A few years ago, the Acer TimelineX was one of the first of what we then called "thin and light" laptops, 13-inchers with sleeker, lighter frames, long battery life, and a more easily portable design than a standard notebook.
The TimelineX series still exists, and Acer's latest version features newer Intel second-gen Core i-series processors and impressive Nvidia graphics. Still, the landscape has expanded to include many thin laptops: the Sony Vaio S and Toshiba Portege, and the extremely thin Apple MacBook Air and Samsung Series 9. The $779 TimelineX 3830TG-6431 is thin, but not as thin as a MacBook Air. It's not that light for its size, either--the Sony Vaio S and Toshiba Portege are lighter, and they include optical DVD drives. The TimelineX doesn't, although it looks large enough to accommodate one.
Battery life is good, but we've seen even better from the Toshiba Portege R835 and MacBook Air. What the TimelineX 3830TG-6431 does have is a competitive price that's on the lower end for thin 13-inchers, and a set of features that, optical drive aside, is superior to those of many of its competitors.
Does design matter more to you, or the features you can get for the price? If it's the latter, the $779 TimelineX 3830TG-6431 is worth your consideration. It's not the sexiest thin laptop around, but it's certainly one of the fastest, and it is one of the cheapest small laptops with this level of graphics power that we've ever seen.
|Price as reviewed/starting price||$779|
|Processor||2.3GHz Intel Core i5-2410M|
|Memory||4GB, 1,066MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||500GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce GT 540M + Intel HD 3000 (Nvidia Optimus)|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||12.6x9 inches|
|Height||0.9 inch-1.1 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||13.3 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||4.1 pounds / 5.3 pounds|
We've seen a number of TimelineX laptops over the years, and while Acer's new version isn't much different on the outside from the TimelineX we saw a year ago, it does have some new design wrinkles. The blue aluminum exterior, with a matte finish on the back, has a clean angled look that tapers in the back down to a large cylindrical hinge reminiscent of older Sony Vaio laptops. The metal finish tends to pick up smudges, but it looks sharp, and the Acer logo sitting in the middle is low-key. The large round hinge straddles a center battery, occupying space so that the bottom of the TimelineX lies flat.
Inside, the look goes two-tone. A metallic blue plastic palm rest lies below a silver plastic keyboard tray with black raised island-style keys studded edge to edge. The efficient use of interior space gives the TimelineX a clean look.
While a trim 1 inch thick, this TimelineX is on the dense side: at 4.1 pounds, it's heavier than both the similarly sized Sony Vaio S and Toshiba Portege. On the other hand, it's still lighter than most mainstream 13-inch laptops. Basically, it's a laptop you'll feel more comfortable holding under your arm than in your hand.
The TimelineX's power cord plugs into the rear of the left side via a standard L-shaped plug. There's no optical drive door for it to get in the way of, since there's no optical drive. Other ports--USB, headphones, HDMI--cluster around the forward-facing edges of both side panels.
We wish we could like this Acer's raised keyboard more, but the plastic keys felt mushy and a cut below similar keyboards we've used on Sony and Apple laptops. A right-side column of Page Up/Down keys and the like cramps access to the Enter and Shift keys. Even odder, the Enter key directly abuts the backslash key above it. Typing isn't a disaster by any means, but we're sticklers for good keyboards.
A single "P" button above the keyboard launches Acer's power management settings. Volume and screen brightness are relegated to the direction-arrow keys: you'll also need to press the Fn key at the same time, which is needlessly awkward.
The touch pad beneath is narrow and cramped, leaving too much available space above and below that could have extended finger room. Two discrete buttons beneath are small but functional. Between the keyboard and the touch pad, this Acer's not going to impress you greatly with its ergonomics, but both get the job done. Those who prefer basic touch pads will be satisfied, at least, as there's no buttonless clickpad technology here.
The TimelineX 3830TG-6431's 13-inch glossy display is perfectly fine: its 1,366x768-pixel resolution is standard-issue, with middle-of-the-road brightness and clarity. We couldn't see the screen well at extreme viewing angles, but then again, that would have exceeded expectations for this type of notebook. Streaming videos and games looked good, and documents were sharp and easily readable.
Assisting the display is a stereo speaker bar situated above the keyboard. Labeled "Dolby Home Theater: Professionally Tuned," the speakers are superior in volume and quality to what you get in other thin 13-inchers. Movie watching and game playing both benefit.
