Review: Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3
'Modest' is the best word I can think of to describe the Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3 notebook.
Look and feel
At first look at this ultrabook, to mimic Acer's spin, one cannot think of anything but the mainstream laptops. The machine has a cosy black plastic exterior and measures 15 inches, which is slightly bigger than most ultrabooks.
The only issue with the exterior is that, if you hold it with sweaty hands, fingerprints will stay behind and they are difficult to remove, so one has to be particular when handling the ultrabook's delicate skin.
Nonetheless, it's not cumbersome to carry around, and it also sits comfortably on the lap.
Setting up the machine is also quick and simple - it booted Windows 7 Home Premium in slightly over 20 seconds.
The Ultra M3 comes loaded with a dual-core 1.7GHz Intel Core i7-2637M processor, 4GB of RAM and a 25GB solid state drive. It also boasts the Nvidia GeForce GT 640M GPU with 1GB of dedicated memory.
I am sure it is this combination that gives the machine its superb performance. One can maximise this performance by asking the Ultra M3 to do several tasks at once without experiencing any hiccups. For example, I could open a DVD, surf many Web pages, and play music simultaneously without any issues.
Acer made the Ultra M3 with the gamer in mind. There are several games that come preloaded, like Zuma Deluxe, Penguins, Wedding Dash, Plants vs Zombies, Polar Bowler, Slingo Deluxe, Virtual Villagers and Torchlight, among others. Through the power of the Nvidia GeForce GT 640M GPU, gaming is smooth, without the slightest trace of latency.
The keys on the Ultra M3's keyboard are nicely spaced out, making typing quite enjoyable. One worry though is the touch-pad, which is difficult to outfox. For starters, it feels coarse, though to compare it to sandpaper would be going too far. Secondly, it's quite tricky to navigate the cursor where you want it to. It's just a mission, and I occasionally ended up clicking or opening the wrong things. On this issue, a mouse can be the only solution.
I was not too impressed with the display. Resolution on the 15.6-inch screen is merely 1366x768, so picture quality was not really up to scratch. The maximum brightness of this machine is also mediocre at best.
The machine's sound system, however, is impressive. The two front-facing speakers produce amazing sound in comparison with many similar machines I have used before. In a quiet environment, one can actually watch a movie and rely solely on these speakers.
Connectivity and battery life
The Ultra M3 has two USB 2.0 ports as well as a USB 3.0 port, HDMI and Ethernet. The headphone jack is also at the rear, meaning one will require a long cable. Along the left edge is a tray-loading DVD drive and an SD card slot.
Back to the word 'modest', the 1.3MP Web cam takes adequate images, and is ideal for video chatting.
The battery lasts up to five hours when the ultrabook is in constant use; satisfactory, but could be better.
To sum up, the Ultra M3 is a force to be reckoned with in the ultrabook category, but I strongly believe Acer could have improved on the display. At R7 999, the gadget is reasonably priced.