Ease of Learning: 3.5 / 5
Ease of Use: 4 / 5
Enjoyment: 3.5 / 5
Design: 4.5 / 5
Value for Money: 3 / 5
Acer announced their Timeline U series back at CES earlier this year. Back then, however, little was known about the device, with some even suspecting it was nothing more than the upgraded version of the TimelineX series. Oddly enough, Acer has branded their new device, the Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3, as an Ultrabook. From first glance, you wouldn’t argue with this label, but is the slightly smaller than normal size and reduced weight enough to deem this as an actual Ultrabook, or just an enhanced notebook?
Let’s start with the weight and thickness of the Timeline Ultra M3. A touch under 2cm, this device can be considered thin. At grams, it isn’t heavy either. But if you consider that this device packs a 15-inch display, full numpad and optical drive, it goes against the grain of what we’ve come to expect from typical Ultrabooks, which strip away all these luxuries for the purpose of lightweight mobility, while still packing some power under the hood. Speaking of which, the Timeline Ultra M3 has an Intel Core i3-2367M CPU to power the Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit OS. The 15.6-inch display includes Acer’s HD CineCrystal LED LCD. Other specs include 4GB DDR3 RAM, 320GB HDD, 2-in-1 card reader and HD webcam, to name a few.
With a quoted average battery life of around 8 hours, this device is more than handy as a portable office. For the first week of use, I charged this notebook only once, using it almost every evening for a short while.
The 2 front speakers offer Dolby Surround sound, but don’t quite live up to the expectation of the name. Despite the included Dolby Home Theater v4 software, there isn’t much going for this device in terms of sound quality. If you have free standing speakers or a set of quality headphones, you’ll find yourself using this almost as often as using the device. In short, there isn’t any surround sound to speak of at all.
In regards to its look and feel, the Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3, it’s quite good to look at with the matte black finish, despite its tendency to collect fingerprints with the simplest of ease. The full QWERTY keyboard (with numpad) makes for comfortable typing, and only lacks a backlit keyboard to truly impress. The touchpad, however, doesn’t have my same admiration. Although it’s a multi-touch surface, using the left and right click buttons while touching any other point on the touchpad yields rather sporadic results, sometimes clicking with no issues, and other times you’ll be left wondering why it isn’t working.
The design is also changed slightly from what we’ve come to expect with most notebooks (or Ultrabooks for that matter). There are no buttons (besides the keyboard keys) on the face of the device, with the power button located on the front side. Also, there aren’t any ports visible on the sides either, with everything compactly packed on the back. Although this looks good, it isn’t always easy using your flash drive while using the device, but nothing you can’t tolerate.
There are versions of the Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3, which come fully equipped with onboard nVidia graphics cards. If we’re to believe its “Ultrabook” tag, then it’s the first of its kind to pack noteworthy graphics capabilities. This is a trend we’ll see more often with future Ultrabooks. Sadly, though, this isn’t the case this time around, and we’ll have to settle for Intel’s HD Graphics 3000. Be that as it may, the HD graphics isn’t worth complaining about and does a decent job of playing full HD videos, and a few of the latest games with sufficient FPS.
In conjunction with more graphics power in higher end models, other ramped up specs also include an SSD, i7 CPU and more RAM. What we take away from this review is that this version of the Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3 is that it’s somewhere near an entry level device for the series. Now if you consider that most Ultrabooks will generally set you back over R10 000, you’ll be surprised to find this device coming in around the R8000 mark. In truth, despite the Ultrabook tag on this device, it doesn’t quite reach that mark. It’s not a bad device at all, and possesses fairly impressive specs for its price tag. So let’s consider this device for what it is, a really good notebook for a really good price.