The included HD Webcam has a maximum resolution of 1,280x1,024 pixels, and looks about as good as HD Webcams we've seen on other recent 2011 laptops. Colors looked warm, and exposure levels auto-adjusted decently.
|Acer Aspire TimelineX 3830TG-6431||Average for category [13-inch]|
|Video||HDMI, VGA||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/mic jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||1 USB 3.0, 2 USB 2.0, SD card reader, Memory stick reader||3 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband|
|Optical drive||None||DVD burner|
The new and unsurprising port addition on the TimelineX 3830TG-6431 is USB 3.0; the blue color-coded port is becoming near-ubiquitous on laptops at this point, and could come in handy for high-speed peripherals. Bluetooth is also included standard.
This particular Acer Aspire TimelineX is a fixed configuration, but the included 4GB of RAM can be expanded up to 8GB. Acer makes a variety of other TimelineX configs, some with more RAM and hard-drive space. Incidentally, while this 13-inch TimelineX lacks an optical drive, those desperate for a built-in DVD drive might consider the slightly larger 14-inch TimelineX, which includes one. Our config's 4GB of RAM and 500GB hard drive are straight-up standard for mainstream laptops these days, offering plenty of memory and storage for the average user.
A standard-voltage 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-2410M is a processor we've seen on many laptops, ranging from the Sony Vaio SA21GX to the HP Pavilion dv6t-6000. It represents the middle ground for Intel's second-generation Core i-series processors, and offers excellent speed in both single-task and multimedia multitasking work. Benchmark performance was similar to what we saw on the HP dv6t-6000, Sony Vaio SA21GX, and Dell Inspiron 15R.
The Nvidia GeForce GT 540M graphics included in this particular TimelineX are this laptop's strong suit, being decidedly better than you'd find in an equivalent thin 13-incher. Street Fighter IV played at a silky-smooth 60 frames per second in native resolution at medium graphics settings; Unreal Tournament III, while an older game, ran at a speedy 86 fps. These Nvidia graphics are Optimus-enabled as well, meaning the laptop automatically switches to Intel HD 3000 integrated graphics when the Nvidia graphics aren't needed. That offers some battery life benefits, as seen below.
|Acer Aspire TimelineX 3830TG-6431||Average watts per hour|
|Raw kWh number||48.02|
|Annual power consumption cost||$5.45|
An included six-cell battery lasted 4 hours and 44 minutes in our video playback battery drain test. For a laptop with discrete graphics, that's impressive. The Sony Vaio SA21GX/SI's battery fared better with graphics off but worse with graphics on, while the Toshiba Portege R835 far eclipsed it in battery life, but had only integrated graphics.
Acer includes a standard one-year warranty with the Aspire TimelineX 3830TG-6431. The support Web site is good at providing a list of appropriate driver software and FAQ pages for your particular model of laptop. Discovering the telephone support number is not as easy, so after several minutes of circular linking, we gave up and Googled it. Try 866-695-2237 between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. CT, and you'll need your system's serial or SNID number.
The $780 price and impressive specs of this compact Acer 13-incher are hard to beat. If you're looking for a laptop that's thin, relatively stylish, and still manages to offer a great combination of speed and battery life, look into the Acer Aspire TimelineX 3830TG-6431. While it lacks an optical drive and is heavier than equivalent 13-inchers we've seen, its game-ready graphics are worth the compromise.
Acer Aspire Timeline X 3830TG-6431
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-2410M; 4,096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 540M / 128MB (Dedicated) Intel GMA HD; 640GB Hitachi 5,400rpm
Toshiba Portege R835-P56X
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-2410M; 4,096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB (Dedicated)/1,696MB (Total) Intel GMA HD; 640GB Hitachi 5,400rpm
Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E420s
Windows 7 Professional (64-bit); 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-2410M; 4,096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB (Dedicated)/1,696MB (Total) Intel GMA HD; 320GB Seagate 7,200rpm
Dell Vostro 3350
Windows 7 Professional (64-bit) w/ SP1; 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-2410M; 4,096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 512MB AMD Mobility Radeon HD 6470M / 64MB (Dedicated) Intel GMA HD; 320GB Western Digital 7,200rpm