Acer TravelMate C200 Tablet PC – Our Full Review

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Acer TravelMate C200 Models – Choice of Two Flavors 

The Acer Travelmate C200 is a medium-sized convertible Tablet PC featuring a unique “sliding display” mechanism. Available in two distinct configurations, Acer offers extremes on both ends of the power spectrum. The C204TMi is a fully-loaded model with dedicated graphics, a Bluetooth radio and a 2GHz Pentium M processor. The C203ETCi base model makes for a great value for general tablet computing – with enough muscle to handle business applications and all common computing tasks. The C203ETCi will save consumers about $500 and features a 1.5GHz Intel Celeron M processor.

For this review, we worked with the Celeron M powered base model (C203ETCi). While this model is not going to satisfy the mobile gamer or power hungry technofile, It will fulfill the needs of the student on a budget or value-conscious business user – offering a slick and innovative Tablet PC model at  a palatable price.


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Specs

  • Hard Drive:  80GB Ultra ATA/100 (ATA-6)
  • Ports:
  • 1 x IrDA Fast Infrared
  • 3 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x Docking
  • 1 x DC Power Input
  • 1 x RJ-11 Modem
  • 1 x RJ-45 Network
  • 1 x VGA
  • 1 x Microphone
  • 1 x Headphone(s)
  • 1 x i.Link IEEE 1394 FireWire
  • Package Contents:
       TravelMate C203ETCi Tablet PC Lithium Ion battery AC Adapter Acer System Recovery CD Tablet Pen
  • Network: Gigabit Ethernet 10/100/1000Mbps, Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11b/g 54Mbps
  • Manufacturer: Acer Inc.
  • Case Style:  Portable
  • Standard Memory: 512MB DDR2 SDRAM
  • Display Screen: 12.1″ XGA Active Matrix TFT Color LCD
  • Optical Drive: Combo Drive – CD-RW/DVD-ROM (Plug-in Module)
  • Sound Card:  Integrated
  • Standard Warranty: 1 Year(s) Limited – Worldwide
  • Keyboard: 84 Keys
  • Manufacturer Part Number:  LX.TAU0E.002
  • Expansion Slots: 1 x Flash Memory Card, 1 x CardBus Type II
  • Operating System:   Windows XP Tablet PC Edition
  • Processor:  Intel Celeron M 370 1.50GHz
  • Batteries: 1 x 6-cell Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) Standard
  • Modem: V.92 56Kbps Fax Modem
  • Maximum Memory:  2GB DDR2 SDRAM
  • Graphics Controller:  Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 900 Up to 128MB VRAM
  • Parts Warranty/Labor: 1 Year(s) 
  • Dimensions:  1.4″ Height x 12.4″ Width x 9.4″ Depth

Build & Design

Overall the casing on the Acer C200 feels fairly solid. The silver plastic is thick and the retractable bracing for the display is made of metal. The mechanism which allows the display to slide up and down feels like it will last just as long if not longer than the standard rotating hinge found on other convertibles. The display closes and and locks tightly to the base providing a secure feel when the device is “collapsed” into tablet mode.

The design of the C200 is certainly innovative, but is not without its shortcomings. On the positive side, the sliding display has an unbeatable “coolness factor”. Also it is a pleasure to slide the display upward into a very secure and steady locked position. Unlike many swivel type displays, the sliding mechanism allows for the display to be a steady writing surface in notebook mode. On the downside,  the display is always exposed (unlike a standard convertible). Acer includes a soft removable cover to protect the display, however this extra piece of equipment just seems to get in the way. While the cover doesn’t add any weight to the unit, it certainly adds bulk.

There are a few other design issues that we found to be potentially problematic for some users. These include the lack of a palm rest or touchpad and also the limited navigation options. We will discuss this further in our “Input” section of the review. Keep in mind that we are not labeling anything as a “flaw”, since this opinion would be completely subjective to the taste and opinion of each individual user.


Front View: Wi-Fi, speaker, IR port, indicator lights (power/hard drive), pen slot
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Right View: pen, mic/headphone jacks, IEEE1394, vent, USB ports, VGA out
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Left View: LAN, modem port, modular (removable) optical drive, multi-card reader, PCMCIA slot
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Rear View: Kensington lock, AC in, docking port
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Underside View: mini pci, RAM compartment, hard drive, vent
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Display


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The C200 display is one of the most bright, brilliant and color rich screens we have seen on most any Tablet PC! The 12.1″ display is designed primarily for indoor use. We felt that the rather shiny surface and backlit lighting makes this screen impractical for use outdoors. However for those seeking a tablet to use indoors, you will not be disappointed whatsoever. Additionally the C200 screen makes no compromise in its clarity even when compared to many consumer-oriented notebooks that use technologies such as HP’s Brightview and the like. The resolution is the standard 1024×768 pixels which is in our opinion just fine for a 12″ display. Our review model does not have one pixel flaw or any particles trapped underneath the glass. Nice job Acer.


