Acer is offering a really big range of devices and in most cases, with much lower prices than some of its competitors. Acer has been selling the TravelMate series notebooks for quite some time and their most distinctive feature is the compact and durable design, despite the low price tag. In this review, we are going to take a deep look at the TravelMate P236 laptop, which is equipped with the new Intel Core i5-5200U processor, part of the Broadwell family. The SoC comes with Intel HD 5500 integrated graphics and it will be interesting to see how it stacks up against the Core i7-5500U’s HD Graphics 5500 we’ve tested earlier.
However, hardware changes are not the only one present in this year model. The body design is a bit different and it’s pleasant to see that Acer used brushed aluminum for the top lid and this is quite uncommon for notebooks in this price range. Also, engineers from Acer used the so-called nano-imprint technology we saw in the Aspire V15 and V17 Nitro series. This technology combines several metal surfaces for a more eco-friendly and durable chassis.
Before we get more technical, you can take a look at Georgi Dobrikov’s video review on the TravelMate P236.
The Acer TravelMate comes in a relatively small box, which is quite normal for its size, also nothing fancy. You will find inside several user manuals, AC adapter, charging cable and a DVD full of drivers. Nevertheless, we recommend using the ones provided by Acer’s official website and besides that, the TravelMate isn’t featuring an optical drive, so you are going to need an external one.
Design and construction
As we mentioned earlier, Acer has brought some visual changes along with the hardware upgrade. The top lid is now in brushed aluminum, edges are sharper now and the whole placement of the ports is changed. Let’s have a look what the new design brings to the table.
The top lid of the notebook is in black, brushed aluminum along with Acer’s logo giving it a stylish and premium look. Interestingly, the lid doesn’t cover the whole interior and the hinges are a bit protruding. It reminds us of an old VAIO notebook, but don’t take this the wrong way, we do like this change. Also, the status LEDs are placed on the back, where the lid doesn’t cover the body and you cane easily see them under the screen. On the other side of the lid can be found the 13.3-inch screen along with the built-in webcam and another Acer logo.
The bottom of the machine is covered in plastic and only a few screws keep the cover in place, so you will find it quite easy to upgrade your storage or RAM. There are also a few grills for dispersing the heat with a cooling pad, but the main one is located on the back edge of the notebook.
The sides of the TravelMate are worth the attention. While the design is slim with curved attractive edges, we are not keen on the new port placement. On the left side can be found only the card reader slot and the 3.5 mm jack for a headset. Everything else is on the right side of the ultrabook and we are talking about one USB 2.0, one USB 3.0, HDMI, LAN, and the DC charger jack. This would appear to be inconvenient to some users, who are using a cable mouse and maybe a flash drive in the other USB slot, especially when the space is insufficient. This issue is also present in the famous Acer Aspire V15 and V17 Nitro series.
The interior is made out of black plastic with matte finish and it feels quite sturdy. The only things that stick out are the gray hinges and the power button at the top right corner. The keyboard, on the other hand, feels really good, despite the size of the machine. Keys appear to be big enough for a comfortable typing and the feedback is long. Nevertheless, the space bar feels a bit awkward and maybe a little hard to press on the edges. Nothing too alarming, though. We were quite pleased with the design and functionality of the keys. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the touchpad. We felt a bit of a wobbling at times and it doesn’t feel as responsive as we were expecting.
With all of this being said, we can conclude that the design of the new TravelMate is controversial. It’s pleasing to the eye, it’s light, it’s thin and it feels premium, but not practical. The wobbling touchpad and the positioning of the slots ruin the whole idea of the chassis. However, if you are not planing to use the touchpad and the keyboard on the daily basis and just looking for a portable workstation, the TravelMate’s drawbacks are neglectable.
Display and sound
The display of TravelMate P236 is equipped with FHD (1920×1080) TN panel, manufactured by AU Optronics with model number AUO B133HTN01.1. The size is 13.3″ (33.72 cm) and 16:9 ratio. The pixel density is 166 PPI with space between each pixel of 0.153 x 0.153 mm. By viewing it from a distance of 53 cm the human eye cannot recognize each pixel, which means that the TravelMate’s panel becomes “Retina” at a distance of 50 cm or bigger.
