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Hands-on with new Acer Aspire Timeline Series

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It's easy to dismiss talk of massive growth and market leadership as bravado, but Acer has been growing at a healthy rate for a while now, nipping at the heels of Dell and HP in the global PC market. All of which is lovely, but TrustedReviews is all about products, so let's take a quick look at Acer's latest range of notebooks, the Aspire Timeline series.

As we pointed out in our review of the Acer Aspire One D150, Acer design can be a little hit and miss, but the Aspire Timeline series looks to change that. We've already heard a little bit about the range, but today we got up close and personal with the new machines for the first time.

Available in 13.3in (Aspire 3810), 14in (Aspire 4810 - above) and 15.6in (Aspire 5810) sizes, it's easy to see the design-led emphasis of the Timeline series. As Acer is keen to point out in its literature, the Timeline machines are just 24mm at their thinnest, rising to just 29mm at the thickest point, while the 13.3in Aspire 3810 will have a starting weight of just 1.6kg, putting it up against the likes of the Sony VAIO Z Series in terms of weight.

There are clearly sacrifices to be made for the sleekness on offer, though, because the entire range is powered by Intel low-voltage processors, either a 1.4GHz/1.6GHz Core 2 Duo dual-core processor, or a 1.2GHz/1.4GHz Intel Core 2 Solo single-core processor. In the latter case you're looking at a machine with processing power similar to that of HP's Pavilion dv2, which uses AMD's Athlon Neo CPU.

What these low power processors do mean, however, is excellent battery life. For example, the Aspire 5810 will come with a six-cell, 5,800mAh battery capable of a quoted eight hours use. Meanwhile, the 13in Aspire 3810 and 14in Aspire 4810 will come with a 5,600mAh battery, so all models should deliver excellent battery life.

Another common factor with all the models is the screens - all are 16:9 ratio efforts that utilise LED backlighting and feature a 1,366 x 768 native resolution. All models also come with Dolby Sound Room and some models will come with switchable graphics, moving between the standard Intel integrated graphics and an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4330 with 512MB dedicated memory.

Both the Aspire 4810 and Aspire 5810 will feature integrated optical drives, but the smaller Aspire 3810 does not. Pricing will start at £549 for all models and though we don't have specific specifications at hand, this will doubtless net you a machine with a Core 2 Solo processor. Acer representatives told us it plans to release a business orientated Travelmate with the Timeline design ethic by the end of May.

First Impressions

Looking at the design of the Timeline series, Acer has definitely taken a step in the right direction. All machines feature a super-slim metal lid that looks and feels great, though inside, Acer has clearly chosen for a minimalist design that might be considered conservative by some. However, the real triumph is the keyboard. Acer has created a new twist on the isolation keyboard; keys are large and completely flat, have a nice sense of travel and even if you press down on the corner, the whole key lowers evenly.

Connectivity is a little limited, but all the basics are there - including HDMI, Ethernet and USB ports, though the number of the latter varies from model to model. We also found that the build quality, from our short time with the machines, seemed very good, largely thanks to the metal lids. We add, though, that while low-voltage CPUs make sense for highly portable machines, like the 3810 and to a lesser extent the 4810, we wonder whether the larger 5810 is a sensible application for a lower power processor.

Overall, we're tentatively impressed with Acer's latest efforts. Clearly Acer has listened to customers where battery life is concerned, something HP ought to have realised with the dv2, while the design is one that will please many. We'll give you our definitive judgment when we get a review sample. In the meantime, take a look at the following pages for more pictures.

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