We’ve seen several laptops lately that peg the intersection of the desktop replacement and budget categories at around $700. The Acer Aspire TimelineX 5830TG-6614 is a bit steeper at $779.99 list, but don’t dismiss it: For one thing, we’ve seen online resellers offering it for around $750. For another, the 15.6-inch Aspire is loaded with everything from Intel Wireless Display (WiDi) to a discrete Nvidia graphics adapter that actually passed our gaming tests at medium resolution and detail settings.
As you might guess from its model number, the Acer 5830TG-6614 is a refreshed version of the Aspire TimelineX 5830TG-6402 ($799.99 direct, 3.5 stars) we tested in August. Besides a $20 price cut and the addition of WiDi 2.0—which beams the notebook’s display to an HDTV equipped with an extra-cost ($100 or so) Belkin, D-Link, or Netgear adapter—the changes include slightly faster graphics and processing hardware.
Unchanged from August is the Aspire’s handsome cobalt blue aluminum lid with chrome Acer logo and matching blue plastic palm rest; the black chiclet-style keys are framed in a silver aluminum keyboard surround. There’s a numeric keypad, with small but dedicated Home, End, PgUp, and PgDn keys, to the right of the primary keys; the touchpad is centered under the latter (actually, under the space bar), so some users perceive it as being too far to the left. I had no complaints myself—I quite enjoyed typing on the laptop, and the touchpad, though a little small compared to some of the jumbo ones you see today, worked smoothly, with comfortable left and right buttons instead of invisible clickpad corners.
Measuring 1.2 by 14.9 by 9.8 inches (HWD) and weighing 5.4 pounds, the 5830TG-6614 has an appealingly angular design. The 15.6-inch widescreen has the same 1,366-by-768 resolution that’s ubiquitous in the class—if you want more space, you’ll have to either pay for the likes of the Dell XPS 15z ($1,534 direct, 4 stars) or opt for a 17.3-inch system such as the HP Pavilion dv7-6b55dx ($699.99 list, 4 stars). Sufficient for viewing videos in 720p, the display offers a glossy finish and fairly narrow viewing angles. The laptop’s audio is a good partner for those videos, with above-average sound from the Dolby Home Theater speakers mounted above the keyboard.
WiMAX or other mobile broadband is absent, but otherwise the TimelineX has a full complement of wireless features: Besides WiDi, there’s 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. There’s also Clear.fi, a proprietary streaming technology that lets Acer products (such as the Aspire and an Iconia tablet) share multimedia content over a home Wi-Fi network.
On the Aspire’s right side are three USB 2.0 ports and a dual-layer DVD±RW drive, with an SD/MMC/xD/MS Pro memory card slot on the front edge. Ethernet, microphone, and headphone jacks are on the left side, as are VGA and HDMI ports and one USB 3.0 port. The last can be used to charge a cell phone or other device; a handy utility lets you specify whether to allow USB charging only when the laptop is plugged in or discontinue it when the latter’s battery sinks to a certain percentage.
The Acer’s 640GB, 5,400rpm hard drive is smaller than the 750GB drives found in competitors like the Lenovo IdeaPad Z570-10249ZU ($699.99 list, 3.5 stars), but still offers plenty of room for your documents and multimedia files. It’s also packed with more than its share of bloatware, from a slew of house-brand utilities to usual suspects like Microsoft Office Starter 2010 and a 60-day trial of McAfee Internet Security to New York Times and Nook e-readers and Netflix and eBay links. Acer backs the Aspire with a two-year mail- or carry-in parts-and-labor warranty and one-year international travelers’ warranty offering access to service centers abroad for owners who carry a copy of the original sales receipt.
Acer Aspire TimelineX 5830TG-6614 The 5830TG-6614 is built around Intel’s 2.4GHz Core i5-2430M, the same dual-core, four-thread processor found in our Editors’ Choice Asus U56E-BBL6 and numerous competitors, with 6GB of DDR3 memory. It’s not surprising, then, that many of its benchmark scores are virtual ties with those laptops’. Its PCMark 7 score of 2,388, for instance, is well within the margin of error of the 2,376 of the Lenovo Z570-10249ZU, and its Photoshop CS5 time of 4 minutes 8 seconds is just six seconds behind that of the Asus U56E-BBL6 and HP dv7-6b55dx.