MSI has long pushed the boundaries of invention with its ever-evolving range of laptops but it has now pulled off a world first with the new MSI Creative 17.
Acer Aspire TimelineX 5820TG notebook
The Acer Aspire TimelineX 5820TG is a great notebook, with an attractive, slim design
- Excellent keyboard, very comfortable to use, good battery life for a notebook of this size, reasonably light despite its 15.6in screen
- Lid has a propensity to pick up fingerprints, no eSATA port, display has poor viewing angles, might be a little too big for some people
We think the Acer Aspire TimelineX 5820TG is a great notebook. It's comfortable to use, and despite its size it is not inconceivable that you could lug it to and from work or uni.
Price$ 1,699.00 (AUD)
Last time we reviewed an Acer Aspire Timeline laptop — the 14in 4810T, which we tested in mid-2009 — we were impressed. This time we've got our hands on the new Acer Aspire TimelineX 5820TG, which is a notebook equipped with a 15.6in screen. We think Acer has another winner on its hands: the 5820TG is equipped with an excellent keyboard, a decent Core i5 CPU and dual graphics cards (one integrated, the other with its own memory). It offers pretty much everything you'd want from a notebook not targeted at business users; it will even provide decent performance when playing games (although not at maximum settings). Even business users should be happy, unless they need an ExpressCard slot or advanced security (for example a fingerprint reader).
The Acer Aspire TimelineX 5820TG is large enough to be considered a desktop replacement notebook, and there's enough space on the base to fit a full-sized keyboard — including a number pad — as well as a generously sized palm rest and 9x6cm touchpad.
The notebook weighs 2.4kg so you'll definitely notice the additional weight if you are carrying it around in your bag. However, given the notebook's screen size the weight is very reasonable indeed; it compares favourably to the 15in Dell Inspiron 15R N5010 (2.6kg), the 15.5in Sony VAIO VPC-EB16FG (2.7kg) and the 15.6in HP ProBook 6540b (WH431PA) (2.6kg). Acer touts the thin design of the notebook as a selling point, and it's certainly a slender and attractive model. We think it's worth considering if you want a desktop replacement laptop, as well as a notebook that you can occasionally take on the road with you; perhaps between home and classes, for example. Despite its size, it's actually pretty comfortable to use on your lap.
The notebook has a 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-520M CPU and 4GB of DDR3 RAM. The processor is equipped with two physical cores (and four 'virtual' cores thanks to Hyper-Threading), so multitasking is a breeze. In our Blender 3D rendering and MP3 encoding tests the TimelineX achieved scores of 55sec and 1min 1sec, respectively. The cheaper Acer Aspire 5741-434G50Mn scored 59sec and 1min 05sec in these tests (it runs a slower 2.26GHz Core i5-430M CPU).
Acer Aspire TimelineX: Dual graphics cards
Like an increasing number of notebooks we've recently tested — such as the MSI CX420 and Alienware M11x — this notebook comes with dual graphics cards. One is an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 with 1GB of RAM all of its own and the other is an integrated Intel Graphics Media Accelerator HD.
You can switch between the graphics adapters by right clicking on the Desktop and selecting Configure Switchable Graphics. The idea is that you use the Intel chip when you are interested in prolonging battery life and the ATI graphics card if you want to play a few games.
The battery lasted around three hours during our battery test when using the Intel graphics; when using the ATI card it lasted 2hrs 32min. Both these results are great for a notebook of this size; as a comparison the Dell Inspiron 15R only lasted 2hr 20min in the same test. The difference between the results of the Aspire TimelineX 5820TG when using the Intel graphics and when using the ATI graphics may not seem huge, but our test is designed to run down the battery as quickly as possible. We conduct the test by disabling power management, turning up screen brightness and enabling Wi-Fi, then looping an Xvid video file. In the real world you're likely to get quite a bit more juice out of the caboose* when using this notebook, as long as you employ a conservative power scheme.
Acer Aspire TimelineX: Gaming performance
The difference in 3DMark06 scores when using each of the graphics adapters was far more dramatic; with integrated graphics the TimelineX only scored 1941, while using discrete graphics bumped the score up to 7489. The latter is good news if you want to play games, though hardcore gamers will still probably want to aim for something that achieves a 3DMark06 score of 10k+ (such as the Origin EON15, which comes with the kind of sweaty-palm-inducing price you'd expect from a high-end notebook).
The LED-backlit display is a good size for watching movies in your bedroom, but the vertical viewing angles are unimpressive. You'll probably want to plug in a pair of headphones, however: the laptop's speakers are nothing to write home about despite boasting "Dolby Home Theater Virtual Surround Sound".
All the notebook's ports are on the sides: headphone and microphone, VGA/D-Sub, Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI, and four USB 2.0 ports. There's also a DVD writer on the right side and an SD card reader on the front. As you would expect, 802.11n Wi-Fi is also included, along with Bluetooth. There's also an integrated webcam. The HDMI port is particularly welcome: it will let you connect to a TV, so if you're living in a small flat you can use the notebook as your home entertainment hub.
The Acer Aspire TimelineX 5820TG strikes a compromise between usability and portability that won't suit everyone — it's not exactly an ultraportable laptop or a netbook. If you're buying a notebook for a student just moving out of home to go to university, we think it would be a great choice. It's as comfortable to use as a full-scale desktop replacement like the 17.3in Dell Vostro 3700 — you won't find it too trying to write long assignments on. If you get a decent sized bag and don't have to cart too many textbooks around, we think you'll also be able to employ it in a lecture to take notes (or browse your favourite Web sites) without any problems.
Acer environmental policy
Acer is committed to planting 1 million trees within the next two years and for selected products it will plant between one and five trees. Only commercial TravelMate notebooks and Veriton PCs are included in the tree planting initiative, however. For more information, see Acer's environmental policy.
*The battery is located on the rear of the notebook, so this metaphor almost makes sense.
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