When it comes to enterprise computing, most IT decision-makers will choose between computers from Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo. Over the years, those firms have delivered the best products and value to companies, and IT staffs simply see them as their best bets when it comes to providing PCs to employees.
But as of late,Acer has been making an especially hard push for the corporate world as it sees its global market share shrink.
In the second quarter of 2010, Acer shipped 11.7 million PCs, earning about 14 percent of the market. During the second quarter of 2011, however, shipments slipped to 9.3 million, good for 10.9 percent share and placing the company in fourth place behind HP, Dell and Lenovo.
Nowit’s no surprise that Acer wants to go after the enterprise. The three companies that are leading the PC maker are all heavily invested in the corporate world. Acer is known more as a consumer PC maker, especially in the United States, and hasn’t been attracting as many enterprise users as it would like.
But the company hopes that will change with the help of a lightweight notebook it recently launched, the TravelMate Timeline 8481T.
That notebook, which boasts a 14-inch WXGA LED LCD display and a 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-2557M processor in the version I tested, delivers a host of enterprise-focused features and a simple design that should appeal to some corporate users. But whether it does enough to actually make IT staffs want to buy into Acer’s devices instead of the computers from HP and Dell they’ve been using for years is decidedly in doubt.
Acer seems to fully understand the needs of the corporate world in the TravelMate Timeline 8481T.
The PC comes with a simple black finish and black keyboard. Without the battery pack, the computer can be easily placed into a purse or small computer bag and, at about 4 pounds with the battery connected, it shouldn’t be too heavy for mobile employees to carry around.
The 8481T’s footprint is about the size of those found on 13-inch notebooks; however, the device comes with a 14-inch WXGA LED LCD display. It might not seem like much, but for road warriors, that’s an important aspect of the notebook’s value proposition.
Other than that, the 8481T is very run-of-the-mill from a design perspective. Employees place the battery pack on the back of the PC and will find a couple USB ports on the right side of the notebook. On the left side of the PC are USB 3.0 and eSATA ports. In addition, users can hook up the PC to an HDTV, thanks to the built-in HDMI port.
The 8481T’s keyboard might take some getting used to. Although it’s full-sized and quite attractive, the keys are flush with the top of the bottom panel of the notebook, potentially making them a bit more difficult to use than the average laptop keyboard. After some practice, though, users shouldn’t have too much difficulty using the notebook.
TravelMate Loaded With Mix of Business, Consumer Software
It’s also worth noting that the 8481T’s touchpad is very basic. You can slide your fingers around the pad and control the cursor with ease, but scrolling could be improved.
There is one thing missing from the 8481T: an optical drive. Acer’s decision to not include an optical drive is a curious one, and something that could be a deal-breaker for firms that require such a feature to get software and other contents onto the device.
Acer ostensibly ditched the optical drive to ensure the computer stayed thin and lightweight,similar to Apple’s own moves with its MacBook Air. And the company may feel the lack of an optical drive isn’t necessary, what with the computer’s ports. However, an optical drive would have been a nice feature.
From a features perspective, the 8481T is what the average IT decision-maker might expect. The notebook comes with the capable and surprisingly speedy 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-2557M processor. With 4GB of on-board memory, employees shouldn’t have any problem getting their daily tasks done, as long as they don’t try to edit video or use other resource-intensive programs.
On the software side, Windows 7 Professional was running on the version I tested, and was augmented by a host of outstanding security applications from Acer, including ProShield. With the help of Acer ProShield, IT staffs can modify BIOS settings, set up preboot authentication procedures, and add encryption to chosen files and folders. For files or folders that need to be securely removed, ProShield offers a “shredder” function.
Acer offers a host of other packages to users, including a Recovery Management tool and a Backup Manager.
Out of the box, the 8481T boasts the standard C drive, as well as a Data drive, where files can be backed up. All told, the device has 320GB of on-board storage.
For an additional layer of security, Acer’s notebook comes with biometric security: Employees can swipe their fingers across the sensor to access the PC. Setting up that function is as simple as swiping at least two fingers across the sensor three times.
With all those enterprise-focused features, Acer is offering a solid showing with its PC. Sure, the applications will need to be augmented by other security solutions, but the bundled applications work exceedingly well. Plus, they give companies at least some security right out of the box. And in today’s security-conscious world, that’s important.
Acer TravelMate Delivers 8-Hour Battery Life
But Acer did make an odd move with its 8481T: It bundled Netflix with the software.
As mentioned, Acer has been doing a satisfactory job of appealing to consumers but has been missing out in the enterprise. The fact that the company would include Netflix streaming on a corporate-focused device is a somewhat odd decision. After all, companies care about productivity, and providing employees with a way to watch movies and TV shows at work might not be the best idea.
Luckily,Microsoft bailed Acer out. Thanks to the 8481T’s installation of Windows 7 Professional, employees will find Windows XP Mode. That service, which runs a virtual version of XP inside Windows 7, works quite well on the 8481T.
When evaluating the performance of a Windows PC, it’s difficult to get a good feel for how it will work for everyone. After all, Acer shipped me a brand-new PC, but it hasn’t been bogged down by extra software and months of use.
Out of the box, just about any employee who has been using an outdated Windows XP notebook will be happy to get their hands on the 8481T. Startup times are quite fast and, in my testing, the notebook came close to hitting Acer’s reported 8-hour battery life. (I got about seven-and-a-half hours on a single charge.)
Back to the touchpad: As mentioned, it could be better, but thanks to the USB ports on the right side of the notebook, I was able to plug in a mouse to overcome that issue.
Acer is quite pleased with the quality of the 8481T’s 14-inch display, and for good reason. Viewing high-quality video on the PC was a treat, and even after prolonged use, employees shouldn’t have too many problems sitting in front of the computer. Although some companies like to provide employees with bigger displays, the 14-inch option in the 8481T seemed perfect for everyday tasks like working in Microsoft Office and answering email.
Simply put, the 8481T delivers what many would expect: a solid experience.
In the enterprise, most IT managers have decided that the best all-around PC options come from HP, Lenovo and Dell, while Acer has remained on the sidelines.
Although the TravelMate Timeline 8481T likely won’t change that, the notebook is a fine option for any company looking tobreak from the stranglehold of old-time favorites. With a host of security solutions, the 8481T seems to fully deliver the feature set enterprise users are looking for.
Should the 8481T have come with an optical drive? Sure. Does it need Netflix built-in? No. But aside from that, the $999 notebook is a solid choice and one that few IT decision-makers would be displeased to have running in their operations.