Review Acer TravelMate P633-M-32374G50ikk Notebook
For future engineers. 400 Euros (~$515) for an office notebook sounds very appealing. Compact measurements combined with a mid-range processor of Intel's second generation should help the thesis to be successful. The price is low, the display mediocre and the performance seems to be sufficient for numerous applications. A bargain for the student without deep pockets?
For the original German review, see here.
The TravelMate series is part of Acer's business line-up. The Acer TravelMate P633-M-32374G50ikk is part of the compact notebook range. With a market presence of one year, the notebook is already is an aged predecessor of the current models. Nevertheless it tries to convince with an attractive price-performance ratio. The Intel Core i3-2370M processor with 2x 2.4 GHz is fast enough for office applications and simple programs. The remaining information of a 500 GB hard drive, 4 GB RAM, Bluetooth and USB 3.0 sounds like a solid basic configuration.
Still, after one year the price of the Acer TravelMate dropped by about half. Starting at about 750 Euros (~$966), the P633-M currently costs 399 Euros (~$513) thus belonging to the entry-level range. The reasons are quickly found after a glance at the hardware and display.
Aluminum-magnesium alloy is the magic phrase for the TravelMate. The material lets the case appear rigid and robust but is therefore lacking in elegance. The use of this metal makes the TravelMate a light and sturdy companion. The processing profits from it as well. It would not have hurt, though, if Acer had made the clearances more precisely. Imprecise clearances are visible around the display and at the front of the case. Our test device had an additional flaw at the upper right corner of the display. The back cover of the display came off. It was unascertainable if this is a well-known problem or damage in transit.
To improve the rather boring, black overall impression a little, the manufacturer prettied up the display lid. The top received a brushed aluminum look which seems timeless and appealing. The weight of 1.7 kilos is also very common for the wide spectrum of business devices. Concerning size, the laptop could almost, but only almost, be seen as midget in comparison to the competition. At a height of 2.48 cm the Acer TravelMate cuts a slim figure but stays considerably above the measurements of ultrabooks. It merely overtrumps its opponents in width and height with measurements of 32.5 cm x 24.2 cm.
The coherence of the substantial chassis is even further improved by the sturdy hinges. They are tightly mounted on the case and have an enormous resisting power. The display constantly stays in the desired position and even grips at the largest angle.
The manufacturer complemented the TravelMate with a big, plastic maintenance cover for fast and easy maintenance. Five screws connect the cover securely with the case. The RAM and HDD slots are easily accessible after removing the cover. A 3G module upgrade is not available which might irritate frequent travelers. Additionally, the Acer TravelMate comes with an interface for mSATA SSDs.
The DockingPort is situated directly underneath the cover. Acer fitted it with a rubber cover to protect the port from dirt and dust. The docking station can be ordered directly from Acer. The current market price of the Acer ProDock LC.DCK0A.010 lies at 140 Euros (~$180). It offers four additional USB 3.0 ports as well as DisplayPort, DVI, VGA and HDMI ports.
The interfaces of our test device are only standard. HDMI and VGA ports provide a smooth connection with a video projector or television. Peripheral devices are simply connected to one of the three available USB 3.0 ports. Those who still own an external hard drive with eSATA port will be delighted about an additional port in the TravelMate.
Despite the sufficient measurements, our test device is missing a DVD drive or burner, which cannot be installed subsequently.
Our sample also holds interfaces for memory and expansion cards in store. In addition to SD or memory cards, it can also be retrofitted with a ExpressCard 34. The latter is perfectly suitable for extending connecting possibilities, hence making it very easy to retrofit USB ports, SATA interfaces or a UMTS module.
While WLAN is nowadays standard even for low-cost models, Bluetooth is still uncommon for the older devices. The tested Acer TravelMate comes with the 4.0 version of this fast and wireless connection. It is advisable to use the option of the Ethernet ports in addition to the WLAN signal source for bigger distances. The test revealed that full reception could not be maintained at 5 meters distance. The signal was weak and the bandwidth decreased to 50-100 KB/s. The WLAN reception also broke down intermittently.
The TravelMate includes a fingerprint reader between the touchpad keys. The necessary software is shipped with the device. Additionally, Acer encloses backup software.
