on July 14, 2011
First, I'm writing this review based on my usage with the laptop after a clean install of Windows 7 Professional.
First thing I must say about this laptop is how impressed I am with the quality, especially at $749. Add to that, I am getting a free Xbox 360 4gb (which I shouldn't have a problem reselling at $150-175), you really get a lot of bang for your buck-- 2.3ghz 2nd Gen Core i5 with boost up to 2.9 (actually runs at 2.9 well and when necessary), 4GB ram, up-to-date wireless and communications hardware (with the exception of Intel Wireless Dispaly, which kinda sucks, but whatever), and a great stylish laptop with excellent form factor and 6-8 hours of REAL TIME battery life (tested).
For people who say the screen is poor, I disagree. It's not the BEST screen (like on the Vaios), but far from the worst. Colors are fine (especially if you use NVidia's control panel to adjust them) and brightness is very good. Viewing angles aren't spectacular, but if you need multiple people to see the screen, use the HDMI (which works brilliantly, exporting 1080p and 3D even).
***Update on Throttling Issue***
I did experience problems with throttling under very heavy load (games, intense cpu processing/rendering). However, there is a not-too-complicated work around. Download throttlestop (google it) and install it. Then go to options, enable "alarm" make sure dts is set to 15-20 (this will enable another setting once the cpu is 15-20 degrees from where it would start throttling). Then set use profile to "2".
Then go to the top and select the bullet for profile number 2 (doesnt matter what the name is) click the button marked "disable turbo." Set multiplier to 23. Now try your CPU intensive task. If computer restarts/turns off, dial back the multiplier until it stops doing so. Your computer will be running about 1.9-2.6 GHz, which isn't optimal, but is much, much better than 1.3 when it throttles. Just make sure to run throttlestop whenever you start your comp, or add it to your startup (if unsure, google how to start a program when windows starts).
Hopefully Acer will release a bios setting to properly fix this in the future, but for me, I don't play enough games/do enough long rendering for the throttling to really affect me.
*** Second Update on Throttling Issue ***
The issue with throttling ultimately stems from overheating, which is a result of poor quality thermal paste applied by Acer. I have fixed all throttling issues (without the use of throttlestop) by removing the thermal paste and applying new paste. I highly recommend that anyone doing this have experience or take it to a repair shop. Also, insist on using ArciClean and Arctic Silver 5. It's a little more expensive (about 35 bucks for both), but well worth it.
*** End Updates ***
Regarding the clean install of Win7Pro, it's a little difficult to figure out which drivers to use off Acer's website if you don't know how to check hardware IDs through device manager. For that reason, I am going to list all the file names of the drivers necessary for the laptop to run at 100% found at:
[Amazon delete's URLs. These drivers can be found at Acer's support page).
LaunchManager_Dritek_5.0.6_W7x64_A (this is under the software section of the downloads on Acer's website)
PowerSmart Manager_Acer_6.01.3000_W7x64_A (also software, gives you better battery life and enables the "p" key on the upper right)
Turbo Boost_Intel_22.214.171.124_W7x64_A (also software, not really necessary, but let's you see when turbo boost kicks in, kinda cool)
VGA_NVIDIA_126.96.36.19921_W7x64_A (need to download the driver from Acer, NVidia's website's driver doesn't recognize the card)
Hope this review was helpful. Feel free to comment if you have any questions. Also, there is additional information under the comments section, and I have replied there several times.
on July 14, 2011
Let's face it, the Acer name isn't exactly paired with build quality. When I think Acer, I think cheap netbooks and bargain bin laptops at Best Buy. But, the TimelineX series is actually quite decent, and this laptop has some of the best specs and features for this form factor and price point.
