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.