Notebookcheck

Acer TravelMate P236-M Notebook Review

Nino Ricchizzi (translated by Liala Stieglitz), 03/06/2015

Basic business partner. A price of 700 Euros (~$761) places Acer's new TravelMate P236 in the mid-range of business laptops. Since time is money, components with a decent speed ensure a smooth workflow. However, the TrackPad's handling rapidly slows down the work speed.

Intel's new Broadwell architecture has now found favor with Acer's business mid-range. Acer has installed an Intel Core i5-5200U in its new, 700 Euros (~$761) TravelMate P236-M57R4. The most important features are the 8 GB of working memory, a 240 GB SSD, and matte screen with a resolution of 1366x768 pixels. We will check whether this basic configuration is enough for daily use, i.e. office tasks at the workplace or as a companion for university. We will also find out just how much office and business potential this price range has to offer based on other competitors. 100 Euros (~$110) can make a huge difference in this price range. For example, we have selected HP's ProBook 430 G2.  

The HP is still equipped with Haswell architecture and features an Intel Core i5-4210U, 4 GB of working memory, and a 128 GB SSD. The ProBook 430 is now available from just 600 Euros (~$650). Asus asks 770 Euros (~$837) for its ASUSPRO Essential PU301LA, which comes with a potent Intel Core i7-4500U Haswell processor. However, it can only serve with 4 GB of working memory and a 500 GB HDD. The battery life in particular is a significant criterion in the business category, and Dell's Latitude 3340 picks up right there. The Latitude lasts for 14 hours in a real-life scenario. An Intel Core i5-4200U is inside. The device's price ranges from 750 to 800 Euros (~$815 to ~$870).

Case & Connectivity

Slim and straightforward, describe the design of the TravelMate. The 13.3-inch laptop largely features plastic components. Only the display's back is made of a brushed aluminum part. The thin height of 2 cm (~0.8 in) and the low weight of 1534 grams (~3.4 lb) make Acer's laptop a pleasant companion. Unfortunately, the juncture has unpleasantly sharp edges in the TrackPad's front area. Furthermore, the hinge covers are slightly loose, and it is not easy to open and close the display. However, we cannot say if the thin hinges would pass an endurance test. Unwelcome dust will accumulate between the display screen and bezel. Overall, the build is acceptable for this price range. We recognize considerable improvements, particularly when comparing it with the similar casing of the Aspire V3. However, we did not discover any maintenance covers, not to mention a simple way to access the battery. The entire base unit would have to be dismantled for major repair and replacement work. We did not like the interface diversity and positioning. Only one of the two USB ports supports the USB 3.0 standard. All ports are installed on the right except for the headset jack and SD card slot. Depending on the connected peripherals, the cables could severely restrict the work area on the laptop's right.

Intel's Wireless-AC 7265 module is used for wireless Internet connections. The average download rate is determined in the author's personal setup. An Apple MacBook Pro Retina (Late 2013) with a Broadcom 802.11ac module is used for making comparisons. A network attached storage is connected to a Fritz!Box 7323SL, and both laptops are placed approximately 4 meters (~13 ft) away from the router. The Acer settled to 3.85 Mbps after some 1 GB test downloads, and the MacBook to 11.15 Mbps. This great difference could point to a problem between the installed Wi-Fi module and the router.

Rear
Rear
Front
Front
Left: headset jack, SD card slot
Left: headset jack, SD card slot
Right: 1 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0, HDMI-out, Ethernet port, power-in
Right: 1 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0, HDMI-out, Ethernet port, power-in

Input Devices

Acer Travelmate's input devices
Acer Travelmate's input devices

Keyboard

Touch-typists will soon be familiar with the keyboard in Acer's laptop. The pressure points are satisfactory, and the keys have a crisp drop. The keys also do not yield too much at their edges and thus have good firmness. The tight spacing of the hash and enter key as well as the shift and angle brackets need some getting used to. On the other hand, the fact that image up and image down fill the usually empty area above the left and right arrow keys is praiseworthy. The keyboard also makes an exemplary impression in quiet surroundings. The keys produce a muffled and quiet noise even when typing quickly with a little more force.

