It’s hard to believe that a 15.6-inch system could be considered highly portable, but that’s what Acer has done with the Aspire Timeline 5810T-4657. This mainstream notebook is only an inch thick and weighs less than six pounds, yet Acer manages to cram in an optical drive. While the 5810T’s hardware is underpowered compared to other notebooks in this price range, it’s more than capable of most everyday tasks, and its six-hour battery life and $548 price (at Wal-Mart) make it one of the most attractive notebooks for its size.
The 5810T is, essentially, a larger version of the 3810T. With a footprint of 14.9 x 10.2 inches, and tapering from 1.2 to 1.0 inches, it’s essentially the same size as the MSI X600. However, unlike MSI, Acer managed to integrate a DVD drive. Weighing 5.4 pounds, the 5810T is certainly one of the lighter 15.6-inch notebooks, but it’s still half a pound heavier than the X600.
Like the 3810T, the Timeline 5810T’s matte gray, fingerprint-proof plastic lid is similar to the company’s business-oriented TravelMate series. The chassis has a solid feel that belies its low price.
Above and to the right of the keyboard are three touch controls for Wi-Fi, Acer Backup, and Acer’s Eco Utility, the latter of which can only be activated when the notebook is running on battery power. To the right of that is a hard drive activity indicator and an eject button for the DVD drive. Rather than remaining a solid color, the Wi-Fi indicator light blinks amber when data is being transmitted; after a while, it becomes a minor annoyance.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The deck on the 5810T is wide enough to accommodate a full number pad, and does not have to compromise the size of other keys. The keys themselves are a little slick; our fingers occasionally slid off of them when typing at a rapid pace. However, the keyboard was firm, and the responsive keys had a good amount of travel.
Below the keyboard, the touchpad has the same color and texture as the palm rests, and had low friction. The touchpad, which uses a Synaptics controller, also supports multitouch gestures, which worked well when zooming in and out of Web pages and photos. While there is only a single mouse button, it had a nice, crisp action.
Display and Sound
The 15.6-inch glossy display on the Timeline 5810T was pleasantly bright. Horizontal viewing angles were wide enough for people to sit on either side of the notebook, but the image degraded when we tilted the screen back. While its resolution of 1366 x 768 is a little on the low side for a 15.6-inch screen (the 3810T has the same resolution), considering this notebook costs less than $600, it’s an acceptable compromise. When watching a 720p video (Super Speedway), colors were vivid and action was smooth. When playing a DVD (Gladiator) we saw very little noise in darker scenes.
It was while watching this video that we first noticed how impressive the 5810T’s speakers are. They’re not only fairly loud, but highly accurate: we noticed sounds that we hadn’t before, such as the squeal of a race car’s tires as it rounded the corners of the track. Also, we had a greater sense of the sound surrounding us as noises passed from one speaker to the other. When listening to Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration” on Pandora, middle and high tones were crisp and undistorted; like most notebooks, though, the bass was a bit weak.
Ports and Webcam
Acer makes good use of the ample chassis, packing three USB ports, VGA, HDMI, and headphone and mic ports on the left, and an additional USB port, Ethernet, and an optical drive on the right. A 5-in-1 memory card reader is tucked under the front lip.
A 1.3-megapixel webcam above the display produced decent video when chatting with a colleague over Skype. Images were only slightly grainy, but the webcam’s software couldn’t compensate for the florescent lighting in our office, which gave everything a green hue. Still, the embedded microphone picked up our voice well.
Powered by a 1.3-GHz Intel Pentium SU2700 ultra-low voltage processor and 3GB of RAM, the 5810T returned predictably low performance scores. In PCMark Vantage, the notebook scored 1,368, about half that of the mainstream average, 500 points lower than the MSI X600 (which has a faster 1.4-GHz Intel Core Solo SU3500) and about 130 points lower than the Lenovo IdeaPad U350, which also has the SU2700 CPU.
The 5,400-rpm, 320GB hard drive was about 2.0 MBps slower than the mainstream average of 18.7 MBps, and well below the MSI X600 (23.1 MBps). However, the 5810T was able to boot into Windows Vista Premium in a fast 50 seconds, owing to the lack of trialware.
When we streamed a 360p movie at full screen from Hulu (Speed and Angels), video of dogfighting F-14 Tomcats was smooth, but bumping the resolution up to 480p yielded slightly choppy images.
Like its CPU, the Integrated Intel GMA 4500MHD graphics chip was weak, scoring just 574 in 3DMark06. To put that in perspective, it was almost 300 points below the category average—for ultraportables. When converting a 114MB MPEG-4 file to AVI using Handbrake, the 5810T took 20 minutes and 1 second, which was a minute and a half longer than the MSI X600, and close to four times as long as the mainstream category average.
With Far Cry 2 set to a resolution of 1024 x 768, the 5810T was only able to eke out 3 frames per second; it hung up when we switched to native resolution. Flying over Manhattan in Google Earth was slightly choppy when 3D buildings were rendered, but the 5810T was easily able to play a 720p video without any skips or pauses.
Wireless and Battery Life
The 5810T had decent connectivity; its 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi card had throughput of 20.7 Mbps at 15 feet, and 17.7 Mbps at 50 feet from our access point. Both speeds are slightly better than the category average.
The one benchmark where the 5810T really shone was in endurance. Its six-cell battery lasted 6 hours and 10 minutes on our LAPTOP Battery Test (Web surfing via Wi-Fi), which is almost double the mainstream notebook category average of 3:24, and two hours longer than the MSI X600. Activating the PowerSmart button conserves even more juice; the 5810T lasted 7:13 with this power-saving feature turned on.
Because of its ultra-low voltage processor, the 5810T did very well on our green tests. The notebook took a longish 3 hours and 26 minutes to fully recharge, but used an average of only 34.1 watts during that time. On our LAPTOP Battery Efficiency Index (total watts divided by battery life), the 5810T used 15.9 watts per minute of battery life; that’s less than half that of the MSI X600, and even lower than the average for netbooks (16.6 watts).
Software and Warranty
The Acer Aspire Timeline 5810T comes preloaded with some of the company’s handy utilities, such as Acer PowerSmart, which throttles down power usage when the notebook is unplugged, and Acer BackUp. Also included are Microsoft Works 9.0, and trials of McAfee Internet Security Suite and Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007.
Acer backs the 5810T with a one-year limited parts-and-labor warranty, including 24/7 toll-free phone support. In our 2009 Tech Support Showdown, Acer did fairly well, earning an overall grade of B+.
Aside from our configuration of the 5810T (which has the designation AS5810T-4657 at Wal-Mart and AS5810TZ-4274 at other retailers such as Amazon), customers can also get the system with a 1.4-GHz Core 2 Solo SU3500 GPU, 4GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive for as low as $679; this setup should see increased performance at the expense of battery life.
With the Aspire Timeline 5810T, Acer has put together a pretty slick machine for under $600. Although you’re not going to use the 5810T to edit video or play the latest games, it’s more than adequate for watching a DVD and performing other everyday tasks. The MSI X600 provides more muscle in an equally svelte system, but that notebook costs $250 more and omits an optical drive. Despite the 5810T’s low benchmark scores, its light weight and long battery life make it one of the most portable 15.6-inch notebook on the market—and at $548, one of the most affordable, too.