Getting onto usability, the isolation-style keyboard is both attractive and practical. Layout is excellent: everything is where you’d expect it to be and there’s a proper UK-style Return key. Acer has also taken advantage of the larger form factor to add a full number pad with large 0/Insert key. Despite their semi-glossy finish and flat profile the keys aren’t too slippery and feedback is fairly good, with a positive click and decent amount of travel.
One of the few complaints we had with the 4810T was that due to the central location of the touchpad it was easy to move the cursor accidentally, making the pad’s dedicated deactivation button (for which the orange backlight is much dimmer on this larger model) an occasional necessity rather than a feature. With the 5810T this issue is easier to avoid, for though the touchpad is still in the same location relative to the letter keys it’s been moved over to the left because of the number-pad.
As with the other Timelines the touchpad itself is a pleasure to use. Its large, matte yet smooth surface makes navigation effortless and gives you room to execute its supported multi-touch gestures easily. The touchpad’s buttons are integrated into a single large moulded rocker switch which also offers good feedback, though it does feel slightly loose – a pity considering the superior build quality elsewhere.
One area that could have done with some improvement was the 4810T’s speakers, but unfortunately the ones found on the larger 5810T are just as poor. With an utter lack of bass, muddy trebles and even slight distortion at higher volumes, the occasional YouTube video is about all you’ll want to use them for. Thankfully Acer has supplied Dolby Sound Room technology to enhance listening through external speakers and especially headphones thanks to Dolby’s excellent headphone surround sound virtualisation.
Acer hasn’t taken advantage of the larger screen to up the resolution, so we get the same 1,366 x 768 pixels as on the 4810T and 3810T – not much of a criticism really since it’s the most common resolution offered on 16:9 laptop displays, but we can always hope, right?
Once you get past the reflections which mar the experience in bright ambient lighting, image quality is decent enough for a laptop. The usual failings of limited viewing angles and black levels do apply, and in fact the 5810T didn’t cope as well with our greyscale test as some. On the other hand banding was negligible and backlighting very even, with excellent sharpness making even small fonts perfectly legible.
Generally the screen is a bit muted but this does result in a more realistic colour palette – though not even close to accurate enough for any kind of graphical work, for which the RGB-LED display of the Dell Studio XPS16 is still one of the few affordable options.