Even though the weight of the cardboard box promises a lot of accessories, a look inside proves otherwise and is rather disillusioning. The cleaning wipe for the display is the only interesting feature that is enclosed with the test device. A short manual and the essential charging cable are mandatory and cannot be counted as accessories. A drivers or installation CD for the operating system is missing completely. All necessary drivers for Windows 7 are available on the homepage of the manufacturer. In addition, Acer offers an upgrade to the current operating system from Microsoft. To do so you need to purchase the upgrade version from Microsoft. The Acer Upgrade Assistant helps to quickly update the TravelMate to the current Windows 8. The necessary drivers are also available on the Acer homepage.
A couple of manufacturers hold back on the warranty, but not Acer, which is trying to accommodate customers. A 2 year warranty is included. The pick-up & return feature is particularly advantageous because it picks up the device at your home and is either replaced by a new model or repaired and sent back. Furthermore the manufacturer kept frequent travelers in mind by offering various additional warranties for visits abroad. The smallest version is the 3 year option along with one year of travel insurance for 79 Euros (~$101). For a surcharge of 20 Euros (~$25), the manufacturer offers a kind of all-round carefree package. 3 years of carry-in service, 3 years of accident insurance and additionally 3 years of travel insurance.
The assembly and design of each individual key of our test device convinces and creates an overall good first impression. The key size suits both small and big hands and is also appealing for slow typists. But where there is light, there is also shadow! Unfortunately Acer failed to consistently continue this layout for all aspects of the keyboard. The key stroke is spongy and without any noticeable feedback. On top of that the distance of the stroke is comparatively long. Unnoticed typing becomes quite a challenge during a lecture because the keys make a clearly audible sound. The biggest flaw is that the keyboard bends after every stroke. Additionally, the keys are not in linear order and tilt when typing.
The Acer TravelMate likes it soft and proves that with a slightly sticky touchpad. During midsummer temperatures the touchpad cannot be touched too hard, otherwise the precision decreases. Multi-touch gestures are also better understood by other models. A 2-3 mm high border ensures that your fingers stay inside the keyboard area.
The according buttons are as different as day and night. The left button can only be touched smoothly on the right side. If the finger goes too far to the left, an audible clicking sound can be perceived. However, the right button is as soft as butter and reacts quickly. As for the keyboard, the touchpad is missing noticeable feedback.
The matte 13.3-inch display did not cover itself in glory during the test. The test sample's screen can only get up to a resolution of 1366x768 pixels. Acer does not provide higher resolutions for other equipment variants either. However, the resolution of the device is sufficient for the actual purpose.
The illumination of the display reveals another weak point of the TravelMate. With a maximum luminance of 184 cd/m² it positions itself in the cost-efficient consumer range. At the lower area of the screen the value drops even further by another 24 cd/m², settling at a very low value of 160 cd/m².
Fortunately, the contrast is much more convincing than the luminance. At 523:1 the TravelMate P633-M exceeds comparable devices like the Lenovo Thinkpad Edge E330 (162:1). Colors appear vibrant, balanced and more pleasing than with other notebooks with a lower contrast ratio. Due to the cool color temperature of 7,414 K, white has a visible blue cast. Magenta and cyan are also slightly shifted to the blue area.
The low luminosity of the TravelMate is fatal for outdoor use. Despite the matte display, the screen's content is already very difficult to recognize in moderate daylight.
Image distortions are especially apparent at bigger vertical deviations from the ideal viewing angle. When looking at the display from above the image darkens strongly. At acute angles from below, though, the display gets very bright although it is sufficiently color-stable and better in comparison to the bigger TravelMate P643-MG. In exceptional cases it is possible to watch a movie with several people.
Our test sample relies on the slightly aged Sandy Bridge architecture. The Intel Core i3-2370M belongs to the 2nd generation of the Intel processors. Its comfort zone lies in office applications. The centerpiece of the CPU is the two processor cores with a respective clock rate of 2.4 GHz. Via simultaneous multithreading the processor is able to activate two more logical units. As a result, the possible simultaneous computations increase from two to four. Unlike the bigger models with i5 and i7 chips, the smaller i3 variant does not have a turbo mode for automatic overclocking. The bigger equipment variants provide a little bit more performance. Acer also offers the P633-M with an i5-3210M Ivy Bridge processor. Other versions even rely on an SSD, more RAM and a bigger battery. Acer could even include UMTS in other models.
