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Acer offers smaller MacBook Air alternative

Featuring Intel's fastest ultralow-power processor and an 11.6-inch screen, the Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T could be a template, if not a viable alternative, to an upcoming MacBook ultraportable.

A new Acer Aspire TimelineX AS1830T-68U118 boasts both a design and internals that rival current and possibly future MacBook ultraportables.

The Acer Aspire TimelineX AS1830T-68U118 packs Intel's fastest ultralow-power processor and an 11.6-inch screen.  Hints of an upcoming MacBook?
The Acer Aspire TimelineX AS1830T-68U118 packs Intel's fastest ultralow-power processor and an 11.6-inch screen. Shadows of an upcoming MacBook? Acer

Persistent rumors about an upcoming MacBook Air point to a redesign--as well as new processors. And on Wednesday, we got official word from Apple that it is staging a "Back to Mac" event on October 20. Needless to say, this can only serve to fuel speculation about new MacBooks--and most prominently the MacBook Air.

So, could Acer be blazing a trail that others will follow? At the very least, the TimelineX's feature set points to a contemporaneous cutting-edge ultraportable. Housed in black brushed aluminum, sporting an 11.6-inch LED screen, and weighing in at about 3 pounds, the TimelineX is at the vanguard of Windows-Intel ultraportable laptops.

One of the marquee features is Intel's newest top-of-the-line, ultralow-power Core i7-680UM chip, running at 1.47GHz. But that base speed--which is fast for a "UM" series processor--gets cranked up to 2.53GHz with Intel's Turbo Boost technology.

And considering that the mobile Core i series integrates the graphics function into the same chip package as the main processor, a thermal envelope of 18 watts--referred to as TDP or thermal design power--for the i7-680UM is impressive. Previous power-efficient Intel processors without the extra graphics function offered equal or even a higher thermal envelope. Translation: equal or less heat emanating from the processor but better performance.

What does all of this power efficiency get you? Acer claims eight hours of battery life, which is pretty much borne out in one review.

The Acer laptop also comes with a multigesture touch pad, Bluetooth 3.0, an HDMI port, a 500GB hard disk drive, and Windows 7 Home Premium for $899.

No doubt any redesigned MacBook will come with a few surprises that only Apple can pull off. But ultraportable laptops with attractive feature sets and reasonable prices are out there already that may serve as a yardstick for new MacBooks coming down the pike.