TrackPad

The keyboard can be used ideally in the office and work environment. Unfortunately, the situation is different with the TrackPad.  Sometimes, the touchpad does not respond at all or only with a long delay. Inputs are hardly possible particularly around the edges and corners. Then there is the meager native multi-touch support under Windows 7. Overall, inputs are very jerky. We cannot say whether this is a software bug or perhaps even a defect. Like in Acer's Aspire V3-371, the build is still unsatisfactory. The TouchPad unit is not installed firmly enough, and thus every input is accompanied by the distracting noise of the loose plastic hitting the base.

Display

Acer has equipped its TravelMate with a matte TN screen with a resolution of 1366x768 pixels. Anyone who was hoping for a Full HD IPS screen will not find one, even among the competition. Unfortunately, the average brightness is only 187.3 cd/m². The ASUSPRO Essential PU301LA has a better brightness of 235 cd/m². The contrast of 242:1 is low, but it is normal for this price range. Both Asus' and HP's laptops are clearly below this rate. The contrast and brightness lead to a black level of 0.78 cd/m², which is sufficient for routine applications, but it is not enough for rich black hues.

The review sample cannot be seen as a permanent outdoor companion. The matte screen allows reflection-free use in shady environments, but it dims in direct sunlight due to the low brightness.

Mostly dark prospects...
Mostly dark prospects...
...outdoors.
...outdoors.
The shade, however,...
The shade, however,...
...makes use quite possible.
...makes use quite possible.
209
cd/m²
204
cd/m²
197
cd/m²
179
cd/m²
188
cd/m²
180
cd/m²
187
cd/m²
163
cd/m²
179
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 209 cd/m² Average: 187.3 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 78 %
Center on Battery: 188 cd/m²
Contrast: 242:1 (Black: 0.777 cd/m²)
ΔE Color 12.21 | 0.8-23.34 Ø6.4
ΔE Greyscale 13.1 | 0.64-98 Ø6.7
39.4% AdobeRGB 1998 (Argyll)
Gamma: 2.66

The CalMAN analysis of the grayscale levels confirms the initially visible bluish cast. The DeltaE 2000 deviation of more than 13 is far too high. The average deviation of more than 12 is just as poor. The color space coverage, which is interesting for professional graphic designers, is equally disappointing. It is 39.4% in the AdobeRGB space and 56.6% in the sRGB space.

AdobeRGB space coverage
AdobeRGB space coverage
CalMAN - Saturation Sweeps
CalMAN - Saturation Sweeps
CalMAN - Color Management
CalMAN - Color Management
CalMAN - Grayscale
CalMAN - Grayscale
sRGB space coverage
sRGB space coverage

Performance

The review sample is equipped with a new Broadwell CPU. With 8 GB of working memory and a fast storage, Acer's laptop is designed for the office and multimedia fields. Thanks to the internal graphics unit, there are probably even reserves for a few more demanding applications and some older games. The performance difference to similarly equipped laptops will be most likely due to the working memory that operates only in single-channel mode. The TravelMate version that we have is the strongest among the P236 models. Others feature Intel's Core i3-5005U and a 500 GB magnetic hard drive and are available for around 560 Euros (~$610).

Processor

The energy-efficient Intel Core i5-5200U dual-core CPU clocks with a base speed of 2.2 GHz. Up to 2.7 GHz is possible via Turbo mode. Intel specifies a maximum power dissipation of 15 watts. Our selected competitions are still based on Haswell processors. To what extent this will prove to be a drawback can be seen based on Cinebench R15. With 258 points, the review sample achieved an 11% percent better score than the Haswell precursor in Dell's Latitude 3340. Acer outperforms even the Intel Core i5-4210U with approximately 7% more points. The Intel Core i7-4500U in Asus' laptop is somewhat stronger with 272 points.

The maximum Turbo clock rate of 2.7 GHz was still reached for a short time during use. The CPU remained stable at 2.5 GHz in the benchmarks despite load. We never dropped below this rate even after running Cinebench multiple times.

Battery mode did not stop the review sample, either. The full performance is available without the mains power supply. Further details about the CPU and more comparisons can be found in our benchmark chart of laptop processors.

