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Acer TravelMate P6 review: Economy class

The Acer TravelMate P6 is a business laptop with two key compromises

Acer TravelMate P6
Acer TravelMate P6 review: Economy class
MSRP $1,430.00
“The Acer TravelMate P6 is a business laptop held back by a flimsy lid and disappointing battery life.”
Pros
  • Great productivity performance
  • Nvidia MX250 GPU helps creative apps
  • Lightweight chassis
  • Excellent connectivity
Cons
  • Display’s contrast is below average
  • Lid and keyboard deck are too flexible
  • Bezels are large for a modern laptop

Acer’s TravelMate P6 is its midrange business-oriented laptop, aimed at the likes of Lenovo’s ThinkPad T490. It’s not sexy, it’s not exciting, but rather it’s made to offer the performance and security that business users are asking for. The 2019 TravelMate P6 is much like its predecessor, only it’s lighter and has up-to-date components – which is really just the ante in today’s competitive laptop scene.

Acer sent us a model with an 8th-gen Whiskey Lake quad-core Core i7-8565U, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB PCIe solid-state drive (SSD), a discrete Nvidia GeForce MX250 GPU, and a 14-inch Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) display. The price for this configuration is a solidly premium $1,500.

The TravelMate P6 faces some stiff competition, not just from other business-class laptops but from consumer laptops that are increasingly attractive to corporate users. Does Acer offer enough value to be competitive?

Designed to be robust, but doesn’t quite feel like it

The TravelMate P6 joins a number of other business-class laptops, including the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon and the Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1, in being designed to meet the MIL-STD-810G (and MIL-STD-810F as well in Acer’s case) military standard for durability.  These standards cover a wide range of criteria, including handling low and high temperatures, resistance to humidity, and other factors.

But, the TravelMate P6’s lid bends too easily under far too little pressure, and the keyboard deck feels a little flexible as well. That makes us wonder just how much stock to put into these standards – maybe a laptop stands up well to changes in temperature and can handle a drop from a couple of feet. But what good is that if it seems like you might damage the display by bending the lid a little too hard?

Acer TravelMate P6
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Maybe a laptop doesn’t necessarily need to be built like a tank to be durable – assuming those military standards tests are valid. But it’s something we’ll keep in mind as we’re reviewing other laptops, and we’ll say this: We like our laptops to feel as tough as their marketing materials promise. The TravelMate P6 doesn’t quite cut it.

We don’t mean to give too negative an impression, though. The TravelMate P6 feels great when you’re carrying it around, thanks to a soft-touch feel that avoids a shock of cold when you grab the laptop first thing in the morning. The aesthetic is nice to look at as well, with a simple black color scheme that’s broken only by a silver logo in the corner or the lid, dark gray hinges, and blue lettering on the function keys. It’s a simple design without any aspirations for standing out – much like the Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1 that’s sleek but not flashy – and we think conservative-minded businesspeople will appreciate it.

The TravelMate P6 hasn’t gotten the hint when it comes to its bezels, though. They’re large – up top, on the sides, and the chin is pretty hefty as well. That makes it a larger laptop than, say, the Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1, which is over an inch shallower and a third of an inch less wide. The Lenovo ThinkPad T490 shares the TravelMate’s larger bezels and is therefore much closer in size.

The lid bends under far too little pressure, and the keyboard deck feels a little flexible as well.

The TravelMate P6 is thin enough at 0.7 inches but won’t win any records. The Latitude 7400 is a 2-in-1 and it’s only 0.59 inches thick, while the ThinkPad T490 is the same as the Acer at 0.7 inches. The TravelMate P6 does well in the weight department at 2.6 pounds, though, which beats the Latitude 7400’s 2.99 pounds and the T490’s 3.35 pounds. In fact, the TravelMate P6’s weight is likely to be one of its most redeeming features for many users.

As with any business laptop worth its salt, connectivity is a real strength. The TravelMate P6 sports a USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 port with Thunderbolt 3 support (and Acer sells a companion dock with support for up to three 4K monitors), two USB-A 3.1 Gen 1 ports, a full-size HDMI 2.0 port with HDCP support, an Ethernet RJ-45 port for wired connections, a microSD card reader, and a SmartCard reader. And those are just the physical ports.

Wireless connectivity is provided by an Intel Wireless-AC 9560 (no Wi-Fi 6, unfortunately) combo card with 2X2 MU-MIMO 802.11ac support and Bluetooth 5.0. Then, there’s a nano-SIM slot for LTE and an NFC reader for connecting with mobile payment devices.

