When Acer first launched its Timeline-branded range of laptops last year they were based on Intel's new CULV processors. These frugal processors, combined with high-capacity batteries, resulted in machines like the Acer Aspire Timeline 4810T, which could last close to eight hours on a single charge. This year the company has revamped the range and renamed it TimelineX, but has abandoned low-voltage CPUs in favour of Intel Core i3, i5 and i7 processors and powerful dedicated graphics.
Despite these changes, Acer still reckons the Aspire TimelineX 4820TG we're reviewing can manage eight hours of battery life using the standard six-cell battery and up to 12 hours with the optional nine-cell unit. It's not as if the 4820TG is any less portable than its predecessor, either, weighing a reasonable 2.0kg. While not ultra-portable, it's the kind of form-factor that can be carried around without too many complaints.
Inside, the 4820TG utilises a dual-core Intel Core i5 processor running at 2.26GHz that has a 3MB cache. It's supported by a plentiful 4GB of DDR3 RAM and a 500GB hard drive, while graphics are supplied by a dedicated 1GB ATI Mobility Radeon 5650 graphics card and Intel's integrated HD Graphics chip. It’s the latter that's key to the 4820TG's battery life claims, as it will switch between the dedicated graphics and Intel's low-power alternative when starved of mains power.
On paper, then, it's a powerful machine, but like the original Timeline's the exterior of the 4820TG is quite unassuming. Its lid is finished in black, brushed aluminium, an effect that's repeated on the palm rest but in a tasteful gunmetal grey. This makes a nice change from the glossy black plastic so often seen, but it's still present around the screen and keyboard.
On the whole, the design is pleasant in an unremarkable kind of way, but we have serious reservations about the build quality of the machine. There's more flex than is desirable throughout the machine, including in the keyboard and in the base of the machine, and applying pressure to the lid revealed that the LCD panel has very little protection. It all feels far from reassuring, especially in how the screen wobbles markedly when you adjust it.
For wired connectivity you get a generous four USB ports, but none of them support eSATA or standby charging. These are joined by HDMI and VGA for video, a Gigabit Ethernet port, two audio jacks (1x microphone, 1x headphone/SPDIF) and a memory card reader. You get both Wireless-N Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR for your wireless needs as well, in addition to a 1.3-megapixel webcam. There's also a standard, tray-loading 8x DVD+/-RW optical drive, its eject button sitting to the top right of the keyboard.