Acer TravelMate 292 XC LaptopAnd possible upgrade paths
The Travel Mate 292XC is a part of the 290 Series laptops from Acer. There is a large range of models within the 290 series with different specifications, some Centrino based, and others just Pentium M. This particular model being reviewed, the LX-T3505.455, is a Celeron M 330 processor version and it is a very well priced for its specifications. This model was purchased for about $599.99 CAD and has the following specs:
As noted earlier there are lot of variations on the 290 Series and most of the reviews online are for the Pentium M / Centrino based laptop. There also seems to be lack of information on the Acer website for this particular model, which is listed as having a Celeron 1.3ghz on the box (They most likely ran out of 1.3 Ghz processors, but a 1.4ghz was a good bonus surprise)! Because of these inconsistancies, this review will go into more detail on the design of the notebook and provide an upgrade path for components for users wishing to get more out of this particular notebook. One of the biggest issues, other the Celeron M processor, was the lack of a wireless card. Another big flaw with this particular unit is the small amount of ram in the system, 256Mb is barely enough to run Windows XP and other applications properly. Other than that, for the price, the notebook is definately a good buy compared to the offerings of Dell and Compaq/HP.
The layout of the keyboard is straight forward and quite easy to use. I find that having regular sized keys definately is a big bonus and the track pad is in a good place, leaving space for the user to rest their hand on the remaining surface of the keyboard. Although the screen size is only 14.1", the weight difference seems to make up for this particular matter, as this model weights 5.7 pounds vs the 6.2 pounds of the 15" model. The smaller screen-size probably helps with battery life as well.
With regards to the internal components, this model uses the Intel 855GM chipset for the motherboard and uses the Intel® Extreme Graphics 2 for the videocard, which uses 16mb (up to 64mb) of shared video memory. Althought the videocard is not of gaming quality, it still can play most basic games like Warcraft III without a problem and is good enough to use for DVD videos and other such multimedia purposes. The chipset used is of good quality and is the same found on most Pentium M notebooks, which is a great bonus for those looking to upgrade (this will be dicussed in the upgrade path section of the review.)
The 30gb 4200rpm drive is a bit small and slow, but anything else would raise the price of the unit considerably. The optical drive is fairly reliable, but a bit on the slow side in terms of reading and writing speeds. Everthing listed so far isn't that much of a draw back on the computer, as it still offers the most bang for buck. However the biggest flaw with this computer is the processor. Because of the nature of the Celeron M 330, it stays at the consistant speed of 1.4ghz and uses a steady voltage rate, which in tandem with a full brightness screen, will kill the battery life of the notebook in less then 1.5 hours and even less if the optical drive is in action as well. However, because the motherboard and the chipset are of good quality, it has the potential to be upgraded to something much better. The last problem found with this particular notebook is that it has no wireless card, which is somewhat of a joke since most other notebooks of this range are provided with one. Even though this notebook is 1.5 years old and its specifications are a bit behind, users with this notebook should not consider its days numbered yet. This particular notebook has great potential when it comes to upgrading.
As mentioned earlier, this notebook is catching on in age and could definately use a bit of a refresh in terms of internal specs. Because it uses the Intel 855GM chipset, it has the potential to be upgraded to a Pentium M 1.7GHz (using the 400mhz FSB edition). This is a very important thing to do as it will not only give you a speed performance increase, but also extend the battery life on your notebook. The RAM can be installed rather painlessly, other than the cost on the user's wallet (PC2700 DDR333 RAM is on its way out of the market at the moment and a 1Gb stick will cost roughly $150 CAD). The recommended minimum is 512mb in total, so a 256mb is something every user should consider. The Hard Drive can also be easily removed and replaced, a more up to date 7200 rpm 8mb cache version will definately offer the user a perfomance increase. The Hitachi Travelstars (formerly IBM) are definately something no user should be without and it is recommended a 60gb 7200rpm drive is used for a performance upgrade. As for the lack of wireless, Acer seemed to have followed a generic template for this models and built in the antenna into the notebook template. This means everything is setup for a wireless mini pci card to be installed for use. Although every user will have their own individual opions and bugdets, this is my recommended upgrade path for users with this notebook:
The total cost of this reviewer's recommended minimum upgrade will cost roughly $136 CAD and provide above par performance for the cost when compared to the leading Dell model. it isn't necessary to get the performance upgrades that are listed, however the upgrade in terms of speed and overall performance will definately be noticed by the user and give more longevity to this particular unit.
Although this notebook is a bit dated when it comes to terms of specifications and is 1.5 years old, with stock options it still is comparable to the basic notebook model offered by Dell today in 2006. With a few extra upgrades, this notebook is definately a contender for a performance notebook at the same price range (with the upgrades calculated in). It is in the opinion of the reviewer that although some of the performance upgrades listed may not be as valuable to the average user, the essential upgrades listed will blow any and every computer in it's price range away with it's specifications and peformance. In conclusion, this is a solid release from Acer and definately provides the user with the best value for dollar.