swiftly, limited only by the shared video memory. Lack of a dedicated graphics card is an unfortunate characteristic of small laptops that effectively eliminates gaming; the memory is just too sparse to support 3D shooters with fancy shading.

Of course, small screens don’t lend themselves to entertainment, either, but the 12.1-inch, 1280-by-800-pixel, wide-aspect display is fine for any other job you care to squeeze into those small quarters. It’s crisp, reasonably bright, and glossy, but it won’t hurt your eyes under office lights.

Topping the TravelMate 6293’s keyboard are seven helpful quick-launch buttons. All are preprogrammed for such activities as setting the system password, launching the onboard backup utility, and starting your e-mail program and Web browser. A nice touch is that one button triggers the Launch Manager itself, which saved me worlds of time poking around various utilities and system-tray icons attempting to find the program that would let me reset the buttons to start my own favorite apps. Overall the keyboard is well laid out and easy to type on. The touchpad is small but zippy and easy to use. Only the mouse buttons–particularly short to make room for the fingerprint reader between them, and extremely stiff–are a distraction.

At 4.6 pounds–not including the power brick, which makes the total weight 5.4 pounds–the TravelMate 6293 is a tad heavy for an ultraportable but fairly light for an all-purpose machine. (The extra beef pushes it into the all-purpose category, since it weighs over 4 pounds.) Obviously designed for corporate jetsetters restricted by a budget, it also lacks a FireWire port (which would have been handy for fast digital downloads) and sports the older PC Card slot instead of an ExpressCard slot.

In the plus column, the laptop does have a nice, big, 250GB hard drive, plus conveniences such as dedicated Bluetooth and 802.11n Wi-Fi switches and a built-in Webcam. The storage and memory are fully user-upgradeable–great news for rapid IT deployment.

The TravelMate 6293 also includes other features important to bottom-line-conscious corporate buyers, such as a gigabit ethernet connection and a standard DVD recorder (rather than a pricey high-definition optical drive).

If you take a look at the all-purpose category, you’ll see that not many machines go for under $1000–and those that do, such as the Toshiba Satellite U405-S2854 or the Sony VGN-NR485, are much bulkier by comparison. The TravelMate 6293 might not have all the cutting-edge features, but no laptop we’ve tested recently makes better use of a battery for carefree wireless computing. If work keeps you out of the office most of the day, put this $999 plain Jane at the top of your list.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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