The 15.6-inch $779 Acer Aspire TimelineX 5830TG-6614 is just the ticket for students and families searching for a value multimedia notebook. With a Core i5 processor, Nvidia graphics, and long battery life, the 5830TG can handle high-definition movies as well as graphically demanding games. Read on to find out if this entertainment-centric laptop has everything you need.
Click to EnlargeWhile it uses the same chassis as the Acer Aspire TimelineX 5830TG-6402, the 5830TG-6614 still stands out for its simple and clean lines. The cobalt-blue aluminum lid is a welcome departure from the usual black-and-gray color schemes of most notebooks. However, we noticed a significant amount of flex in the lid.
The notebook's deck uses an attractive silver aluminum shade accompanied by a cobalt-blue palm rest, which reminded us of a high-tech Detroit Lions uniform. Nestled between the power and Power Manager buttons above the keyboard is a large speaker grille.
Despite sharing the same dimensions with its 5.4-pound predecessor, the 14.9 x 9.8 x 1.2-inch, 5.6-pound TimelineX 5830TG-6614 is slightly heavier. Still, this laptop is lighter than the 6-pound, 14.9 x 10 x 1.4-inch ASUS K53SV. The Toshiba Satellite P755-S5272 and the Dell XPS 15z also weigh in at 5.6 pounds, but are slightly larger at 15 x 9.8 x 1.1-1.4 inches and 15.2 x 10.3 x 1 inches, respectively.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Click to EnlargeThe flat, island-style keyboard on the 5830T provided strong feedback, which made for a pleasant typing experience. We easily hit our usual 50 words per minute on the Ten Thumbs Typing test, with only a 1-percent error rate. We also liked the generous spacing between the keys, as well as the full-size number pad. Bonus: There was little to no flex.
The TimelineX 5830TG's 3.3 x 1.8-inch Synaptics touchpad and its smooth, matte surface allowed us to navigate around the desktop with great accuracy. Multitouch gestures were equally fluid, as we two-finger scrolled, flicked between photos, rotated to swivel images, and pinched to zoom.
The two distinct mouse buttons are small for our taste, but offer strong feedback. Given the size of the deck, though, we wish the touchpad could be larger, too.
Display and Audio
At only 146 lux, the 5830TG's 15.6-inch, HD CineCrystal LED-backlit 1366 x 768 display is not as bright as screens on competing notebooks. (Even the HP Pavilion g6, which costs about $300 less, has a brighter 200-lux screen). When we watched the Aeon Flux DVD, we were frustrated by the poor quality of the darker frames. During a night scene, Aeon's black outfit contrasted nicely with a bone-white wall. However, when she slipped into the dark, the screen was almost pitch-black, making it difficult to see her character at all. Because the glossy display is so reflective, we often saw our own face on top of the content, making it even more difficult to watch videos and view pictures.
Click to EnlargeThe Dolby Home Theater speakers delivered loud, clear audio, making the 5830TG one of the better-sounding 15-inch notebooks we've tested. A Dolby control panel offers presets for movies, games, and music, though we wish the software was able to detect what we were doing and adjust automatically. Wale's "Lotus Flower Bomb" sounded rich and full, but somewhat tinny at maximum volume.
Ports and Webcam
Click to EnlargeThree USB 2.0 ports sit on the right side of the notebook with a DVD burner and the power jack. The left side houses a USB 3.0 port, HDMI, VGA, and Ethernet along with a Kensington Lock slot and jacks for headphones and a mic. A 5-in-1 card reader resides in the front alongside a silver button that displays battery life when pressed.
Using Acer Crystal Eye Webcam software, 1.3-megapixel HD webcam captures stills in 1280 x 1024 and video in 1280 x 720. When we captured photos of our face under fluorescent office lights, images were slightly grainy and had a reddish hue. However, during a Skype session, our caller reported a clear image with sharp detail and in-sync audio. Video was also clear on our end with crisp sound.
After streaming a full-screen Hulu video for 15 minutes, the TimelineX 5830TG registered a cool 85 degrees Fahrenheit on the touchpad. The space between the G and H keys and the notebook's underside both measured 87 degrees. Any temperature below 90 is very good.
Click to EnlargeWith its 2.4-GHz Intel Core i5-2430M CPU, Nvidia GeForce GT540M graphics, 6GB of RAM, and 640GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive, the 5830TG has enough power to play high-def movies, run productivity software with aplomb, and play some of the more-demanding games well. On the PCMark07 benchmark, which measures overall performance, the 5830TG-6614 scored 2,333, slightly above the 2,238 mainstream notebook category average. That's a modest improvement over the older TimelineX 5830TG-6402, whose 2.3-GHz Intel Core i5-2410M processor scored 2,157. By comparison, the Toshiba Satellite P755-5272 and its 2-GHz Intel Core i7-2630QM processor notched a score of 2,248.
