The TravelMate P256-M is a functional desktop replacement, and the decent port offerings and a sizeable keyboard make it a reasonable choice for any small business. However, its bulky design, slightly dull display and unresponsive track pad diminish its ability to function as a mobile work station.
Wealth of ports, decent keyboard, positive security additions
Heavy and bulky design, dull screen, unresponsive trackpad
Processor: Dual-core 1.9GHz Intel Core i3-4030U
Display: 15.6in, 1366x768, Active Matrix TFT colour LCD screen
Storage: 500GB, upgradable via SD card slot
Operating system: Windows 8.1 Pro (64-bit) or Windows 7 Professional Edition
Battery: Six-cell 2500mAh lithium-ion
Acer may be better known for its consumer series of laptops but, even before trends like bring your own device, the firm has constantly had a presence in the business market with the TravelMate series of laptops.
Designed to take on big players like Lenovo and Fujitsu, the TravelMate series aims to entice buyers by undercutting competitors on cost.
With prices starting at £450, the Acer TravelMate P256-M continues this trend and is designed to offer businesses an affordable Windows 7-powered alternative to Acer's more established enterprise competitors.
Design and build
Visually the TravelMate P256-M is about as unassuming as a laptop can get and comes with a single tone, black polycarbonate chassis. The only obvious design feature is the silver Acer logo on the front.
The TravelMate P256-M is designed as a desktop replacement and is a laptop in name only. The 382x257x30mm dimensions and 2.5kg weight make it too large to comfortably carry around.
Making up for this, Acer has taken advantage of the TravelMate P256-M's size and loaded the device with a full keyboard and a wealth of ports. These include HDMI, single USB 3.0, twin USB 2.0 and VGA.
Acer has also loaded the TravelMate P256-M with an optical drive and DVD burner for businesses still using disks. The inputs make turning the TravelMate P256-M into a desktop replacement and connecting it to external monitors a simple process.
We also found that the increased keyboard size is a bonus. It has a full numeric keyboard and is noticeably more comfortable to type on than most smaller laptops. This was aided by the solid and reactive feel of the keys.
Sadly, the TravelMate P256-M's touchpad is less impressive. It's a good size, but not terribly reactive.
Using the TravelMate P256-M as our primary work machine we found the touchpad slightly finicky and it wasn't always reactive to our commands, particularly when using two finger controls. This made doing things like document editing fairly tiresome.
On paper the TravelMate P256-M's 15.6in, 1366x768, Active Matrix TFT colour LCD screen isn't anything to write home about, even when you consider the laptop's price.
The lack of a touch component makes the TravelMate P256-M's screen ill-suited to businesses running Microsoft's Windows 8.1 operating system, although this isn't a big problem as the device can be downgraded to Windows 7 Pro. More on this later.
The display is fairly average in terms of picture quality. Colours are generally OK, if slightly dull looking, and text and icons are more than sharp enough.
The increased size also made reading long documents and webpages a pleasant experience on the TravelMate P256-M.
The only real problems we noticed with the display are a slightly below average brightness and fairly narrow viewing angles.
The screen performs fine indoors, but we found that the low brightness made it almost unviewable in conditions such as bright sunshine. This will be a problem for people looking to use the TravelMate P256-M on the move.
This wasn't aided by the low viewing angles. Colours on the TravelMate P256-M's display quickly begin to distort when viewed from even a moderate angle.
Next: Operating system, battery, storage and conclusion