Cinebench R15
CPU Single 64Bit (sort by value)
Acer TravelMate P236-M-57R4
107 Points ∼54%
Asus ASUSPRO Essential PU301LA-RO064G
114 Points ∼57% +7%
HP Probook 430 G2
106 Points ∼53% -1%
Dell Latitude 3340 Education Series
100 Points ∼50% -7%
Acer Aspire V3-371-58DJ
108 Points ∼54% +1%
CPU Multi 64Bit (sort by value)
Acer TravelMate P236-M-57R4
257 Points ∼12%
Asus ASUSPRO Essential PU301LA-RO064G
272 Points ∼13% +6%
HP Probook 430 G2
240 Points ∼11% -7%
Dell Latitude 3340 Education Series
229 Points ∼11% -11%
Acer Aspire V3-371-58DJ
260 Points ∼12% +1%

Legend

 
Acer TravelMate P236-M-57R4 Intel Core i5-5200U, Intel HD Graphics 5500, Kingston RBU-SC100S37240GE
 
Asus ASUSPRO Essential PU301LA-RO064G Intel Core i7-4500U, Intel HD Graphics 4400, Toshiba MQ01ABF050
 
HP Probook 430 G2 Intel Core i5-4210U, Intel HD Graphics 4400, Samsung SSD 840 PRO MZ7PD128HCFV-000H1
 
Dell Latitude 3340 Education Series Intel Core i5-4200U, Intel HD Graphics 4400, Seagate ST500LM000 Solid State Hybrid Drive
 
Acer Aspire V3-371-58DJ Intel Core i5-5200U, Intel HD Graphics 5500, Kingston RBU-SC100S37240GE
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Single 64Bit
1.21 Points
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Multi 64Bit
2.51 Points
Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL 64Bit
18.79 fps
Cinebench R15 CPU Single 64Bit
107 Points
Cinebench R15 CPU Multi 64Bit
257 Points
Cinebench R15 OpenGL 64Bit
25.22 fps
Cinebench R15 Ref. Match 64Bit
98 %
Help

System Performance

Thanks to the fast non-volatile memory and high-performance CPU, the subjective workflow is extremely pleasing. We examine the system performance with PCMark 7 for an impression of the overall system. A comparison with the rivals confirms our first impression: The score of 4096 points is much higher than the 2475 points from Asus' laptop or the 2928 points of Dell's device. HP's ProBook 430 G2 claims the limelight with a 15% better system rating, although it is equipped with weaker hardware. However, we have  neglected a significant factor up to this point: the storage device. Although both operate with a non-volatile memory, it could be the reason for the difference because PCMark 7 clearly favors devices with a fast SSD.

Acer TravelMate P236-M-57R4
HD Graphics 5500, 5200U, Kingston RBU-SC100S37240GE
Asus ASUSPRO Essential PU301LA-RO064G
HD Graphics 4400, 4500U, Toshiba MQ01ABF050
HP Probook 430 G2
HD Graphics 4400, 4210U, Samsung SSD 840 PRO MZ7PD128HCFV-000H1
Dell Latitude 3340 Education Series
HD Graphics 4400, 4200U, Seagate ST500LM000 Solid State Hybrid Drive
PCMark 7
-36%
16%
-26%
Computation
9870
9300
-6%
13500
37%
9791
-1%
Creativity
7687
4679
-39%
8847
15%
5551
-28%
Entertainment
3045
2444
-20%
3176
4%
2520
-17%
Productivity
3533
1511
-57%
4173
18%
2127
-40%
Lightweight
4626
2203
-52%
5183
12%
2668
-42%
Score
4097
2475
-40%
4556
11%
2928
-29%
PCMark 7 Score
4097 points
Help

Storage Devices

"Time is money" is the motto of the working world, and SSD drives in particular, ensure a smooth and fast system. Acer has installed a large 240 GB Kingston SSD for this very reason. Although its read and write speeds of almost 500 MB/s and 270 MB/s cannot quite keep up with those of Samsung's 840 PRO SSD in HP's laptop, the non-volatile memory ensures an adequate workflow.