The TimelineX 5830TG-6614's 640GB 5,400-rpm hard drive booted up the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium in a modest 58 seconds, slightly faster than the 61-second category average. The ASUS K53SV's 640GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive started Windows in 60 seconds, while the Dell XPS 15z and its 750GB 7,200-rpm hard drive took 67 seconds.
On the File Transfer Test, the 5830TG-6614 duplicated 4.97GB of multimedia files in 3 minutes and 43 seconds, a transfer rate of 22.8 MBps. That's below the 30.1 MBps category average.
During the OpenOffice Spreadsheet test, the 5830TG-6614 matched 20,000 names to their corresponding addresses in 5 minutes and 14 seconds, besting the 6:56 category average. The Toshiba Satellite P755 was not far behind with a time of 5:43.
Click to EnlargeThanks to its Nvidia GeForce GT 540M discrete graphics chip, the Aspire TimelineX 5830TG-6614 has enough oomph to play demanding games at brisk frame rates. Like most other GeForce-powered notebooks today, the 5830TG uses Nvidia's Optimus technology to automatically switch between discrete and integrated graphics modes for the best combination of battery life and performance.
On 3DMark06, a synthetic test that measures overall graphics performance, the 5830TG scored a strong 8,848. That's 4,100 points higher than the 4,748 mainstream notebook average. The ASUS K53SV, which has the same GPU, notched a slightly higher 9,319. The Dell XPS 15z, which also has Optimus technology (Nvidia GeForce GT 525M, Intel HD Graphics), delivered 7,420. The GeForce GT 520M-powered TimelineX 5830TG-6402 scored a lower 5,340, while the Satellite P755-S5272 and its Intel HD Graphics chip only managed 4,460.
In our World of Warcraft test, this Acer delivered a whopping 119 fps. That's nearly twice the 63 fps category average, slightly higher than K53SV's 104 fps, and far stronger than the older TimelineX 5830TG-6402's 64 fps and the Dell XPS 15z's 59 fps.
When we pumped the effects up to maximum, the frame rates nearly dropped in half, but the TimelineX 5830TG-6614 was still very playable at 54 fps, and on par with the ASUS K53SV (53 fps).
The TimelineX 5830TG-6614 also ran the more-demanding Far Cry 2 with no problem, reaching 51 fps on autodetect at 1024 x 768, slightly higher than the 48 fps mainstream notebook average. When we switched to 1366 x 768 resolution and maximum settings, the 5830TG-6614 matched the K53SV's rate of 44 fps, while the XPS 15z dipped to 25 fps.
Click to EnlargeDuring the LAPTOP Battery Test (web surfing over Wi-Fi), the Acer Aspire TimelineX 5830TG-6614 lasted an impressive 7 hours and 32 minutes, enough time to use this notebook all day. That's nearly 3 hours longer than the 4:37 mainstream notebook category average and 1:51 longer than the previous Acer 5830TG-6402 (5:41).
Software and Warranty
Acer packages the 5830TG-6614 with a robust suite of software. Acer Clear.fi makes sharing photos, music, and videos between wireless DLNA-compatible devices a breeze. Acer Games, an online game store, zapped our productivity with titles such as Bejeweled 2 Deluxe and Torchlight. In addition, there are a number of desktop shortcuts to popular services including eBay, Netflix, Nook for PC, and Skype.
Click to EnlargeOne of our favorite applications is the AUPEO! music service, which let us listen to music based on genre and mood, and build our own stations a la Pandora and Slacker. NewsXpresso, a news reader service, imported our RSS feeds and placed them into stylish magazine and newspaper layouts depending on our preference.
Acer-branded software includes Acer Backup Manager, PowerSmart, and USB Charge Manager, which manages battery life when charging USB-connected devices in sleep mode. Additional apps include Adobe Reader, Windows Live, and a 60-day free trial of MacAfee Internet Security.
The Acer Aspire TimelineX 5830TG-6614 comes with a two-year limited International Traveler's warranty. See how Acer fared in our Tech Support Showdown and Best and Worst Brands report.
Our $779 review unit came equipped with a 2.4-GHz Intel Core i5-2430M CPU with 6GB of RAM, a 640GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive, and switchable graphics (Intel HD 3000 Graphics, Nvidia GeForce GT 540M). Acer currently does not sell any other configurations of the 5830TG in the U.S.
Like its predecessor, the $779 Acer Aspire TimelineX 5830TG-6614 is a reasonably priced multimedia machine. The 15.6-inch notebook offers more than enough power to play high-end games and plow through other computing tasks. However, the display is not as bright as we'd like, and we're not keen on the undersized mouse buttons. Overall, though, the Aspire TimelineX 5830TG-6614 is a very good choice for consumers searching for an entertainment PC.