If Piano Black was the style statement of recent years in televisions, computing and portable devices, then it's quickly being replaced with metallic tones. Acer's Aspire Timeline 4810T is a case in point, decked out in dark brushed aluminium with equally black offset keys. The 4810T is the middle child of the Timeline series, with a 15.6-inch model and smaller 13-inch model surrounding it. Where previous Acer models have tended to a thicker, almost bubble-like design ideal, the Timelines are all sleek and thin, putting them firmly in the ultraportable notebook market.
If you were capable of tearing the 4810T apart with your bare hands, you'd probably be the Incredible Hulk. Also, you'd be AU$1699 poorer. That aside, you'd find a Core 2 Solo U3500 1.4GHz processor, 4GB of RAM and Intel GMA 4500MHD graphics with a paltry 64MB of its own memory — although it will dip into slightly more than a gigabyte of system memory as needs permit. An 8x DVD-Super Multi double-layer drive nestles very neatly down the right-hand side, while on the ports front you get three USB 2.0 ports, HDMI, VGA and Ethernet ports. Wireless networking is provided with support for 802.11n. Our review sample came with a 320GB Western Digital 3200BEVT Scorpio hard drive, although there's also the option for internal SSD placement.
The Aspire 4810T's benchmark scores came in with a PCMark 05 score of 2005 and 3DMark 06 score of 630. The results didn't surprise us — the Core Solo used is more notable for being a low power part than a high performance one — but there's more to the Aspire 4810T than that. For a start, it's running Windows Vista. In case you've been hiding under a rock for the past couple of years, Vista isn't exactly kind to low powered systems. Heck, it's not exactly complementary to high powered systems, but at the lower grunt end of the spectrum, you're much more likely to notice its slowness. Testing with simple tasks with the 4810T, we quickly became highly annoyed with Vista. That isn't anything new of course, but as you're stuck with Vista, Vista or Vista at the time of writing, it's a limitation you'll have to live with.
This doesn't help when the CPU already struggles with high-definition video on YouTube, for example. With all data preloaded, the Aspire 4810T stuttered and stopped frequently, falling out of sync with audio and generally not coping well.
The keyboard is a chiclet style model with oddly slick feeling keys that we found a little tough to get to grips with, but not actively terrible. The layout of the trackpad (which is multi-touch capable) is more of a problem, as it's offset against the space bar in a spot that we frequently brushed against with our wrists while typing. An easy button to disable the trackpad is located to its left, and that's fine as long as you do have an external mouse connected to it. We can't help but think that better trackpad placement would have been a preferable solution.
One minor upside to the 4810T is its use of Intel's laminar airflow design specification to control the base of the unit's temperature. Even after running our battery tests exhaustively several times, the 4810T remained cool enough to prop up on our legs. It was certainly warm, but it wasn't cooking our legs as some thin models have done.
The saving grace of the 4810T is the battery life. Acer confidently states this at the eight-hour mark. To say we're sceptical about vendor battery life claims would be putting it mildly. Many vendors will list specifications that are all but unworkable in real usage, like dimming the screen entirely, disabling all wireless and not actually doing anything with the unit in order to come up with the best possible score. We test at the other end of the extreme, running a full-screen video at full brightness with all other battery saving measures disabled. This gives us a worse-case scenario; you're almost guaranteed to get at least slightly better figures than these, but they're at least realistic.
Running with the DVD drive, the 4810T fell short of four hours continuous playback by only five minutes. That's pretty impressive, and when we transferred the same video contents to a flash drive (eliminating the battery-sapping aspect of running the optical drive) we managed four hours and 56 minutes playback. Given that's a brutal test, we're prepared to say that yes, eight hours is an achievable figure for real-world usage.
Like most very thin systems, there are trade-offs to be made with the 4810T. Its battery performance is excellent in actual real world usage, and we could see this as a system that would last an entire day's usage under certain circumstances. At the same time, there are tasks for which it's woefully underpowered, and the sluggish performance of Vista really doesn't help matters any.