Acer TimelineX 5830TG

The Acer TimelineX 5830TG sets itself apart from the 15-in. laptop crowd with its angular good looks. But it’s also a solid performer and a decent gaming machine, and–with 8 hours, 17 minutes of battery life–a long-distance runner. At a penny less than $800 (as of July 6, 2011), the 5830TG is a great deal, but you’ll need to spend some time culling the software herd for optimal results.

Componentry was pretty much state-of-the-art on our 5830TG-6402 test unit, the top-of-the-line configuration for the 5830TG. The CPU is an Intel Core i5-2410M; also included are 4GB of DDR3 memory, a 500GB 5400-rpm hard drive, and both Intel HD and Nvidia GeForce GT 520M graphics. The laptop turned in a WorldBench 6 score of 116–fast, but about average for the all-purpose laptop class. Thanks to the GT 520M, its gaming frame rates were acceptable on simple 3D games in our tests, but hard-core gamers seeking to play the latest and greatest should look elsewhere. 

Watching video on the 15.6-inch, 1366-by-726-pixel display is a pleasant experience–everything we threw at the 5830TG played smoothly, including high-bit-rate 1080p material. The screen does suffer from a rather narrow optimal viewing angle, however. The sound is exceptional, thanks to Dolby Home Theater 4 technology. Like virtually all laptops, the 5830TG doesn’t offer a lot of bass, but the audio has spaciousness, as well as a punch that makes it extremely easy on the ears. The Dolby HD4 control panel allows for painless switching between presets for movies, music, and games.

The 5830TG’s Chiclet-style keyboard provides a full-size layout with a full numeric keypad on the right. It’s a short-travel keyboard, but the feel is pleasantly firm. The touchpad is positioned in line with the left edge of the spacebar, which puts it quite far to the left of the machine. This is great when you’re typing, and if you mouse lefty; righty mousers, however, might find it a tad awkward at times. The response is excellent, and the two discrete buttons are firm, but not overly so. Ergonomically, the 5830TG is not a Lenovo, but it isn’t far behind.

While the port arrangement on the 5830TG is average in number and type, Acer put a lot of thought and effort into making the connections easy to reach. All are placed well toward the front edge of the laptop, so you don’t have to go searching for them. You get four USB ports, one of which is USB 3.0, plus VGA and HDMI video output, as well as the usual audio in/out and SD Card slot. Even the SD slot is thoughtfully positioned–on the front edge of the laptop, just off the left corner. 
The person in charge of port placement was obviously not in charge of software, though. By default, the 5830TG’s desktop is littered with icons, and the Windows 7 Home Premium installation is cluttered with over 90 processes running–too many. McAfee Internet Security is joined by Norton Online Backup, Nook for PC, Acer Games, Netflix, eBay, the Times Reader, and other items. McAfee, the Windows Action Center, the Acer factory-default backup, and more will frequently pop up to vie for your attention. The effect is hardly pleasant. 

Although the first boot experience is a software melee, the Acer TimelineX 5830TG-6402 is a looker that will cover just about anyone’s performance needs. The overall result is top-notch, for less than top dollar. Users who don’t game might opt for the $600 5830TG-6862, which is Core i3-based and lacks the Nvidia GPU. Performance enthusiasts, however, get no Core i7 option.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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