Acer's 11.6-inch Aspire Timeline series has produced a number of strong performers below $600. But how much more could an extra Benjamin buy? The latest model in the line, the TimelineX 1830T, features the new Intel Core i5-430UM processor. This ULV CPU makes Acer's ultraportable one of the most powerful on the market under a grand, while delivering nearly 6 hours of battery life. We also like the textured lid and sleek lines. Is all of that worth $699?
The Aspire TimelineX 1830T looks nearly identical to the Aspire One 721 netbook. It has the same svelte profile (1 to 1.1 inches thin) but weighs a little bit more (2.8 pounds versus 3 pounds). Nevertheless, the 1830T is easy to carry, and its dual-core horsepower is worth the extra few ounces.
We're glad that Acer has ditched the fingerprint-magnet glossy lids for a black matte cover; ours had a pattern on the lid that was reminiscent of diamond plating. Inside, the deck looks like brushed aluminum. As with previous models, the keyboard is matte black, and the bezel is a glossy black.
Thankfully, the 1810T's six-cell battery does not bulge out the back. Instead, it bumps out of the bottom, tilting the system at a slight downward angle towards the user.
Overall, the 1830T ran slightly warmer than the 1810TZ, but not by much. After playing a Hulu video at full screen for 15 minutes, the touchpad and the area between the G and H keys was 88 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively, and the middle of the undercarriage got as high as 101 degrees. That last temperature is almost a cause for concern; we consider anything over 100 degrees to be hot.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Like most other Acer notebooks, the 1810T's keyboard has Acer's flat, non-chamfered FineTip keys that have a slightly textured feel. The layout is close to full size, and we appreciate that the right Shift key is large and in the proper place. We were typing at full speed in no time at all.
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The touchpad sits flush with the deck, and it's only demarcated by two lines on either side. At 2.6 x 1.5 inches, it's a bit small, and we found ourselves having to swipe more than we'd like to move around the desktop. The accompanying silver buttons proved nice and crisp. However, the build quality of our model was somewhat questionable: while the buttons were aligned correctly on the identical Aspire One 721, we noticed that the left button on the 1830T was slightly higher in the middle.
Display and Sound
The 1830T's 11.6-inch display has a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels, which is pretty standard for screens this size. That means less scrolling when viewing web pages or documents than when using a netbook, and that you can view high-definition content in 720p. The screen is bright, too. When watching High Fidelity on Hulu, we enjoyed fairly good colors—reds were a little muted—and deep blacks; three people view the screen comfortably sitting side by side. However, the glossy finish created distracting reflections.
The 1810T's speakers, located on the underside of the deck's front lip, were fine for a small notebook (lack of bass notwithstanding), but their placement caused sound to be muffled while the notebook was in our lap. When the notebook was placed on a hard surface, such as a coffee table, music played from Slacker was able to reflect upwards, and was more amplified.
Ports and Webcam
On the right side of the 1830T is an Ethernet port, a Kensington lock slot, two USB ports, headphone and mic, and a 5-in-1 memory card reader. On the left-hand side is a VGA port, a third USB port, and HDMI output. Acer no longer includes physical switches to activate Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, but new to the 1830T is Bluetooth 3.0 + HS.
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The 1.3-megapixel webcam mounted above the display worked fairly well; colors were accurate, but our caller on Skype was blotchy, and said the same of our image; however, this could be due to poor throughput on our wireless network.
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The TimelineX 1830T uses Intel's new 1.2-GHz Core i5-430UM processor and 4GB of RAM, which offered not only drastically improved performance over previous generation 11.6-inch ULV Acer machines, but over ultraportables in general. Its score of 3,824 in PCMark Vantage (which measures overall system performance) exceeded the category average by about 600 points, the 1810T by 1,000 points, and the Aspire One 721 by 1,900 points. It even beat out the MSI X-Slim X350 (which uses a Core 2 Duo ULV) by 200 points.
The 1830T's 5,400-rpm, 500GB hard drive booted Windows 7 Home Premium in a slow 1 minute and 20 seconds, owing mainly to trialware. It duplicated a 4.97GB folder of multimedia files at a rate of 19.6 MBps, 6 MBps slower than average.