The laptop has a nice blue and silver color scheme going on, and for the most part it looks quite sleek and stylish. Obviously this depends on your tastes alone, but I've only met a few people who don't like the design. While the chassis is made of mainly plastic Acer has thankfully decided to opt out of shiny plastics, so the finish doesn't attract fingerprints (except for around the screen, that's still glossy plastic). One of the main problems I read about online as I was researching was that the palm rest and keyboard were very poor quality, but it seems fine to me. There is a little flex on the keyboard but I've seen much worse (dell notebooks). If you push down hard near the middle of the keyboard you get more flex than usual, but it's not to the point where I'm afraid the keyboard will break. I've typed this review on the keyboard and I'm doing pretty well (not as good as a mechanical keyboard, but still good). Keys are quiet, as are the touch pad buttons. The hinge feels strong out of the box, but I guess only time will tell if the quality holds up. The only qualm I have is that there is this small bit of rounded plastic on the bottom left that wiggles around a bit and makes a quiet hollow plastic noise. Maybe I can tighten a few screws to fix it.
Standard display, with the inclusion of a USB 3.0 port, which will come in handy as faster flash drives begin to hit the market. I haven't tried any 3.0 devices on the port yet. HDMI and bluetooth are always nice, as well.
Seriously, for this price, what you get is amazing. After the Xbox deal, the laptop lands at around 600 dollars, and for that price, you get a dual-core sandy bridge processor, discrete GT 540m graphics, 4GB of DDR3 ram, and a 500GB (5400rpm...ugh) hard drive. The sandy bridge's quick sync feature is nice when transcoding video (I do quite a bit of that), and the discrete graphics is CUDA enabled, so it's even good for some light CAD modeling when I'm out and about. Battery lasts about 6.5 hours with medium brightness and wifi browsing, and probably about 3 hours when gaming. Speaking of gaming, you'll be able to play the latest games at native resolution at about medium quality. Older games should have no problem running on high. TF2 runs nicely on medium settings with 2xAA and 2xAS. I haven't had any problems with premature throttling, but it seems to be prevalent among other owners on forums, so look out for that.
REFLECTIONS EVERYWHERE. It's a glossy screen, and it's average. Nowhere near an IPS panel or a MBP, but it's quite fine indoors. Outdoors...not so much.
Acer actually surprised me with this one. For 600 dollars you get a solidly built laptop with great specs. It's hard to find any other laptop which is 13.3" and under 800 dollars which has a sandy bridge processor, and discrete graphics. Asus has some, but they are more expensive and pack a weaker graphics card (520m). The first obvious comparison that comes to mind is the Macbook Pro, but with that 13" model, you're basically paying $600 extra, and losing the hard drive space upgrade and discrete graphics of any kind, which is vital for CAD or gaming. The MBP is even heavier. Obviously that extra money nets you a beautiful chassis and a nice screen, but the lack of discrete graphics is a major selling point for many people.
If you're looking for a cheap and light gaming and productivity laptop, give this laptop a try. If you can get past a fear of the Acer brand, you might be surprised.
on August 17, 2011
The primary cons of this laptop are
1. CPU throttling
2. Battery wear
3. Build Quality
1. CPU Throttling
I have largely resolved the heat-related throttling issues by applying aftermarket thermal compound on the heatsink. The manufacturer globbed wayyyy too much of this low quality thermal goop. By doing only this, I am able to play Starcraft 2 on high settings at ~65fps in 1v1's. On medium I average well over 100fps. Heat becomes an issue about 2 hours into playing nonstop, but I only need to use Throttlestop to decrease the multiplier by x1, an almost insignificant decrease. I disable turbo as well. With these settings, I get about -5 or -6 fps change on both high and medium settings playing for hours into the night like the wannabe nerdballer that I am.
2. Battery Wear
My laptop was purchased from Amazon and it came with a Panasonic battery. The wear was already at 29% out-of-box. I emailed Acer support through their support line on their website and was immediately shipped a Sanyo-branded battery, after I explained my battery wear levels. They did not ask for my panasonic battery to be returned either. The Sanyo brand is reading at 0% wear right now and I can get close to 7.25 hours on a single charge with wifi on and display lit at 50%.
