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Acer really grasped the long-life nettle with its last Timeline laptops. With the help of low-voltage processor chips from Intel and decent but discreetly sized batteries, the original 15.6in Acer Timeline 5810T could boast what was then an incredible 9 hours-plus of battery life.
Now we have TimelineX. The range's stated aim is to add performance to existing longevity and thin ’n’ light features; and that’s a worthy target, as the previous generation was quite modestly powered by the standard of today’s laptops.
Intel has again helped out by offering a new Core i5 processor in the Acer TimelineX 5820T, this one specified at 2.26GHz. (A Core i3 version is also available.)
The 4GB of RAM and 500GB hard disk specs of the Acer TimelineX 5820T are the same as the 5810T we tested. In our latest tests the new Acer TimelineX 5820T earned a WorldBench 6 score of 101 points – that’s a 42% increase over the Mark I.
In most other respects, the Acer TimelineX 5820T is the same as the earlier 5810T. There’s the same glossy widescreen panel, offset trackpad, and a numerical keypad to the right of the qwerty. The ports lineup is the same, with four USB 2.0, HDMI and VGA outputs, and a multi-brand memory card reader.
Graphics capability is a whole new story though. Using Intel’s integrated Core i5 graphics alone would be upgrade enough for many users – we found this to be around four times faster than before.
Where FEAR once limped along at 4fps, it was now almost playable stutter-free at best detail settings, averaging 17fps.
If I were a laptop, I would want to do three things; look good, perform efficiently, and be wholly relied upon. To be honest, that sounds like me in my current human state, but that just shows how far laptops are advancing I suppose. With this is in mind, I set out out on my search at the beginning of July 2010 for a laptop that met those criteria, with my three important characteristics at the top of my priorities, as well my various other desires. After one month of research, advice, and late nights, I came home with this: the Acer Aspire TimelineX 5820TG.
That name is just bursting with power and masculinity, is it not? You might think I say this every time (and I probably do, which does raise questions over my so-called 'research'), but what a name! 'Aspire', a word which fills one with hope; 'Timeline', a term which suggests that even if I haven't, they have done their research; and the 'X', a little kiss for good measure. A paragraph on the name - over the top, or simply in awe?
First and foremost, this is a laptop. Not a silly little netbook with a 2" screen and no room for a DVD drive, and not a Macbook, with, you know, its price. As for the price of this; I snapped it up for £699 from John Lewis (with a free two year warranty). This is well and truly, a laptop, and a very fine looking one too. So appearance isn't everything, OK, but it became increasingly difficult to keep telling myself that whilst I was carrying out my product research. You refine your search, you filter it out so you're left with the cream of the crop, and then you click on 'show gallery', and this garish, glossy red lidded thing flies out of the screen and splats you right in the face. You can't be doing with that.
Acer have engineered a masterpiece. It's slim, it's sexy, and it's in a stylish silver/black combination that works fantastically well. Everything about it speaks of its class. It's the 'stylish black aluminium finish' that works so well, from the simple exterior lid, to the beautifully laid out interior, there's not a corner cut.
It's the keyboard that impresses most if we're going to judge it on first appearances, though. It is a keyboard very similar to that of a Mac, with each key spaced out intricately for a stylish finish. When you're going for that Mac-look, you either get it right, or get it terribly wrong - Acer get it utterly right. It looks good, it feels excellent, and is also very easy for touch-typers to get the feel of. You even have the luxury of a full number pad to play with, and a full sized backspace key! Don't you just hate those tiny little ones that you can never find?! The only problem is dust and other bits of dirt finding their way in between keys, but as long as you look after your laptop sensibly, you should be fine.
Working closely with the keyboard is the trackpad, which whilst casually merged in with the palm rest, shouldn't be overlooked, for it too has a host of talents! It includes one universal clicker instead of the common pair, or even trio of keys which sometimes get in the way of each other, and works simply but very well. It's one of those features you don't notice, but appreciate very much so. The multi-gesture track pad is where you get your money's worth though. Simply 'pinch, flick, or swirl' your fingers across the trackpad for enhanced website browsing, as well as video and photo viewing. It makes zooming in and out of web pages or images much easier, and where desktop users laugh in the face of us 'laptoppers' (that was a last minute name) with their scroll wheel, now we can hold our heads high! It is good though, jokes aside. Genius, in fact.