As for storage media the test device uses a slow 500 GB hard drive by Hitachi. The Travelstar 5K500 runs quietly at 5400 rpm yet sluggishly. Several simultaneous hits are particularly problematic for it.
Since the TravelMate 633-M is not designed as a gaming machine it does not get to enjoy a dedicated graphics unit. Therefore the integrated HD Graphics 3000 of the processor has to take on the task of video display. Thus less complex, older games can be played. However, the graphics quality should not be set too high.
The built-in Intel Core i3-2370M can be considered the forerunner of the more current 3110M (Ivy Bridge). Both processors differ only slightly in terms of performance. Especially the power consumption and the improved graphics unit are the reasons for the Ivy Bridge chip to be in front.
The benchmark tests reveal that the missing turbo mode of the Intel Core i3-2370 is its undoing. In the multi-core benchmark from Cinebench 11.5 the Acer TravelMate P633-M manages to place itself in front of models with a 2310M processor. Its advantage over the Asus VivoBook S300CA with Intel's more current i3-3217U amounts to about 13%. Nevertheless the sample has to admit defeat to the competition in its own league. For example, the Lenovo Thinkpad Edge E330 NZS4RGE with the identical processor computes 13% faster.
We ascertained the system performance with PCMark 7 and Vantage. The investigation resulted in a score of 1,753 points for our test sample, therefore taking last place of systems with identical processors. The key elements of this low value are the graphics unit and the hard drive. The Windows performance index also identifies the graphics unit as a possible performance hindrance.
The older PCMark Vantage also places the Acer TravelMate P633-M at the lower end. The total system is faster than older models with Intel's 520UM processor and GeForce 310M. Still, the device cannot assert itself against the competition with the same processor. Even the Acer TravelMate P243-M from its own product family exceeds our test device by 15% in the benchmark.
The offered power of the sample easily suffices for office applications and web-browsing. Although the TravelMate takes a few seconds to open programs it eventually does what is asked. Nevertheless, you need to have patience when using more complex programs like Photoshop.
|PCMark Vantage Result||4180 points|
|PCMark 7 Score||1753 points|
The biggest flaw becomes especially apparent during everyday use: The Hitachi Travelstar 5K500 runs at a slow 5400 revolutions per minute and has a low read and write rate. Particularly the slow access time of the Travelstar P633-M leaves a lot to be desired. The continuous operation quickly reveals how slowly programs and applications start. Even Internet Explorer takes a few seconds until it finally decides to open a window. This can be solved with an SSD which can be easily retrofitted. For that reason the Acer TravelMate offers an internal mSATA port.
The internal graphics unit of the Sandy Bridge processors mainly serves the image display. The HD 3000 also uses the main memory to deal with its chores, therefore depriving the system of important resources. Games or complex work should be avoided with this graphics unit. The test system scores 3,620 points in 3DMark06, thus being a hefty 40% behind the HP ProBook 4340s H4R47EA with Intel's i3-3120 and HD 4000 graphics unit.
|3DMark 06 Standard||3620 points|
Our test device was definitely not designed for playing games but for work. The internal Intel HD 3000 manages to display current games like Diablo 3 at the lowest settings somewhat smoothly. Highly complex games are unlikely to work. While Elder Scrolls 5 Skyrim can be started, it does not run smoothly, even at the lowest settings. Higher resolutions are just as impossible as anti aliasing or high texture resolution. Even the quite frugal CS:GO starts struggling with high settings.
A loud notebook can really get on your nerves when sitting in a lecture hall or a conference. The Acer TravelMate P633-M is never noiseless and has an audible volume level. During idle the fan murmurs with 32.5 dB at low speed. The cooling is at no time turned off.
Under load the test device is, at 40.6 dB, clearly audible but not noticeably disruptive. The TravelMate is by no means a quiet machine but also no bawler.
