Review

Acer TravelMate Spin P4 hands-on review: Intel Tiger Lake is here

About two weeks ago, Acer sent me its TravelMate Spin P4 for a sort of "hands on review", or that's what I'm calling it. The PC is being announced today at its next@acer event, and Acer was kind enough to send me a pre-production unit. The rules are that I can't run any benchmarks, or speculate what benchmark scores might be, so the format of this review will be slightly different from what you're used to.

Not running benchmarks was hard too, because the TravelMate Spin P4 is the first PC I've used that has Intel's 11th-generation 'Tiger Lake' processors. Tiger Lake is Intel's second generation that uses a 10nm process, and it has some seriously improved graphics power called Iris Xe. On top of that, it has support for Thunderbolt 4 and faster memory.

But even aside from that, the TravelMate Spin P4 is a pretty cool business laptop. It's got a built-in pen, an IR camera for Windows Hello, and most importantly, optional 4G LTE.

Specs

CPU Intel Core i7-1165G7
Graphics Intel Iris Xe
Display 14” FHD IPS SlimBezel Touch Panel w/AES
Body 12.7x9.2x0.7in, 3.3lbs
Ports (2) USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A
(1) Thunderbolt 4
(1) HDMI
(1) Ethernet
(1) 3.5mm audio
(1) microSD
(1) nano-SIM
Storage 1TB, PCIe Gen3 8 Gb/s up to 4 lanes, NVMe
RAM 32GB DDR4
Battery 56Wh, up to 13.5 hours
Connectivity 4G LTE, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0
OS Windows 10 Pro
Color Slate Blue
Price Starts at $999


To be clear, these are the specs of the unit that Acer sent me, and since this product wasn't announced yet, I haven't been able to get pricing on this configuration. The base model comes with a Core i3-1115G4 CPU, 128GB of storage, and 8GB RAM.

Design

The color of this PC is called Slate Blue, and it's a pretty subtle shade of blue. At first glance, you might even think it's more of a gunmetal color. Personally, I like it. It's a nice way to add a bit of color to a business laptop, which typically wouldn't have any color at all.

As usual, it has the silver Acer badge embossed in the corner. This isn't uncommon for a TravelMate, whereas one of Acer's consumer PCs might have the Acer logo right in the middle of the lid.

Zero ports were harmed in making this convertible just 0.7 inches thick. On the left side, you'll notice that there's a full-size Ethernet port, which has a drop-jaw hinge. You'll also find HDMI, two USB Type-A ports, and a Thunderbolt 4 port.

Yes, that's a pin charger all the way to the left, and that's the kind of charger that it ships with. Of course, you can also charge through the USB Type-C port, so you have the choice. If your business is standardized on Acer chargers, you can use those. If you want to use a newer USB Type-C cable, you can do that too.

That Thunderbolt 4 port can also power up to two 4K monitors off of a single port, or you can use it to connect an external GPU. The minimum spec for Thunderbolt 4 was actually what some Thunderbolt 3 ports were capable of, but now it's standard, and it's pretty awesome.

On the right side, there are even more goodies. This is where you'll find the power button, which doubles as a one-touch fingerprint sensor. Yes, that means that you get the seamless log-in experience that comes when the PC reads your fingerprint before it boots up. There's also a nano-SIM card slot, because this PC does absolutely come with 4G LTE. That means that you don't have to worry about connecting to public Wi-Fi and the security implications, the hassle of using your phone as a hot spot, or asking your buddy for a Wi-Fi password. Also on that side are a microSD expansion slot and a 3.5mm audio jack.

That's also where you'll find the pen garage, an elegant solution for pen storage. That means that the AES pen is always charged when you need it, and it's always with you. Some companies like to use a magnetic attachment, but that can fall off in your bag. Some make you use AAAA batteries, but then you have to deal with it potentially not being charged when you do to use it.

To me, the pen garage is the best solution because it's always with you, always charged, and it doesn't get in the way. Of course, that means that you get a smaller pen, but the good news is that it's Wacom AES; there are plenty of options out there if you want to grab a third-party pen.

