Acer officially announced its new Aspire Ethos and TimelineX laptops last week, but yesterday it took the time to demonstrate them to assembled UK journalists. I spent a little time acquainting myself with both systems, starting with the Ethos.
When I first saw the pictures of the Ethos I was far from convinced. It looked like someone trying very hard to design a minimalist laptop, rather than one that naturally was that way. Seeing it in person, however, my reaction was rather more positive. There are still things I'm not so certain about, but on the whole it's quite a step forward from Acer.
Just hearing the company talking about the Ethos shows it has been listening. A regular complaint of ours about Acer laptops is their somewhat fussy appearance. For the most part that accusation can't be placed at the Ethos' door. It's a fact helped by how incredibly thin the chassis is despite the overall footprint, which in the case of the 18.4in model we saw is sizeable.
Acer can't help itself in some instances, though. While it has removed any dedicated shortcut buttons for media playback, it has simply integrated them into the touchpad instead. In fairness, though, this is actually a rather novel approach. These are activated simply by hitting the circular button between the two touchpad buttons, giving you quick access to the shortcuts without moving away from the touchpad.
We're not overly keen on the touchpad itself, though. Despite resisting the glossy plastic urge in the rest of the chassis, Acer has given the touchpad the kind of sticky, irritatingly reflective finish that would drive any reasonably minded person to distraction. Happily the keyboard, which is a smart looking chiclet-style one, doesn't pose any similar concerns.
There are some other nice touches, such as the wireless radio switches that are placed right by the relevant indicators - a nice bonus seeing as you can toggle Bluetooth and Wi-Fi independently. We also like the volume dial tucked into the front edge, right in front of the touchpad.
On the hardware side of things, the specs and dimensions indicate this ought to be a pretty serious multimedia machine. It'll be sold in 15.6in and 18.4in sizes using Core i5 and i7 processors and ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5000-series graphics. Those who opt for the 18.4in can be guaranteed a Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) screen and there's the potential to have two 640GB hard drives, totalling 1.28TB of storage.
Expect systems to begin to ship towards the end of April.