- Great battery life
- Solid build
- Comfy keyboard layout
- "Acquired taste" design
- More power available at same price
- Review Price: £589.99
- 15.6in 1366x768 pixel screen
- Intel HD 3000 graphics
- 6GB RAM
- 640GB hard drive
- 8-hour battery life
We looked at the lower-end model in the new range, which has a Core i3 Sandy Bridge 2.1GHz processor, 6GB DDR3 RAM, 640GB HDD. There’s no dedicated graphics chip, as seen in the more expensive i7 model. But then that tri-tone beauty will cost you a good £300 more.
Upon first opening up the TimelineX 5830T, we thought of one thing – neapolitan ice cream. It may have been partly down to hunger, but swap the blue of the keyboard rest for pink and you’d have a dead ringer for a giant tub of that 1970s favourite. Going “all out” with this tri-tone finish seems a bit odd when looking at the rest of the laptop, which is otherwise attractively simple. There’s a long dotted speaker outlet, but no superfluous physical shortcut keys and a minimal spread of buttons.
Call us boring, but we wish the blue had been jettisoned in favour of more silver and black, because – like calling your kid Tarquin – it invites ridicule in a way that won’t win the poor chap enough friends to make up for it. The lid of the laptop is blue too, but thankfully a darker, moodier shade than the keyboard rest.
Colour complaint aside, it’s a decent-looking laptop in its own retro way. It’s intensely angular, with corners more severe than the norm and sharp slopes bordering the keyboard that could have been inspired by an 80s power suit. This is not a self-consciously inoffensive laptop, and while that means it’ll probably put many people off, it made us quickly warm to its looks.
The build quality helped too. The TimelineX 5830T is very solidly-built, with an aluminium lid and tough, virtually flex-free plastic used elsewhere – apart from one spot. The right edge bends fairly readily, because there’s only room for a thin 2mm skin of plastic over the optical drive. Despite the sturdy feel and those sharp angles, it’s actually quite a compact model, given that it’s not technically an ultra-portable.
30mm thick at its chubbiest point, it’s slightly thinner than the Dell 15R and Acer Aspire 5750 (which are 2-4mm thicker), and at 2.46kg it’s slightly lighter than that pair too. These victories are narrow ones, though, and if you want a laptop to take around with you all day, you should perhaps consider something with a smaller display to bring the overall bulk down.
As usual with laptops, that extra bit of size and weight comes with connectivity bonuses. There are four USB slots, although only one of them is a super-fast 3.0 socket, a DVD writer (no Blu-ray here), VGA output, full-size HDMI output, mic input and 3.5mm headphone/SPDIF jack. There’s also a card slot on the front edge, which supports high-capacity SDXC cards too, for up to 64GB of tiny ”affordable” storage – larger cards still cost a packet. Connectivity you can’t so easily see includes Wi-Fi N and Bluetooth 3.0, but there’s no 3G slot here, although there’s a filled-in slot on the hinge where one features in other iterations of this model.
One natty on-body extra is the battery indicator button. This lets you see roughly how much battery charge is left. It’s completely useless while the 5830T is powered-up of course – Windows 7 could tell you much more accurately – but it works when the latop’s off too.
The Acer Aspire TimelineX 5830T offers a screen type and quality that’s typical at the price. It uses a 1366×768 pixel panel, and offers unremarkable performance. Contrast shift, causing loss of detail in dark areas, sets in pretty quickly once you start tilting the screen back, and colour reproduction is just ok.
It’s not the perfect partner to gaming or frequent movie-watching, but for most other applications it’s perfectly fine. Viewing from extreme horiztonal viewing angles causes loss of brightness, but it’s capable enough to let a couple of people huddle around its display to watch a film.
The display finish is glossy, readily showing-off reflections of sunlight and strip lighting. If you want a device to use outside frequently (although now it’s getting colder we imagine the appeal is dwindling), look for a semi-gloss or matt display.
This sort of unremarkable screen performance is to be expected of a laptop designed more as a productivity workhorse than a gaming or multimedia king, but this approach also has positive effects on its keyboard. The TimelineX 5830T’s chiclet keyboard features virtually no compromises on size, offering full-size keys across the board. It’s particularly good to see large Enter, Backspace and Right Shift keys claim a hefty chunk of space, as they make switching from a full desktop keyboard to the 5830T feel very natural.
The keyboard’s action is good too, with a slightly higher-quality feel than the recently-reviewed Dell 15R. Key presses could do with a tiny bit more definition, but for the most part the keyboard style and layout suits the 5830T’s role as a versatile productivity tool perfectly.
The keypad isn’t quite so spaceous – it’s much smaller than that seen in most laptops, and is tiny compared with the giant pads of “lifestyle” laptops like the Acer Aspire S3 and Asus Ultrabook UX21. This can make using multitouch gestures feel a little cramped, but the usual ones are supported and work just fine – pinch-to-zoom, and two fingered left and right swipes for back and forward within the browser being the most common. Small as it is, the surface is very comfortable to use, offering a similar texture to the surrounding keyboard rest but with a slightly soft-touch finish.
An area part-dedicated to scrolling is clearly labelled too. The 5830T is big on practicality, and here it pays off without too big an aesthetic sacrifice. Similarly, the mouse buttons are separate rather than part of a single bar (an annoying trend these days), eradicating any potential for unresponsive dead zones in between the two. As the trackpad is small in height rather than width, these buttons do not feel cramped in use.
Up above the keyboard and trackpad lies the speaker grill, bearing the bold “DOLBY HOME THEATER” and “Professionally Tuned” tags. Claiming home theatre quality from piddly laptop speakers is dodgy at the best of times, but here it’s downright ridiculous. These aren’t the worst laptop speakers we’ve heard – not by a long shot – but volume’s limited, there’s very little bass, the high-end can sound harsh and a bit garbled, and there’s often audible crackling at maximum volume. Fine for the odd YouTube clip, but anything else is pushing it.
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.
Score in detail
Battery Life 9
Processor, Memory & Storage
|Memory (RAM) (Gigabyte)||6GB|
|Hard Disk Drive (HDD) (Gigabyte)||640GB|
|DVD Optical Drive||Yes|
Graphics & Sound
|Audio Connections||3.5mm, SPDIF|
|Battery life (Hour)||9hr|
|Weight (With Battery) (Kilogram)||2.46kg|
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