Speakers

Let’s make that “Speaker”. Although there is a stereo audio out jack on the C200, the built-in sound comes from a single mono speaker. Although you won’t get stereo sound with the integrated speaker, it does handle high volumes quite well without sounding tinny or distorted. When Windows boots up on the C200, you are greeted with a full, well-rounded tone.


Processor and Performance Benchmarks

Our C200 model has the Celeron M CPU. Many techie folks here the name “Celeron” and run the other way. While that used to be true with older Intel Celeron CPU’s, the newest Celeron M is not really a “Celeron” at all – at least in comparison to the older models. Then Celeron M is actually a Pentium M chip with a disabled L2 cache. The deepest sleep modes that the Pentium M features are also left out. Despite all this, the battery life of the Celeron M is still quite impressive. The Pentium M CPU performance margin is also considerably close to its Pentium M cousin. Check out the benchmarks below to see how the C200’s 1.5GHz Celeron M compares.

We used SuperPI to calculate the number Pi to 2 Million digits in this raw number crunching benchmark. This open source benchmark application allows the user to change the number of digits of Pi that can be calculated from 16 Thousand to 32 Million. The benchmark, which uses 19 iterations in the test, was set to 2 Million digits.

Comparison of tablet/notebook models using Super Pi to calculate Pi to 2 million digits (plugged in):


 Notebook Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits 

 Notebook Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits
Acer TravelMate C200 Tablet PC
(1.5GHz Celeron M)
2m 19s
Toshiba R15 Tablet PC (1.6GHz Dothan PM) 2m 8s
ThinkPad X41 Tablet PC (1.5GHz Alviso LV PM) 2m 3s
Fujitsu ST5000 (1.1GHz Dothan PM) 2m 37s
HP tc4200 (1.73GHz Alviso PM) 1m 51s


We used Futuremark’s PCMark ’04 benchmarking software to measure the C200’s performance in various tasks.

Performance Benchmarks for the Acer C200 (1.5GHz) compared to the Toshiba Satellite R15 (1.60GHz) notebook (simulating multiple computing tasks):

Futuremark PCMark04 Scores Acer TravelMate C200 Tablet PC (1.5GHz Celeron M) Toshiba Satellite R15 (Dothan 1.6GHz)
Multithreaded Test 1 / File Compression 2.66 MB/s 3.08 MB/s
Multithreaded Test 1 / File Encryption 21.52 MB/s 23.84 MB/s
Multithreaded Test 2 / File Decompression 18.83 MB/s 20.39 MB/s
Multithreaded Test 2 / Image Processing 8.7 MPixels/s 9.49 MPixels/s
Multithreaded Test 3 / Virus Scanning 1184.26 MB/s 1602.26 MB/s
Multithreaded Test 3 / Grammar Check 2.13 KB/s 2.42 KB/s
File Decryption 43.11 MB/s 47.32 MB/s
Audio Conversion 1979.09 KB/s 2186.68 KB/s
Web Page Rendering 3.99 Pages/s 4.73 Pages/s
DivX Video Compression 39.57 FPS 42.84 FPS
Physics Calculation and 3D 70.07 FPS N/A
Graphics Memory – 64 Lines 359.29 FPS N/A
3DMark ’03 Score N/A N/A

Considering we are comparing a 1.5GHz Celeron M to a 1.6GHz Pentium M, the Acer C200 performed just fine. Given the CPU price difference, this is quite impressive.

Our review unit has a Seagate 80GB 4200 RPM hard drive. Below are the results for the HD Tune performance benchmarks.



(Input) Keyboard, Touchpad, Pen and Microphone


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The C200 keyboard is responsive and solid. We did not notice any “flex”. As a matter of fact the keyboard itself on the C200 is just fine. The problem that some users may encounter however, is the lack of a palm rest. This can be a bit annoying for some typists. I personally find that it does indeed slow me down a bit when typing without an area to rest my palms. Acer opted for a trackpoint device with no touchpad. As we have discussed in previous reviews, a preference for a trackpoint is a matter of taste. The trackpoint device on the C200 works very well and has a nice textured cover to ensure a proper grip with the tip of a finger. (Yes, even a finger coated with Cheetos residue or hamburger grease will resist slippage!)  There are two silver mouse buttons located below the keys. These buttons are very simplistic in design. Since there is no trackpad to tap on, I would prefer buttons with better texture and response. On the right edge below the keys, Acer added a rolling “widget” that enables scrolling and clicking. Although this added input control sounds great in theory, we did not find it to be very responsive (you really have to roll this thing to get it to scroll over any distance) and using this device to click feels awkward.


