The model that we received is the "Acer Aspire TimelineX 4820TG-334G32Mn". Best to check before you buy to avoid any nasty surprises. That said, our test model isn't a high-end model here (Core i3 rather than Core i5). Many 4820Ts will give higher performance than this one.
The first Acer Timeline generation democratised slimness and high battery life in the small world of laptops. Unfortunately performance was rather disappointing on the first versions. With the new Timeline X, Acer has kept the best of what the first generation had and added a good dose of extra performance thanks to the Core i processors and ATI graphics card. The TimelineX represents the new "extreme" version!
Handling, design and build: slimline in brushed aluminium
While the first Timeline only imitated brushed aluminium, the TimelineX does actually use it for the hood. The finish is still excellent with good quality plastics. We like the workmanship and the robust feel. It's just a shame that the screen surround and keyboard are in glossy black plastic because marks and scratches quickly show up!
The keyboard is wide and is made up of slightly separated flat keys. Keying is soft and quiet, comfortable to use.
The multi-touch touchpad is nice and wide and mirrors the 16:9 screen format. The glide is fluid and rapid thanks to a nice matte surface area. You still get good precision, which means you can get away without using a mouse much of the time. The left and right clicks are on the same bar, just under the touchpad. The clicks are firm, no problems here.
The webcam gives a good quality image in spite of a lack of sharpness. The image is fluid and the contrast good.
We were concerned that the new TimelineX would be noisy because of the Intel Core i processors used. However, this isn't the case! The fan is very quiet and only really becomes audible during demanding processing tasks and gaming. Acer has studied its cooling system well and the heat is well dispersed (it is mainly hot underneath).
Connectivity is relatively thorough in spite of the slimline design. There are 4 USB 2.0 ports, VGA and HDMI video outs, an RJ45, a 5-in-1 card reader, a headphones out (with optical S/PDIF) and one mic in. We would have liked to see e-SATA and USB 3.0. There's a DVD burner, which is nice on a computer this size (practical for watching DVDs for example!).
|Acer Aspire TimelineX 4820T from above
||3 USB 2.0s, DVD rewriter, power supply
|Anti-theft, VGA, HDMI, RJ45, USB 2.0, mic and headphones
||Touchpad and click bar
Processing: a small processor which does a lot
Windows 7 index: 5.1. Detail: CPU 6.2 - Memory 5.9 - Graphics 5.1 - Gaming graphics 6.3 - Main hard drive 5.4.
In spite of the Intel Core i3-330M processor which is lower performance than an i5 or i7, the Acer Aspire TimelineX obtains a nice CPU score on our index of 88! This is pretty close to our reference machine, the Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi3650 which is equipped with a Core 2 Duo T9400.
In practice, you can do a bit of everything with this PC: photo, video or even gaming. Sure, you can't expect extreme rapidity but it's enough for all round usage and not too demanding.
If you're looking for better performance, the TimelineX also exists with Core i5 and i7 processors.
1080p HD video (Blu-Ray equivalent) can be handled by the processor alone, or with the dedicated ATI graphics card. We advise you to use the second option as this frees up the processor. For that, you need to use software that can handle graphics acceleration (hardware decoding) such as PowerDVD or Media Player Classic HC.
3D gaming: recent 3D games but not too demanding
With its ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5470 graphics card (mid-range model), you couldn't say that the TimelineX has been designed as a gamer model. That said, you'll be able to enjoy yourself with less demanding titles. Most recent games will run on it, as long as you're modest when it comes to your graphics settings. Far Cry 2 is fluid at medium settings, while games use the Source graphics engine such as Half-Life 2, Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead will pose no problem even with settings on high. Best to forget the most demanding games like Crysis, unless you're happy to make do with minimum graphics settings.
Acer has made progress since the first Timeline. Without really being good, the sound that comes out of the little speakers on this TimelineX is ok. The Dolby processing gives more depth in spite of a tendency to deaden the sound overall. The headphones out is also fine, in spite of the very slight hiss. We like the inclusion of the optical S/PDIF mode which you can use to pipe sound out to your amp.
Mobility, battery life: almost 4 hours, the MacBook isn't far behind!
Without expecting it to equal the outstanding battery life you get with the MacBook Pro , the Timeline X does very well at 3h56 for video playback (screen at 100 cd/m², headphones plugged in Wi-Fi deactivated)! An excellent score in view of its hardware configuration.
This is because of its 6-cell 6000 mAh battery and very well handled energy management system.
In terms of size, the TimelineX is one of the thinest PCs of the moment. At almost 25 mm thick, it does much better than the MacBook, expecially as its weight (2.2 Kg) makes it almost as light as the Apple MacBook 13" White. Remember that the TimelineX 4820T comes with a 14-inch screen.