The Acer Aspire Timeline X isn't part of the fusty laptop crowd that believes a plain black coat is the height of fashion. Instead, it offers a much more snazzy blue aluminium shell, which apart from looking swanky is very sturdy to boot.
Our model -- the 5830T-2316G64Mnbb -- packs a 2.10GHz Intel Core i3-2310M processor with 6GB of RAM.
It's available from Saveonlaptops, among other vendors, for £589.
Design and build quality
The Timeline X is a refreshing change from the yawn-inducingly dull aesthetic of many laptops. Rather than being smeared in yet another shade of black, it's sporting a rather attractive blue shirt.
Acer says the colour is 'cobalt'. We don't know what that is and don't have time to Google it, but we like it, whatever it is. Other than the colour, there's very little else to make the Timeline X stand out from the crowd -- the lid is extremely plain, with only the shiny Acer badge sat proudly in the middle.
Still, the blue hue is more than enough to stop this dapper chap from being boring. We'd be very happy being seen somewhere fancy with it, perhaps furiously typing away about why plain black laptops should henceforth be met with nothing but contempt.
The other feature that makes the Timeline X that bit more special is its size. It's only 25mm thick, which makes it slim enough to slide comfortably into your skinniest bag -- or perhaps keep it tucked under your pillow at night as some sort of bizarre security measure. It's 38mm wide, which doesn't make it perfectly suited for travelling -- especially on crowded buses -- but it packs a 15.6-inch screen so you can't really expect it to be much smaller.
At 2.5kg, it's not super-lightweight, but it's also not so heavy you can't comfortably take it on your travels. It's not pushing the super-light boundaries of the MacBook Air or Acer's own Aspire S3, but nor is it measuring up to the gargantuan proportions of the Asus NX90jq, which weighs in at a whopping 4.4kg.
Part of the Timeline X's weight comes from the aluminium it's dressed up in. The whole chassis is made from metal, which apart from making it look much smarter than the standard plastic, also makes it very sturdy. There's very little flex to be found in the lid or on the wrist rest -- even when we subjected it to our brutal series of pokes with our super-strong index fingers.
In our hands, the whole machine felt generally well put together. It was free from the creaks and squeaks that can often be found in the hinges of other machines, so we'd have no worries about taking it on an outback mission or lending it to a burly lumberjack for the weekend.
Battery life test
As the Timeline X is designed to be slim enough to carry around with you, it's also going to need a battery that can cope with being away from the plug for long enough for you to reach your destination. Running our battery benchmark, it managed to last 2 hours 8 minutes before conking out. It's a brutal test that runs the processor at its absolute maximum until there's no juice left, so you'll be able to achieve a better time with more normal usage.
Even if you're watching a lot of video on it, you should still be able to get around two and a half to three hours of juice, which should make that train journey fly by. Make sure you've got a decent set of headphones to drown out the sound of those shouting teenagers.
Keyboard and trackpad
The keyboard has isolated keys that are spread out right the way across the body of the machine, making use of all available space. They're easy to press and very comfortable to type on -- we made very few typing errors due to the keys, even when touch-typing at high speed. There's also no flex when you press down on the keyboard, which adds to the premium, well-built feel of this machine.
The trackpad is smaller than we'd like -- especially given the spare room Acer has left around it -- but it's responsive and easy to slide your finger across. The buttons aren't wonderful to press, but will adequately do the job of helping you browse the Web if you don't have a proper mouse to hand.
The 15.6-inch screen on the Timeline X has a native resolution of 1,366x768 pixels. That's sadly not a full 1080p HD offering, which we would have liked, but it does the job well of displaying documents and webpages.
Although it's pretty bright, it doesn't have the depth or warmth of colour we'd normally like to see, which resulted in some of our test videos looking a little washed out. If you're just watching standard-definition TV shows, you probably won't notice it much, but you may want to give it an eyes-on first if you're considering the Timeline X as your new movie buddy. Thankfully, it does have an HDMI port, so you can hook it up to your TV when you want to have a more cinematic experience.
As well as an HDMI port, there's also a VGA port, three USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0 port, an Ethernet port, an SD card reader and headphone out/audio in jacks. Only putting one USB 3.0 port on the side is arguably a little stingy, but if you only need the high-speed connection to hook it up to an external hard drive for backup every so often, you might not need more than one port anyway.
Powering the Timeline X is a 2.10GHz Intel Core i3-2310M processor teamed up with 6GB of RAM. The i3 chip may be at the lower end of Intel's range, but its decent clock speed and good amount of RAM should help it give a pleasing performance. Without further ado, we threw our set of benchmark tests square in its face.
In the Geekbench test it returned a score of 6,015, which matches what we wrested from the Lenovo Essential G570. The G570 isn't nearly as slim and attractive as the Timeline X but it does come at a lower price. It's worth bearing in mind that a certain amount of your money is being spent on the aluminium shell -- if that's not important to you, you can get better performance if you opt for a plastic-shelled laptop without such a focus on looks.
To see how it handled gaming, we threw the 3DMark06 benchmark test at it. It gave us a score of 4,181, which is pretty admirable for this level of laptop. You're not going to be running the top-end games on this thing, but it should cope with some the older titles if you dial the settings back a bit.
In our use, we found the Timeline X to be very responsive and coped well with the tasks we set it. We fired up some multi-tabbed Web browsers while simultaneously playing a high-definition file and streaming a YouTube video in 1080p. Even with all that going on, we didn't notice any reduction in performance -- the YouTube video didn't slow down and other programs still opened quickly.
We then got it to encode our 11-minute 1080p video file into 24fps H.264, which it managed in about 21 minutes. It's not the quickest time we've ever seen, but it's far from sluggish. We'd argue the Timeline X performs better when multi-tasking with various lighter tasks than it does focusing on a single, more processor-hungry task.
The Acer Aspire Timeline X doesn't have the sort of power that will tear through the latest games titles, but it manages to give a strong performance, especially for multi-tasking, which will certainly appeal to the more casual user. Its blue aluminium shell makes it both sturdy and more attractive than the usual grey or black laptops found in this price range too.
Edited by Nick Hide