3. Build Quality
Somewhat of a minor issue, but compared to my previous thinkpad and envy laptops, the build quality is definitely on the creaky side. That said, there is very little keyboard flex and the body seems very sturdy for an all-plastic housing. It's certainly better than I expected out of a budget manufacturer like Acer. The form-factor is very very lean, yet surprisingly dense, which I like. The screen hinge is fairly sturdy and has that thick resistant feel to it when you open and close the lid. A minor issue is the lack of a closing mechanism on the lid, whether it be via a physical spring-loaded switch or magnet. It will somewhat rattle if you just hold the laptop closed and walk around with it. Again, a very minor issue since the hinge is sturdy and doesn't let the screen move much on its own anyway.
People have complained about the screen quality on various forums, but to be honest it's pretty bright and about average in contrast quality. The viewing angles are narrow but it's a laptop, who the hell watches movies with 5 friends crowded around a laptop screen...
Keyboard quality is ok, definitely not on par with vaio or thinkpad keyboards. It's chiclet style and comfortably spaced.
Touchpad is similarly standard. It's fairly responsive as are the left and right buttons.
on September 24, 2011
I bought this computer based partially on the 'it's a steal, but...' reviews online, and partially due to Amazon's customers' understandably more mixed takes. I don't exactly need a DVD drive on what is going to be a portable powerhouse, and can make an .iso file from the hard drive to store on my desktop 'just in case,' thank you. Further, the few times a year I visit my parents, having a decently powerful video solution to drive their huge TV and play a video game or three after they go to bed is a huge plus.
The build is fairly attractive out of the box. The only metal-cladding on the computer is on the rear of the screen, and the speaker grill, and in the single screw on the back of the unit. The rest is plastic. Though the keyboard does have flex, it's not as bad as it could be, and is really quite understandable given the price point of the unit. In fact, what's weirder is that the super-thin screen is so stiff and non-flexy, with very resistant hinges. This screen isn't going to flap like a muppet-mouth when a new toy comes on stage left. Further, the key action is quite nice. I'm actually finding myself typing almost as fast as on my sexy older Mac keyboard with the air-ride cushioned wrist-saving action. Don't let the online pics fool you, this thing is ridiculously thin. At least, for a sub-$1K notebook. It's not 'quite' an ultra-book, by definition, but it's also got more graphical eggs than they've yet been able to cram into one, so who cares? Actually, after one day of drooling, ogling and tweaking, the build still just feels too light and elfin for me. It's probably just a generational thing, because my last 'thin and light' laptop is six years old, and weighs in over a pound heavier at a clunky half-inch thicker. Give me time, and I'll probably change my tune, but it's not exactly a Samsung 9 Series, or Macbook Air, and never will be.
As in a previous review, I got a slightly upgraded box from Amazon, completely unadvertised... My model didn't ship with the Intel Core i5 2410m printed all over the promo stickers I promptly removed from my unit, but instead with a Core i5 2430m, which is just a 100 MHz bump to the 2410, as far as I can tell. In fact, Intel hasn't released it, yet, so who knows if I didn't get a forgery? Even if I did, it renders a deliciously skip-free Fallout: New Vegas in tandem with the nVidia 540m 1 GB video solution. The heat output is pretty bad when you're actually playing, but it's by no means lap-searing. I haven't had the throttling issue mentioned in many previous reviews yet. I'll update if I do. The biggest problem was going to the trouble of deleting all the excess crap installed by Acer, and generating a system image. When I first booted, the thing threw over 80 processes active at me. COMPLETELY unacceptable, though easy enough to fix. That, and my unit came with a lump in the speaker grating over by the power-saver button, above the right-hand upper corner of the keyboard. I'm OK with cosmetic crap, though, and everything works and is put together in a non-broken manner(I checked). Further, Acer cared enough to make the BIOS, while not strictly tinker-friendly, play nice with the hardware Virtualization extensions kindly built into the 2430m by Intel. I am writing this review in a locked-down 64-bit copy of Ubuntu Linux running as a guest OS on my 3830TG right now. It's seamless and delightful, considering that Ubuntu has to make do with a single core and less than 2 GB of RAM (which I'll be taking care of later).
