Given the Timeline series is all about battery life, it seems fitting to start our performance analysis there. And, as expected, the TravelMate 8731 delivers handsomely. In the Producutivity segment of MobileMark 2007 it lasted an incredible six hours and 37 minutes, extending to just over seven hours in the low intensity Reader test. These don't quite match Acer's predictions of eight hours or more, but clearly the six-cell, 5,600mAh battery delivers more than enough life for a day out.
Overall performance is pretty solid, too. Admittedly this isn't the kind of laptop you can edit HD video on and in some cases it can struggle with very high bit-rate HD videos (720p is just fine), but for productivity tasks - i.e. the kinds of tasks the 8731 is meant for - it copes perfectly well. This is particularly true of this dual-core version which, as you can see from the graph following the review, is comfortably faster than the single-core Acer Aspire 4810T-353 we looked at previously.
This is all achieved with nary a whisper from the fan or any discernible heat. Yes, every now and again the fan will spin up, but for the most part the 8731 is faultlessly cool and quiet - as you might well demand from an ultra-low voltage laptop. It's also a very well put together machine; there's a sense of solidity to the chassis that's greatly enhanced by the aluminium lid.
This quality extends to the keyboard and touchpad, both of which are very good. Key response is crisp and positive and the layout generates no meaningful complaints. We'd prefer the touchpad to not occupy such a central position, but there's a button for deactivating it if it gets in the way.
In truth, then, the TravelMate 8731 is much as we anticipated. It has the awesome battery life we saw previously, but mixes this with a few well-selected business features. There are plenty of things that could arguably be added to the 8731, such as TPM security and an optical drive, but they would inevitably push the price up - defeating the object entirely. As things stand, you'd be hard-pressed to find a business ultra-portable that offers such an excellent battery-powered usage time for such an affordable price.
If you're a businessman who has always wanted an ultra-portable but couldn't justify the expense, the TravelMate Timeline 8731 should make you very happy. Its outstanding battery life and realistic price are its best points, but it also retains enough important features that you won't feel too hamstrung.