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In new Acer line: Bigger Netbooks, better batteries

Owner of Gateway, eMachines, and Packard Bell brands announces a collection of new systems Tuesday evening at New Jersey's Liberty Science Center.

Acer, the global PC giant that also owns the Gateway, eMachines, and Packard Bell brands, announced a collection of new systems Tuesday evening during a press event held at New Jersey's Liberty Science Center.

Interspaced with a series of IMAX videos containing enigmatic imagery and slogans ("Light as your time can be"), Acer CEO Gianfranco Lanci discussed the company's "multibrand" strategy for selling new products across the Acer and Gateway brands. The emphasis was on Netbooks--not surprising, given the success of the $349 Acer Aspire One--and new ultraportable systems with Intel's newest ultralow-voltage central processing units.

None of the dozen-plus new laptops, Netbooks, Nettops and all-in-one PCs are available yet--we're told to expect them starting in June for the back-to-school season (and some may never even be released in the United States), but here are some of the highlights:

The 14-inch Acer Timeline T4810. Dan Ackerman/CNET

Acer Timeline series
A collection of 13.3, 14.1, and 15.6-inch models with LED 16:9 displays, Intel ULV processors, touch pads with multitouch gestures (as on current MacBooks), and innovative passive cooling (developed by Intel and called Laminar Wall), which purports to keep the laptop's outer surface cooler to the touch.

By using ultralow-voltage CPUs and LED (light-emitting diode) displays, Acer claims that these new systems can run up to 10 hours on a single battery charge. Other PC makers have made similar claims in the past, usually by following extreme usage models, such as requiring you to dial the screen brightness way down or cut power to certain features.

We're eager to get our hands on one of these models to test these claims. (Note that the new HP Pavilion dv2, with AMD's Netbook-like Athlon Neo processor, also boasted of excellent power consumption but lasted just 2.5 hours in our benchmark tests.)

All three models are slightly tapered and range in thickness from about 0.9 inches to 1.5 inches, but they felt a little heavier than we expected, and Acer says the Timeline models range from 3.5 pounds to 5.3 pounds. Still, at $699 to $899, these look like excellent entries in the low-cost, high-end design category.

Note the sticker explaining the touch-pad gestures on the 11.6-inch Acer Aspire One. Marguerite Reardon/CNET

Acer Aspire One 11.6-inch model
If a 10-inch Netbook is too small, and a 12-inch model (such as the HP dv2 or Samsung NC20) is too big for you, Acer is happy to help with the new 11.6-inch version of the Aspire One Netbook.

While this new model has a standard Intel Atom CPU and a 160GB hard drive, unlike the current rock-bottom-price Aspire One, this version has a thin LED screen and multitouch gestures, and what looks to be a better keyboard and touch pad than the $349 10-inch version that's currently a top seller.

With a more upscale design that's only about 1 inch thick, the 11.6-inch Aspire One will clearly be more expensive than the current Aspire One, but there is no official word on price or availability yet.

Gateway is getting seemingly identical versions of these 10 and 11-inch Netbooks as well, called the LT20 and LT30.

The 13.3-inch Gateway EC. Dan Ackerman/CNET

Gateway EC
Details were sketchy on this 13.3-inch laptop, but it will feature a 16:9 LED display, switchable graphics, SSD drives, and be less than 1-inch thick. Gateway is emphasizing the "green" aspect, with an energy-saving low-power mode and Energy Star 5.0 compliance.

No price or availability yet, but as Acer was clearly emphasizing "mainstream price" for all its new products, we're interested in seeing if the EC can be an inexpensive MacBook alternative.