Clean and modern design; Solid performance and graphics; Strong audio; Good battery life
Inconvenient port and power button placement; Inconsistent touchpad performance; Gets hot while gaming
The 14-inch TimelineU M5 Ultrabook offers discrete graphics and good audio in a sleek design.
Acer's 14-inch Aspire TimelineU M5-481TG-6814 is a lean, mean multimedia machine. Strapped with Nvidia graphics and an Intel Ivy Bridge processor, this Ultrabook can switch from work to play with ease. At $779, the M5-481TG looks like a deal that's pretty hard to pass up. Is it?
DesignAspire TimelineU M5-581TG-6666. And we're not complaining. Its slate-gray aluminum lid has a modern industrial look and sports a diamond-cut chrome Acer logo in the middle.
The anodized aluminum interior is simple and understated. A diamond-cut strip of chrome surrounds the touchpad, and a gray soft-touch material surrounds the display, both nice touches. While we like that the glass panel stretches nearly from edge to edge, there's a pretty thick secondary bezel of sorts around the screen that detracts from an otherwise sleek look.
Weighing 4.4 pounds, the 13.4 x 9.7 x 0.81-inch Aspire M5-481TG is plenty portable but on the heavier side of the Ultrabook spectrum. The 13.7 x 9.5 x 0.83-inch Dell Inspiron 14z is thicker but a tad lighter at 4.2 pounds. Another 14-inch Ultrabook, the Toshiba U845W, measures 14.5 x 7.8 x 0.72 inches and weighs 4 pounds, but that system lacks an optical drive.
As we watched the 1080p trailer for "Life of Pi," our reflection on the glossy surface made it difficult to see darker scenes. Colors, from the brilliant golden sun to the red and white dinghy, popped off the screen, but there were noticeable artifacts and a persistent fuzziness that obscured many of the more intricate details.
With a lux of 185, the 6814's display failed to match the 206 lux average. It was easily outshone by the Inspiron 14z's 254 lux display.
The utility did help, though, when watching "Life of Pi." On the Movies setting, dialogue was crisp and the sound of rushing water was loud and menacing. Regardless of what we listened to, sound was immediately muffled as soon as we placed the notebook in our lap.
Keyboard and Touchpad
After running a full-screen Hulu video for 15 minutes on the Timeline M5 14-inch, the touchpad and the space between the G and H keys measured 78 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit, well below our 95-degree comfort threshold. However, the underside of the keyboard measured an uncomfortable 98 degrees.
When we started playing "Batman: Arkham City," the temperature increased noticeably. The touchpad registered 82 degrees, while the space between the G and H keys measured 93 degrees. The bottom of the notebook measured a blistering 110 degrees.
The Acer Aspire TimelineU M5-481TG comes ready to handle any task, thanks to its 1.7-GHz Intel Core i5-3317U CPU, 4GB of RAM and 500GB 5,400-rpm hard drive with a 20GB SSD. During our real-world testing, we were able to stream a movie from Netflix with six open tabs in Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome and Internet Explorer while running a full-system scan.
On the PCMark07 benchmark, the M5-481TG scored 2,824, comfortably above the 2,389 thin-and-light category average. The Dell Inspiron 14z and Sony VAIO T13, which have the same processor and RAM, scored 2,984 and 3,334, respectively. The M5-481TG fared better on Geekbench, scoring 5,897, clearing the 5,399 category average. That was enough to beat the T13's score of 5,432, but not the 14z's 6,070.
During the File Transfer Test, the TimelineU M5-481TG's 500GB 5,400-rpm hard drive duplicated 4.97GB of multimedia files in 2 minutes and 50 seconds for a transfer rate of 29.9 MBps, on a par with the 30MBps average.
The M5-481TG took 6 minutes and 11 seconds to match 20,000 names to their corresponding address on the OpenOffice Spreadsheet Macro test. That's about 15 seconds longer than the average, and behind the 14z (5:47).
Boot and Wake Times
The M5-481TG's 20GB SSD enabled the notebook to boot Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) in 36 seconds. That's 21 seconds faster than the 57-second ultrabook average. Still, the Inspiron 14z launched in 28 seconds.
Acer's Green Instant-On feature allows for nearly instantaneous wake from sleep times. During our testing, the 6814 resumed from sleep in 2 seconds. Acer Always Connect feature is rated to connect to the Web in 2.5 seconds using remembered Wi-Fi hotspots. We were pleased to see that the notebook got online instantly after waking from sleep.
Setting Acer's Ultrabooks apart from most others is their inclusion of discrete Nvidia graphics cards. The Nvidia GeForce GT 640M LE GPU in the M5-481TG even let us play some of the more demanding titles on the market, albeit not at the highest settings.
During the 3DMark11 benchmark, the TimelineU M5-481TG scored 1,499, more than twice the 758 category average. The Dell Inspiron 14z (AMD Radeon HD 7570M GPU with 1GB of VRAM) delivered a score of 902.
On the "World of Warcraft" test, the TimelineU M5-481TG notched an impressive frame rate of 132 fps on autodetect at 1366 x768. That's more than twice the 52 fps average. The 14z scored 64 fps. Cranked up to maximum, the M5-481TG delivered 68 fps, far above the 26 fps thin-and-light laptop average. The Inspiron 14z notched 32 fps.
During the LAPTOP Battery Test, which consists of continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi, the Acer Aspire TimelineU M5-481TG lasted 6 hours and 27 minutes. That runtime is on a par with the thin-and-light average (6:29), and much longer than the Dell Inspiron 14z (5:35).
Software and Warranty
Acer Theft Shield is a new arrival that enabled us to prevent against laptop theft using an Android phone. We downloaded the Acer Theft Shield app on our Samsung Galaxy S III and synced with the notebook's Wi-Fi network. From there, we could set up Alarm Mode, which sent our phone a notification if the notebook was moved out of the phone's range.
Other third-party apps include Windows Live, Microsoft Office Starter, Skype, Evernote, Adobe Reader X and a 30-day free trial of McAfee Internet Security Suite. There are also shortcuts for Netflix, eBay and Nook for PC.
The Acer Aspire TimelineU M5-481TG-6814 comes with a 1-year warranty. See how Acer fared in our Best and Worst Brand Report.
Our $779 review unit came with a 1.7-GHz Intel Core i5-3317U CPU, 4GB of RAM, a 500GB 5,400-rpm hard drive with a 20GB SSD, and a Nvidia GeForce GT 640M LE GPU with 1GB of VRAM. The $679 base model features a 1.5-GHz Intel Core i3-237M CPU (Sandy Bridge) with 6GB of RAM, a 500GB 5,400-hard drive with a 20GB SSD and Intel HD Graphics 3000 with 128MB of RAM. There's also a $729 version that's outfitted with a 1.7-GHz Intel Core i5-3317U CPU with 4GB of RAM, a 500GB 5,400-rpm hard drive with a 20GB SSD and Intel HD Graphics 3000 with 128MB of RAM.
|CPU||1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U|
|Operating System||MS Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|RAM Upgradable to|
|Hard Drive Size||500GB + 20GB SSD|
|Hard Drive Speed||5,400rpm|
|Hard Drive Type||SATA Hard Drive|
|Optical Drive||DVD SuperMultiDrive|
|Optical Drive Speed||8X|
|Graphics Card||NVIDIA GeForce GT640M LE|
|Touchpad Size||3.9 x 2.7 incehs|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Kensington Lock|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Headphone|
|Ports (excluding USB)||HDMI|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Gigabit Ethernet|
|Ports (excluding USB)||USB 3.0|
|Card Slots||2-1 card reader|
|Size||13.39 x 9.65 x 0.81|