Acer's tag line for this notebook is "extreme". It's so extreme, it seems, that a simple X will suffice to convey just how extreme it actually is. Acer wants that extreme tag to apply to its performance, battery life and connectivity, but we'll add another extreme to the list.
The TimelineX 5820TG is extremely dull to look at. If there were awards for the notebook that you could most easily use to illustrate the concept of a notebook itself, the TimelineX would romp it in. Yes, it's pretty thin (379x250x24/31.4mm) and moderately light (2.4kg with battery pack). But it's otherwise a very unremarkable notebook to look at. In some situations that's fine, and the more extreme designs of other systems can be a solid sales deterrent. Compared to Acer's own Aspire 8943G, though, the TimelineX 5820TG is a very dull cousin indeed.
The TimelineX 5820TG we tested ran on an Intel Core i5 M520 2.4GHz processor with 4GB of RAM and Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit. On the graphics front, the TimelineX 5820TG can be flicked via a software utility between Intel's integrated GMA HD graphics and an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 with 1GB of dedicated RAM. The display is a 15.6-inch 1366x768-pixel LED backlit TFT. It comes with four USB 2.0 ports, HDMI and VGA for video output and gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n and Bluetooth for networking purposes.
On the software side, Acer provides a huge grab-bag of goodies. Software includes Acer Backup Manager, Acer ePower Management, Acer eRecovery Management, Microsoft Office 2007 (60-day trial), Microsoft Works 9, Adobe Flash Player 10, Adobe Reader 9.1, eSobi, Google Toolbar, Norton Online Backup, McAfee Internet Security Suite (trial version), Acer Arcade Deluxe, NTI Media Maker, Acer Crystal Eye, Acer Video Conference Manager, Microsoft Silverlight, Skype and Windows Live Essentials. That's a large swag of software, some of it already free, that you'll either enjoy or waste time having to sweep out of the system depending on your needs and viewpoint on pre-installed applications.
While it's not the most enticing looking unit, the TimelineX 5820TG impressed us at a base functional level. The chiclet style keyboard worked well, and more business-focused users will appreciate the inclusion of a full number pad on the side. On a benchmark front with the ATI chipset enabled, the TimelineX managed a PCMark05 score of 7304 and a 3DMark06 score of 7479. As a desk-based unit using the ATI chip you could expect good performance out of this particular unit. Dropping down to the integrated Intel graphics saw benchmark scores dip. Its PCMark05 score dropped slightly to 5917, while its 3DMark06 score tumbled all the way down to 1937.
The entire point of switchable graphics is to enhance battery performance at the cost of processing power. With that in mind, we ran the TimelineX 5820TG through our standard battery-draining test twice. Both times, all other battery-saving features were disabled and screen brightness was set to full in order to present a worst-case scenario. With the ATI chip enabled, the TimelineX 5820TG ran out of power after three hours and two minutes. Surprisingly, using the Intel solution didn't improve matters to any great extent, with the TimelineX 5820TG dying after three hours and seven minutes. For the kind of performance hit that you take for using the low power graphics, we'd say it's not worth it, although usage in other less graphically intensive scenarios could draw out more of a power difference.
It's slim, but not the slimmest. It's certainly not the most attractive notebook. It's a decent performer, albeit one that we wished had more differentiation between its graphics modes when it comes to conserving precious battery power. In the competitive notebooks field, it's not enough to make the Acer TimelineX 5820TG truly standout.