- Review Date: 08/10/11
- Bottom line:
The Acer Aspire TimelineX 5830TG-6402 combines an Intel Core i5 processor, Nvidia switchable graphics, and all day battery-life to make it a smart buy for any budget.
Updated look with sturdy aluminum and plastic construction. Intel Core i5-2410M processor is fast and powerful. Nvidia GeForce GT520M with automatic switching. Bluetooth. Clear.fi.
Runs hot. Feature set has a couple holes.
The Acer Aspire TimelineX 5830TG-6402 ($799.99 direct) is a laptop that packs a one-two punch of good looks and solid performance, with a combination of processor and graphics that usually costs significantly more. It does this by making a few sacrifices, which result in a limited feature set and poor heat dispersion. But despite these flaws, the Acer Aspire TimelineX 5830TG-6402 is definitely worth a look.
Acer updated its popular TimelineX series in June, giving the machines in it a slimmer profile, sturdy construction, and bold colors. Our review unit of the 5830TG-6402 in this family came in a cool cobalt blue color, with an aluminum-covered lid and a metal-and-plastic chassis. This combination resulted in a lightweight laptop (5.4 pounds) with almost no discernible flexing in its body or keyboard area. The chassis is slender, measuring only 1.23 by 14.88 by 9.80 inches (HWD), which doesn't leave a lot of room for heat to escape. During our more demanding benchmark tests, the surface temperature on the underside of the laptop reached 111 degrees Fahrenheit (as measured with a Fluke IR thermometer).
The palm rest is covered with plastic, but the keyboard and number pad are surrounded with bare, brushed aluminum. The black chiclet-style keys have a smooth matte finish, and the typing experience is quite comfortable. The only unusual feature of the keyboard is the Enter key, which is combined with the key above it. This doesn't seem to serve any functional purpose, but it provides a visual throwback to keyboards of yesteryear. A multitouch touchpad sits just below the space bar, which is positioned uncomfortably far to the left. But the touchpad is smooth and responsive, and the right and left buttons click quietly and comfortably.
The 15.6-inch display offers the common resolution of 1,366 by 768. That's adequate for watching videos in 720p, and the widescreen provides enough room to work with two windows or documents side by side. Acer pairs this average display with above-average Dolby Home Theater sound.
For a 15-inch laptop, the Acer Aspire has a fairly standard set of features, with VGA and HDMI-output, a multiformat card reader (SD, xD, MMC, MS/Pro), and three USB 2.0 ports. A single USB 3.0 port offers high-speed data transfer, and is also equipped to charge your cellphone or music player when the laptop is powered down. A headphone jack on the left-hand side of the laptop doubles as an S/PDIF port, giving you a 5.1 digital audio source to connect to a home theater receiver or speaker system.
Wireless options also abound, thanks to 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0, and Clear.fi, Acer's proprietary multimedia streaming technology that lets any Acer Clear.fi–enabled products share and stream between each other on your home network. All of these wireless options, however, left me wishing that WiMAX (4G broadband service) or Intel's Wireless Display (WiDi 2.0) technology had been included. The Editors' Choice Lenovo IdeaPad V570-1066A9U ($629.99 list, 4 stars), for example, offers both.
The Acer Aspire comes equipped with a DVD±RW drive for reading and recording to optical media. A 640GB hard drive should provide plenty of room for all your files, but if you need more space, that USB 3.0 port should make using an external hard drive pretty painless. Spinning at 5,400rpm, the hard drive is slower than the 7,200rpm one found in the Dell XPS 15z ($1,534 direct, 4 stars).
On that hard drive, you'll also find a fair amount of software, such as a 60-day trial of McAfee Internet Security, a 30-day trial of Norton Internet Security, and Microsoft Office Starter 2010. You'll also find a few extra icons on the desktop, such as links to eBay and Netflix, a reader for the New York Times, Nook for PC, and browser toolbars from both Bing and Google. Acer protects the Aspire TimelineX with a one-year warranty that covers parts and labor, even for damages that occur while traveling internationally.
