Now is the time of the Ultrabook. They're thin, they're sexy and they tend to cost a bomb - nothing like the 15.6in Acer Aspire TimelineX 5830T, then. This is the sort of laptop that the Ultrabook hareem would jeer at in the dressing room, but it could be argued this model gets you a lot more for your money - better battery life, better connectivity and solid build too, without entirely compromising on form.
We looked at the lower-end model in the new range, which has a Core i3 Sandy Bridge 2.1GHz processor, 6GB DDR3 RAM, 640GB HDD. There's no dedicated graphics chip, as seen in the more expensive i7 model. But then that tri-tone beauty will cost you a good £300 more.
Upon first opening up the TimelineX 5830T, we thought of one thing - neapolitan ice cream. It may have been partly down to hunger, but swap the blue of the keyboard rest for pink and you'd have a dead ringer for a giant tub of that 1970s favourite. Going "all out" with this tri-tone finish seems a bit odd when looking at the rest of the laptop, which is otherwise attractively simple. There's a long dotted speaker outlet, but no superfluous physical shortcut keys and a minimal spread of buttons.
Call us boring, but we wish the blue had been jettisoned in favour of more silver and black, because - like calling your kid Tarquin - it invites ridicule in a way that won't win the poor chap enough friends to make up for it. The lid of the laptop is blue too, but thankfully a darker, moodier shade than the keyboard rest.
Colour complaint aside, it's a decent-looking laptop in its own retro way. It's intensely angular, with corners more severe than the norm and sharp slopes bordering the keyboard that could have been inspired by an 80s power suit. This is not a self-consciously inoffensive laptop, and while that means it'll probably put many people off, it made us quickly warm to its looks.
The build quality helped too. The TimelineX 5830T is very solidly-built, with an aluminium lid and tough, virtually flex-free plastic used elsewhere - apart from one spot. The right edge bends fairly readily, because there's only room for a thin 2mm skin of plastic over the optical drive. Despite the sturdy feel and those sharp angles, it's actually quite a compact model, given that it's not technically an ultra-portable.
30mm thick at its chubbiest point, it's slightly thinner than the Dell 15R and Acer Aspire 5750 (which are 2-4mm thicker), and at 2.46kg it's slightly lighter than that pair too. These victories are narrow ones, though, and if you want a laptop to take around with you all day, you should perhaps consider something with a smaller display to bring the overall bulk down.
As usual with laptops, that extra bit of size and weight comes with connectivity bonuses. There are four USB slots, although only one of them is a super-fast 3.0 socket, a DVD writer (no Blu-ray here), VGA output, full-size HDMI output, mic input and 3.5mm headphone/SPDIF jack. There's also a card slot on the front edge, which supports high-capacity SDXC cards too, for up to 64GB of tiny affordable storage - larger cards still cost a packet. Connectivity you can't so easily see includes Wi-Fi N and Bluetooth 3.0, but there's no 3G slot here, although there's a filled-in slot on the hinge where one features in other iterations of this model.
One natty on-body extra is the battery indicator button. This lets you see roughly how much battery charge is left. It's completely useless while the 5830T is powered-up of course - Windows 7 could tell you much more accurately - but it works when the latop's off too.