What's hot: Extremely portable yet powerful, excellent battery life.
What's not: Not cheap, tiny trackpad.
Reviewed January 17, 2010 by Lisa Gade, Editor
11.6” portables tend to be underpowered, in fact most are netbooks with Atom or AMD Neo CPUs rather than the more powerful Intel Core i CPUs found in standard sized laptops. Want more power in your ultraportable? It’s gonna cost you some serious bucks. The Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T might not be bargain basement cheap, but it is one of the best equipped and powerful 11.6” notebooks money can buy. At $899 for the Intel Core i7 ULV model and $699 for the Intel Core i5 ULV, Acer beats the competition on price in this segment, and it’s hard to find significant fault with the 1830T. It weighs just 3 lbs., has a 1.47GHz Intel Core i7 680UM CPU with 4 gigs of RAM, a 500 gig hard drive, HDMI, 3 USB ports and a pleasing gloss Acer CineCrystal display.
The Acer 1830T targets those who wish they could carry a netbook on the road but need more power and a higher resolution display. At 11.6”, it’s not for those of you who think that 13.3” is as small as a notebook should go. Rather it’s for the extreme ultraportable set who want to do more challenging tasks such as video encoding, Photoshop and 720p video playback. Battery life is as good as a netbooks thanks to the TimelineX’s focus on long battery life. With the standard 6 cell, 5800mAh Lithium Ion battery that tucks neatly into the rear edge, the 1830T can go for 7 hours when doing productivity tasks.
Design and Ergonomics
The TimelineX 1830T is a good looking notebook that has clean lines and a diamond plate patterned plastic lid that reduces fingerprints and improves grip. The laptop is made of plastics and the wrist rest area has an aluminum finish. It’s a good looking machine that’s reasonably rigid though the keyboard is Acer’s usual sprung model that has flex and not much travel. The small Alps mouse pad is integrated into the wrist rest area and 2 overly subtle lines provide minimal tactile feedback to let you know you’ve wandered off the active area. The mouse buttons live at the edge of the notebook and are stiff. We had no trouble using them, and their location is a concession to miniaturization. The trackpad is too small to make practical use of multi-touch gestures but the designated side-scroller works decently.
The near full size keyboard has relatively large keys but this isn’t the popular and more ergonomic island style keyboard with spacing between the keys. We were able to type quickly and accurately but some folks may be put off by the lack of key spacing. Keys are in their normal locations and we appreciate that both shift keys are oversized unlike the larger Lenovo IdeaPad U260 that has a small right shift key.
The 1366 x 768 LED backlit gloss Acer CineCrystal display is solid. Colors are nearly as accurate as the lovely matte high end Lenovo U260’s and we found viewing angles slightly better than the Lenovo (60 degrees). Brightness is good at 200 nits and clarity is excellent with sharp text and good looking images. This is no bargain basement display, and it’s well-suited to the TimelineX’s higher price tier. Glare can be an issue when working near a window and we wouldn’t recommend any gloss display for outdoor work, but it looks great indoors. We found brightness to be surprisingly good (and I like a bright display). I rarely raised brightness much above 55 to 60% indoors thanks to the bright panel. Interestingly, cranking brightness didn’t have a huge impact on battery life.
Deals and Shopping:
Ports, Specs and Upgrading
The Acer has a full complement of ports by ultraportable standards including 3 USB 2.0 ports (1 left, 2 right), HDMI, VGA, Gigabit Ethernet, 3.5mm stereo audio out with SPDIF, mic-in and power. The laptop has both WiFi 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 3.0 (both Broadcom). It’s easy to open up the TimelineX 1830T to do upgrades: simply remove 4 Philips head screws and remove the large bottom cover to access the hard drive, 2 RAM slots wireless module and empty PCI Express connector. The machine ships with 4 gigs of DDR3 RAM in 2 SODIMM slots and it has a 500 gig 5400 rpm hard drive with 8 megs cache (ours is a Western Digital).
Here's our 7 minute video review of the Acer TimelineX 1830T:
The Acer is a fantastic mobile workhorse with enough processing and graphics power to handle Photoshop manipulation of 20 meg RAW files, 1080p video processing using Windows Live Movie Maker and 720p video playback to the built-in display (it can handle 1080p to an external monitor). The TimelineX 1830T-68U118 runs on the Intel Core i7-680UM, a 1.46GHz ULV CPU released in Q3 of 2010. It can Turbo Boost to 2.53GHz and has 2 cores with 4 threads. The cheaper 1830T-3721 runs on a 1.33GHz Intel Core i5-430UM and should be adequate for those who don’t need to do media encoding and other CPU-intensive applications. There’s a Core i3 ULV version, but that’s getting hard to find and we don’t recommend it since that CPU isn’t very powerful and lacks Turbo Boost.