Transcoding a 114MB MPEG-4 file to AVI using Oxelon Media Encoder took 1:31; that's about 30 seconds faster than the average, and nearly 3 minutes faster than the AMD-powered Acer Aspire One 721 (though that system has a single-core CPU).
Compared to the 1810TZ, the 1830T's graphics scores were much improved, owing to an upgrade to the Intel HD GPU with 128MB of memory. The 1830T scored 1,278 on 3DMark06, more than double the 1810TZ (586), and about 200 points higher than average. However, the 1830T is rivaled by the Aspire One 721, whose ATI Radeon HD 4225 graphics (with 384MB of memory) produced a score of 1,237. The Nvidia Ion GPU in the ASUS Eee PC 1201PN did even better, notching 1,329 in the same test.
Playing World of Warcraft on the 1830T was a little better than before. With the resolution set to 1024 x 768 (and graphics at default), we saw an average rate of 30 frames per second, which dipped to 6 fps when we upped the game to the native resolution; that's roughly the same as the the category average (35/9 fps), the Eee PC 1201PN (28/12 fps), and the Aspire One 721 (30/8 fps).
Intel's HD graphics are certainly strong enough to take advantage of the notebook's HDMI port; when connected to a 32-inch Samsung HDTV, we were able to play high-def videos fairly well. We streamed a 1080p trailer for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and noticed slight stuttering. Still, on the whole, the experience was slightly better than that on the Aspire One 721.
Battery Life and Wi-Fi
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The greater processing power of the 1830T means that users will see less endurance compared to previous generation Timelines. On the LAPTOP Battery Test (web surfing via Wi-Fi) this laptop lasted 5 hours and 53 minutes. That's not bad at all, considering the ultraportable average is 5:34, but the dual-core Pentium 1810TZ saw 8:47. Then again, the AMD Athlon II-powered Aspire One 721 lasted just 3:15.
The Intel WiFi Link 1000AGN 802.11a/b/g/draft-n Wi-Fi throughput of 35.5 Mbps at 15 feet from our access point was comfortably above the category average (25.4 Mbps). Its throughput of 19.2 Mbps from 50 feet was barely above the average of 18.8 Mbps.
The 1830T took 3 hours and 40 minutes to completely recharge, and used an average of 28.3 watts during that time. Owing to its decent battery life, the 1830Ts LAPTOP Battery Efficiency Rating was 17.6, better than the ultraportable average (19.6), but not by a whole lot. The system is not rated by EPEAT.
Acer offers two other configurations of the 1830T. The 1830T-3505 ($599) comes with a 1.2-GHz Intel Core i3-330UM processor, 3GB of RAM, and a 250GB hard drive. The 1830T-3927 has the same processor, but a 320GB hard drive.
Software and Warrant
The 1830T comes with a host of Acer apps (including GameZone and Crystal Eye webcam software), as well as ePower and eRecovery Management, Identity Card, Video Conference Manager, and Acer Assist utilities. Additionally, the company bundles CyberLink PowerDVD (curious, considering the lack of an optical drive), Google Desktop and Toolbar, a 30-day trial of McAfee Internet Security Suite, a 60-day trial of Microsoft Office Home & Student 2007, Norton Online Backup, Skype, and Microsoft Works 9.0.
Click to enlargeAcer covers the 1810TZ with a one-year warranty, which includes 24/7 toll-free phone support. Check out Acer's performance in our Tech Support Showdown to see how the company stacks up against the competition.
With the TimelineX 1830T, Acer continues its line of powerful and small ultraportables. This machine looks good and offers excellent performance and nearly 6 hours of endurance. However, $699 is nothing to sneeze at. Those on a budget will likely prefer the $599 Core i3 version of the TimelineX (1830T-3505). Or you may gravitate towards an even cheaper big-screen netbook like the $499 Asus Eee PC 1201PN, which has comparable graphics performance but less battery life and processing power. Still, the 1830T offers the best combination yet of portability and power in an 11.6-inch design.