When I was offered a review unit of the Acer TravelMate P648-MG-789T notebook, it was touted as the “industry’s first notebook with Tri-Band 802.11ad Wireless from Qualcomm”.
Sure thing!, I thought, as I always enjoy trying out things that are new, especially ones that are an industry first.
But then I went back and looked up 802.11ad - aka “Gigabit Wireless”, aka “60Gig”, and realized that this technology has been touted for about two years without much movement in the space from vendors. At CES earlier this year, Acer announced it was coming out with this notebook, and it’s finally here.
Here’s the thing - 802.11ad technology utilizes the 60 GHz wireless spectrum - it’s aimed at short range, high-volume data transfers, especially in smaller spaces. This also gives you some higher bandwidth than you’d get with an 802.11ac system, but you’re also limiting the distance between the client and the receiver in order to get that benefit.
Notice I said receiver and not router - because at the moment there aren’t any 802.11ad routers out there. Even Acer, which is touting the notebook, says the only other 802.11ad device out there is this wireless gateway/docking station. Basically, the 802.11ad technology is used to wirelessly stream data from the notebook to the docking station.
This can be beneficial if you want to transfer data wirelessly from the notebook to an external hard drive connected to the docking station. For example, if you have loads and loads of high-file-size video files. I can also see situations where you might want to wirelessly stream a video feed from the notebook to a connected TV, similar to wireless HDMI, but again there isn’t a lot of gear yet that does this.
So we have a situation where there’s a product feature in search of a solution, and we’ll have to wait and see if other 802.11ad products come out to support this technology.
In the meantime, there’s the rest of the notebook, which is still impressive. It runs on Windows 10, features the Intel 6th generation Core i7-6500U processor, Thunderbolt 3 ports and 4K display support. The notebook is also ruggedized (MIL-STD 810G) for travelers, featuring a carbon and glass lid, magnesium-aluminum cover and palm-rest, and “Dust Defender” feature to protect from dust. A spill-resistant design also can protect the keyboard from when the guy next to you in the middle seat “accidentally” spills his coffee when you’re trying to get your work done.
Other aspects: 8GB of DDR4 memory (up to 20GB supported), a 14-inch LED backlit display (1080p resolution) with 170-degree viewing angle, NVIDIA GeForce 940M graphics card (with 2GB of DDR3 VRAM), 256GB solid-state hard drive and battery life up to 8 hours (three-cell lithium ion pack). The notebook weighs 3.75 lbs. and also has a backlit keyboard for those late-night email sessions.
For the IT team, the notebook includes Acer ProShield Manager software (security and management tool), biometric fingerprint reader (with TPM 1.2 support), and the Acer Office Manager system, which lets the IT staff “deploy security policies, monitor IT assets and schedule maintenance tasks.”
During my tests, the notebook had a very solid feel (the carbon-fiber cover makes it strong), but not overly heavy where it would become burdensome in the travel backpack. The three USB ports offered enough to add a mouse or connect a storage drive when the need arose. I was slightly irked by the inclusion of a dual headphone/microphone jack, but then I realized that like a lot of other people, I’m moving towards Bluetooth (or USB) with my headphone/microphone needs.
Everything worked as well as one could expect from a Windows notebook (sorry, I’m still a Mac fan), so the bottom line is whether you want to try out 802.11ad in its very limited uses at the moment. Or maybe you just like being prepared for something that may never happen in the future.
Grade: 4 stars (out of five)
It had a good 36-year run, but its day is done.
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