Acer’s TravelMate P648 boasts solid performance, a durable design, strong security and surprisingly good graphics capabilities for a notebook in its price range.
To be blunt, the TravelMate’s matte black carbon-fiber shell is boxy and boring. But, hey – a design that doesn’t draw attention to itself isn’t such a bad thing in a notebook meant for work. A pair of matte silver hinges add the only bit of visual interest.
It’s a reasonably commuter-friendly computer, matching up very well against its closest rivals when it comes to portability. Measuring 12.9 x 9.3 x 0.8 inches and weighing in at 3.6 lbs.
The TravelMate boasts an impressive range of ports, which is good news for offices that haven’t upgraded their monitors or laptop accessories in a while. The left side includes an Ethernet jack, HDMI and VGA video out ports, one USB 3.0 port, a Thunderbolt 3 port and a headphone jack.
The right edge, meanwhile, adds two USB 3.0 ports and a lock slot for physically securing the notebook at your desk. Finally, you’ll find an SD card slot on the TravelMate’s front edge, which can expand its storage capacity by 20GB, for a total of 276GB of internal storage.
The TravelMate’s carbon-fiber chassis feels sturdy, but the design could be more rigid; I noticed some obvious flex on the laptop’s upper half, though the keyboard deck feels rock-solid. According to Acer, the system is MIL-STD-810G certified, which means it was tested to withstand vibrations, shocks and extreme temperatures.
Plus, Acer says the keyboard is spill-resistant, so small amounts of water spilled into the keyboard are diverted away from the system’s circuitry to prevent damage. Just remember that spill-resistant does not mean spill-proof, so you should still be careful about where you set your soda on that worksite.
The TravelMate’s dim display might be its most disappointing feature. The system’s 14-inch, 1080p screen looks washed out, with subdued colors. While watching the HD trailer for “Kong: Skull Island,” what was supposed to be a lush green jungle looked exceedingly dull and lifeless.
Viewing angles are pretty limited, too – image clarity immediately starts to fade when the screen is tilted slightly up or down or is viewed from a slight angle. I could get a good view, but only if I turned the brightness all the way up. A brighter display would have been better for working in direct sunlight.
It’s no fun to type on a keyboard that feels this flat. The TravelMate’s keyboard offers 1.2 millimeters of key travel, which is less than the 1.5mm that we consider the acceptable minimum for most business laptops. I wrote this review using the TravelMate, and could feel its keys bottoming out as I struck them, which can get uncomfortable after a while. The keys provide a decent level of tactile feedback with each stroke, though, so workers who only need to type out the occasional email reply might be satisfied.
For all my complaining, here’s one feature I absolutely love: The keyboard features an extra column of page navigation keys to the right of the standard QWERTY layout, including Page Up, Page Down, Home and End keys. That makes it really easy to navigate around documents and web pages without a fuss. I wish every laptop came with those keys.
Of course, the TravelMate’s touchpad is perfectly suitable for page navigation. The 3.8 x 2.1-inch pad proved accurate, with a nice matte finish that allowed my finger to glide easily over its surface. And gestures – such as a two-finger swipe for scrolling – felt responsive.
Corporate IT departments will be satisfied with the TravelMate’s security options. For starters, the system provides a fingerprint reader – locked below the touchpad, between the left and right mouse buttons – so users can log in with a quick swipe of their finger.
The system included a Trusted Platform Module, which allows for hardware-based encryption. That ensures your private work files stay private.
Don’t forget to charge up before boarding your next business flight. The TravelMate lasted just 7 hours and 7 minutes on our battery test, which involves continuous web browsing over Wi-Fi.
The TravelMate provides speedy enough performance to tackle tough multitasking; I didn’t notice any slowdown at all while editing a larger spreadsheet with more than a dozen tabs open in my Chrome browser, including one streaming HD video. The system is equipped with a 2.5-GHz Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and 1Tb HDD.
Here’s one way that the TravelMate P648 stands out from the crowd: The system comes equipped with a discrete Nvidia GeForce 940M graphics card with 2GB of VRAM. That’s not something you’ll find in many laptops at this price range, as all of the TravelMate’s closest rivals have weaker integrated graphics.
Acer’s TravelMate P648 is a solid midrange business laptop with one standout feature: its Nvidia graphics card provides some extra horsepower for graphically intensive tasks. Plus, the system offers fast multitasking, solid security and a durable design.