This isn’t the machine for serious 3D gamers; get an Alienware M11x or a larger-screened laptop with dedicated graphics. The TimelineX 1830T uses Intel HD integrated graphics with a maximum 500MHz clock speed (not too shabby) and the Intel HM55 Express chipset. It can handle older games and casual games fine but it’s not nearly up to Call of Duty Black Ops. It does an excellent job of video playback and handles Photoshop well but isn’t meant for serious 3D despite a decent Windows Experience score for 3D gaming (we always take the Windows Experience Index with a grain of salt).
The Core i7 and Core i5 ULV CPU are ultra-low voltage versions of the standard mobile Core i CPUs. They use less power and generate less heat, making them better suited to small notebooks. They use 18 watts of power and are built in a 32nm process. The i7-680UM has 4 megs of level 2 cache while the i5-430UM has 3 megs. Both are 64 bit CPUs (the machine ships with Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit) and support virtualization and Turbo Boost where the CPU can get a temporary boost to a much higher clock speed. When doing productivity work in MS Office and IE 9 beta, the CPU utilization ran 4-7%, and it hit 26% playing Hulu video and 720p YouTube content (that’s quite good). What about Intel Sandy Bridge ULV CPUs? We probably won’t see those before the summer of 2011 in ULV form, so if you need a notebook now, it’s not worth the wait.
Despite the solid processing power packed into a very small package, the Acer remained cool and quiet. There are plenty of heat vents on the bottom and the fan exhausts warm air at the rear right. The Acer runs cooler and quieter than the metal-clad Lenovo IdeaPad U260 with a Core i5 ULV and the MacBook Air with its Core 2 Duo and NVIDIA dedicated graphics. When playing Flash video, the CPU reached 48 Centigrade and the bottom remained comfortably warm. The fan is unobtrusive in terms of volume and how often it ramps up.
PCMark Suite: 3034
Memory Suite: 2029
TV and Movie Suite: 2213
Gaming Suite: 1461
Music Suite: 3439
Communication Suite: 2960
Productivity Suite: 2109
HDD Test Suite: 3599
The Acer TimelineX 1830T is our top pick among subnotebooks. It doesn't compromise power or battery life and it has a good set of ports that outnumber the competition. We're impressed with the specs on the 1830T, and they beat out the competition in features vs. price. It significantly outperforms Acer's own Ferrari One, has a faster CPU and more features than Lenovo's IdeaPad U160, a faster CPU and more ports than the MacBook Air (though it lacks the Air's dedicated graphics), and more horsepower and longer battery life than the Lenovo IdeaPad U260. Bluetooth 3.0 is standard, the laptop has HDMI and a classy looking chassis with good build quality. Geeks and tinkerers will appreciate the easy access to internals for hard drive swaps and wireless upgrades. If you're looking for a 3 lb. notebook that fits in the smallest of spaces and don't intend to do serious 3D gaming with current titles, the Acer should measure up.
Pro: A very fast 11.6" notebook, one of the fastest currently on the market. Attractive, light and fairly thin. Very good battery life, runs cool, quiet fan. Plenty of ports including HDMI. Large capacity hard drive is standard on the Core i5 and i7 models. Has both WiFi 802.11n and Bluetooth 3.0, though no integrated mobile broadband.
Con: Acer's flat keyboard may not suit those who favor island style keyboards, trackpad is small and it's easy to wander off its edges.
Price: $899 for Core i7 ULV, $699 for Core i5 ULV and $599 for Core i3 ULV.
Display:11.6" LED backlit Acer CineCrystal gloss display. Resolution: 1366 x 768, 16:9 aspect ratio. Intel HD integrated graphics (operates up to 500MHz clock speed).
Battery:6 cell Lithium
Ion rechargeable, 5800 mAh. Battery is user replaceable.
Core i7 680UM processor with Turbo Boost up to 2.53GHz. Intel Core i5 ULV and Core i3 ULV models also available for less money. 4 gigs of DDR3 RAM in 2 SODIMM slots, 500 gig 5400 rpm hard drive.
x 8.0 x 1.1 inches. Weight: 3.1 pounds.
in stereo speakers, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
jack with SPDIF and 3.5mm mic jack.
Networking:Wired gigabit Ethernet (Atheros). Broadcom
WiFi 802.11b/g/n (2.4GHz) and Bluetooth 3.0 (Broadcom).
7 Home Premium 64 bit. Various Acer utilities for restore, webcam etc. MS Office 2010 Starter Edition and trial of Anti-virus software and Norton Online Backup.