Introducing the Acer TravelMate 8481T-6873

With all of the noise Intel and some of the OEMs are making about ultrabooks, it's easy to forget that as PC users we've already enjoyed thin-and-light and ultraportable notebooks for a while now. Were they sliver-thin? No, but the magical three pound point is something we've always been able to find. Netbooks, for better or worse, only made portability that much more accessible and affordable. With that in mind, we have on hand Acer's TravelMate 8481T, a notebook that measures under an inch thick (without the battery) and sports an SSD and matte screen. If you were in the market for an ultraportable, this one may be worth your attention.

Our review model is the TravelMate 8481T-6873, and will henceforth just be referred to as the already difficult-to-remember "TravelMate 8481T." If you look for it on Acer's website you'll have a hard time finding it; it's technically a "TravelMate TimelineX" unit, which just reminds me of how convoluted their lineup was years ago when I was shopping for my old Athlon 64-powered Gateway. You're not going to find this model readily available on NewEgg but if you're interested a trip through Google Shopping will track it down.

Acer TravelMate TimelineX 8481T-6873 Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-2637M
(2x1.7GHz + HTT, Turbo to 2.8GHz, 32nm, 4MB L3, 17W)
Chipset Intel UM67
Memory 1x4GB Kingston DDR3-1333 (Max 2x4GB)
Graphics Intel HD 3000 Graphics
(12 EUs, up to 1.2GHz)
Display 14" LED Matte 16:9 768p
Hard Drive(s) 128GB SanDisk SATA 3Gbps SSD (onboard)
Optical Drive -
Networking Broadcom NetXtreme Gigabit Ethernet
Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth 2.1
Audio Realtek ALC269 HD Audio
Stereo speakers
Mic and headphone jacks
Battery 8-Cell, 14.8V, 87Wh
Front Side SD/MMC card reader
Right Side 2x USB 2.0
Exhaust vent
Kensington lock
AC adaptor
Left Side Ethernet jack
Exhaust vent
USB 3.0
Mic and headphone jacks
Back Side Battery
Operating System Windows 7 Professional 64-bit SP1
Dimensions 12.9" x 9.4" x 0.9" (WxDxH) (without battery)
Weight 4 lbs
Extras 1.3MP webcam
SD card reader
USB 3.0
Warranty 1-year international warranty
Pricing MSRP $1349
vailable online starting at $1202

First things first: while Acer lists the height of the TravelMate 8481T at a slender 0.9", that doesn't include the fact that the battery bulges out of the back and inclines the notebook; take that into account and you're looking at about an inch and a half. That's still not bad, and you'll see later that the massive battery pays big dividends.

There's a lot to like about this configuration, but one thing is becoming abundantly clear: optical drives are most definitely on their way out. These smaller notebooks are dispensing with them entirely, and while Dell might be proud that they managed to squeeze one into their XPS 14z, most vendors seem to be content to just ditch them altogether and honestly I'm not sure I really disagree at this point. The added bulk isn't missed, and with external, USB-powered drives so inexpensive it's hard to justify building one into a notebook anymore unless that notebook was already going to be pretty big to begin with.

In terms of specs and other features, the TravelMate looks very similar to an ultrabook: it has a ULV CPU and an SSD in the model we're reviewing (though a less expensive variant uses an HDD instead). The only thing keeping this out of the ultrabook category is the size of the battery and the resulting thickness. Let's dig a little deeper and see how it fares.

Everything But the Keyboard
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  • ilyon - Sunday, December 11, 2011 - link

    I don't agree.

    I HATE, really, these new appe-like chiclet keyboards. With my 3820 TimelineX, I prefer largely this chocolate type. Hopefully, Alienware still gives us some true keyboards, but with a price.
  • Chapbass - Sunday, December 11, 2011 - link

    I totally agree with you. It looks like this laptop has a similar keyboard to the Sony SZ650? If so, then I love that style of keyboard. The Chiclet style I really can't stand, I cant exactly put my finger on it, but typing on them just feels....forced... to me I guess.

    I guess its all opinion, but option is a good thing to have.
  • KingstonU - Sunday, December 11, 2011 - link

    I also love the keyboard on my 5820 TimelineX. I did not like the keyboard on the Apple notebooks that I tried.
  • RussianSensation - Sunday, December 11, 2011 - link

    I am gonna jump on your guys bandwagon. I hate chiclet keyboards myself. I find that often the backspace key is too far out (esp. on the Mac laptops), which makes it less comfortable to use. Also, the keys just aren't as springy and don't deliver that nice feedback that conventional/traditional laptop keyboard has.

    While I much prefer the construction quality and form factor and 2.8-2.9 lbs of Ultrabooks over this laptop in the review, and I'd much rather have a glossy screen over matter for better color/contrast ratio, I'd take this old school style keyboard.
  • RussianSensation - Sunday, December 11, 2011 - link

    But ya, to add, thsi laptop should be $799-899, tops. For $1,300, Acer is otu to lunch on this one. You can get the Asus X31 or the MBA which weigh more than 1lbs less, have superior screens, and construction/design too, plus faster SSDs to boot.
  • snuuggles - Sunday, December 11, 2011 - link

    Just to reiterate: the Asus UX31's keyboard is an utter failure. I've tried both the UX31 and the MBA 13. The MBA was fine overall--no significant issues besides the price. The UX31 had *horrible* trackpad issues and an utterly useless keyboard (see my other comments).

    Most reviewers of the UX31 mention how horrible the keyboard is, but they still tend to give the machine high marks. I'm utterly baffled by this: if the keyboard was not a vital part of the machine, I'd get a tablet. To "put aside" the horrible keyboard is insane.

    The UX31 is not a MBA competitor. It's not worth buying due to it's malfunctioning keyboard.
  • DanNeely - Sunday, December 11, 2011 - link

    I mostly agree; however the acer spanks the MBA/X31 on battery life. The bigger battery shoudn't cost anywhere near as much more as it does though.
  • ph0masta - Sunday, December 11, 2011 - link

    I am currently using an Acer Keyboard myself, and I don't see what is wrong with it. The keys are very sturdy and also very springy, which allows for fast typing. At least on this model there isn't any flex. The key themselves are made with glossy plastic though which appears a bit cheap.
  • Old_Fogie_Late_Bloomer - Sunday, December 11, 2011 - link

    I feel like I need to jump in here in defense of Acer. While this keyboard may be too cheap for a premium laptop, (and for the price this computer really needs a higher-resolution screen), it is not anywhere near as bad as this review makes it out to be, and that's coming from someone who works as a typist. I've been using the original ULV Core 2 Solo for school for well over two years, and I've typed a LOT on it. Is it a Lenovo keyboard? No. Have I lost any of the keys? Also no. Have I taken notes in dozens of classes, written programs and lab reports, and generally been fine with it? Yup.
  • dcollins - Monday, December 12, 2011 - link

    I have a Lenovo E420, which combines the tried and true action of the Thinkpad keyboards with "chiclet" style keys. I bought the laptop mostly for the keyboard, which is my favorite keyboard I have ever used, laptop or desktop.

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