So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Acer Aspire Timeline 4810T notebook
Acer's Aspire Timeline is light for a 14in notebook, and its battery lasted a long time in our tests
- Great battery life, good build quality, light, comfortable keyboard,
- 802.11n Wi-Fi, LED backlit screen
- DC-in port is loose, no physical Wi-Fi switch, glossy screen
This ultraportable Acer notebook should offer more than enough power, as long as you aren't planning to play recent games or edit videos, and it has an excellent collection of features (including 802.11n Wi-Fi). For students or business users who don't want to shell out for a more powerful ultraportable laptop but want something that's more feature-packed than a netbook, we think it's perfect.
Price$ 1,699.00 (AUD)
The Acer Aspire Timeline 4810T is a great laptop if the portability of a netbook is appealing, but you are worried about the cramped keyboard, and you can't afford a powerful ultraportable laptop. It's substantially more expensive than a netbook, but it's also substantially more powerful and feature-packed, and it's not as expensive as high-end ultraportable notebooks like the Toshiba Portege R600. Best of all, for a 14in laptop it offers good battery life, so it will be great to use while commuting to work or if you want to take notes in a few uni lectures.
On the inside of the Acer Aspire Timeline 4810T is a single-core Intel Core 2 Solo SU3500 CPU, which runs at 1.4GHz. This doesn't offer as much power as a dual-core CPU, but thanks in part to the 4GB of DDR3 RAM this notebook easily has enough grunt for office tasks. In the WorldBench 6 benchmark the notebook scored 50, which is a less than inspiring result compared to many notebooks that have Intel Core 2 Duo CPUs, and in the iTunes and Blender tests it scored 3min 23sec and 4min 12sec, respectively. You will probably be able to play a few games — as long as they're from the '90s. The notebook achieved a poor score of 607 in 3DMark06
Don't let the relative lack of power put you off, however. We happily typed much of this review on the notebook with an instant messenger client and a Web browser running in the background. You will be able to listen to MP3s while you type up documents, for example, and crop your photos without many problems. The 320GB hard drive spins at 5400rpm and copied files at 21.85 megabytes per second in our test.
It's a well put together notebook. The Acer Aspire Timeline 4810T has a solid chassis and a stiff hinge. Our only concerns were some slight clicking in one part of the screen's bezel when we pressed it and some looseness in the DC connector (which we suspect is a flaw in our review unit).
The Acer Aspire Timeline 4810T's screen is definitely a highlight. It's a great size for Web browsing and word processing — diminutive netbooks like the ASUS Eee PC 701 4G may look cute but their screens can tax the eyes — and it's LED backlit, so it's extremely bright. Unfortunately it reflects office lighting and we weren't impressed with the vertical viewing angles. It's a high-definition screen, with a resolution of 1366x768.
We were very impressed with the keyboard, which is has isolated keys like the HP ProBook 4510s Notebook PC. The keys are full size with a few exceptions (the cursor keys and the function keys).
The touchpad is comfortable to use and a good size, though we wish it had separate left- and right-click buttons instead of a single strip of plastic. We were happy to see the inclusion of a button to disable the touchpad; we too often found ourselves moving the mouse cursor when we were typing. Sadly although the button worked fine in Windows Vista Home Premium, which was installed on our review unit, it didn't work in Ubuntu distribution of Linux (it disabled the touchpad but wouldn't re-enable it).
There were no major dramas running Linux on the notebook, though during installation we did have to re-enable the Wi-Fi radio in Windows before booting into Ubuntu in order to get it to work. It's a shame that there are no physical buttons to disable and enable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, especially given the focus of this notebook on achieving a long battery life (hence the 'Timeline' moniker). The ease of getting a Linux distribution to run on the Acer Aspire Timeline 4810T reminded us of how far the operating system has come since the years when even getting X to run was a challenge.
In our DVD rundown battery test, which is conducted with no power-saving features enabled, screen brightness at full and Wi-Fi enabled, the notebook lasted 4hr 19min. This is a good result for a laptop this size. Turning the brightness down a few notches, disabling Wi-Fi and using some sensible power-saving measures will mean you're likely to get a lot more life out of it. Acer claims you can achieve up to eight hours of battery life from the notebook, and this may well be possible if you take the right precautions.
This notebook is much more feature-packed than a netbook, with fast 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Gigabit Ethernet and pretty much every port you would expect: a multi-card reader, D-Sub (VGA), HDMI (great for connecting to an LCD TV) and three USB ports. It also comes with a DVD burner and a Kensington lock slot.
Apart from the connectivity options and the ease of use, what makes the Acer Aspire Timeline 4810T really stand out is its design. A 14in laptop often strikes a good balance between portability and usability, and the light weight of this notebook — 1.9kg — and the slim dimensions (it's only about an inch thick) make it a great choice for taking on the road or to your uni class. It doesn't get too warm to use on your lap, and it is also extremely quiet.
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