2008 was the year of the netbook; 2009 is the year of the 'affordable' ultra-portable laptop. It seems self-evident now, but netbooks showed Intel, AMD and other manufacturers that there was a sincere demand for affordable, portable laptops. Netbooks fall short of fulfilling that demand, but this year has seen a number of products aim to fill the gap. Acer has been at the forefront with its Aspire Timeline and TravelMate Timeline ranges: notable successes being the Aspire 4810T and the TravelMate 8371. Its latest effort, the Aspire Timeline 1810TZ, looks to set the bar even higher.
We'll say it straight now: the 1810TZ is about as close as we've ever come to giving a laptop (netbooks not included) a 10/10. Why it doesn't receive such an accolade will be revealed in the course of the review, but suffice to say the margins are extremely slim. What's important is that, rather like what the Samsung NC10 did for netbooks, the 1810TZ distils exactly what an affordable, ultra-portable laptop ought to be. Ironically our first point of reference for how to get it wrong is another Samsung product, the recently reviewed X120.
That's actually a little unfair to the Samsung. As we said in the review, were it not for its poor battery life the X120 would be an outstanding product, too. We'd wager plenty other laptops will be more disappointing than the X120, which makes its single failing all the more irritating. Unsurprisingly it's one of the many things the 1810TZ gets right.
While incorporating the six-cell, 5,600mAh capacity battery in the 1810TZ means it lacks the sleekness of the Samsung, our testing revealed battery life of eight hours and 43 minutes! Under the exact same testing conditions the X120 managed a paltry two hours, 33 minutes - over three times less.
This is a massive difference by anyone's estimation and though you won't always get this amount of life, even pushing this system hard will return great results and you're far less likely to be caught short. It's not as if you're paying more for the privilege; the 1810TZ is currently retailing for as little as £430 - actually less than the Samsung at time of writing.
Moving to more superficial matters, while the Acer isn't as pretty as the X120, it's no ugly duckling, either. It might lack the cohesive curves and minimalist appeal, but the slim chassis (22mm at its thinnest, 30mm at its thickest) is still well arranged and has a few well placed curves of its own. It's just that, rather like the lacklustre Aspire One D150, Acer uses far too many contrasting materials for it to hang together as effectively.
A choice of colours, which include black and blue in addition to our red version, add a nice bit of variety, though. An overall weight of 1.4kg is also very good and no build issues were discernible from our retail sample; in fact, the quality of plastics and general assembly feels rock solid.