Still in keeping with other Acer Aspire Timeline U M3 models, the 581TG-6736 sports a 15.6in TN display with a pretty average resolution of 1,366 x 768. And while this was perfectly acceptable on the £475 Timeline U M3 581T, it’s a bit more of an issue on this £630 laptop.
Mind you, the screen’s by no means terrible and that extra money has mainly gone to the insides anyway. Its glossy finish causes annoying reflections but also gives colours that bit of extra verve and further enhances the already fairly deep blacks.
Dark detailing is also good if not perfect, as only the darkest shades are indistinguishable. You may lose a tiny bit of detail in gloomy games. Last but not least, though vertical angles are dreadful (meaning you need to tilt the screen carefully), vertically they’re quite strong with only the merest hint of contrast shift.
Surprisingly accomplished for what is, after all, a budget chassis, the Acer Aspire Timeline U M3 581TG’s speakers pump out quite a bit of volume without compromising too much on quality. Gamers and music-lovers may wish to resort to headphones, but it’s possible to do without.
Like the 581T-32364G34Mnkk, the Aspire Timeline U M3 Ultra version with dedicated GeForce graphics is available in several flavours, sporting a mixture of Core i5 and Core i7 processors, and pure SSD or hybrid SSD storage.
General: 1811 (1684 for the 581T-32364G34Mnkk)
Entertainment: 2133 ((1800 for the 581T-32364G34Mnkk)
The U M3 581TG-6736 model we’re looking at gives you a dual-core ‘Sandy Bridge’ Core i5-2467M. This processor runs at 1.6GHz by default and can turbo-clock up to 2.3GHz, with support for up to four virtual cores. It’s backed by 4GB of RAM, and a 500GB hybrid HDD/SDD for permanent storage.
Of course, the single most interesting bit about this Acer Aspire Timeline Ultrabook is its GeForce GT 640M video card with 1GB of dedicated DDR3, which makes this the first Ultrabook we’ve seen that gamers shouldn’t avoid like the plague.
TrackMania Nations Forever (average fps, 720p, Medium Detail)
92.8 (Nvidia GT 640M) / 36.2 (Intel HD 3000)
S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Call of Pripyat (average fps, 720p, Medium Detail)
76 (Nvidia GT 640M) / 18.4 (Intel HD 3000)
Crysis (average fps, 720p, Medium Detail)
As you can see, the GT 640M gives a very significant boost over Intel’s integrated graphics, and in Stalker it provides 54.2fps at the screen’s native 1,366 x 768 resolution and with details maxed out. More importantly, the minimum frame rate never fell below 20, giving a consistently smooth experience.
Better yet, in that old chestnut Crysis it managed playable frame rates too, though cranking them up to native res and max detail like with Stalker resulted in an unplayable 20fps average.
In other words, if you’re not too demanding the affordable Acer Aspire Timeline U M3 581TG-6736 will suffice as a modest gaming laptop, without the weight and bulk usually associated with a dedicated portable games machine. That’s not to say you can’t get a laptop with better specs and a more powerful GPU for the money, but rather that it won’t be an Ultrabook.
Like its predecessor the 581TG-6736 lasted over seven hours away from a socket on a charge [mixed workload at 40 percent screen brightness and with wireless radios disabled], which is a very impressive result by both Ultrabook and 15.6in laptop standards. Keep in mind that, as with most of its kind, the battery is not user replaceable, and this figure will go down if using its dedicated graphics.
Where value is concerned, the £630 Timeline U M3 581TG is a straightforward proposition due to the current lack of competition. There are very few Ultrabooks with dedicated graphics for under £1,000, and even fewer with a card as relatively capable as the Nvidia GeForce Series 6 ‘Keppler’ GT 640M. In a field with no contestants, the 581TG is champion by default.
The Acer Aspire Timeline U M3 581TG is something pretty special. Not because it’s particularly good-looking, has a great screen or is especially well-connected – it’s none of these things. But rather because, if you can live with its awkward rear-only connectivity, it’s in every respect good enough and, when it comes to gaming, no similarly-priced Ultrabook even comes close thanks to its use of an Nvidia GeForce ‘Kepler’ GT 640M.