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Acer Aspire TimelineX 4820TG - Keyboard, Touchpad & Audio-Visual
One of the significant causalities of the 4820TG's patchy build quality is the keyboard. It's far from terrible, thanks mainly to the good layout and sizeable keys, but the key actions feel muddy in comparison to many laptops that pass through our office. Even recent Acer laptops have fared better than the 4820TG, making its relative weakness all the more disappointing.
By comparison, the touchpad is much better. Unlike last year's Timelines its positioning doesn't interfere with typing at all, and the rocker-style buttons offer decent feedback. It also supports the full gamut of multi-touch gestures, including two-finger scrolling, pinch-to-zoom and rotate. Its chromed border is a nice visual touch, too.
Like a lot of laptops, the 14-inch screen on the 4820TG has a 1,366 x 768 native resolution. It's a good resolution for a laptop this size and the screen itself is among the better ones we've seen of late. Viewing angles aren't anything to write home about, but the screen is both bright and sharp. In videos, it produces a good amount of detail and colours are generally rich and fulsome.
These are things that can't be said for the integrated speakers, despite being 'enhanced' by the third generation of the Dolby Home Theatre audio tech. It does a surprisingly good job improving the output and applying virtual surround sound to the stereo speakers, but it can't make up for their otherwise complete lack of bass and clarity. It should have greater success with a good set of headphones or speakers, though, and it's a nice value-add for anyone who watches lots of films and TV on their laptop.
Another potential problem with the 4820TG is its graphics switching implementation. Since ATI has yet to develop anything as nifty as Nvidia's Optimus technology, which makes the switch seamless, it suffers all the usual problems encountered with this technology. This includes the screen flashing on and off as the graphics switches, which happens automatically when you unplug the system.
Unfortunately the feature is quite poorly advertised, with no hardware switches or buttons available to control it. As such, anyone who didn't know their laptop had the feature would probably find it quite alarming, not least as an error message pops up if any graphics enabled application (even Solitaire) is running when the switch is made. Neither will the switch be made automatically after you close the program, necessitating a trip to the driver settings. It all smacks of a feature that hasn't been properly thought through; one that will surely confuse a lot of consumers.