|MICRO CENTER: COMPUTERS AND ELECTRONICS|
|In The Lab
Acer Aspire Timeline 4810T-8480
The 4810 seems to be targeted at middle-of the road functionality; it is loaded with 4GB of RAM and a decent 320GB hard drive, 14" widescreen display (with HD 720p capability), and has a built-in DVD RW drive. While on the power adapter, the Windows Vista Experience Index comes up at a rating of 3.2, held back by the Intel video. (Since many notebook computers cut the CPU speed in half, disable one of the cores or do other things to extend your battery life, Vista will not generate an index while on battery power.)
I also ran a benchmark using 3DMark03 and the 4810T received a rating of 994 3DMarks. There was no difference running the benchmark under external or battery power.
While the 4810 seems to be middle-of-the-road in features, there is a smaller and lighter-weight 3810, and a larger screen 5810 version of the Aspire Timeline available. Some of the differences in the three families are apparent in the display size and weight, with all being slightly less than 1" thick at the thickest point. The 3810 does not include an internal optical drive, shaving off a few ounces there, and the 13.3" (16:9 widescreen format) LCD display helps keep its weight down to a very comfortable 3.5 pounds. The 4810 series added a DVD-RW drive and increased the display to a 14.0" diagonal widescreen for a system weight of 4.2 pounds. The 5810 has a 15.6" diagonal LCD display and weighs in at 5.3 pounds.
One cool feature is the bright, LED backlit, TFT display. Using LEDs to illuminate the screen (instead of the older cold cathode tubes) is another way that Acer manages to increase the unit's battery time. Like other Intel® Centrino® 2 technology, the Acer 4810 combines integrated Intel CPU, chipset and wireless networking into an efficient power-sipping unit. The Acer Timeline series is no exception, using an ultra-low voltage Core™ Duo or Core™ Solo CPU, an Intel chipset, and 802.11 a, b, g and Draft-N wireless network support.
Acer has built-in a larger Synaptics touchpad with "gesture" support. If you are not familiar with gestures yet, they're the feature that allows you to use more than one finger on the touch-sensitive surface to move around, zoom in and out, and do other gesture-based motions inside of your applications. Windows 7 supports this feature directly, but several manufacturers are getting a jump on it by creating touch screen interfaces or enhanced touchpad support. Some of the gestures are very intuitive, like the motion to zoom in and out. Bringing two fingers on the touchpad closer together will zoom out, spreading them apart (like you were stretching an area of the screen) will zoom in or expand the object. You can do that with your wheel mouse by holding the control key down and rolling the wheel, but that takes two hands, while this gesture motion only takes two fingers.
Many systems are pre-loaded with applications and utilities. Some of the background utilities and pre-installed applications on the Acer Timeline series might be useful, so take some time to see what they can do before rushing to clean them off. In any case, the very first thing you should do is make a set of system recovery disks (3 DVDs) and the Application Driver disk (1 DVD). Once you have the means to put the system back to the factory configuration, feel free to experiment or uninstall programs you won't use.
The Acer 4810 I looked at came with the maximum 4 GB of RAM pre-installed in the system. With Windows Vista Home Premium running the default startup stuff, there is just over 1 GB of memory already in use. There does not appear to be too much running that doesn't also appear in the system tray. I have icons for McAfee Security Center, MyWinlocker, Synaptics pointing device (touchpad), Acer Video Conference Manager, Intel Media Accelerator (video control), and the Acer Backup Manager.
One of the first things I do with my own systems is to dump all of the trial applications and replace them with full products or install more efficient applications. The trial version McAfee Security suite is okay, but I much prefer ESET NOD32 on both my home systems and primary notebook. On systems that I only pull out once a year or so, I prefer to install something that does not require annual renewal fees but still gives me basic protection. As long as I am careful with what other media they get exposed to and keep them isolated or on security-enabled networks, I'm not too concerned about their exposure to malware threats.
There is a 60-day trial of Microsoft Office 2007 taking up a chunk of the 23GB used on the 300GB hard drive. It also includes Microsoft Works SE, which has word processing, spreadsheet, and database applications. If the word processing portion is not the same as Microsoft Word 2002/3, then it's very close in capability. So, unless you need all of the heavy-duty features of Office, you probably can get away with using Works for most of your stuff. Be aware that Microsoft Works SE (version 9) is sponsored by advertising; that's not a big deal, but it can be distracting.
The specifications show that this unit has a 320GB hard drive, however when you look at the drive properties, only about 300GB seems to be available. So where's the rest of it? If you pop into the management console of the system and look at the Disk Management tool, it shows that 11.72GB is in a (hidden) EISA Configuration and the remaining 286.37 is in the NTFS partition that appears as your C: drive. The hidden partition should contain the system recovery image files that were used to create the recovery media or do a system restore from the startup screen. In any case, you should be used to the numbers not quite adding up since this math is the typical fudging that is used to market large drives these days. That 320GB drive just means that you should have the ability to store 320,000,000,000 bytes of data if it were all one partition, including format, directory structure, and other file management overhead.
Something else worth mentioning is being eligible for the upgrade to Windows 7 when it becomes available later this year (register for your Acer upgrade at www.acer.com/win7upgrade, or check out /windows7/ for a list of similar manufacturer upgrade links). Keep in mind that some Windows 7 upgrades may involve a format and install in some cases - don't forget to back up!
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