Acer TimelineX 4820T review

According to sources, all of Acer TimelineX notebooks are based on Intel platform including a 2.26GHz Intel Core i3, a 2.53GHz Intel Core i5, and a 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 processor, up to 8GB of RAM, and a 160GB to 640GB hard drive………

The Aspire TimelineX 4820T is the latest iteration in the thin laptop product line of Acer’s mainsream laptop offering. In terms of design and looks, the new Acer Aspire TimelineX 4820T 14-inch laptop refines the looks sported by the original Aspire Timeline 4810T thin and light laptop.

Pulling the 14-inch Acer TimelineX 4820T from its box, one thing went through our mind: this could be the perfect thin and light laptop. The $717 system is about an inch thick, weighs only 4.7 pounds, and still has an onboard DVD drive. And unlike the past Acer Timelines and their sissy ULV processors, it has a standard voltage Core i3-350M CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 320GB hard drive. Oh, and it promises over seven hours of battery life. Sound like the perfect no-compromise ultrathin laptop to you too, right? Well, even after our unboxing, the TimelineX 4820T did live up to many of our expectations, but disappointed in some unfortunate others. We’ll explain it all in our full review after the break.

The new Aspire TimelineX 4820T slim laptop has a polished dark gray screen lid with the Acer logo emblazoned at its center, and the inside reveals a black keyboard deck with a silver gray touchpad and palmrest strip. It may not be as good looking as the Sony VAIO CW or the Dell Inspiron 14R, but compared to the older Acer Aspire Timeline 4810T, the newer Acer Aspire TimelineX 4820T laptop looks a lot more polished and elegant – and much better than the dull monotone of some other Aspire laptops (Acer Aspire 5740, Acer Aspire 5740G, and Acer Aspire 4740).

Unofficially, the X at the end of the new Timeline series stands for “extreme,” but we’re going to pretend it stands for extra polished. The system’s professional look is still very much intact, but Acer’s added a bit of pizzazz here and there: there’s now a silver trim around the touchpad and the black brushed aluminum cover gives it a classic look. Even better, the 4820T has very little gloss as the palmrest is covered in a silverish metal as well, though the screen bezel and trim around the keyboard still gets the unfortunate black glossy-plastic treatment.

The 4820T’s 0.9 to 1.1-inch thick body is the biggest design coup, though. It’s just an incredibly thin and light 14-inch laptop, and the battery doesn’t bulge at all like some other ultraportables out there. For comparisons sake, it’s thinner and ligher than the smaller-screened 13-inch ASUS U30Jc and ThinkPad Edge 13. Shoving the 4.7-pounder into a larger shoulder bag was no issue – we actually didn’t mind dragging it to and from the office. Despite the thin dimensions, the machine still has room for a DVD player and three USB ports on its right edge. We’re not sure why Acer had to line up all the USB ports so close to each other — it makes it hard to simultaneously plug in multiple devices. An extra USB jack, HDMI, Ethernet, VGA, and mic and headphone sockets dwell on the left side, while its 5-in-1 card reader lives on the front lip.

The Acer Aspire TimelineX 4820T is also one of the slimmest and lightest 14-inch laptops around, measuring about an inch thick with its screen lid shut and weighing just over 2-kg (with a six-cell battery pack and a DVD writer) – which is mighty impressive. Despite its slim form factor and being predominantly made out of plastic, the Acer Aspire TimelineX 4820T is still pretty well built – the screen is strongly attached to the rest of the chassis with two hinges at the spine. Overall, we like the Aspire TimelineX 4820T’s thin and light design.

The Acer Aspire TimelineX 4820T has a 14-inch glossy LED-backlit display with a widescreen resolution of 1366×768 pixels. The 4820T’s screen also has a 16:9 aspect ratio which is ideal for watching high-def (HD) content off the internet. The Acer Aspire TimelineX 4820T’s screen quality is very good – the display’s nice and bright and evenly lit throughout. Owing to the laptop’s glossy screen, it displays rich vibrant colours, and is especially great for watching movies – although it does a very good job displaying clear, crisp text, too.

Compared to other laptop displays, the Acer Aspire TimelineX 4820T’s screen has good viewing angles. A 1.3Mp webcam is recessed on the top screen bezel of the Aspire TimelineX 4820T laptop’s display, and a microphone grooved in a little to its left. The webcam works great for video chats over Skype.

We’ve said this in the last couple of Acer reviews, but there’s no harm in repeating our disclaimer on the build quality. The make isn’t superb, though in this case it’s what you’d expect for the price. There are parts of the 4820T – notably the flexy keyboard and plastic hinge reinforcements — that don’t have us convinced the machine will age well, but sometimes these are the sorts of laptops that end up lasting longer than you ever thought. Obviously, you take a chance with any machine.

Acer’s been using the same chiclet keyboard on all of its laptops these days, and it would be perfectly fine with just a few tweaks. The rounded keys have a nice amount of bounce, but they’re just too flat. We wish they had some sort of curve to them and that they melded to your fingers more over time. The real kicker, however, is that the panel on the TimelineX 4820T was ridden with flex – just pressing one finger on the “G” key caused the entire thing to bend. And because of this, there was a slight squeaking sound when we typed this review. It’s not good, but for what’s worth we did type at a fairly fast clip and without too many typos.

