The Aspire Timeline 3810T is a flagship member of Acer’s new Timeline series, which offers consumers inch-thin, long-lasting notebooks with starting prices well under a thousand dollars. It’s part of a rapidly growing trend in notebooks that are smaller and cheaper than mainstream ones, but larger and pricier than netbooks. For $899 (starting at $599), the 13.3-inch 3810T outshines most value-priced notebooks with an outstanding eight hours of battery life, and an extremely slim profile. You also get a big, speedy 500GB hard drive, and performance that’s more than good enough for everyday computing. If you can live without an optical drive, which might be a deal breaker for some, the Timeline 3810T is a great buy.
With the lid closed, the Timeline 3810T’s matte gray, fingerprint-proof plastic lid is similar to the company’s business-oriented TravelMate series. In contrast to the $899 Aspire 3935, which, for the same price, sports a more attractive golden brown brushed-metal chassis, and an integrated optical drive. On the other hand, the 3810T is significantly lighter at 3.6 pounds (vs. 4.2 for the 3935) and marginally thinner (0.9 inches at its thinnest point vs. 1.0 inches).
This machine is no MSI X340, which weighs 2.9 pounds, but it’s still refreshingly light to carry. Overall, the matte gray-and-black color scheme is a bit conservative, but the keys’ finish and island–style layout keep it current.
You won’t find any multimedia controls, touch-sensitive or otherwise, on this notebook—just a strip of LED lights above the keyboard indicating Wi-Fi connectivity, BackUp Manager, battery power, and hard drive. A small button next to the touchpad deactivates it (a feature more commonly found on business notebooks, which have both a touchpad and a trackball in the center of the keyboard).
Keyboard and Touchpad
The arrangement of the 3810T’s keys is unusual: they’re closer together than a typical island layout (think Apple’s MacBook line or any Sony VAIO notebook), but there’s still enough space between them that they look, at first glance, like a more traditional keyboard. Nevertheless, our hands settled comfortably on the soft keys, and we made few typing errors as we surfed the Web, and responded to e-mail. We also warmed to the keys’ low pitch, and their minimal sound.
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Hands down, our least favorite feature is the 3810T’s stiff single mouse button. We would have preferred two separate buttons. That said, the touchpad was large enough, and provided just the right amount of friction.
Display and Sound
The LED-backlit 13.3 display was exceptionally bright when we bumped the brightness to its maximum settings. Although the screen was washed out when we pushed the lid forward, we were able to comfortably watch from the sides, despite the glossy finish. The 1366 x 768 screen resolution (standard for a 16:9 13-inch notebook) was sufficient to watch a Saturday Night Live clip on Hulu at full screen.
Not surprisingly, given the notebook’s size and price, the speakers were weak. When we watched clips online and streamed music from Slacker, the music and dialogue sounded distant, and never very loud. With music, in particular, bass and percussions in everything from MGMT to The White Stripes got lost in the tinny shuffle.
Ports and Webcam
Unlike most 13-inch notebooks, the Timeline 3810T has no optical drive. While it’s true that you can download movies and software from the Web (instead of using DVDs or CD-ROMs), some users may prefer a DVD drive. We’re of the opinion that you don’t need one, unless you like to burn movies or back up to DVDs. Plus, the lack of an optical drive helps this notebook achieve its slim profile and light weight.
Otherwise, the 3810T has all the ports you could need: three USB ports, HDMI and VGA output, an Ethernet jack, headphone and mic ports, and a Kensington lock slot. It also has a 5-in-1 memory card reader. All of these openings are divided evenly between the two sides; none are on the back or the front.
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The 720p webcam is one of the best we’ve tested on a notebook recently. While some laptops’ 1.3-MP cameras struggle to produce smooth video at even VGA resolution, the 3810T’s high-def video looked fluid, with little, if any, lag. Likewise, our still photos showed lots of detail. Our only gripes: the lighting was dim, and both our photos and videos had a subtle yellow cast to them.