Acer's Aspire TimelineX 1830T-3721 Is Sleek and Attractive, but Has Iffy Ergonomics
At a Glance
Acer Aspire AS1830T-3927 Notebook PC
An affordable ultraportable that's long on workaday performance but iffy on input ergonomics.
There's a lot to love about the Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T. At about $700, it's extremely affordable for an ultraportable, offers great workaday performance, has excellent high-def video playback, and runs for over 6 hours on its battery. However, the 1830T also suffers some ergonomic quirks that could irritate in the long run.
Outwardly, the TimelineX 1830T is physically identical to Acer's Aspire 721, a netbook that is nearly $300 cheaper, based on the AMD Athlon II Neo, and having the same 11.6-inch, 1366-by-768-resolution color display. But obviously, the 721 can't touch the 1830T and its Core i5-430UM's performance. With Intel's CPU, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, and a 500GB, 5400-rpm hard drive on board, our test laptop scored a 76 on PCWorld Labs WordBench tests. Sadly, while the integrated Intel HD Graphics GPU did well with video, gaming frame rates--frames per second--were in the teens, which is better than you get with a netbook, but still not playable.
The problem with the 1830T is the input ergonomics, which is bit of a surprise, as the company's netbooks are generally above average in this regard. The keyboard is large, has a decently crisp feel, and the all commonly used keys are all full-sized. However, it's slightly recessed into the deck which sometimes makes hitting the spacebar that abuts the lip of that deck a bit problematic. Also, resting your wrists on the relatively sharp front edge of the deck will become bothersome during long typing sessions.
The same lack of front deck space means less room (forward-to-back) for the flush-mounted touchpad, which translates into more strokes when you're moving up and down the screen. Also, the stylish but slightly grainy texture of the deck runs horizontally, which gives vertical swiping a different feel. Moving the keyboard back a half inch or so and raising it above the lip would have made a world of difference in the 1830T's usability, as would indenting the touchpad slightly, and giving the laptop a small rake.
Weighing in at just over three pounds, the TimelineX 1830T isn't as light as ultraportables such as Dell's 2.2-pound Latitude e4200 (a far more expensive unit), but it's still imminently toteable, and the heft gives the unit an extremely solid feel. As with most ultraportables, there's no optical drive, and ports are the usual, somewhat sparse array found on small laptops: three USB 2.0 ports, one HDCP-enabled HDMI, one VGA, and a single gigabit LAN port. N-Wireless and Bluetooth are also on board for nonwired communications, as well as a 5-in-1 card reader for retrieving images from cameras and the like.
The TimelineX 1830T's audio was not particularly loud through its speakers--you'd definitely have problems hearing it on a plane. But sound was crisp and showed decent dynamic range through earbuds. Playback of HD video--one of the reasons you'd opt for the extra horsepower provided by the TimelineX series over that on a netbook--was quite smooth no matter what the source: 720p, 1080p, local, or online. The 11.6-inch screen doesn't have the resolution to do true 1080p and can't accommodate an overly large viewing angle, but it rendered images nicely nonetheless.
The Aspire TimelineX 1830T ships with Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit and sports a bit of icon litter (eBay, Norton Online Backup) on the desktop, but most of what Acer has loaded on the unit is useful, such as Cyberlink's PowerDVD 9 for playing DVDs (if you attach a USB optical drive) or doing DVD rips.
The TimelineX 1830T has all the everyday performance that the average user could wish for in a handsome and highly portable package. However, in the quest for style and a small form factor Acer may have sacrificed too much in the way of usability. The keyboard and touchpad annoyances might seem small, but could add up to a dissatisfying experience in the long run.