Acer remains one of the most active manufacturers in the European market. With a constant stream of regular releases, the Acer TravelMate 4401LCi (£550 inc. VAT) adds to its entry-level business range. The 360 x 272 x 38mm chassis shows good strength throughout, although its 3kg weight just manages to keep it from providing optimal mobility.

Also limiting the Acer's mobility is the heat generated underneath the chassis and on the left side of the keyboard. While not overly uncomfortable, it won't suit long-term laptop use. More comfortable is the Acer's ergonomically designed keyboard, which is built to place either end of the keyboard at a more natural position when typing. The only flaw is the rather rigid keys.

While 64-bit software remains thin on the ground, the Acer provides compatibility for those that are available. Its AMD Turion 64 ML-28 processor runs at 1.6GHz for basic performance and the 256MB of RAM and 4200rpm hard drive are equally entry-level.

As a result, performance is limited, but will suit general office tasks on the move. Scoring just 141 points from MobileMark benchmark tests, there's not enough power for concurrently running anything more than basic software. Likewise, the 4401LCi shouldn't be viewed as a multimedia machine, as its graphics are just as basic.

Powered by an integrated ATi Radeon Xpress 200M graphics chip, its score of only 758 points from 3DMark 2003 restricts use to watching DVDs and presentations. This can also be seen from its 15-inch TFT screen. With no Super-TFT coating, images lack vibrancy, but are again more than satisfactory for business use.

Only its low 1024 x 768 pixel (XGA) resolution restricts use, as limited spreadsheet data can be viewed. For creating backups of important business files, users can record to CD-R/RW, but DVD use is restricted to read-only. The 4401LCi goes beyond its entry-level roots for its business audience in its highspeed networking ability. Gigabit Ethernet is in place for setting up fixed networks, and 802.11g Wi-Fi allows for fast wireless transfers.

While performance is low, this is to be expected at this price point. As a business machine, the Acer TravelMate 4401LCi ably fulfils its goals and is a competent and well-made travel companion for the mobile business person.