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Acer 512T Laptop Review

Date: Saturday March 11, 2000
Category: Notebooks Author: Max Page
Manufacture: Acer Discus -- BBS

Our Acer 512T has been going all over North America lately (read: in planes, trains and automobiles), we've had enough time on it to finally write up a review straight from road experience.



Acer TravelMate 512T Review


With all the choices in portable computing these days, making a decision between one computer over another can be quite difficult. Seeing as how our Acer 512T has been going all over North America lately (read: in planes, trains and automobiles), we've had enough time on it, and in many different situations to finally write up a review straight from road experience.

With that spirit of reviewing based on first hand experience in mind, this article is being written while I'm on VIA Rail train No. 42, coming back to the city from a week of vacation. Can't have all play and no work :-)

Typing over bumps:

Well, one would think that a train would be a fairly smooth ride, but, no. Typing while the train is bumping around is not much of a difficulty, the keys are spaced far enough appart (6.5mm between faces, with 3mm of travel) that fingers easily find the right key, without striking the adjacent ones. Although, it is generally necessary to momentarily lift the hand up to type in numbers or hit F-keys, the rest of the keyboard is easily within reach without lifting up the wrist. For the curious, the spec sheet lists a 84 key, inverted "T" cursor keyboard, including win95 keys and all the standard buttons you would expect on a home-based PC.

The computer fits nicely in the lap and has two places to support the wrists or palms. Unlike older portables which were without any room on the computer for support. These two spaces do a good job of synchronizing the movements of the computer, with your hands. Essentially making both move at the same time, and allowing easier control over rough terrain. After awhile of resting the wrists on the spaces provided, things do get a little sore however. This can be remedied by lifting up the hands to type, but then those bumps get in the way. If there were a slight rise on these two surfaces that might help to ease things.

Prolonged use and wrist soreness is especially true when typing in a seat on an airplane, bus or train, where moving the computer toward the knees helps make it more comfortable to type, but isn't always possible. Unless of course, you travel first class. ;-) I don't.

Mouse over bumps:

The mouse - or touch pad in this case - is something a bit harder to control when going over rough track, or for that matter rough roads. The Acer 512T uses a touch sensitive pad to move the cursor around, so whatever movements a finger makes while in contact with the pad, the cursor also makes. Now for general movements, such as opening programs or moving the cursor to a different line in a word file things are a breeze. Opening drop down menus is a little bit harder, and doing stuff in PhotoShop would be on the high end of the difficulty scale - but still doable. Keep in mind I'm only talking about doing things while going over bumpy roads, or train tracks, for the moment.

The pad is sensitive and all those little bounces can be a bit frustrating when doing precise mouse movements. Adjusting the speed of the cursor in the windows control panel, to just below middle of the road, makes things much easier to control when, in my case, the train is bumping around like it's missing a shock or two. For normal use the touch pad is simple to use and works well.

The engineers who designed this computer were nice enough to configure the position of the touch pad so there is plenty of room to rest the wrists while making movements. This is especially true for right-handers, which have an extra inch or two of space to rest their wrists. I did find that when using the laptop in a car, similar problems arose, typing in that situation would not have been much of a problem, but working in PhotoShop or something requiring precise cursor movements would have been quite frustrating - just for the difficulties in controlling the cursor.

As an aside, these spaces for the wrist also make excellent places to write on while the computer is in use. In fact, if I didn't know better I would say the design engineers at Acer made the right hand area slightly bigger to perfectly accommodate the room necessary to sign a credit card slip. That's just a guess, but the computer does give that room.

The buttons for the touch pad are located just below it, and have a nifty raised scallop design to mirror the angle most thumbs will be attacking them at. This rise also helps keep the thumb from straying into the touch pad. The buttons are essentially flush with the surface and have a stiff return that makes them slightly awkward to use.

 Considering their stiffness, raising them slightly above the surface would make things easier without sacrificing inadvertent mouse clicks.

Page 1: Acer 512T Laptop Review
Page 2: CD-Rom, Modem and Drives
Page 3: Portable CD-Player and 12.1" Screen
Page 4: Speed, Networking and Conclusions

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