31.4 / 32.5 / 32.5 dB(A)
||34.8 / 40.6 dB(A)|
min: , med: , max: Voltcraft sl-320 (15 cm distance)
The temperature is acceptable during office and idle operation. The work surface mostly stays at 30 °C. Only the bottom right corner was, with 33 °C, a little bit warmer than the rest of the surface. The difference in temperature is not unpleasant when working yet palpable. The temperatures at the bottom of the notebook paint the same picture. However, this time it is the upper middle that warms up more than the rest.
The temperature development of the Acer TravelMate is under load is not critical at the top yet noticeable. The stress test caused the palm rest to heat up noticeably to 40 °C. The bottom of the chassis is a little bit different though. In an extreme case it can reach uncomfortable temperatures of about 50 °C.
(±) The maximum temperature on the upper side is 40.3 °C / 105 F, compared to the average of 33.9 °C / 93 F, ranging from 21.2 to 62.5 °C for the class Office.
(-) The bottom heats up to a maximum of 50.3 °C / 123 F, compared to the average of 36.3 °C / 97 F
(+) In idle usage, the average temperature for the upper side is 30 °C / 86 F, compared to the device average of 29.4 °C / 85 F.
(-) The palmrests and touchpad can get very hot to the touch with a maximum of 40.3 °C / 104.5 F.
(-) The average temperature of the palmrest area of similar devices was 28.3 °C / 82.9 F (-12 °C / -21.6 F).
We were glad to see that the speakers are not mono speakers, unlike those of the Acer TravelMate P643-MG. The manufacturer equips the 633-M with stereo speakers which do not sound much better than the mono counterpart of the big brother though. What a pity! The left speaker produces significantly more sound pressure than the right one and is practically rattling. Low, mid and clear high tones are missing. Those who would like to watch movies or listen to music should switch to external sound sources.
The test device has similar power consumption to the P643-MG from the same company despite the missing graphics card and the weaker processor. 10.6 watts is almost identical to the 11 watts of its big brother. The gap between the two models under load is a little bit bigger. The test device's 51.5 watts is moderately lower than 60.8 watts.
|Off / Standby||0.1 / 0.3 Watt|
|Idle|| 7.7 / 9.7 / 10.6 Watt|
42.1 / 51.5 Watt|
Key: min: , med: , max: Voltcraft VC 960
Due to the 4-cell battery, which relies on merely 44 Wh, the Acer TravelMate quickly runs out of breath in our test. The processor is no miracle of energy-efficiency like modern ultra mobile processors. Therefore the test device only lasts a maximum of 79 minutes under load. During WLAN and office operations it lasts at least 235 minutes, not much but it should suffice for one lecture or a short train journey. During idle and with minimum brightness as well as deactivated WLAN module the notebook lasts a poor 374 minutes. Its bigger brother, the Acer TravelMate P643-MG-53214G75Mikk, runs much longer owing to its bigger battery.
Even before the actual test some issues smelled fishy. A business notebook that dropped from 750 Euros (~$966) to 400 Euros (~$515) within a year? There has to be a catch.
Granted, the magnesium case gives the Acer TravelMate P633-M a valuable impression. The chassis is rigid, solid and sturdy. Acer prettied up the top of the display with a brushed aluminum design, thus giving a fresh overall impression to a TravelMate that seems kind of chunky.
But apart from the case it shows some deficits, which Acer has already solved much better for other models. The display is of ridiculously low luminosity. Although the colors seem acceptably good, the brightness cannot convince us at all. It is especially difficult to recognize a white background for what it is.
Unfortunately, the display is not the only flaw of the TravelMate P633-M. The keyboard is another one and further lowers the overall impression. The spongy keystroke and the cracking mouse buttons were not convincing. Just like the slightly sticky touchpad which is not for everyone. Additionally, we would have liked a bigger battery for our test device.
On top of that, the overall performance of the test device remains far behind our expectations. In comparison to the similarly equipped Lenovo Thinkpad Edge E330 NZS4RGE, the Acer equivalent clearly has to admit defeat. The P633-M is unable to hold a candle to the direct competitor from Lenovo. But there is one essential aspect in which both devices differ - the price! This is where the Acer TravelMate P633-M can shine and is able to overtake its adversary in the quality/price comparison.