Here is a photo of the screen viewed under microscope on a white background.
The typical drawback of the TN panel can be seen below – viewing angles aren’t good above 45 degrees.
The maximum brightness of the screen is 236 cd/m2 with maximum deviation of 19%. This means that you can work comfortably in a bright room, but you will experience lack of vision when used outside under direct sunlight. Also, the color temperature is 7550K which is a bit on the cold side and with a deviation of at the top right corner.
120 cd/m2 brightness is at 62%.
At 0% brightness level, the panel emits 19 cd/m2 and at 35% we registered PWM (look in “Screen flickering” section below) with brightness of 75 cd/m2 which is really low and most probably you will not use it under 35%.
Color gamut coverage
TravelMate’s display covers 60% of the sRGB and 45% of the Adobe RGB color gamut which isn’t a good result. There seems to be missing mainly warm colors from the sRGB gamut.
The gamma’s deviation is neglectable – 2.20. You might experience a bit brighter colors at darker areas and brighter areas will appear darker.
TravelMate’s display was calibrated successfully with two different calibrators. The first one calibrated the panel with a color temperature of D65 (6500K). The average deviation DeltaE(76) became 3.49 from 8.40 (stock settings).
Here you can see a map of the color reproduction.
The second calibrator reached similar results.
Acer TravelMate’s display has PWM with brightness level set to 34%. At 35% and above the panel is harmless to human vision.
The panel used in the TravelMate P236 has a high resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, low power consumption and has wide levels of brightness that lacks PWM (above 35%). It also has a good maximum brightness, but does lack good viewing angles which is typical for a TN panel. You can use it in an office or at home, which will drastically cut power consumption and noise, but we do recommend using it with an external display. However, the compact and portable nature of the TravelMate is mostly suitable for on-the-go tasks, so the display will not be an issue.
If we assume a distance of 58cm (~23in) between the human eye and the notebook monitor, then normal (20/20) vision would require a pixel density of at least 150ppi in order to interpret an image as perfectly detailed.
|Acer TravelMate P236 13.3-inch, AU Optronics, 1920 x 1080 pixels||165.63|
|ASUS Transformer Book T100 10.1-inch, 1366 x 768 pixels||155||-6.42%|
|Lenovo Miix 2 10″ 10.1-inch, 1920 x 1200 pixels||224||+35.24%|
|HP ProBook 450 G1 15.6-inch, SDC, 1366 x 768 pixels||100.45||-39.35%|
|Acer TravelMate P255 15.6-inch, AU Optronics, 1920 x 1080 pixels||100||-39.62%|
Higher panel brightness is of key importance for visual comfort when working outside or in a brightly lit room.
|Acer TravelMate P236 13.3-inch, AU Optronics, 1920 x 1080 pixels||236|
|ASUS Transformer Book T100 10.1-inch, 1366 x 768 pixels||212||-10.17%|
|Lenovo Miix 2 10″ 10.1-inch, 1920 x 1200 pixels||381||+61.44%|
|HP ProBook 450 G1 15.6-inch, SDC, 1366 x 768 pixels||224||-5.08%|
|Acer TravelMate P255 15.6-inch, AU Optronics, 1920 x 1080 pixels||231||-2.12%|
Delta E is a CIE measurement unit of color difference. Higher values indicate that the display produces less accurate colors. (lower results are desirable).
|Acer TravelMate P236 13.3-inch, AU Optronics, 1920 x 1080 pixels||3.49|
|ASUS Transformer Book T100 10.1-inch, 1366 x 768 pixels||3.3||-5.44%|
|Lenovo Miix 2 10″ 10.1-inch, 1920 x 1200 pixels||1.91||-45.27%|
|HP ProBook 450 G1 15.6-inch, SDC, 1366 x 768 pixels||5.57||+59.6%|
|Acer TravelMate P255 15.6-inch, AU Optronics, 1920 x 1080 pixels||2.02||-42.12%|
The sRGB color gamut, introduced as a standard for the Web, shows the percentage of colors used on the Web that can be displayed on the screen of the device being tested (higher values are better).
|Acer TravelMate P236 13.3-inch, AU Optronics, 1920 x 1080 pixels||60|
|ASUS Transformer Book T100 10.1-inch, 1366 x 768 pixels||71||+18.33%|
|Lenovo Miix 2 10″ 10.1-inch, 1920 x 1200 pixels||70||+16.67%|
|HP ProBook 450 G1 15.6-inch, SDC, 1366 x 768 pixels||55||-8.33%|
|Acer TravelMate P255 15.6-inch, AU Optronics, 1920 x 1080 pixels||74||+23.33%|
TravelMate’s sound quality is good and would be suitable for most situations. You can see this from the graphic below.
