Introduction, Specifications, Availability, and Pricing
One of my favorite classes of notebooks to use is the ultraportable. These machines are some of the more expensive notebooks you can buy, typically thanks to the small screens, powerful CPUs and the lightweight materials they are made from. The ultraportable is the class aimed at the business user needing all day power, the student moving all around a large campus, or a user that just wants a notebook that is small and sexy.
Today I have on my test bench one of the latest ultraportable notebooks from Acer called the Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T-68U118. The TimelineX series is well known for being small and having fantastic battery life. The specs of the Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T-68U118 look up to par for the series on paper, but time will tell if the machine can pass muster in the real world.
Today I will put the notebook through its paces and see how well it performs on the other side of our grueling benchmark regime. At the end of the day we will know if the Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T-68U118 is all show or if there is an equal amount of go inside the svelte chassis. Read on for all the details.
Specifications, Availability, and Pricing
The Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T-68U118 carries an MSRP of $899.99 on Amazon and wasn't on Newegg in this configuration at the time of this review. The price tag is nice for such a portable machine. The Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T-68U118 has the following specifications:
Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T-68U118
This shot shows the track pad buttons on the front along with the LED indicator lights on the front edge of the machine. The little notebook has a glossy screen.
The lid of the Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T-68U118 has a matte black finish that looks like dry carbon fiber. It shrugs away smudges and fingerprints and has a nice look.
You might not guess you were working on an 11.6-inch ultraportable by looking at the keyboard alone. This little machine has one of the best ultraportable keyboards around with massive keys.
The left side of the notebook has VGA output, HDMI output, a cooling grate and the power port.
The right side of the machine has two USB ports, a memory card reader, Kensington lock port, Ethernet port, and the mic/headphone jacks.
The back has nothing to see but the battery and hinges.
Performance - A/V Encoding, Battery Life, Boot Time, and Power Consumption
The CPU-Z screenshot for the notebook is below:
A/V Encoding and Battery Life
The Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T-68U118 will be run through the standard notebook/netbook test regime here at TweakTown. This includes iTunes Encoding and Media Transcoding plus Battery Eater Pro for battery life estimation. This machine will also be put through our expanded benchmark regime with the addition of boot time, PCMark Vantage, SuperPi, and Cinebench.
All systems are tested "as is", which means operating systems and drivers can and do vary and some come pre-installed with applications that may or may not affect performance. Any anti-virus or security applications are disabled and uninstalled before any testing is started as they can affect test numbers.
For the iTunes encoding test I take Stone Temple Pilots - Core CD album in MP3 format and encode it to AAC format using iTunes and time the results with a stopwatch.
All tests are performed with the system in High Performance mode with minimum CPU set to 100%.
The Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T-68U118 was exactly in the middle of the pack in this benchmark.
For the movie encoding test I take the Microsoft Magic of Flight VC-1 WMV video with six channel audio (1080p HD) and transcode it to XviD (1080p HD) with LAME MP3 two channel audio and a MP4 container using MediaCoder 0.7.3.4616 32-bit edition.
All tests are performed with the system in High Performance mode with minimum CPU set to 100%.
The Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T-68U118 had the fourth lowest score recorded for this benchmark. Video encoding is not the strong suit here.
Battery Eater Pro is very hard on batteries, so you are likely to get more run time in the real world, depending on how you use the machine. Since we compare all laptops and netbooks the exact same way, though, it creates a fair and balanced playing field for our comparisons.
For the power saving mode test I run the machine in 'Power Saver' mode with turn off display disabled and brightness set to 50%, sleep mode disabled, HDD turn off disabled and minimum CPU set to 5%.
For the performance mode test I run the machine in 'High Performance' mode with turn off display disabled and brightness set to 100%, sleep mode disabled, HDD turn off disabled and minimum CPU set to 100%. Do note that some systems even when set to 100% CPU may force drop down the clock speed when AC power is lost.
Wireless is kept enabled during all tests and nothing else unusual is disabled. Time is rounded up to the nearest minute.
Battery life is definitely a strong suit for the Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T-68U118, posting a top four finish or better in both these battery tests.
We measured boot time using a stopwatch and timed from the point we turned the system on until the very first point the desktop was reached and fully loaded.
The Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T-68U118 was a mere three seconds from dead last in boot time.
The power consumed by the machine under full load using Prime95 and at idle is recorded with a Kill A Watt wall outlet measuring device and rounded to the nearest watt.
Performance - PCMark Vantage, CINEBENCH and Super Pi
PCMark Vantage 64-bit
Version and / or Patch Used: Nov 2007 Hotfix
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/benchmarks/pcmark-vantage/
Buy It Here
PCMark Vantage is the first objective hardware performance benchmark for PCs running 32 and 64 bit versions of Microsoft Windows Vista. PCMark Vantage is perfectly suited for benchmarking any type of Microsoft Windows Vista PC from multimedia home entertainment systems and laptops to dedicated workstations and high-end gaming rigs. Regardless of whether the benchmarker is an artist or an IT Professional, PCMark Vantage shows the user where their system soars or falls flat, and how to get the most performance possible out of their hardware. PCMark Vantage is easy enough for even the most casual enthusiast to use yet supports in-depth, professional industry grade testing.
The Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T-68U118 was third from last in both of these tests.
CINEBENCH R11.5 64-bit
Version and / or Patch Used: Release 11.5
Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/
CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer's performance capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.
MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based).
The Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T-68U118 only bested the Eee 1215N netbook and the VAIO ultraportable in this test, putting it third from the bottom.
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.5 Mod XS
Developer Homepage: http://pw1.netcom.com/~hjsmith/Pi/Super_Pi.html
Product Homepage: http://pw1.netcom.com/~hjsmith/Pi/Super_Pi.html
Developed by some folks from the University of Tokyo (yes, Japan), Super PI is a small utility that does just as the name implies. It figures PI to a set number of decimal places. Since PI is an infinite number to the right of the decimal point, the utility measures the time it takes to figure a set number of places. It runs the calculations a set number of times and gives a time for the completion of the task. This is a simple and effective way to measure the raw number crunching power of the processor being used to compile the results.
The Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T-68U118 was able to pull fourth place in this test.
Hands on Use and Final Thoughts
Hands on Use
After all the testing was done I was glad to see no glaring faults with the Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T-68U118 notebook. I went into this test not expecting any record setting benchmark runs; with a low voltage mobile processor, the notebook is certainly geared towards battery life more than raw performance and it shows in the testing.
The 11.6-inch screen is very glossy and surprisingly good for media use. The thin little ultraportable lacks any optical drive, so streaming is your only option. I streamed some TV from Hulu and the Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T-68U118 did a very good job. The video was smooth and stutter free and colors were realistic with good blacks and nice contrast. There was a hint of pixilation in fast scenes, but the Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T-68U118 is surprisingly good for streaming media despite its obvious mobile focus.
The sound system that Acer uses on the Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T-68U118 leaves me wanting more. I expect the sound to be flat on notebooks today, but the volume was too low for me to hear easily in a room with a TV going and light conversation. If you plan to listen in a large space or from far away, plan to add headphones or speakers right away.
After the bad experience I had recently with the track pad on the Gateway ID49C13u notebook, I am very glad to see Acer has done a good job with the track pad on the Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T-68U118. The trackpad is very small considering the slight size of the notebook, but it is easy to use, accurate, and the buttons are well placed and easy to work. The trackpad blends in with the palm rest and is separated from the wrist rest with a textured pattern. The track pad tap to click feature also worked flawlessly.
I mentioned the lid of the notebook briefly before. The dry carbon fiber style pattern on the lid in matte black is not only attractive, but it is easy to keep clean. You have to have some dirty fingers to leave anything behind on this machine. I was also very impressed with the keyboard Acer uses on this machine. The keys are huge for such a small notebook. In fact, the keys on this 11.6-inch ultraportable are actually larger than the keys on the Gateway 14-inch notebook I mentioned before.
The keys are well spaced, the right and left shift keys are the same size, and the keyboard has great typing feel. This is the best ultraportable keyboard I have used. Kudos on the design here and Acer made a fantastic decision making the track pad smaller in favor of a larger keyboard. The keys are clicky and have good tactile feel; this is the keyboard other ultraportables should be trying to mimic.
The physical size of the Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T-68U118 is perfect for the ultraportable space that skirts the line between larger 13 and 14-inch notebooks and the smaller 10-inch netbooks. It's lightweight and thin making it very portable while maintaining the larger screen and fantastic full-size keyboard. There is simply no compromise to be had here between a small screen and the functionality of the keyboard. The machine also has the battery life to let you go all day long on a single charge.
I also wanted to point out the cool power adapter than Acer uses on this machine. It has no fat brick in the middle and is a simple, thin cord from the portion that plugs into the AC outlet back to where it plugs into the notebook. You can even remove the outlet prongs and adjust the part that plugs into the outlet in the best angle for your needs. The downside of not having a fat block in the cable is that the portion of the power cord that plugs into the outlet may block outlets nearby.
At the end of the day, I am very impressed with the Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T-68U118 notebook. This is one of the few 11.6-inch ultraportable notebooks that have a keyboard larger than some notebooks with as much as three more inches of screen space. That means you can work all day comfortably without wishing you had an external keyboard.
The screen is glossy, which means glare, but the media playback is good. You often get poor media playback with ultraportables since they tend to get weak GPUs at times in an effort to increase battery life. The Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T-68U118 also has an excellent battery. Wrap all of that in with a price that is under $900 and this may well be the best bang for the buck in the sub $1000 ultraportable space.