Acer’s TravelMate B115 laptop ($379, £243, AU$466) features a 11.6-inch touch-screen display, measures to 11.5” x 8.3” x .83” (W x D x H; 292.1 mm x 211 mm x 21 mm), and runs Windows 8.1 in 64 bits. Breaking from tradition when it comes to smaller PC laptops, it makes no attempt to ape any other designs in the industry, unlike the Chromebook market, which are all aesthetic descendants of Apple’s MacBook Air, which costs $1,299 (about £1,129/AU$1,449. Lightweight, a mere 2.91 lbs (1.32 kg), the B115 comes with a roomy 500GB hard drive. It’s of a solid build, and while I wouldn’t call it rugged, it does feel built for the traveller.
The B115 is dramatically cheaper than our recently reviewed Lenovo Z40, a 14” model that costs $599 (£399, AU$799). You can reason out that one is saving money on the B115 thanks to a lack of screen real estate. Comparing it with Acer’s laptop/tablet hybrid Aspire Switch 10, ($467, £299, AU$574), you’ll miss the Switch 10’s form factor, which was made for its touch screen.
Looking out at the world of affordable smaller laptops, it’s hard to ignore the Chromebook 2 models recently released by Toshiba and Samsung. Samsung’s sold at $249 (about £154, AU$282), while the Toshiba’s unit bumped the price to $329 (about £205, AU$382) on account of a 1080p display. If the ability to use Windows applications is not a must for your needs, those units need to be included in your search for an affordable laptop.
Specs and design
While the B115 has an unassuming design, those always on the go will be thankful for a slim PC that can run the Windows applications their office demands.
Featuring three USB ports, one of which is USB 3.0, HDMI-out, Bluetooth 4.0, and an SD memory slot, it can work in most situations. The trackpad, one feature PC vendors are notorious for cheaping out on is impressive, and just as good as those on Apple laptops.
When you walk into any room with many laptops these days, you’re greeted with a sea of silver/aluminum. That doesn’t distinguish anybody, and emphasizes how nobody’s really done much to innovate outside of Microsoft’s Surface line, which I haven’t spotted anywhere in the wild. The B115, though, thanks to it’s almost-squared edges and black-with-touches-of-chrome look, won’t be mistaken for anything else.
While most of its ports are located on the back of the machine, which keep them out of sight and mind, it does keep a USB port and a SD slot within reach on the left side of the body. While the B115 feels built for travel, the no-frills design signals to me that customers aren’t paying for design. In order to get a full-size keyboard onto an 11” frame, some keys feel a little shoved-in or too-tight, but it’s all in service of the small foot-print.