We had some quibbles with the 2020 edition of Acer’s TravelMate P6 ultraportable: a slightly awkward design, a confusing touchpad layout, and too much bloatware for a business laptop. That’s now a thing of the past, as Acer has solved many of those problems with the current version, which starts at $1,299.99. The weight is reduced to 2.2 pounds; Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics and vPro support are now available; And it will increase the set of other improvements. This is practically a new laptop and a reliable choice for the hard-traveling business user.
Is the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 better than our favorite business ultraportable? Well, not exactly. But the ThinkPad is more than $2,000, at $1,499.99 for the TravelMate P6 configuration we reviewed (model TMP614-52-73EJ), which means that the much-improved Acer IT department is a big consideration.
A full featured laptop in a simple package
The new TravelMate P6 offers an Intel 11th generation Core i7 at 2.8GHz, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD and a 1,900-by-1,200 pixel display with Intel X graphics. That should be plenty of power for business applications like spreadsheets and word processing with moderate graphics needs. However, this laptop weighs just 2.2 pounds, hitting the 1-kilogram milestone that marks the lightest laptop market. The unit measures 0.66 by 12.28 by 8.9 inches (HWD).
The TravelMate is well equipped with ports, including two USB-C connectors with Thunderbolt 4, one USB 3.2 Type-A port, and an HDMI 2.0 jack on the left side. On the right side are the 3.5mm audio-out, microSD slot and Kensington-style lock port.
(Photo: Molly Flores)
TravelMate Audio supports STS Audio and Smart Amplifier for distortion-free sound, even at high volumes. It delivered clean sound during testing. Dual upward-facing speakers and dual mics can pick up sounds up to 6.5 feet away to enhance conference calls. Noise cancellation technology aims to reduce background noise. A small slide can cover the camera when a conference is over.
(Photo: Molly Flores)
In addition to the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, other comparison systems we used to test the TravelMate’s performance included the Dell Latitude 7420, HP EliteBook 840 Aero G8 (both with Intel Core i7-1185G7 and Intel Iris Xe Graphics), and the 2020 Apple MacBook. Air. All three are svelte ultraportable laptops that frequently fill IT fleets.
The TravelMate’s keyboard, though functional enough, doesn’t quite reach the high bar that the ThinkPad X1 Carbon sets. Similarly, the TravelMate’s display, though readable at home, is slightly dimmer with a 340-nit rating versus 400 nits for the ThinkPad’s equivalent Full HD display option. Our 50% brightness point may be more useful than the full brightness level, however, as most users won’t turn the screen up to 100% unless they’re outdoors or in a very bright environment. At half brightness, the TravelMate only managed 97 nits, second only to the Latitude (188 nits).
On the other side of the equation, the TravelMate has a microSD card slot, a 1TB SSD with a 512GB one, weighs less than a quarter pound, and is about $600 cheaper than the ThinkPad. The TravelMate’s full color gamut is also being replicated (or bound). Gantt coverage tests for sRGB, Adobe RGB and DCI-P3 are expressed as a percentage of the full gamut. Although the HP and ThinkPad have a three-way tie on sRGB, the TravelMate outperforms it by providing the highest percentage of 100% for all three color spaces.
However, while the TravelMate’s battery is good for about 12 hours, the ThinkPad’s lasts about 20 hours. (Of course, 12 hours will get you from Portland, Maine, to LAX, even with a plane change.)
The Core i7-1185G7 processor on the EliteBook and Latitude is an 11th-generation chip, drawing slightly more power than the Core i7-1165G7 (2.8GHz) on both the Acer TravelMate P6 and ThinkPad X1 Carbon. Running up to 3.0GHz, the processor in the EliteBook and Latitude offers a slight performance boost, though the one on the TravelMate and X1 Carbon (2.8GHz max) draws less power, making it ideal for a truly lightweight laptop. In general, units based on the 3.0GHz i7-1185G7 processor needed larger batteries to maintain comparable runtimes to those using the 2.8GHz i7-1165G7, but the lighter TravelMate lagged behind the others on battery life.
(Photo: Molly Flores)
If you want, you can order the TravelMate with the upgraded Core i7-1185G7 for the top end of $1,599.99. Meanwhile, the $1,299.99 base configuration of the laptop has a Core i5 processor and cuts the storage space in half to 512GB.
Aside from the MacBook Air, the four comparison systems all have the latest Intel Iris X integrated graphics. The Air is the only one of the pack without an Intel CPU; That’s because Apple developed its own ARM-based processor, the M1, which includes integrated graphics as part of the chip. The M1 doesn’t run all the performance benchmarks PCMag uses (we’ll see the rest below), but it beats them.
Ultra portable laptops: Simple, but just as powerful
Today, we take ultraportable to mean a laptop that is no more than 0.75 inches thick and weighs less than three pounds. Of course, many push well below these limits.
(Photo: Molly Flores)
Of our comparison laptops, the Acer TravelMate P6 is the lightest, at 2.2 pounds, followed by the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (2.49 pounds) and the HP EliteBook A840 Aero G8 (2.54 pounds). The Dell Latitude 7420 comes in at a relatively light 2.7 pounds. Finally, Apple’s MacBook Air (M1, 2020) weighs in at 2.8 pounds, despite a 13-inch screen (all others are 14 inches) and a thickness of just 0.63 inches, the thinnest of them all.