All in all, I have to say KUDOS to the good people at Acer. Y'all may build cheap, but I recommend your laptops to my less than affluent friends all the time, and now I'm a proud owner, too. Keep it up! If you personally are comfortable managing your own electronics, I'd say this is a great buy for you... If you can't uninstall a few useless programs, trim startup processes and just say no to half the useless crap that comes plastered all over your desktop, than get something else, or talk to your far more electronically knowledgeable go-to relative, and get them to do it for you. This is a really good buy, all told, even if it does take a frustrating weekend to pare down adequately.
on September 12, 2011
I've had this Laptop for a little over a month so far and couldn't be more happy with it. I migrated from a 13" ASUS so size wise it's the same. This is quite the upgrade though, the i5 is incredibly snappy and the video card is more than sufficient to play the games that are coming out.
So far I've played Dues Ex: Human Revolution ported to a 24" monitor running 1920x1200 with default settings. There have been a few slowdowns but nothing that breaks the game by anymeans. When I run it in standard resolution on the laptop screen there are no problems. I've also ran Team Fortress 2 and Battlefield Bad Company 2 as well, both of which play amazingly.
I've also encoded some video using Premier. Encoded a 51 minute clip in about 45 minutes. Comparably on my ASUS which had a Intel Duo Core 2 (2.0ghz) the same task took it close to 5 hours.
Keyboard and build quality is pretty solid, the arrow keys are a little on the small side but it's nothing you can't adjust to. Having the volume up/down and brightness up/down on the arrow keys is a nice touch as well. One gripe I have is there is a slight bulge above the video camera. It sticks out probably 3mm from the rest of the screen, it's nothing that should deter you from buying it, but it's worth noting.
Can't recommend this enough, you can do just about anything with this beast and it's super portable to boot. Not to mention I got the free Xbox with it as well so that's just another layer of value.
on July 4, 2011
* Light weight
* Good specs for its price
* Ok for games. Starcraft 2 medium setting ran fine on it.
* Price is reasonable. I purchased it with the xbox 360 promotion for student ($199 value). So the laptop costs me only ~$600
* Battery lasts about 6-7 hours on light web-browsing
* Screen sucks
* Yes it has a lot of craps pre-installed. But just uninstall them. Not a big deal
* Quite a few people complaining about the CPU throttling issue. Personally I haven't experience it while playing Starcraft 2 at medium setting. People said the throttling happens when the CPU temp hits the 96(?) mark. For me the temperature stays around 75. I guess that's why I'm not experiencing the throttling issue
on September 12, 2011
The laptop is one of the best price vs. value. I've used this laptop for a month and 1/2 now and here are the results:
- i5 processor
- Over 8hours of battery life (5-6 hours on light web surfing)
- Powerful graphics card, Nvidia 540M !
- USB 3.0
- Very portable
- Quiet operation
- Thin! :)
- Throttling problem
- Bad thermal paste
- Sound crackling but barely noticeable
- Glare on the screen
The laptop throttles when both the graphic card 540M and the processor are under load and raise the temperature over about 60C. At that point throttling happens and lowers your speed to 1.2GHz to cool it down. Some games play lag fine with it that's why you probably won't notice it.
The throttling problem can be solved by downloading Throttlestop, you can google it to find out more and download. But if you use throttlestop be prepared to expect heat issue due to the poor thermal paste acer put on(wayyyyy too much). I had to open it up and re-apply the thermal paste with arctic silver 5. Taking the laptop apart wasn't easy for me as I am not very experienced. It took me 4hours from taking it apart to put everything back (it was a pain to put the keyboard connector and power connector back on for me - I lost the little plastic connector and used a piece of paper in it's place).
Sound and glare issue isn't an issue for me, I use it mostly indoors and the sound is just fine. The bloatware can be removed by downloading CCleaner. Be careful removing the bloatware on your own, I've heard bad thing from people removing them manually.
So a 4 star sounds about right for this laptop. The 1 star lost is because I had to re-apply the thermal paste >:(.
on July 10, 2011
"Performance exceeds expectations."
Pros: Size, weight, battery life, screen brightness/contrast, keyboard, selection of ports, dedicated graphics, cool while running, aesthetics.
Cons: Speakers, chassis, somewhat poor viewing angles.