A shallow keyboard with a surprisingly tough touchpad

The TravelMate P6 has a rather typical island keyboard with black keys and white lettering, with backlighting that’s disappointingly just on and off. We think a premium laptop should offer at least a couple levels of brightness. In any case, the keyboard is shallower than we like, without the travel you’ll find on the Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1 or the even better travel on the HP Spectre x360 13. The mechanism has a nice snap to it, though, and so keystrokes remain precise and don’t uncomfortably bottom out.

Acer TravelMate P6
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The touchpad is large enough for comfortable scrolling and swiping, and it’s covered in Gorilla Glass to make sure you don’t smash through the touchpad in frustration. That’s a nice touch, although we don’t remember physically damaging touchpads to be a rampant issue. In any event, the touchpad supports Microsoft’s Precision touchpad protocol, so Windows 10 multitouch gestures work just as they should on any modern laptop . The display is also touch-enabled, which is always a plus in our book.

Windows 10 Hello support is provided by both an infrared camera for facial recognition and a fingerprint scanner built into the power button. That’s a real positive because the TravelMate P6 has the same kind of webcam slider as Lenovo’s ThinkPad line – meaning that you don’t have to choose between privacy and easy of logging in. Just register a finger or two for when you’ve turned off your webcam and you’re good to go.

We hoped for better from the display

Acer ships the TravelMate P6 with one display option, a 14-inch Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) matte display that’s sharp enough for productivity users but might give pixel-peepers something to complain about. The 14-inch size is a good compromise between chassis size and working space, although as we mentioned Acer didn’t use small bezels to minimize the former.

Our colorimeter wasn’t all that kind to the TravelMate P6’s display, though. In particular, it pegged the contrast ratio at 610:1 – that might have been good enough a few years ago, but today it’s well below average for a premium display. Heck, many budget laptops have better contrast. The Acer is the lowest in our comparison group, with the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon being much better at 950:1.

Color support was more average at 73 percent of AdobeRGB and 98 percent of sRGB, and average today means that you’ll likely see plenty of colors unless you’re a professional photographer or videographer. Color accuracy was good at 1.52 (1.0 or less is excellent), which is third-best among a strong comparison group. Brightness was below our preferred 300 nit threshold at 263 nits, but the matte display helps that brightness hold up against bright ambient lighting.

Most will find the TravelMate P6 to be plenty fast for productivity, and the discrete GPU is a plus.

Subjectively, we found the display to be good enough for productivity work, but not the best we’ve used. In particular, the low contrast kept black text from sticking out from white backgrounds – something that’s bound to bother a writer. Gamma was a little dark at 2.4, meaning that Netflix binging isn’t going to be a standout feature either. The TravelMate P6 will stream HDR video, though, and so that helps a little.

Top-firing speakers underneath the display provide plenty of volume and nice clarity when turned all the way up. The usual nice highs and mids with minimal bass, but good enough for Netflix and YouTube — if you’re by yourself — and begging for headphones if you wantto enjoy some tunes.

Solid performance for getting your work done, with a discrete GPU to help things along

Our TravelMate P6 review unit was well-equipped, with an 8th-gen Whiskey Lake quad-core Core i7-8565U CPU. That’s a fast processor that can keep up with demanding productivity workers, and the addition of an Nvidia GeForce MX250 means that creative apps that can utilize a discrete GPU will also benefit.

According to our tests, the TravelMate P6 was plenty fast at the Geekbench 4 synthetic benchmark. It scored a very strong 5,288 in the single-core test and was equally strong at 17,011 in the multi-core test. That leads our comparison group, except for the Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1 in the single-core test, and implies that the TravelMate P6 will do well with most typical productivity tasks.

When we switched to our real-world Handbrake test that encodes a 420MB video file to H.265, the TravelMate P6 managed an average score. It completed the test in 262 seconds, which is line with our comparison group but not at all impressive. The Lenovo ThinkBook 13s with its Core i5-8265U was slightly faster, and we’ve seen laptops like the Asus ZenBook S13 UX392 rip through the same test in as few as 212 seconds. Mainly, that seems to be a matter of how well the laptop manages heat and how close to the thermal edge a manufacturer wants its laptop to run.

Acer TravelMate P6
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Acer’s choice of a Kingston 512GB PCIe SSD wasn’t the fastest, as according to the CrystalDiskMark 5 test the TravelMate P6 scored at the very bottom with 751 megabytes per second (MB/s) in the read test and 771 MB/s in the write test. Laptops like the Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1 with its Toshiba SSD were much faster. This is also one of our more deceiving tests – any modern PCIe SSD will keep a modern CPU full of data for the usual productivity tasks. But if you work with very large datasets, such as huge database applications, then these scores might give you pause.