My only complaint about the design is that I wish it was a bit lighter. I've used so many Acer PCs that are made out of a magnesium alloy, and this one is aluminum, which is much heavier. It comes in at 3.3 pounds, and I feel like if it was magnesium, it could have been close to or under three pounds.

Display and audio

The TravelMate P4 comes with a 14-inch FHD display, and there's not much to say about it. I don't have a very detailed spec sheet, so I'm missing things like promised brightness. I didn't have any issues with outdoor usage though, although I did have to keep brightness at close to 75% instead of my usual 50% for indoor use.

The screen does seem to have a solid 160-degree viewing angle, letting you view it from any angle without any visible color distortions. And the colors in general seem to be accurate, speaking purely anecdotally.

Of course, there's pen support, which is great for use as a tablet. You can use it to take handwritten notes, write on photos, draw routes in Maps, and so on.

It has narrow bezels on the sides, although the top and bottom bezels are quite large. The top one has an IR camera and a webcam, along with a privacy shutter that can block the webcam. Obviously, having Windows Hello facial recognition is a plus. The bottom bezel just feels unnecessarily large, although perhaps that's due to the speaker placement above the keyboard.

Those speakers actually sound quite good, and that's a stark contrast to my previous experience with Acer laptops. Not only is it loud, but it's clear. I've used so many Acer laptops, especially commercial ones, where it sounds super-tinny. That's not the case here and I'm really pleased to say it.

Keyboard and trackpad

The keyboard is backlit, and it's solid, but it's also nothing to write home about. It's not that this keyboard is bad in any way at all, but that companies like HP and Lenovo are doing frankly amazing things with keyboards in their business laptops.

This one definitely feels good though. The keys are sturdy, accurate, and comfortable with proper resistance. They're not particularly quiet, something that I look for in a premium keyboard.

As you'd expect, it has a clickable Microsoft Precision trackpad, meaning that it's fast, responsive, and supports all of the gestures that you're used to. I do wish it was a bit bigger though. There's something about it when there's a lot of space around the trackpad where I wonder why the company didn't make more use of the available real estate. After all, the display does have a huge chin and a large top bezel, giving it a larger footprint. Either way, it's a very minor complaint.

Performance

As I mentioned right from the beginning, I couldn't run benchmarks on here, and I can't even speculate what benchmark scores would be. All I can tell you is what my experience was like, and I have to say, it was pretty great. This machine has an Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor and 32GB of RAM, so it's legit.

Intel's Tiger Lake processors bring things to a new level. Last year's Ice Lake was a massive improvement with Iris Plus Graphics, and now with Iris Xe, it's really interesting. I call it interesting because it makes this machine particularly versatile.

You can play games on here, albeit not with top-end settings, and you can edit FHD video on here without issue. At the same time, this is a productivity machine, which can also be used as a tablet. The use cases for this PC seem to be endless, thanks to how good Intel's U-series processors are getting.

I won't get too deep into performance because not only am I not allowed to run benchmarks, but it would also be irresponsible. This is a pre-production unit, and your mileage will definitely vary from mine. I'm also not going to talk about battery life, because that wouldn't be fair either.

Conclusion

The Acer TravelMate Spin P4 is a fantastic PC, and I hope I get to spend more time with it when production units are available. It's almost a cliche to say this, but it just checks the right boxes.

For one thing, Acer is putting 4G LTE in these things, and that's awesome. This is 2020, and everything should easily connect to the Internet. I give the company a lot of credit for including LTE in all three of the TravelMates that it announced today.

I do wish it was a bit lighter, and I'd love to see this exact same PC but made out of a magnesium alloy. Also, I'd like that dream machine to have a larger trackpad.

But then of course, Intel's Tiger Lake processors are great, but fitting them into a form factor like this just makes it a winner. The pen garage makes pen storage optimal, so it's always with you, always charged, and doesn't get in your way, so tablet mode is a breeze. And at the same time, I spent some time playing Halo: The Master Chief Collection. This is just an incredibly versatile machine.

The Acer TravelMate P4 is set to arrive in North America in December, and it's coming to EMEA in November.

 

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