Summary: I'm hesitant to list the speakers and chassis as negatives and I'll quickly explain why. First, the speakers sound very nice for a 13.3" laptop and I'm more than pleased with them. I list them as a con only because I've heard other slim and/or light models with better speakers (though their MSRP is generally more. See HP's Envy series, Toshiba's Satellite series, etc.). With that said, I am more than satisfied with the speakers though they are a weak spot if they will be your main source of audio output. Second, the chassis doesn't feel as sturdy as an aluminum Macbook or an Hp Envy, but it's not as flimsy as Hp's G series laptops or Gateways of yesteryear. It feels fairly solid and for the price I'm sure it will hold up very well with proper care.
I purchase a new laptop every 8-10 months and found this to meet all my expectations and more. It runs noticeably faster than my previous generation Core i5 laptop and has given me about 7:30 of battery life per charge, two things I was looking for. Note that brightness was set at 4/9, WiFi was on, and the special power save mode was turned on.
I did not list, 'optical drive," as a negative as this is something I knew the computer did not have when I purchased it, along with the fact I truly have no use for an optical drive when not at home. I have a USB optical drive when needed, though that has become rare at that.
My impressions of Acer computers have been somewhat negative (and I believe most Acers are still inferior to other manufacturer's computers such as Lenovo, Asus and Apple), but the current generation of TimelineX computers truly delivers an experience that's wonderful to behold. Especially with the 13.3" model.
I won't list off the specifics of the pros sections as they're fairly self explanatory. Whatever connotations you think of with "good screen, good keyboard, etc.," are most likely why these positives ended up in the pros section.
The price of the computer coupled with the fact that I'm receiving a free Xbox 360 makes it an impeccable deal.
Feel free to ask me any questions!
on July 22, 2011
Aside from the standard fare (1xUSB 3.0, Bluetooth 3.0, multi-card reader, 1.3 MP webcam & mic, HDMI, VGA, separate headphone and microphone jacks)...let's cut to the chase:
+Good video card: can play 1920x1080 videos without a hitch
+i5 2nd Gen: can handle multiple intensive apps
+Top-notch speakers (IMO) + Dolby enhancement software designed specifically for Acer's hardware
+Decent screen: contrast isn't as good as a Macbook, but better than many
+Chiclet keyboard with good response (depends on user preference)
+Easy power-saver mode button (on/off)
+SPDIF port (in the headphone jack) for those with optical audio cables
+Good battery life: nothing to call home about, but you can count on it
-A bit on the heavy side (4.1 lbs)
-No optical disk drive: not too important these days
-Media control buttons aren't dedicated & awkward placement along the right side
-Plastic construction: personally I don't care but others may
-Gets hot: your left hand will be warmed by the heat vent on the side
-Bloatware galore: takes 10-15 minutes to remove (does this really repel some potential customers?)
-Non-backlit keyboard: hey, typing in the dark is bad for you anyway
-Non-removable battery: kind of surprising I must say
All in all, I love this laptop so far, and would give it 5 stars. There's nothing that I can't live without, and it has everything I need. Nice, two color-toned finish (though I'd personally prefer all black). I wouldn't mind it being lighter, but with the power it comes with, it's worth it.
on August 18, 2011
This laptop is great.
-Plays all my games on medium or higher settings (gaming on this 13.3 inch screen is totally doable)
-Boots in 1 minute
-Not too much bloatware (uninstalled all in about 30 minutes)
-Keyboard feels good (flex that other reviews mentioned is minimal and only happens when pushing way too hard)
-Fist time boot was 2 minutes
Cons (these are really little things and just me nitpicking)
-Back is a fingerprint magnet.
-Webcam lags by half a second.
-(Not really a con) Be prepared. No DVD drive. You have to buy an external usb one. This is clearly shown in the pictures. If you plan on using disks then buy an external dvd drive.
What I will update later once I have tried it
-Battery Life (While unplugged on powersaver it gives me an estimate of 9 hours but I have not given it a full test)
-Long gaming sessions
Overall I do not regret this purchase at all. I was looking for something for school and this little computer has more than exceeded my expectations.