The Acer Aspire TimelineX 5830T is testament to quite how good the latest range of Intel Sandy Bridge processors are. Although this laptop uses a "low-end" model CPU, the dual-core i3-2310M - which runs at 2.1GHz - its capabilities are pretty decent when backed by the generous 6GB of RAM.
In our PC Mark Vantage test, it scored 5080 points. This is, of course, significantly lower than i5-toting laptops like the Dell 15R and Asus N53SV, but is still enough to take on the majority of productivity tasks with ease. It soundly beats the i5 chips from the last generation of Intel processors too, easily sailing past last year's Acer Aspire 5745G in the same test.
We can't, of course, ignore that you can get a current-gen i5 lappy with a dedicated graphics card for the same price. Left with the integrated Intel HD 3000 chip, the TimelineX 5820T is only capable of doing justice to older or less demanding titles. It managed a very playable 42.5fps in Trackmania Nations, but chugged through a benchmark of 2010's S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Call of Pripyat at an average 17.1fps - it frequently devolved into jerk-o-vision.
When laptops like the Asus N53SV offer more power for the same price, why should you consider this alternative? Primarily because it offers cracking battery life.
Running MobileMark 2007, which emulates normal usage - surfing the web, sending emails, watching a bit of video and so on - the 5830T's battery survived for just over seven and a half hours. Dim the display even further (we run the test with still reasonably bright 40 per cent brightness) and you'll be able to squeeze a few minutes more out for real all-day battery power. The battery is not easily user-replaceable, though, so you won't be able to simply take a charged-up spare with you to double its stamina.
If this long battery life means a lot to you, the Acer Aspire TimelineX 5830T is a sound buy thanks to its strong build. It's a real road warrior, if your shoulders can handle its not-inconsiderable 2.46kg weight. But if it's going to spend most of its life hooked up to an AC adaptor in your lounge or home office, you can get more power for the same amount of cash, or comparable performance for less. If battery life and portability are key concerns, it's worth considering something like the ASUS U46SV, which offers even better battery life and improved portability, thanks to the smaller screen.
A mostly solid-feeling body and great battery life make this 15.6in laptop a good choice if you're going to spend a lot of time working with it both at the desk and out and about. It doesn't perform well with games thanks to its lowly integrated graphics, but the comfortable keyboard layout and capable Sandy Bridge processor make it a competitive - if not particularly exciting - solution.