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Working with the pen and electromagnetic touchscreen on the C200 is a smooth operation, literally. The outermost layer of the screen is not textured at all, so the writing surface feels a bit “slick”. This is the trade off  made for a crystal clear display. The feel is a matter of preference for the tablet user. The nice thing about this type of display is the option to apply a screen overlay that will both protect the screen from wear and add a textured surface for those who prefer it. We did find that the screen sensitivity is well-balanced even on the edges. This will satisfy the many consumers who complain about the issues with Tablet PC displays that seem to have a dull response to the pen as it is moved to the edges of the screen.

(note: the Acer C200 is a Wacom “Penabled” Tablet PC which provides the best writing experience and a pen that requires no batteries).

We also worked with the C200’s built-in mic. While the mic works well enough for voice recognition in Dragon Naturally Speaking, it can’t touch the quality of the dual array mics found in Toshiba, Fujitsu and several other Tablet PCs. We recommend an external mic for users that want to take full advantage of speech recognition and dictation applications.

Battery

We stress tested the C200’s Sanyo lithium ion battery. With the Wi-Fi turned on, the hard drive constantly reading/writing and the CPU busy making calculations, the C200 ran for a respectable 2 1/2 hours. Real world runtime is about the same as our Battery Eater Pro test results.


System Info
Manufacture
Model
ModelEx
OS Windows XP Service Pack 2
CPU Info
CPU Manufacture Intel Corporation
CPU Model Intel(R) Celeron(R) M processor 1.50GHz
CPU Frequency ~1498Mhz
CPU Extensions | MMX | SSE2 | APM
CPU Cache Info
Level 1 Instructions 32
Level 1 Data 32
Level 2 Data 0
System RAM info
Total Memory: 503Mb
Memory slots 0 ( )
Display Device Info
Adapter Mobile Intel(R) 915GM/GMS,910GML Express Chipset Family
Resolution 1024×768
OpenGL render device Intel 915GM
OpenGL driver version 1.4.0 – Build 4.14.10.4363
Vertex shader version 0.0
Pixel shader version 2.0
Hard Disk Drive Info
S.M.A.R.T. Supported and Enabled
HDD Model ST980829A
HDD Serial 3PK02KAE
HDD FirmWare 3.04
Main Battery Info
Device Name 01ZE
Manufacture SANYO
Serial #
Unique ID 35SANYO01ZE
Chemistry Lithium Ion
Temperature Termal Control Not Present
Designed Capacity 53280mWh
Full Charged Capacity 50916mWh
Designed Voltage 0V
Current Voltage 0V
Manufacture Date 0/0/0
Cycles Count 0
Cells count 0
Force charge support Not Supported
Force discharge support Not Supported
Benchmark results
CPU BEmarks 0
GPU BEmarks 0
RAM BEmarks 0
HDD BEmarks 0
Work Done
Pi calculations 39043 Cycles
HDD readwrite 1021 Mb
Fames Rendered 190243 Frames
Benchmark Options
Resolution 800x600x32
FullScreen Enabled
Mode Classic
Results
Total time 2:27:11
Result Graph


Software/Operating System

The Acer C200 comes preloaded with Acer Empowering Technology, Acer Launch Manager, Acer Soft Button, Adobe Acrobat Reader, CyberLink PowerDVD (OEM, not full-featured, version), Microsoft Experience Tablet PC, Microsoft Reader, Microsoft Windows Journal, Norton AntiVirus (OEM, not full-featured, version), NTI CD-Maker (OEM, not full-featured, version).

Software on CD: Acer System Recovery

OS: Microsoft Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005


Wireless

The C200 includes a built-in Intel Pro Wireless (2200BG) B/G mini pci card. The reception is good and we did not experience any “drops” while connected to wireless routers and hot spots. We do however recommend that the drivers are updated to Intel’s most recent release to maintain the fastest performance possible when connecting to various Wi-Fi router hardware.

Customer Support/Warranty

Acer offers various support options via phone, email and a detailed website. The included Acer warranty is good for a period of twelve (12) months. Customers can also add two (2) additional years through the “Acer Advantage” extended warranty. For further information visit the customer support link on the Acer website.


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Final Thoughts

The Acer Travelmate C200 Tablet PC is not the lightest 12.1″ model of the bunch. As a matter of fact the design is a bit bulkier than what we would have expected. On the upside this Celeron M-based version of the C200 is an outstanding value. We would highly recommend this Tablet PC for students, consumers or business users who want to get a solid and dependable Tablet PC without breaking the bank.


Pros

  • Beautiful display
  • Screen locks steady in notebook and tablet mode
  • Built-in, removable optical drive
  • Good value for the price

Cons

  • Limited input options
  • “Exposed” screen vulnerable to damage
  • Debatable design issues

Barry J. Doyle
TabletPCReviewSpot | Editor in Chief


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