Kingston RBU-SC100S37240GE
Sequential Read: 495.77 MB/s
Sequential Write: 270.72 MB/s
4K Read: 20 MB/s
4K Write: 40.19 MB/s
4K-64 Read: 289.74 MB/s
4K-64 Write: 132.08 MB/s
Access Time Read: 0.146 ms
Access Time Write: 0.087 ms
Score Read: 359 Points
Score Write: 199 Points
Score Total: 737 Points

Graphics Card

The processor-integrated Intel HD Graphics 5500 is used in the TravelMate P236. It can clock with up to 950 MHz and supports important standards like OpenCL 2.0 and DirectX 11.2. All rivals feature an Intel HD Graphics 4400 that proves to be considerably weaker in 3DMark 11. With 1014 points, Acer's laptop takes a lead of 17% on the ASUSPRO Essential PU301LA and over 20% on both rivals from HP and Dell.

According to the 3DMark 11 score, our review sample achieved an identical graphics performance in battery mode.

3DMark 11 - 1280x720 Performance (sort by value)
Acer TravelMate P236-M-57R4
1014 Points ∼3%
Asus ASUSPRO Essential PU301LA-RO064G
843 Points ∼3% -17%
HP Probook 430 G2
781 Points ∼3% -23%
Dell Latitude 3340 Education Series
774 Points ∼3% -24%

Legend

 
Acer TravelMate P236-M-57R4 Intel Core i5-5200U, Intel HD Graphics 5500, Kingston RBU-SC100S37240GE
 
Asus ASUSPRO Essential PU301LA-RO064G Intel Core i7-4500U, Intel HD Graphics 4400, Toshiba MQ01ABF050
 
HP Probook 430 G2 Intel Core i5-4210U, Intel HD Graphics 4400, Samsung SSD 840 PRO MZ7PD128HCFV-000H1
 
Dell Latitude 3340 Education Series Intel Core i5-4200U, Intel HD Graphics 4400, Seagate ST500LM000 Solid State Hybrid Drive
3DMark 11 Performance
1014 points
3DMark Ice Storm Standard Score
41862 points
3DMark Cloud Gate Standard Score
4560 points
Help

Gaming Performance

At a first glance, the technical hardware specs point to an exclusion from the high-end gaming world. Only the odd new game can be played using low graphic settings. Thus, a “Fifa night does not have to be cancelled. An average of almost 42 fps can be expected from the 2015 edition in low settings. The new Intel HD Graphics 5500 proves to be considerably stronger than an Intel HD Graphics 4400. It is still just possible to enjoy “BioShock Infinite” with just fewer than 26 fps, using the absolute minimum settings on HP's ProBook 430 G2. According to the in-game benchmark, our review sample should achieve 32 frames per second.

low med. high ultra
Crysis 3 (2013) 16.110.27.4fps
BioShock Infinite (2013) 31.918.114.74.6fps
Battlefield 4 (2013) 24.214.38.9fps
Watch Dogs (2014) 15.110.6fps
Fifa 15 (2014) 41.828.2fps
Far Cry 4 (2014) 14.911.1fps

Emissions

System Noise

The 13.3-inch Acer TravelMate is silent while idling - the fan remains disabled. Acer's dark side first becomes apparent during load operations: The fan starts up shortly after the start of some performance-heavy applications and quickly reaches its maximum. The TravelMate with a noise level of 40 dB(A) is 2 to 5 dB(A) louder than our comparison laptops. Although this will not please people in the library or in other quiet environments, the processor clock benefits from this fan characteristic, which will become obvious in the next section.

Noise Level

Idle
29.1 / 29.1 / 29.1 dB(A)
Load
38.7 / 40.8 dB(A)
 
 
 
30 dB
silent
40 dB(A)
audible
50 dB(A)
loud
 
min: dark, med: mid, max: light   Voltcraft sl-451 (15 cm distance)
No maintenance covers on the underside
No maintenance covers on the underside
Stress test
Stress test

Temperature

Particularly during load, a high hotspot of just less than 45 °C (~113 °F) is reached in the fan area. Fortunately, this is not in the work area, but the rear center on the underside. This allows the use of the laptop on the lap without any problems. It is about the same among the competition. A look inside is interesting. In the section above, we ascertained a sensitive and loud fan, for this laptop category. The advantage of this is that the Turbo speed of 2.5 GHz remained stable in the stress test via Prime95 and FurMark. We repeated 3DMark 11 after the stress test to find out whether Acer's laptop achieves the same scores as in a cold start - this is the case.