The current spec sheet is for this particular model and configurations may differ depending on your region.
|Processor||Intel Core i5-5200U (2-core, 2.20-2.7 GHz, 3MB cache)|
|RAM||4GB (1x 4096MB) – DDR3, 1600Mhz|
|Graphics card||Intel HD Graphics 5500|
|HDD/SSD||240GB SSD (Kingston SSD Now)|
|Display||13.3-инчов (33.78 cm.) – 1920×1080 (Full HD) TN LCD, matte|
|Connectivity||LAN 10/100/1000 Mbps, Wi-Fi 802.11n (2×2) MIMO technology, Bluetooth|
|Weight||1.5 kg (with battery)|
Acer TravelMate P236 configurations
Now is the time to note that the TravelMate P236 needs all the drivers on Acer’s website, because when performing a clean install of Windows 8.1 the Wi-Fi and touchpad don’t work without the additional software. So, if you are willing to install it on your own, use an external mouse during the process.
However, all the drivers needed can be found here: http://www.acer.co.uk/ac/en/GB/content/drivers/5803;-;TravelMate%20P236-M
Battery used in this ultrabook is manufactured by LG Chem with model number AC14B8K. It’s a 4-cell battery with 50 Whr capacity. However, we expect good battery life, since we have energy-efficient hardware like the Core i5-5200U 14nm processor, power-friendly TN panel and small diagonal of the display. In order to check battery life, we performed 3 types of tests – web browsing, watching a video and gaming. All test share the same conditions – Wi-Fi turned on, Bluetooth is off, power saver on and brightness set to 120 cd/m2.
In order to simulate real-life conditions, we used our own script for automatic web browsing through over 70 websites.
Outstanding battery life – 595 minutes (9 hours and 55 minutes)
Watching a movie
For every test like this, we use the same video in HD.
Another great result – 514 minutes (8 hours and 34 minutes)
For accurate simulation, we used the Metro Last Light benchmark running on loop with graphic settings set to minimum.
The most demanding test got the most of the battery, but still good result – 124 minutes (2 hours and 4 minutes)
The Intel Core i5-5200U processor is part of the Broadwell family and part of the “U” series CPUs. The “U” series offer a bit lower TDP, in this case 15W, two energy-efficient cores and higher clock rates in order to keep power consumption low without sacrificing the performance.
The Core i5-5200U is clocked at 2.2GHz base frequency and can go up to 2.7GHz for one active core and 2.5GHz for one active core, thanks to the Turbo Boost technology. Of course, it’s based on a 64-bit architecture and it’s manufactured by 14nm FinFET process, which means more power, less power consumption in a smaller die size to fit in smaller form factors. It also features the HyperThreading technology from Intel, which means that the CPU emulates one additional virtual core per physical one.
The CPU also features Intel HD 5500 integrated GPU with a base frequency of 300MHz and 900MHz Turbo Boost. Other distinctive features are DDR3(L)-1600 Memory Controller with up to 16GB, HyperThreading, AVX, AVX2, Quick Sync, Virtualization, AES-NI, DirectX 11.2 as well as OpenCL 1.3/2.0 support and OpenGL 4.3. It’s important to add that the i5-5200U has 128KB cache at level 1, 512KB at level 2 and 3072KB at level 3.
You can browse through our top CPUs ranking: http://laptopmedia.com/top-laptop-cpu-ranking/
Here you will find other useful information and every notebook we’ve tested with this processor: http://laptopmedia.com/processor/intel-core-i5-5200u/
Results are from the Cinebench 15 CPU test (the higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Fritz chess benchmark (the higher the score, the better)
Fritz is a chess benchmark which tests the computing capabilities of the CPU with various chess moves. The Intel Core i5-5200U managed to get 5.022 million moves per second. For comparison, one of the most powerful PCs, Deep(er) Blue, was able to squeeze out 200 million moves per second. In 1997 Deep(er) Blue even beat the famous Garry Kasparov with 3.5 to 2.5.
