If you drive a Prius, wear sensible shoes, exercise regularly, don’t drink to excess and married the good cook instead of the hot body, congratulations: You are a practical person. Your life will (probably) never be made into a Hollywood movie, but hey — you’ll live long and your children will remember you fondly after you’re gone. May we interest you in a practical notebook?
The Aspire Timeline 3810T sports a slim profile, a reasonably light 3.5-pound weight and a brilliant 13-inch screen. It’s nearly everything the MacBook Air is, except expensive and sexy. And that’s the problem: Despite doing nearly everything right, Acer’s designers still managed to make the Timeline into a rather humdrum notebook. It’s slim, but lacks the alluring wedge lines of the Air. Its two-toned grey exterior seems calculated to go with a serious wool suit, not an Urban Outfitters hoodie. And it’s not quite skinny or svelte enough to qualify as a thin and light.
For all that, though, the Timeline 3810T is a capable, useful machine.
It’s no wimpy netbook, either: This is a real notebook, running a real operating system. The Aspire Timeline 3810T we tested was powered by a reasonably capable, low-voltage 1.4-GHz Core 2 Duo processor, and had 4 GB of RAM (though you’ll want to expand that to the maximum of 8 GB if you’re planning to switch to Windows 7, which you should be) and a capacious 500-GB hard drive. It comes with Windows Vista Home Premium. And it’s not lacking for connection options: In addition to the standard audio ports, there are three — count ‘em! — USB ports, a VGA port, an HDMI port, an ethernet jack and a five-in-one media-card reader.
There’s also a remarkably sharp webcam built into the lid. And while Acer thoughtfully included a few utilities (for the webcam, power management and other tasks) they mercifully avoided gunking up the machine with crapware. Thank you, Acer!
Performance didn’t blow us away, but this isn’t the machine for your next LAN party anyway. For browsing, spreadsheet jockeying and watching movies, the Timeline works just great. And the battery life, while well short of the 8 hours Acer claims, was a still-respectable 3 hours and 48 minutes of heavy, continuous use.
There are only two big downsides to the Timeline. No. 1: aesthetically it’s boring enough to put a hyperactive child in a coma. And No. 2 is the lack of an optical drive. We get it that this is necessary to keep the weight and thickness down — but it’s still an annoyance, especially because Acer doesn’t offer a utility enabling you to make use of other computers’ DVD drives. (Apple does, though.) You’ll need an external DVD player if you’re planning on doing, well, much of anything.
Despite a host of great features, the Acer Aspire Timeline is just not that cool-looking. On the other hand, it costs about half what the MacBook Air does, and the difference will buy you a lot of ironic T-shirts.
get-gadget Big, bright screen equally suited to work and play. Large, comfortable keyboard. Multitouch gesture support built in to the touchpad (hello, pinch to zoom!). Integrated webcam surprisingly clear, and capable of up to 720p video. Well-cooled so it won’t burn a hole in your lap. Decent performance. Excellent battery life.
TIRED Bland, gray looks do nothing to help your style quotient. No optical drive: How am I going to rip my Netflix DVDs!? Keyboard a little spongy in the middle.