Max. Load
 25.9 °C32.4 °C33.5 °C 
 23.4 °C27.8 °C28.8 °C 
 22.6 °C23.8 °C23.9 °C 
Maximum: 33.5 °C
Average: 26.9 °C
39.4 °C44.8 °C26.4 °C
27.8 °C29.9 °C23.9 °C
24.5 °C23.3 °C22.1 °C
Maximum: 44.8 °C
Average: 29.1 °C
Power Supply (max.)  48 °C | Room Temperature 19.6 °C | Fluke 62 Max

Speakers

The speakers can score in terms of volume for a small, 13.3-inch mid-range business device. Even a decent sound spectrum is perceptible. It cannot be said that these standard speakers have rich basses. Nevertheless, the review sample is suitable for all Skype conferences or an occasional YouTube clip.

Energy Management

Power Consumption

The idle consumption is still low despite the CPU's high computing power. Acer's laptop first starts to guzzle during the load operation; our review sample demanded 40 watts, which is due to the astonishingly high clock rates in the stress test. Unlike the normal case, the CPU is apparently not limited at 15 watts. The rival from Asus with an Intel Core i7-4500U consumes less. HP and Dell laptops require  approximately 13 watts less.

Power Consumption
Off / Standbydarklight 0 / 0.1 Watt
Idledarkmidlight 3 / 5.7 / 6.3 Watt
Load midlight 30.2 / 39.1 Watt
 color bar
Key: min: dark, med: mid, max: light        Extech Power Analyzer 380803

Battery Runtime

The four-cell lithium-ion battery has a capacity of 49 Wh. We simulated a real-life scenario via Wi-Fi browsing using a brightness of approximately 150 cd/m² and the energy saving profile. Different websites with contents ranging from text-only to video clips are opened every minute. Unfortunately, Acer's TravelMate will not last a whole workday  and shut down after 6 hours. However, this  does not mean that the competition are better. Asus' ASUSPRO Essential PU301LA and HP's ProBook 430 G2 shut down half an hour sooner. Dell's Latitude 3340 proves to be a true paragon for this laptop category with a battery life of 14.5 hours.

Battery Runtime - WiFi (sort by value)
Acer TravelMate P236-M-57R4
HD Graphics 5500, 5200U, Kingston RBU-SC100S37240GE
359 min ∼41%
HP Probook 430 G2
HD Graphics 4400, 4210U, Samsung SSD 840 PRO MZ7PD128HCFV-000H1
332 min ∼38%
Asus ASUSPRO Essential PU301LA-RO064G
HD Graphics 4400, 4500U, Toshiba MQ01ABF050
317 min ∼36%
Dell Latitude 3340 Education Series
HD Graphics 4400, 4200U, Seagate ST500LM000 Solid State Hybrid Drive
871 min ∼100%
Battery Runtime
WiFi Surfing
5h 59min

Verdict

Acer TravelMate P236
Acer TravelMate P236

Acer's TravelMate P236 makes a somewhat a rough start in the lower mid-range of the business sector. Thanks to its light weight and plain looks of the casing, it is an attractive companion. We will have to accept minor shortcomings in the build. Unfortunately, there are no maintenance covers or other possibilities for replacing the battery or hardware quickly. We encountered different aspects in terms of input device quality. The keyboard is good for this price range, and enables fast and comfortable typing. Manufacturers of these kinds of office devices should provide a certain amount of quality primarily in input devices. The TrackPad lacks this completely; we assume that input and accuracy problems are rather a defect. Buyers should check this before purchase. However, it is  great that the review sample features a matte screen. Although Acer relies on a TN screen, the viewing angle stability is acceptable. The brightness is not high enough for outdoor use, and both the grayscale and color reproduction (bluish cast) could be better. The computing power and responsiveness of the TravelMate are ideal for the normal workday. Although the performance is balanced, the noisy and loud fan might prove distracting. Acer's laptop achieves an acceptable battery runtime of 6 hours, which nevertheless lags far behind Dell's Latitude 3340.

