Acer announced its new TravelMate X349 business laptop around July last year and now, you can buy it in India. Although it’s targeted at business users, the X349 comes across as a good Windows alternative to Apple’s 13-inch MacBook Air, which continues to be a hot favourite for many.
Today, we’ll be taking a look at the TravelMate X349-G2-M, which packs in Intel’s Kaby Lake CPU. Priced at around Rs. 65,000 (plus taxes), can it offer better value when compared to the likes of Lenovo’s ThinkPad 13? We take a look.
The first thing that catches your attention is the aluminium body. The slate grey colour might seem a bit drab and it certainly feels very business-like, but on the plus side, it’s easy to keep clean and doesn’t attract many fingerprints. The entire chassis and the lid uses aluminium so there’s ample protection all round. The fit and finish of the chassis is very good and the edges are slightly rounded so they don’t feel too sharp. The laptop measures 17.95mm in thickness and weighs a comfortable 1.55kg.
The 14-inch display display offers plenty of screen real estate for working on spreadsheets or simply browsing the Web. Our unit had a HD resolution (768x1366) but Acer also offers one with a full-HD IPS panel. The HD panel doesn’t have very good vertical viewing angles and there’s visible jaggedness in text and edges of icons. You can tilt the display back 180 degrees if required and the hinge provides good torsion at any angle. We didn’t find any annoying wobble issue with the the display too, however, in extreme cases, the display will slide backwards with prolonged shakes. The aluminium lid also prevents and pixel distortion when you apply pressure from the back.
The Acer TravelMate X349-G2-M features a good set of physical connectivity options. On the left, we have a power connector, full-sized HDMI port, USB 3.0, and a USB Type-C (3.1, Gen1) port along with power and charging LED lights. On the right, we have a SD card reader, headphone and microphone combo socket, USB 2.0 port, and a Kensington lock. The Type-C port here has support for video-too and is compatible with Acer’s optional dock. However, we were hoping to get the newer Gen2 standard of Type-C which supports double the bandwidth.
The palm rest area is spacious and so is the trackpad, which doesn’t really get in the way while typing. The chiclet keyboard is well spaced out and the travel of the keys don’t feel to spongy. The keyboard area is carved out of the same aluminium block as the palm rest so there’s no issue of flex here. Some of keys could have been designed or placed better. For instance, it’s easy to hit the power button by mistake since it’s placed in the same cluster as the rest of the keys and the size of the Up/ Down direction keys could have been bigger. There’s a single level of backlighting, which is even for all keys. Acer has also thrown in a fingerprint sensor which is useful for Windows Hello authentication. There are downward firing speakers placed below the laptop.
Specifications are customisable and our unit came with an Intel Core i5-7200U which is a dual-core CPU with HyperThreading, 8GB of dual-channel DDR4 RAM, integrated HD Graphics 620 GPU, and a 512GB SSD from Liteon. Other features include a HD webcam which is ‘Skype for business’ certified, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi 802.11ac with MIMO antennas and security features like a TPM 2.0 module, Acer Prosheild, and Acer Office Manager.
We had Windows 10 Pro 64-bit pre-installed on our unit with little to no apps from Acer or third-party companies. However, the retail unit should have typical Acer applications that we’ve seen on previous models like Acer Control Center, True Harmony audio enhancement, Comfyview display tweaking utility and perhaps trial programs like McAfee LiveSafe and Office 365.
For work and general usage, the Acer TravelMate X349-G2-M performs very well. Boot times are quick and we rarely noticed any lag when switching between applications or launching new ones. The SSD has good read and write speeds as we recorded a drive score of 512MB/s in SiSoft Sandra 2016. In PCMark 8, we got scores of 3576, 4268, and 3345 points in the Home, Creative, and Work benchmark suites, which are good for a ‘U’ series CPU. The laptop gets a bit warm underneath but nothing too alarming. Plus, since the intake and exhaust vents are placed near the hinge, you don’t have to deal with hot air or worry about blocking the vents when using it on your lap. We also liked the fact that it runs quiet for the most part.
Work apps aside, the X349-G2-M can double up as a decent multimedia laptop too. It handles 4K videos with ease and the speakers do get quite loud without the risk of sounding tinny. Gaming is possible too as long as you stick to games from the Windows Store or some older 3D games. We tried Modern Combat 5: Blackout, which works well with good control mapping for the keyboard and mouse.
The trackpad is one of the better ones here as tracking is smooth and Windows 10 gestures work without requiring much effort. The viewing angles of the HD display aren’t great and we recommend springing for the full-HD panel if available. Brightness levels is good though and the matte texture of the screen keeps reflections away. We didn’t quite like the quality of HD webcam too as the picture looks quite noise even outdoors, in natural light.
The battery lasted us for 2 hours and 23 minutes in the Battery Eater Pro benchmark. With regular usage, backlight for the keys turned on, and a bit of gaming, we were able to get around six hours of runtime before the power saver mode kicked in. This is not bad considering the slim nature of the laptop and if you’re more frugal with your usage then it will easily last you an entire work day.
The Acer TravelMate X349-G2-M is a good option for those looking at a portable Windows laptop without compromising too much on display size and performance. We would have liked a better quality webcam, wider viewing angles for the display and some of the keys could have been designed or placed better. Barring these issues, you get a good set of physical connectivity options, decent amount of power to run most tasks, a comfortable keyboard and trackpad, and good battery life.
However, there a small catch when it comes to actually getting your hands on one of these. Since this is designed for commercial use, it’s not available off the shelves from your typical online and offline retail chains. However, Acer tells us that its authorised partners and resellers should be able to arrange one for you or you could contact Acer directly in order to purchase it.
The model we reviewed is priced at Rs. 65,000 (plus taxes) but the TravelMate X series starts at roughly Rs. 36,000 (plus taxes) for which, you get a 6th Generation (Skylake) Intel Core i3 CPU, 4GB of RAM, 128GB SSD and Linux. The Kaby Lake CPU models can be identified with the ‘G2’ in the name. If you don’t want to go through all this hassle then we recommend waiting for a week or so as Acer will be putting the TravelMate X series on Flipkart very soon.
Price : Rs. 65,000 (plus tax)
Ratings (Out of 5)