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First look: Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T-68U118, an 11.6-inch powerhouse

This Netbook-size 11.6-inch Acer may be small, but it has the innards of a full-size laptop.

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We said we were noticing a trend in 2010 toward "premium" Netbooks, and that's no joke--it seems as we begin our final descent through this calendar year that true ultraportable laptops are back, in a big way.

The $899 Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T-68U118 looks like a Netbook from the outside, just slightly bigger. An 11.6-inch glossy screen and a full-size flat keyboard are contained cozily in a narrow lightweight chassis with little bulk, resembling an Acer TimelineX in miniature. A six-cell battery is tucked above the keyboard and between the screen hinges, reducing bottom bulk. With lid closed closed, the machine packs flat and is easily lifted in one hand. Looks-wise, it also shares a lot in common with the 11.6-inch Gateway LT3201u, especially in terms of its keyboard and trackpad. Unfortunately, that's not all good: the flat keys often don't seem as comfortable as raised ones, and the compressed trackpad/palmrest space feels like a compromise. We wish that spacious keyboard had been bumped up a bit to fill the large unused space above, clearing up more of the far more valuable space below.

Light and fast: Acer's 11.6-inch TimelineX
Despite specs befitting a full-size laptop, Acer's diminutive 11.6-incher is as light as a Netbook. Sarah Tew/CNET

Inside, this little TimelineX's specs are utterly upscale. An Intel Core i7-680UM dual-core ULV processor running at 1.46 GHz marks the biggest change from previous models using Core i5 and i3 ULV CPUs. A 500GB hard drive and 4GB of DDR3 RAM match what we've seen in midrange full-size laptops. Three USB 2.0 ports, HDMI-out, Bluetooth 3.0, and Windows 7 Home Premium round out the attractive feature-set. Really, other than an optical drive, this 11.6-incher lacks nothing.

However, at $899, this laptop's clearly priced as a high-end option. The real question you'll have to consider is whether you're considering the 1830T-68U118 as a complete laptop or merely a portable tool. If the former, why not choose an equally-priced 13-inch laptop? If the latter, why not save a little money and pick a budget dual-core machine that can still do the majority of the tasks this laptop can, albeit a little more slowly?

Those are nitpicks, however. Streaming video playback, multitasking, and everyday office tasks fly on the 1830T-68U118. It's not a "true" Core i7 in terms of overall performance feel, but it closely matches a standard-voltage Core i3. (Intel's Turbo Boost technology can increase the CPU speed up to 2.53 GHz, but doing so affects battery life. We performed our benchmarks using the out-of-the-box 1.46 GHz CPU speed.) CPU-wise, this laptop is equivalent to the Core i7 version of the Dell Alienware M11x. That laptop also had Nvidia Optimus graphics, but this machine only has integrated Intel graphics good for basic casual games.

We'll report more on battery life in our full review, but the results so far have been promising. The six-cell battery doesn't last as long as a Netbook, but you should expect at least four hours of solid video playback performance out of it. Check back this week for our full review.