In general, true rugged notebooks are more expensive and heavier than “standard” business laptops. But all three of our comparison units offer the same MIL-STD 810 G or H ratings, which means they’re just as durable and moisture-resistant in some cases as machines like the Acer Enduro N3 or Getac S410 G4, but without any weight or size penalty. That makes the Acer TravelMate P6, Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, and Dell Latitude 7420 especially attractive to business users whose travels may occasionally take them to extremes.
Best of all, their MIL-STD 810 rating doesn’t hinder performance: the three ruggedly rated laptops scored within 300 points on the PCMark 10 productivity test—from 4,811 points for the TravelMate to 5,130 points for the ThinkPad. HP also scored 4,883 points in that range. A score of 4,000 points and above is considered a strong productivity performance, and they all exceeded that, so there are no complaints at this point. PCMark 10 Suite simulates Windows applications, providing overall performance scores for office-oriented tasks such as word processing, spreadsheets, web browsing, and video conferencing.
We run both the main benchmark and PCMark 10’s Full System Drive Storage subtest, which measures program load times and boot drive size. Both tests give a numerical score, with higher numbers being better. The TravelMate scored the lowest on the storage test with 1,254 points, followed by the ThinkPad with 1,713 points and the HP with 1,831 points.
Other tests in the chart above include HandBrake 1.4, our video transcoder test, which measures the time it takes to convert 12 minutes of 4K video to 1080p format. The TravelMate was superior here, with the second best score, edging out the ThinkPad by 12 seconds. So both units are making good use of the CPU for this type of task. (Lower times are better on this test.)
Cinebench R23, a muti-core CPU test, uses the company’s Cinema 4D engine to render complex scenes. Here, the TravelMate came in third, with the MacBook’s top 6,804 points and the HP’s 4,730 points, just 20 points ahead of the TravelMate. Both the ThinkPad and Latitude trailed the TravelMate by more than 1,000 points.
Primate Labs’ GeekBench 5.4.1 Pro simulates the multi-core performance of popular applications ranging from PDF rendering and speech recognition to machine learning. Here, the TravelMate is second with 5,080 points to the MacBook’s 7,679 points.
All four laptops can run Puget Systems’ PugetBench for Photoshop.(Opens in a new window) The benchmark uses Intel’s Iris Xe integrated graphics, intensively implemented in the test, to measure various content-creation and multimedia tasks using Adobe Photoshop 22, both generic and GPU-accelerated tasks. Here, the TravelMate and ThinkPad tied for second at 595, while the Latitude came in first at 640.
For graphics and rendering, we ran two tests each from the 3DMark and GFXBench 5.0 suites. 3DMark tests several GPU functions and software APIs. GFXBench is a cross-platform GPU performance benchmark that tests the stress of low-level routines such as text and high-level, game-like image rendering. A higher score is better for all four tests.
The ThinkPad topped 3DMark’s Night Raid test with 16,228 points, followed by the EliteBook (14,538 points), TravelMate (14,534) and Latitude (14,015). The Night Raid test is moderate, suitable for laptops with integrated graphics – although the Intel Iris X GPU may be advanced enough to push the four systems into an area that previously belonged to low-end dedicated-graphics-card territory. 3DMark’s Time Spy is highly desirable for high-end computers with advanced graphics. Here Latitude scores the best with 1,676. TravelMate was last at 1,643, but note the smaller 33-point difference.
GFXBench 5.0 is a cross-platform GPU performance benchmark that stress-tests low-level routines such as text rendering and high-level, game-like image rendering. We run two tests—Aztec Ruins (1440p) and Car Chase (1080p), which simulate graphics and compute shaders—but Aztec Ruins relies on the OpenGL Application Programming Interface (API) and Car Chase uses hardware tessellation. We record the results in frames per second (fps); Higher numbers are better. In Aztec Ruins, the MacBook is in front at 78 fps, followed by the TravelMate at 48 fps, and the Latitude at 40 fps. In Car Chase, similarly, the MacBook blew away the others at 178fps. Again, the TravelMate is second, at 114fps, to the Latitude, at 97fps.
Aside from the MacBook’s strong performance on GFXBench, the TravelMate was the top graphics performer among the laptops, the Iris Xe, but they’re a close bunch.
To be a better travel companion
Acer’s latest TravelMate P6 vision, with its ultra-lightweight and affordable price—backed by shock and moisture resistance and vPro remote management capabilities—will appeal to business users, from mom-and-pop operators to large enterprises.
(Photo: Molly Flores)
For someone who travels frequently or uses a laptop away from the office, today’s portable devices are ideal for workloads short of workloads, especially when they’re light, durable, and fast. TravelMate is a strong contender in this category. Last year’s model was a clear step down from the top tier, but today you can look at the 2022 model as a viable alternative to the ThinkPad.
Acer TravelMate P6 (2022)
The latest iteration of Acer’s TravelMate P6 ultraportable is lighter, smoother and more business-friendly, with a Core i7 processor, improved touchpad and easy-to-read keyboard.
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