The Acer Aspire TimelineX 5830TG-6402 is equipped with a 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-2410M processor, which utilizes Intel's Sandy Bridge CPU architecture. This processor is bolstered with 6GB RAM, and the laptop's performance reflects the effectiveness of this combination. In PCMark 7, our general-performance benchmark test, the Acer Aspire 5830TG-6402 scored a healthy 2,252, outpacing both the Dell Inspiron i15RN5110-5816DBK ($799.99 list, 3 stars) (2,169 points) and Lenovo IdeaPad V570-1066A9U (2,066). In CineBench R11.5, which serves as our processor speed test, the Acer scored 2.60, right in line with the Dell Inspiron (2.61) and Lenovo IdeaPad (2.60). It was beaten out by the Asus K53E-B1 ($770 street, 4 stars), which has a slightly faster Core i5 CPU, and scored 2.74, and the Dell XPS 15z (3.03), which has a quad-core processor.
The processing horsepower lent itself well to multimedia work, too. The Acer tore through our Handbrake video encoding test in only 1 minute 54 seconds, beating out dual- and quad-core systems alike. The Asus K53E-B1 completed the test in 2:22, where the Core i7–equipped Dell XPS 15z managed 2:17. For anyone working with video, these times indicate fast, smooth operation. The story was a bit different in our Photoshop image manipulation test, which the Acer completed in 4 minutes 10 seconds, matching the time of the Lenovo IdeaPad V570-1066A9U, but falling behind both the Dell XPS 15z (3:40) and the Asus K53E-B1 (3:51). The Acer is still more than capable of handling all your photo editing needs, but anyone familiar with professional-grade systems might feel it's a bit slow.
The Acer Aspire TimelineX 5830TG-6402 also benefits from an Nvidia GeForce GT 520M discrete graphics chip. But thanks to Nvidia's Optimus automatic switching technology, the Acer can use more battery-efficient integrated graphics when high-octane visuals aren't needed. In 3DMark06 the Acer Aspire scored 5,792 at medium resolution settings, and 4,804 points when bumped all the way up to 1,366-by-768 resolution. This performance easily outclasses the integrated graphics solution used in the Dell Inspiron i15RN5110-5816DBK (4,145 at medium resolution, 1,882 at native) and the Lenovo IdeaPad (4,414 at medium, at 4,001 native), but gets left behind when pitted against a system with a more powerful GPU, like the Dell XPS 15z (8,909 at medium, 5,541 at native).
This graphics capability also provides strong gaming performance, and the Acer Aspire delivers enough support for moderate 3D games. In Crysis, the Acer pumped out a respectable 32.5 frames per second (fps) at medium resolution, but the game's graphics requirements prevented us from testing it at full resolution. Even the Dell XPS 15z couldn't produce a playable result at native resolution, though it cranked out a blistering 58.5fps at medium resolution. In Lost Planet 2, medium settings produced 24.7fps, and 13.1fps at native resolution. The Acer is a few steps behind the XPS 15z (37.1fps at medium, 12.4fps at native), but it still beat out the Asus K53E-B1 (19.5fps at medium, but unplayable at native).
Where the Acer Aspire outperformed all competitors was in battery life. As measured in our MobileMark 2007 benchmark, the six-cell 90Wh battery in the Acer lasted 9 hours 57 minutes. This all-day power leads the 15-inch pack, surpassing the 6:26 of the Asus K53E-B1, and even letting the Acer leave the Lenovo IdeaPad (4:41, 48Wh) and the Dell Inspiron (3:53, 64Wh) in the dust.
With its $800 price tag and a combination of beauty and brains, the Acer Aspire TimelineX 5830TG-6402 is a smart buy for any budget. Its powerful processor, switchable graphics, and nearly 10-hour battery life are significant pluses, helping compensate for the absence of features like WiDi 2.0 and wireless broadband. If those features are deal breakers for you, try the Editors' Choice Lenovo IdeaPad V570-1066A9U.