Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/05/12/review_laptop_acer_timeline_x_4820tg/

Acer Timeline X 4820TG

12-hour battery life – oh, really?

By Leo Waldock

Posted in Laptops and Tablets, 12th May 2010 12:25 GMT

Review A year ago Acer’s Aspire Timeline 4810T notched up a ground-breaking eight hours of battery life thanks to the careful use of low power Core 2 hardware. The new Acer Aspire Timeline X ups the ante with claims that it can deliver up to 12 hours from the optional nine-cell battery – the standard six-cell is another story.

Acer TimelineX

Ever ready? Acer's Timeline X

The Timeline X is available in the same three sizes of chassis as the original Timeline, 13.3, 14 and 15.6in and, in each case, the LED back-lit screen has a resolution of 1366 x 768 that supports 720 HD video.

Among the first batch of Timeline X models to arrive in the UK is Acer’s 4820TG rather than the 4820T. While the Timeline X 4820T puts the emphasis on long battery life – having a Core i3-330M dual core CPU, 3GB RAM, a 250GB HDD and Intel graphics along with a price of £600 – the 4820TG aims for performance, presumably to the detriment of battery life.

The list of differences is considerable with the 4820TG review sample sporting a dual core, 2.27GHz Intel Core i5-430M CPU with an Intel HM55 chipset, 4GB of 1333MHz DDR3 memory in two modules, a 320GB 5400rpm Sata hard drive and an ATi Mobility Radeon HD 5650 GPU with 1GB of memory.

There are a couple of oddities in the rest of the specification as both the Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11n wireless are provided by Atheros where the inclusion of Intel wireless would allow Acer to smother the thing in Centrino stickers.

Acer TimelineX

CPU configurations vary, and with them the actual battery life

The other is the multi-format, tray-loading DVD writer doesn’t have an eject button so you have to perform the task using software controls, either in Windows Explorer, the Acer Arcade Deluxe DVD player application or some other application that you choose to instal.

It’s a decent specification that matches many budget PCs although it has the unfortunate effect of raising the price from £600 for the ‘basic’ 4820T to £900 for the 4820TG. When it comes to ports and connectors the left hand side of the chassis has Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI, one USB 2.0 port, VGA and jacks for a headset.

Acer TimelineX

The forward port positioning can be inhibiting at times

On the front there is a card reader and there are three USB 2.0 ports on the right hand side along with the DVD writer. In the event that you get stuck in dial-up dark ages Acer includes a USB modem in the package. That’s a reasonable selection of ports, however the layout could do with some improvement as the ports are arranged towards the front edge of the chassis.

There’s no problem if you connect a mouse or USB flash drive but when I connected an Ethernet cable I found it was distracting when I was using the keyboard. The HDMI port is next door to the Ethernet port but realistically you use that connection when you’re watching a movie but if utilised to connect to an external display, it too could get annoying. On the right hand side the closely spaced nature of the three USB ports is sure to cause issues if you plug in a TV tuner with its inflexible coaxial cable along with a printer or, indeed, that USB modem.

Physically, the Timeline X is a sleek laptop measuring 342 x 245 x 25.4mm and weighing in at 2.2kg and it has pleasant styling that looks good. I especially like the look of the keyboard with its individual keys. That said, the build quality feels a bit plasticky and the chassis has a certain amount of flex when you type hard. In a similar vein, the plastic lid looks as though it might be finished in brushed aluminium but is not and it is a terrible magnet for fingerprints.

Watching movies on the Timeline X is an enjoyable experience however I was left unimpressed by the latest version of Dolby Home Theatre Virtual Surround Sound. The sound is OK but you wouldn’t want to watch a movie using the speakers if you had the option of headphones instead. The viewing angle of the screen is rather tight and it is too reflective and shiny for my personal taste.

Acer TimelineX

It looks metal but the plastic casing inevitably delivers that fashionable fingerprinted look

While the performance of the Timeline X 4820TG is impressive and delivers enough grunt to play Far Cry 2 with Ultra High image quality my main interest was checking out the battery life to see how close it came to that headline figure of 12 hours. Using the standard El Reg test of video playback with the screen at full brightness the battery of the 4820TG lasted for three hours and six minutes.

Benchmark Tests

PCMark Vantage Results

Acer Timeline X
Acer Timeline X

Longer bars are better

Battery Life Results

Acer Timeline X

Battery life in Minutes
Longer bars are better

Acer Aspire Timeline X

I also ran constant loops of PCMark05 as that was the test I used when I reviewed the original Timeline and got a figure of 165 minutes which in real world terms is equivalent to five hours 30 minutes of constant use. If we take the Acer claim of 12 hours of battery life for the 4820T as gospel it suggests that the extra CPU cores and ATi graphics that are part of 4820TG have the effect of cleaving the battery life in half.

Acer TimelineX

Respectable performance, but physical construction leaves room for improvement

Verdict

Timeline X makes significant advances over the original Timeline models with thanks to the Core i3/i5/i7 CPU options and ATi Radeon HD 5650 graphics. Internals aside, the build quality and design of the chassis strike me as very average. More significantly, the battery life of the 4820TG, which is actually rather good, falls far short of the ‘up to 12 hours’ claim that Acer has been broadcasting for this range. ®

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