Other physical features the Timeline includes should be by no means overlooked, but it's like the Brazil football team; unfortunately, when your team's that good, you have to put even well known stars on your bench. A star of this laptop that only now gets a mention is the super-multi DVD RW, the external drive of which I own and am very fond of. It delivers top notch burning speeds, and is one of the best re-writers you can get - and it's in this laptop, what a bonus! There's Dolby Home Theatre Virtual Surround Sound, which isn't the best you'll find in a laptop, but for a machine that doesn't boast to be entertainment orientated, it ain't half bad, and makes watching films and listening to music a much more pleasurable experience. Thirdly, you've got the Acer Crystal Eye Webcam, which again, isn't a high-end webcam, but makes skype calling the Mrs at university easy and timely in between whatever she or I may be doing in our busy schedules.
Weighing in at 2.24kg, it's not so much 'ultra-portable', but is by no means a sack of potatoes. For a 15.6" screen, with the specifications you're soon to hear of, it's actually ridiculously light, and another factor that got a big thumbs up from me, especially considering that I would be wanting to take this on the train every fortnight or so, as well as using it in various places for various needs. Portability - tick!
So we've covered its beauty, and some of its core features, but there's that middle and all all important one; performance. Arguably the most important contributing factor to performance is the processor, and I made sure that I myself didn't cut any corners on this one. The Timeline comes in a slimmed down model, with a smaller hard drive and poorer processor, but I chipped in a few extra pennies to get the much acclaimed Intel Core i5 processor, which gives not only superb performance, but also that extra boost in speed. Applications run smoothly with one another, and as the processes mount up, you don't even notice it until you look down at your task bar.
Supporting the great performance is a hard drive that gives you a generous half a terabyte in storage (500GB), which lets you comfortably store the music collection you've built up for years, and even pop those favourite films or TV programmes you may have downloaded, perfect viewing on those long train journeys to see the Mrs. The graphics card is something that I've not extensively tested, simply because I'm not much of a gamer, but it's another bonus for me. I do like a bit Football Manager and the sort, so to have a decent graphics card to rely on when I am feeling in need of some entertainment is another win. It's not just the gaming side it boosts of course, with DVD viewing superb alongside the surround sound audio.
It all sounds quite wonderful thus far, does it not? You're thinking, "yeah, but now he's going to tell us everything that's wrong about it". Nope. In fact, I'm saving the two best bits till last. Ready yourselves. Fetch your cuppa.
The screen is stunning. The reason: a high definition, 15.6" CineCrystal LED (yes, LED) widescreen (16:9) display. It's beautiful, it's wonderful, it's every incredible adjective you could throw at beauty itself. Images jump out of the screen, a screen which delivers crisp and vibrant visuals. Watching DVDs is, well, marvellous. Remember what you're combining here; the 5.1 virtual surround sound, the HD graphics support, and then the HD, LED screen. It's a winning combination and one that really can't be put into words, even though I've done my best to. It's something else.
So what's left? What couldn't I have covered that is so significant, I've left it till dead last, like Everton on Match Of The Day (sorry non-football fans, and Everton fans alike). Well, if you're reading this on a laptop with a poor one, then you may not find out. Of course, I'm referring to the all important battery. How many hours? Well, 12 obviously. 12?! Oh yes. Indeed, that is on minimum workload and optimal power saving techniques, but you can easily get 9 hours out of this thing, and it really is quite freakish. The Powersmart technology includes a conveniently placed button toward to the top right of the keyboard, which allows for easy optimisation of power settings, but it really is an asset which makes this laptop what it is; the Timeline. The only negative note on the battery is that it does stick out of the back (behind/under the screen) somewhat. This is due to it being a 9 cell battery, and whilst being a little annoying, it doesn't make it uncomfortable upon your lap, and sits happily on a flat surface just as with any other laptop.
Finally, you've got the software itself. With Windows 7 in full 64-bit, you know you're up to date and fully compatible with all new release software and games. As with most laptops these days you get a healthy amount of software pre-installed, although it's down to personal preference if this is more of an annoyance or a bonus. Amongst the bits included there's a McAfee Internet Security Suite trial, Microsoft Office 2007 trial (and Microsoft Works 9...), and Norton Online Backup, to name just a few.
Overall, I love this laptop, and that's not just because I have to (you know, all that research). I wanted a lot from my laptop, and that's on top of those three factors I highlighted earlier. The fact of the matter is, this beast ticks all the boxes. It's stunning, it's technically inquisitive with a multi-gesture trackpad and an upper-class keyboard, it's effectively an ultra-portable when you look at *that* battery life, and it's packed with features which make it an incredibly generous and high end laptop, and that all important third factor; wholly reliable.