All in all, most users will find the TravelMate P6 to be plenty fast for most of their work, and if you have applications that can use a discrete GPU, like a video encoding app, then you’ll get an extra boost of power. The laptop also remains cool, never exceeding 105 degrees F in our testing, but you’ll definitely notice the fans working to keep heat under control.

This isn’t a gaming laptop, but Fortnite runs just fine

You won’t be buying the TravelMate P6 for gaming, that much is obvious. But that doesn’t mean you might not want to bust out Fortniteor another lighter game for a little break. The Nvidia GeForce MX250 that Acer equipped isn’t going to miraculously turn this into a gaming laptop, but it promises to get you through those casual titles with no problem.

According to the 3DMark Time Spy test, the TravelMate P6 was a strong performer for its class of CPU with a score of 1,171. The MX150-equipped Asus ZenBook 14 UX433 score 966, and of course those machines using Intel’s integrated UHD 620 graphics were much slower.

Running Fortnite, the TravelMate P6 managed a playable 35 frames per second (FPS) at 1080p with High graphics settings, and 30 FPS on Epic. That’s faster than the ZenBook 14 UX433, and makes the TravelMate P6 a decent casual gaming laptop, especially if you drop settings down to Medium.

Battery life was a disappointment

Acer packed a significant 60 watt-hours of battery capacity into the TravelMate P6, and the Whiskey Lake CPUs are efficient processors. We were therefore hopeful that we’d see guaranteed all-day battery life out of the TravelMate P6, if not even better.

As it turns out, we were a bit disappointed.

When we ran the laptop through our web test, which runs through a series of popular web sites, the TravelMate P6 shut down after 7.5 hours, which isn’t a great result for a laptop with this much battery capacity. It’s less than the rest of our comparison group by half an hour, and there’s no great reason this laptop shouldn’t have gone well past eight hours. Our web test is probably the best indication of whether a laptop will last a full working day of typical productivity tasks, and we’re not encouraged.

The same occurred with our video looping test, that plays a local 1080p Avengers trailer until the battery runs out. Here, the TravelMate P6 just barely managed 10 hours, which is an hour less than the next worst laptop in our comparison group. That’s not a terrible result, but it’s once again simply less than we expected.

Acer TravelMate P6
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Finally, in our most demanding Basemark web benchmark test, the TravelMate P6 made it to three and three-quarter hours. Only the Acer Swift 3 14-inch and Lenovo ThinkBook 13s did worst. What these results mean is that if you tend to push the CPU at all during your work – not to mention the discrete GPU – then you’re going to need to carry around the proprietary power adapter. That’s not optimal, to say the least.

Our take

According to its military testing results, the TravelMate P6 is tougher than it feels. We’ll give it the benefit of the doubt on that score. It performs well for standard productivity work but doesn’t knock demanding tasks out of the park – although if you’ll benefit from the discrete MX250 GPU, then that’s a real perk – and it’s light but not particularly small.

There are some applications that might be attractive to business users, like the usual BIOS protection and integration with business management solutions, and if those matter to you then by all means take a look. But overall, the TravelMate P6 is an underwhelming choice in the midrange business laptop space.

Is there a better alternative?

If you have the budget and you’re in the market for a business laptop, then we’ll recommend you take a good, hard look at the Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1. You’ll get a more solid build quality, a slightly smaller chassis even given that it’s a fully-functional 360-degree convertible 2-in-1, and some of the longest battery life we’d tested. But you’ll pay for it, at $2,489 for an equivalent configuration – and you won’t get a discrete GPU.

If you’re not worried about the business software that ships with the laptop, then you should take a good look at the Acer Swift 3 14. It offers similar performance, better battery life, a more robust build quality, and it, too, has a discrete GPU if you need it. It’s also less expensive, at $1,000 for a Core i7, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD – note that you will have to give up some storage space, but you save a hopping $500.

Finally, you can consider the Lenovo ThinkPad T490. It’s a bona fide business laptop of its own with the same military standards testing and a more solid build. It offers the same privacy guard for the webcam, and you’ll spend the same $1,500 for a Core i7, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD. Once again, though, you’ll have to give up the discrete GPU.

How long will it last?

The TravelMate P6 boasts testing to military standards, and so you’ll have to take Acer’s word for it that its flexible display won’t cause problems down the road. The components are relatively up-to-date (although with Intel’s 10th-gen CPUs right around the corner, that’s becoming a dubious statement), and it has enough connectivity that you should never run out of ports. The 1-year warranty is particularly disappointing for a business-class machine.

Should you buy it?

No. There are better business laptops you can buy. In fact, the TravelMake P6 doesn’t offer so many business perks that a consumer laptop can’t do in a pinch.

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