The touchpad on the 4820T is quite generous in size. It supports multitouch gestures, though we turned off the pinch-to-zoom function since it would mistakenly zoom in on webpages when that’s the last thing we wanted to do. The scroll strip on the right edge of it was responsive, however. The single mouse button didn’t give us any issues, though we’d like to take a knife and chop it into two dedicated buttons. The dual speakers above the keyboard are decent for personal listening, and we could hear a YouTube clip over our TV in the background. Yet, they aren’t as loud or full as those on the HP Pavilion dm4.

As members of the matte screen lovers guild (seriously, we’d join if this existed), we think the 4820T would’ve been perfect with a non-glossy version of its 14-inch, 1366 x 768 display, but everyone seems set on these glossy, reflective screens. Like we’ve been seeing on recent Acer laptops, the screen’s bright, but viewing angles were quite bad. Horizontal angles weren’t terrible for sharing the screen with another, but tilting the screen back when watching a gripping video of Lindsay Lohan’s sentencing caused her face to darken and her tears to be indiscernible.

Compared to the Dell Studio 14 Artist Edition, Acer Aspire 5740G, and the Dell Inspiron 14R laptops, the Acer Aspire TimelineX 4820T performs modestly at best. At least in our synthetic benchmarks, the Aspire TimelineX 4820T plays second fiddle to them with an overall WorldBench 6 score of 81. Its PC Mark 05 (5079) and 3D Mark 06 (1465) score isn’t the best in our Top 5 Mainstream Laptops standings, but it isn’t far behind either. In fact, in our real-world tests, we had absolutely no trouble multitasking on the Acer Aspire TimelineX 4820T – all your day-to-day office and home applications, browsing the web, listening to music, and watching movies worked just fine on the Acer TimelineX 4820T slim laptop.

As one would expect, the TimelineX 4820T’s standard voltage Core i3 processor beats all of the ULV laptops we’ve reviewed in the past few months. The 2.26GHz Core i3-350M processor along with 4GB of RAM was certainly fast enough for our everyday routine, too – we simultaneously ran Chrome, Microsoft Word 2007, Tweetdeck and Trillian with no lag, and even adding DVD playback to the mix didn’t slow things down. It’s not as fast as the Sony VAIO Z with its Core i5 processor and GeForce GT 330M graphics, but the Z’s at least double the price. Cramming a standard voltage CPU into a thinner chassis does have its downsides, and those lie mostly in heat. For the most part, the 4820T did stay relatively cool, but programs that were CPU intensive, including Firefox Beta 4, caused the left palmrest and touchpad to get extremely toasty.

The lack of a discrete graphics card rules out any kind of gaming on the Acer Aspire TimelineX 4820T, but nothing stops you from watching HD movies on the slim laptop. We played our test HD 720p and 1080p files on the Aspire TimelineX 4820T and the laptop handled them pretty well. The movies played smoothly without a single stutter and the audio-visual experience was very good. In fact, the Acer Aspire TimelineX 4820T’s onboard speakers are placed between the keyboard and hinge, boasting of Dolby Home Theater virtual surround sound. The audio from the slim laptop’s onboard speakers was very good for its form factor, and quite loud. You can definitely watch movies and pump out music on the Acer Aspire TimelineX 4820T while seated in a medium-sized room or a small conference hall.

Onto the million dollar question: how does Acer’s use of a standard voltage CPU affect the battery life of this very portable laptop? Not much, by any measure. The 4820T’s 66Wh six-cell battery lasted five hours and four minutes on our video rundown test, which loops the same video at 65 percent brightness. That’s actually longer than the ULV-powered Dell Vostro V13 and just around the same time as the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 13. In everyday usage with brightness set at 75 percent we squeezed about five and a half hours out of the system – that should be good enough to last the bus ride from New York to Boston.

Now comes the bit that’s most exciting on Acer’s TimelineX series of notebooks. We managed a very healthy 2 hours 10 minutes in our battery tests carried out at high performance mode and full-screen brightness on the Acer Aspire TimelineX 4820T slim laptop – this is better than any other laptop listed in our Top 5 Mainstream Laptops. Acer claims a battery life of 8 hours on a single charge from the Acer Aspire TimelineX 4820T’s six-cell battery. We are glad to report that it lives up to that claim in real-world usage – we managed to extract just under 7 hours of browsing the web through Wi-Fi at 50-percent screen brightness in balanced battery mode of Windows 7.

Is the Acer TimelineX 4820T the perfect ultrathin laptop? Well, it’s surely a step in the right direction, but ultimately what holds this back is the same stuff that holds most Acers back, and that’s really its substandard build quality. In the case of the 4820T, it’s especially apparent in its flexy keyboard and poor LCD. However, there’s no doubt that it’s in a class much on its own (the Toshiba Protégé R700/R705 falls into the same one, but we’re still waiting to review it), and for $717 the 4820T fills the niche for those looking for mainstream laptop power in a thin and light chassis. And, well, that alone may just be perfection for some.


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