Top ultraportable laptops

Ideal for the users who value portability while demanding more performance than you'd get from a netbook, these notebooks stand out for their low weight and small footprint

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Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T-68U118
Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T-68U118 Review, by Sarah Jacobsson Purewal November 11, 2010

Rating:

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Pros:
Very light, thin, and easy to carry
Intel Core i7 processor in an ultraportable

Cons:
No discrete graphics
Trackpad is tiny and hard to distinguish from palm rest

Bottom Line: The keyboard and trackpad on Acer's latest ultraportable laptop aren't perfect, but the sacrifices involved are acceptable when the result is such a sleek machine.

REVIEW:
Back in September, we mentioned that Acer was planning to update its TimelineX series by cramming an Intel Core i7 processor into an 11.6-inch ultraportable laptop. Well, the company succeeded. The Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T-68U118 packs a ton of processing power into a netbook-size package, and still manages to include a full-size keyboard.

Our review model ($899 as of November 11, 2010) came with a powerful Core i7 processor--a 1.47GHz, ultra-low-voltage variant of the 680UM processor--as well as 4GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive, and the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium. Connectivity features included an ethernet port, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth--but no mobile broadband. You do get an embedded 1.3-megapixel Webcam.

Though not quite as sexy as the new 11-inch Macbook Air, the TimelineX is very sleek. It measures 11.2 inches wide by 8 inches long by just over 1 inch thick, and it weighs 3 pounds; the power brick is so light you'll barely notice it. In our battery life tests, the TimelineX lasted for 6.5 hours on one charge.

The textured, matte-black cover of the TimelineX has a shiny, mirrored Acer logo in the center. The interior features a matte black keyboard, a dark-gray brushed aluminum wristpad, and a glossy black bezel around the screen, but there are no dedicated buttons (save for the circular power button) and few indicator lights.

The TimelineX provides a reasonable number of ports for an ultraportable laptop. On the right side, it offers an ethernet port, a Kensington lock port, two USB 2.0 ports, headphone and microphone jacks, and a five-in-one card reader slot. A vent occupies part of the left side of the laptop, but the designers still found room for a USB 2.0 port, an HDMI-out port, and a VGA-out port.

The TimelineX's floating Chiclet-style keyboard is full-size, but it's very flat, and the keys are basically flush with the palm rest. The keys are also smooth and closely spaced, and they offer weak feedback, which makes touch-typing pretty frustrating.

The multitouch trackpad is even worse. The palm rest is a tad too narrow to be comfortable, and the trackpad is only as deep as the palm rest is. In practical terms the trackpad and the palm rest are one entity, with the touchpad distinguished only by two slightly raised strips on either side of it. Two small, discrete buttons sit beneath it, right on the edge of the laptop. Often as I tried to move the mouse pointer, I would discover that I was futilely moving my finger around on the nontrackpad part of the palm rest; at other times, I would attempt to press one of the buttons and end up poking myself in the lap.

The glossy, 11.6-inch screen has a native resolution of 1366 by 768 pixels, typical for its class. The display quality is pretty good, but it's not bright enough for comfortable use outside (especially in direct sunlight), colors tend to look a little washed out, and the picture degrades rapidly when you view the screen off-axis. The glossiness tends to throw back a lot of reflections, too.

Video playback on the TimelineX is reasonably good, but the absence of a discrete graphics card means that graphics-intensive video games are unplayable. The integrated graphics system handles high-definition fairly well, however; so if you're just planning on streaming a few Hulu episodes or playing back clips shot with an HD camcorder, this laptop will do the trick.

The Acer's audio is much louder and deeper than the sound you'd get from a typical netbook. Because the stereo speakers are situated on the bottom of the computer, just under the wrist rest, perching the ultraportable on your lap significantly muffles the sound. The speakers, though good for a laptop of this size, could use more bass. Still, they're loud enough to let you watch a film or participate in a video chat without feeling aggrieved.

The TimelineX runs Windows 7 Home Premium, and comes with Microsoft and McAfee trialware, CyberLink Power DVD 9 (despite the absence of an optical drive), and a suite of Acer software (including Crystal Eye Webcam, eRecovery Management, and Backup Manager).

If you're looking for a netbook that has the power of a laptop (or a laptop the size of a netbook), look no further. The Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T-68U118 combines power and portability in an appealing package that costs $100 less than the new Macbook Air. The keyboard and trackpad are flawed--but for an i7 processor and an 11.6-inch screen, you have to make some sacrifices.

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