By L.C. WONG
The Acer TimelineX is a fast and powerful notebook without the added bulk.
I HAVE been using an Acer Timeline 3810TG for the past five months now and have been impressed with the whole package.
The notebook is sturdy and light, performs quite well with great battery life, and to top it off it looks quite handsome with its brushed aluminium lid and slim form factor.
Now about a year after Acer's first stab at making the razor thin and long-lasting Timeline notebook series, it has returned with an updated model - the TimelineX.
First out in the market is the 14in model (which is what we have today) with a 13in and 15in model on the way shortly.
At first glance, the TimelineX bears a resemblance to its predecessor.
It has the same brushed aluminium lid albeit now in a darker shade of grey, almost black come to think of it.
Lifting the lid reveals a glossy 14in screen with an impressive viewing angle that is great for watching movies as well as typing out a text document and surfing the Web.
The sides of the keyboard area is now black as opposed to grey on the first Timeline model. The keyboard itself has a textured matte surface as compared to the smooth glossy sheen on the earlier model.
I like this use of texture for the keys as it adds some traction and I found it more enjoyable to type on.
What is missing though is the row of touch-sensitive buttons just under the screen that could be used to toggle the WiFi connectivity, backup manager and power saving options that were on the earlier model.
Instead what is in place now is a rather utilitarian-looking row which houses the power button and hard disk activity indicator on the left and a button for the PowerSmart function as well as the optical drive eject button on the right.
These buttons sit at the sides of the speaker grills which is nestled right in the middle under the screen.
Being a 14in model, the palmrest area is quite spacious and comfortable but I noticed that they do tend to get a bit warm with prolonged usage.
Making a comeback is the multitouch touchpad with which you can pinch to zoom in and out of documents as well as a circular motion for scrolling.
Gone, however, is the dedicated button to disable the touchpad - that is now handled by pressing the Function + F7 key combination.
There are a variety of ports around the notebook and I especially appreciated the four USB 2.0 ports as I didn't have to plug in a USB hub to connect my extra devices (chief of which is a USB-powered fan to deal with the current heatwave we are experiencing!).
Other useful options are the memory card reader at the front and the HDMI-out port.
While the original Timeline series made use of Intel's ultra-low voltage SU processors, the TimelineX goes with the meatier Core i5 processor so performance is improved (naturally) across the board.
In the graphics department, the notebook comes with an Intel GMA HD graphics chip as well as an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5470 graphics processor.
The notebook will automatically switch from the more powerful Radeon to the power efficient Intel graphics chip to save power.
For instance, the notebook will switch to the Intel graphics chip whenever you unplug it from the power outlet to conserve power.
However the switch over is hardly a smooth affair as the screen will flicker and turn black for a moment, which can be a little disconcerting if you are unaware of what is happening.
Generally switching from one power mode to another will also determine the use of the Radeon graphics chip and you can pick the high performance setting to use it even if the notebook is on battery power.
The great thing about having the Radeon HD 5470 chip is, of course, better gaming.
Since I'm not much of a gamer I left it to my husband to install a couple of games that were lying around the house at the time of this review: The hack-and-slash Torchlight and first-person shooter Medal of Honor: Airborne.
Both ran very smoothly at the screen's native resolution and there are even reports that newer games like Modern Warfare 2 can run on the notebook admirably.
Coupled with the 2.26GHz Core i5 processor and 2GB RAM, viewing high definition content was also not a problem - we tried watching HD movie trailers as well as recorded HD videos, and came away impressed.
You can even watch movies without having to resort to plugging in external speakers or headphones as the built-in speakers with virtual surrround sound were pretty good.
The volume was loud enough with commendable depth and bass but the sound did break up a little at maximum volume, especially if you are watching an action-packed movie.
As far as productivity applications go, this notebook will hardly flinch at whatever you throw at it. The drawback to this is, of course, the heat that it produces, which is certainly quite a difference from the 3810T that I have been using.
As mentioned earlier, the palmrest and the heat vents tended to get very warm with prolonged usage.
Battery life is quite decent for a notebook of this size. I managed to squeeze about five hours out of the six-cell battery with WiFi on while working on a report and surfing the Web.
Of course, battery life will be dependent on the type of tasks you are doing and turning most features off and dimming the screen will probably make the battery last longer.
Other notable features that I like include the roomy 500GB hard disk and built-in DVD burner.
Overall, Acer has done well with its TimelineX series. It manages to keep to its successful ultra-thin and elegant design but with better components thrown in.
Battery life is commendable but I reckon, it would be a real stretch to say that it can hit the advertised eight hour mark on the standard six-cell battery.
There are some design updates that I didn't like such as the rather unrefined PowerSave toggle button which is a far cry from the cool touch-sensitive one found on the first Timeline series. Then there is also the heat to contend with.
However, these are not real deal breakers as there are many other features that more than make up for these small drawbacks.
The general performance is great, the screen is ideal for both work as well as entertainment and the speakers are surprisingly quite decent. Plus it's also very streamlined and quite easy on the shoulders.
Pros: Nice ultra-thin design; good performance; loud speakers.
Cons: Runs a bit hot.