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Acer Aspire TimelineX 5820T review: Acer Aspire TimelineX 5820T

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The Good Switchable graphics; lightweight; good battery life.

The Bad Uncomfortable trackpad; unimpressive screen; expensive.

The Bottom Line The 5820T's switchable graphics mean it's quite versatile, thanks to its Core i5 CPU and decently powered discrete GPU, but unfortunately it's let down by an underwhelming screen and an annoying trackpad, some missed design opportunities and a high price-tag

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6.5 Overall

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Acer is looking to shake up the status quo with its latest additions to the Timeline range, and the 5820T is a perfect example -- it shares many of the qualities of both a thin-and-light laptop and a high-performance desktop-replacement machine.

Acer claims you'll get over 7 hours of battery life, and yet the 5820T sports a meaty Intel Core i5 processor and 4GB of RAM. Can this laptop really have its cake and eat it? Or would your £900 be better spent on something with less of a split personality?

Getting down to business
The 5820T isn't all that much to look at -- a black brushed-steel effect on the laptop's cover is appreciated, though once you open it up you might feel rather underwhelmed. A businesslike, grey aesthetic betrays the interesting hardware lurking below the surface.

The whole package is surprisingly light and slim. Weighing in at 2.4kg and only 2.8cm thick, the 5820T is easily slender enough to chuck in your backpack. The screen is a 15.6-inch, 1,366x768-pixel resolution affair, and while we've seen far brighter screens, this one does have an impressively wide viewing angle, which means squeezing a few friends round to watch a movie is a definite possibility.

The keyboard has such large gaps it quickly becomes dirty

The built-in speakers sit above the keyboard, and while they're quite tinny, we didn't detect any buzzing or distortion during our testing. Ideal for YouTube, but you'll want to plug in some more powerful speakers if you're watching anything more involving.

Switch it up
The 5820T features switchable graphics, a feature which aims to alter a laptop's performance by choosing between two graphics processing units (GPUs). In this case, you can switch between an integrated Intel GPU, which consumes very little power and will extend the machine's battery life, or an ATI Radeon HD 5650 chip that will significantly boost your laptop's performance, but will only work when the 5820T is plugged into the mains.

The quickest way to switch between GPUs is to right-click the Windows 7 desktop and select the option to configure the switchable graphics. This is useless if you've already opened up a game -- we'd have much preferred a button on the laptop's dashboard dedicated to graphics switching.

The battery-saving mode certainly works a treat. We found the battery lasted around 7 hours with light use, so expect this machine to handle long train journeys without fizzling out before you've left the station. Bear in mind, however, that anything more than simple document editing will start to chew through the battery at a much greater pace. When we maxed out the CPU using Battery Eater, we found the 5820T managed 2 hours 2 minutes before giving up the ghost.

The discrete graphics will let you run games, and while you shouldn't expect the kind of performance you'd see in a desktop gaming rig or even a dedicated gaming laptop, coupled with the 5820T's hearty 4GB of RAM it's enough to get by -- we clocked FarCry 2 (a recent, graphically intensive game) at a consistent 15 frames per second with the graphics settings on ultra-high.

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