In summary, Acer's TravelMate P236, costing about 750 Euros (~$815) is a mid-range business laptop with a decent system performance. Unfortunately, some compromises have to be made in terms of build and screen. A look at the competition is also interesting.

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In Review: Acer TravelMate P236. Test model courtesy of Cyberport.de.
In Review: Acer TravelMate P236. Test model courtesy of Cyberport.de.

Specifications

Acer TravelMate P236-M-57R4
Graphics adapter
Intel HD Graphics 5500, Core: 900 MHz, Memory: 800 MHz, igdumdim64 10.18.10.3995 / Win7 64
Memory
8192 MB 
, single-channel DDR3 SDRAM, 1/2 banks filled
Display
13.3 inch 16:9, 1366 x 768 pixel, AU Optronics B133XW01 V3, TN, glossy: no
Mainboard
Intel Broadwell-U PCH-LP (Premium)
Storage
Kingston RBU-SC100S37240GE, 240 GB 
Soundcard
Intel Broadwell PCH-LP - High Definition Audio Controller
Connections
1 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0 / 3.1 Gen1, 1 HDMI, Card Reader: SD
Networking
Realtek RTL8168/8111 Gigabit-LAN (10/100/1000MBit), Intel Wireless-AC 7265 (a/b/g/n/ac), Bluetooth 4.0 Bluetooth
Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 20 x 327 x 228 ( = 0.79 x 12.87 x 8.98 in)
Battery
49 Wh Lithium-Ion, 4 cells
Operating System
Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64 Bit
Camera
Webcam: 720p
Additional features
Speakers: stereo speakers, Keyboard: chiclet, Keyboard Light: no, 24 Months Warranty
Weight
1.524 kg ( = 53.76 oz / 3.36 pounds), Power Supply: 277 g ( = 9.77 oz / 0.61 pounds)
Price
700 Euro

 

Plain yet elegant...
Plain yet elegant...
...describe the looks...
...describe the looks...
...of the new Travelmate P236.
...of the new Travelmate P236.
A useful keyboard, and a...
A useful keyboard, and a...
...somewhat faulty touchpad...
...somewhat faulty touchpad...
...have to suffice for office work.
...have to suffice for office work.

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Links

  • Tips for buying a notebook - notebookCHECK Purchase Advisory

  • Find the right notebook - notebookCHECK Hardware Guide

  • Display resolution comparison - DPI (grain size) of displays

  • Our test criteria
  • Manufacturer's information

Compare Prices

Pros

+Matte screen
+System performance
+Design
+Turbo even after long-period stress test
+Keyboard
 

Cons

-Build
-Fan characteristics
-Maintenance
-Abysmal touchpad
-Interface distribution and diversity
-Intense bluish cast

Shortcut

What we like

Acer's 13.3-inch laptop sports swift performance components for 750 Euros. The plain and slim casing are also appealing.

What we'd like to see

A higher resolution and/or IPS screen with better rates. The trackpad is particularly disappointing, and a higher quality standard would generally be advisable for the future.

What surprises us

Acer's Travelmate achieves its full performance even after a longer stress test period.

The competition

Asus' ASUSPRO Essential PU301LA offers a high-performance Intel Core i7 CPU. HP's ProBook 430 G2 has a decent casing and good PCMark scores. The battery life of Dell's Latitude 3340 is particularly striking, and just that makes this laptop to a true business artist.

Rating

Acer TravelMate P236-M-57R4 - 02/23/2015 v4(old)
Nino Ricchizzi

Chassis
75 / 98 → 77%
Keyboard
81%
Pointing Device
64%
Connectivity
49 / 80 → 61%
Weight
69 / 67 → 100%
Battery
89%
Display
73%
Games Performance
63 / 68 → 93%
Application Performance
75 / 92 → 82%
Temperature
92%
Noise
90%
Audio
60%
Camera
40 / 85 → 47%
Average
71%
77%
Office - Weighted Average
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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Acer TravelMate P236-M Notebook Review
Nino Ricchizzi, 2015-03- 6 (Update: 2015-04- 9)