Intel HD Graphics 5500 is a GT2 graphics chip, built into Intel’s Broadwell Core i series of processors. It was announced on January 1, 2015, its goal being to stand against NVIDIA and AMD’s low-end dedicated graphics cards.
The HD Graphics 5500 has 24 shader cores, known as ‘unified units’, 4 texture cores and 1 raster core. They support DirectX 11.1, Pixel Shader 5.0, OpenCL 1.2, OpenGL 4.0 and Quick Sync encoding. Base frequency is 300MHz, and TurboBoost can increase that up to 950MHz depending on the processor.
Power consumption is drastically lower when compared to NVIDIA and AMD’s discrete graphics solutions. The controller also produces less heat, since it is part of the CPU package. This makes GT2 graphics accelerators the most desirable in the ultrabook class of portables.
You can browse through our top GPUs ranking: http://laptopmedia.com/top-laptop-graphics-ranking/
Here you will find other useful information and every notebook we’ve tested with this GPU: http://laptopmedia.com/video-card/intel-hd-graphics-5500/
Results are from the 3DMark: Fire Strike (Graphics) benchmark (higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Unigine Heaven 3.0 benchmark (higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Unigine Heaven 4.0 benchmark (higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Unigine Superposition benchmark (higher the score, the better)
We are fully aware that the TravelMate P236 is not intended for gaming, but we ran the test just for comparison and evaluation reasons.
As usual we will check how the ultrabook handles bigger CPU and GPU load and along with that – heat management. We used a set of tools to stress the CPU for about an hour with 100% load on all two cores. At normal state, the CPU temperature is around 44°C, but after one hour of non-stop load, cores reach a temperature of 76-78°C which is a really good result. The maximum operating temperature listed by Intel is 105°C and the temperatures reached during this test are far from it. Also, the CPU managed to squeeze out 2.7GHz for a few minutes then slowly declined to 2.2GHz which is the base frequency and it’s good to see that it maintained it during the first hour. You can see the 100% load on the CPU (green line) and reached temperatures (red line) on the image below.
After one hour, we’ve added 100% GPU stress to the equation. The GPU stress added a few digits to the temperatures, reaching as high as 86-88°C which is still far from the maximum operating temperature. Also, the frequency stayed solid at 2.2GHz, so there’s no sign of throttling. Outstanding for a small and thin casing. You can also see how the inner temperature reflects on the surface of the machine. The highest measured temperature is around 35°C and it’s around the back of the ultrabook where the main cooling grill is located. However, the area where the palms rest and the keyboard remain cool at all times, which is an excellent result considering the compact chassis. Outstanding result indeed.
Arguably, one of the best budget ultrabooks out there. The design is really attractive, but somehow lacks effectiveness. For instance, the few things we didn’t like in the new TravelMate are the port placement and the touchpad. Otherwise, despite the thin profile (19.65 mm), compact looks, and only 1.5 kg of weight, the TravelMate P236 shows great performance capabilities and extraordinary cooling system, which does not affect user experience and most improtantly – keeps the internals cool without sacrificing performance.
Nevertheless, there is one more issue to add on the list and most obviosly is the screen. Yes, we know that it’s a budget laptop and the TN panel is a necessity for keeping the price low, but we registered PWM (screen flickering) under 34% screen brightness. This means that it’s not harmful to your vision if you use over 34% and still the panel is packing Full HD resolution in 13.3-inch diagonal, which brings a really good pixel density.
To sum things up, the TravelMate P236 brings a really good overall performance, premium design with a low price tag and oustanding battery life and heat management. If you work on-the-go and need a good business assistant with half the price, this ultrabook is worth the shot. The TravelMate P236 has it all.
- Great battery life
- Premium design, despite the price range
- Good overall performance
- Great keyboard
- Excellent cooling system
- Ligthweight and compact
- PWM is present under 35% and poor viewing angles due to the TN panel
- Touchpad could be better
- Impractical port placement