Watch out, it heats up!Acer has given this 13-inch a very nice finish, with a mix of aluminium and plastic covering the hood and chassis. The various components are secure with very little play and the shell holds firm when you press down on it.
The keyboard is in the chiclet style with well-proportioned and well-positioned keys giving supple, instinctive, agreeable keying that minimises errors.
The touchpad is however a little on the small size. We would have preferred to see it extend further on either side into the palm rest area so as not to have to move across it several times to get the cursor from one side of the screen to the other. The glide is however pleasant and precise.
The webcam (720p) gives decent restitution of movements, however brightness isn't managed as well. The black and dark zones are completely blocked out so you have to make sure the room you're using it in is well lit.
The connectivity is pretty standard for an ultra. On the right you'll find the headphones and mic sockets, two USB 2.0 ports and the Ethernet (RJ45) socket. The power socket, another USB 2.0 port and a USB 3.0 port and the HDMI and VGA outs are on the other side. At the front, there's an SD card reader. For DVDs however you'll have to use an external player as there's none here.
The 3830T is a quiet machine both at idle and in full load. Unfortunately, the heat isn't very well dissipated. The chassis heats up to 40°C underneath and on top some areas get up to 50 °C. This will certainly make you think twice about working with it on your knees.
Underneath, with the panel off
Power supply, VGA out, HDMI out, USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports
Headphones socket (and SPDIF), mic, USB 2.0 and RJ45
Processor power: good performance
No surprises when it comes to the CPU. It's an Intel Core i3-2310m, which we've already evaluated with the Dell Inspiron 15R (N5110). It's fluid for processing documents and browsing the Internet. You'll also be able to do photo retouching, HD video encoding or any other activity that requires heavy processing reasonably quickly. It can share processing load across its four logical cores thanks to hyperthreading, when the application allows (3D modelling for example). In regular use of such applications a Core i7 (8 logical cores) will gain you a not insignificant amount of time.
No problems here with 1080p video playback. There won't be any jumpiness issues whatever the quality of the video (SD or HD).
Windows 7 Family Premium edition (64-bit) takes 43 seconds to boot. You then have to wait another 15 to 30 seconds for the various pieces of software and connection to a wi-fi network to launch. It turns off in under 15 seconds.
Gaming: the graphics chipset soon shows its limits
In gaming however this machine barely does any better than a netbook. You'll have to make do with some retro gaming and a few recent titles such as Starcraft 2 (single player), as long as you lower your graphics options and screen resolution.
There's not a lot to say about the audio here. The ins and outs are okay, no better. At least there's no disagreeable background hiss.
With respect to the speakers, we have to admit that there isn't much space for anything decent on such a machine, but we did hope for something a bit better than what got, ie. the bare minimum, though of course, on some of the competition you don't even get that.
Battery life: 4h50In contrast to Acer's claims - 10 hours remember! - we measured battery life at 4h50 (video playback, headphones plugged in, screen at 100 cd/m², wi-fi and Bluetooth off). All the same, this is okay and close to the Samsung Series 9, which is a higher-end machine. At 1.8 Kg, this Acer is not among the lightest of ultras but you shouldn't have any trouble carrying it around in a rucksack for the afternoon.
- Decent battery life: 4H50 video playback
- Nice finish
- USB 3.0
- Glossy panel with inaccurate colours
- Heats up when you push it hard
- Very limited gaming capacity
- No DVD player
The Acer TimelineX 3830T is an ultraportable with comfortable performance that can be used both at home and on the move. You will however have to avoid direct sunlight (glossy screen) and recent games (low performance graphics). At around £450 however, it is very attractively priced.