With a 14-inch screen, the Acer Aspire TimelineX 4820T seems like a good compromise between an ultra-portable and a desktop-replacement laptop. It's currently available for around £450 from Laptops Direct and other vendors, but is it the ideal laptop for busy souls who cart their computer around everywhere they go?
Before we find out, note that the exact model number of our review sample is AS4820T-373G32Mnks or, alternatively, LX.PSN02.207.
Measuring 342mm wide, the 4820T feels more portable than larger, 15-inch machines, yet also more comfortable to use than smaller, 13-inch ultra-portables. Weighing in at 2.2kg, it isn't the lightest laptop around, though.
The 4820T's design isn't exactly mind-blowing, but the combination of the black brushed-metal effect on the lid and the sober grey that adorns the wrist rest makes for a machine that looks very business-like. The laptop's good build quality also inspires confidence that it should stand up to the knocks and scrapes of daily use.
The 4820T's display has a glossy coating, but it isn't as reflective as some we've come across, so working under bright overhead lights isn't really a problem, as long as you position the screen correctly. The display's resolution of 1,366x768 pixels is pretty standard for a laptop in this price range, and the viewing angles on both the horizontal and vertical axes are pretty good. The screen could be brighter, though -- something that would also help colours to shine through more.
The keyboard uses flat keys perched on top of narrow stems, so they have the appearance of floating above the laptop's chassis. Acer has used a similar design to great effect on other keyboards, but this one flexes slightly, so it doesn't feel quite as solid and responsive to type on. Nevertheless, the wide trackpad is excellent and the long, narrow button beneath it is also top-notch.
Ports aren't exactly abundant. For example, there's no eSATA port or PC Card slot. This isn't unusual at this price point, though, and you still get three USB ports, which you can use for connecting up peripherals like external hard drives.
We also like the fact that the laptop includes an HDMI port alongside the VGA out. An HDMI port makes it much easier to connect the laptop to a high-definition TV, as both audio and video are carried across a single lead.
The machine supports both 802.11n Wi-Fi and Gigabit Ethernet, but not, sadly, Bluetooth. Most people probably won't be all that bothered about this, though. If you really want to add this functionality, you can now get tiny plug-in USB Bluetooth adaptors that sit almost flush with the chassis, for around £5 online.
Brains behind the operation
The brains of the machine take the form of a dual-core Intel Core i3-380M processor, clocked at 2.53GHz. This is a pre-Sandy Bridge chip, but it's still fairly potent. RAM is also crucial to performance, because more memory helps when you're undertaking heavy multitasking. Thankfully, Acer has added in 4GB of the stuff, which is fairly generous for a machine in this price range.
It's no surprise, then, to find that the 4820T posted a respectable score of 5,952 in the PCMark05 benchmark test. That indicates it'll run day-to-day apps without any problems.
As the CPU is a pre-Sandy Bridge chip, it has older and slower integrated Intel graphics. This is reflected in its poor score of 1,884 in the 3DMark06 test. That's a long way off what's needed for smooth gaming with today's titles.
Nevertheless, the specification elsewhere stands up well to scrutiny. The 500GB hard drive is large by the standards of moderately priced machines, so, unless you carry around a large collection of movies on your laptop, you shouldn't find yourself running out of space too soon.
There's also a DVD rewriter, so you can burn your own music CDs or back up data to discs. Tucked under the front lip, there's a handy memory-card reader, which is ideal for transferring files from mobile devices, such as a digital camera.
The 4820T scores highly when it comes to battery life. In the intensive Battery Eater Classic test, which runs the CPU at full speed until the laptop runs out of juice, this machine managed to keep running for an impressive 2 hours. Under normal usage conditions, you'll get much longer than this from the battery.
On the whole, it's difficult to find much wrong with the Acer Aspire TimelineX 4820T. It's fairly compact, yet comfortable to use, has a decent amount of grunt for the price, and its battery life is surprisingly good. In short, you could do much worse for your £450.
Edited by Charles Kloet