Ultrabook Supertest (Part 1) - Acer Aspire Timeline U M3

10/15/2012 7:12:21 PM

Thin, light and powerful - the next generation of laptops is here

There’s no doubt Ultrabooks are the future of the mobile computing market. Over time, as components drop in value, this new format will supersede the heavy, plastic laptops currently available leaving us with, thinner, lighter and more powerful personal computers. Ultrabooks, as a platform, are nearly a year old and we’re well into the second wave of machines arriving from the big name manufacturers.

Description: Description: Ultrabook Supertest

Ultrabook Supertest

Ultrabooks are so called because they conform to prerequisites laid down by Intel. Namely, that they not exceed a certain weight and thickness, boast SSD storage, wake from sleep instantly and offer ultra-portability mixed with style.

By way of comparison, we’ve also included the latest MacBook Air because, to give Apple its due, the company sparked the desire for slim and light machines when it brought out the original Air in 2010.

Back in May we ran our first ever Ultrabook super test and now we plan to prove that sequels can be better than the original. We’ve covered the entire Ultrabook spectrum this month and featured affordable Sandy Bridge models right through to the solid gold, Ivy Bridge power performers.

Acer Aspire Timeline U M3

An affordable Ultrabook, but with an underpowered spec

The Acer Aspire Timeline U M3 ($684inc. VAT) is different from most Ultrabooks in this group test. It’s larger, with a 15.6-inch screen, and lacks the benefit of large flash storage with its minimal SSD used solely for rapid start-up times. However, it’s significantly more affordable and boasts and an optical DVD RW drive. Unfortunately the Sandy Bridge processor puts it at a disadvantage performance-wise when compared to other third-generation models.

Description: Description: Acer Aspire Timeline U M3

Acer Aspire Timeline U M3

The M3 is entirely decked out in black - the chassis is constructed from a combination of metal and plastic and there’s very little flex to be found anywhere. The larger screen gives it sizable dimensions at 376 x 254 x 20 mm and makes it less portable than the smaller 13.3-inch Ultrabooks in this test.

The benefit of the larger screen and built-in optical drive comes with media usage. The screen has a glossy Super TFT reflective coating that makes colours look sharp and the Dolby Home Theatre audio is really impressive. There’s a 320GB hard drive, which should be enough for your films, albums and photos.

Performance is at the lower end of the power spectrum. The processor is an Intel second- generation Core i3-2367M, with the standard 4GB RAM to help with multitasking. Our benchmarking test returned an average score and although this machine is capable of handling basic tasks, it might suffer in years to come.

It’s worth pointing out that there are different Timeline U M3 models available. Although price increases dramatically, there are versions of this laptop available with a Core i7 processor and dedicated graphics.

Where the M3 shines though is usability. The keyboard is wide and more spacious than most of the Ultrabooks in this group test. There are no shortcut keys around the keyboard, but you are given a dedicated numeric keypad.

Touchy subject

Elsewhere, the huge touchpad is a particular highlight. Although we are usually distrustful of integrated click buttons, it works well here. The touchpad supports multi-touch gesturing so you can pinch to zoom or use two fingers to scroll.

Description: Description: The Timeline U M3 is also available with a Core i7 processor and dedicated graphics, though the price increases dramatically

The Timeline U M3 is also available with a Core i7 processor and dedicated graphics, though the price increases dramatically

There is the standard range of connections, all located on the back of the M3 rather than the side. Of the three USB ports, one is USB 3.0 format and you are also given an Ethernet port and an HDMI connection for attaching the M3 to an external display. Of course, the inclusion of a DVD drive will be a huge benefit to fans of physical storage.

Overall, the M3 has a lot to recommend it as a portable media machine. The usability is excellent, the optical drive is useful and there’s enough power to handle the majority of basic tasks. Similarly, the price point is very attractive for anyone who doesn’t want to or can’t drop a grand on a new computer.

However, the larger screen size does hamper portability and the limited specifications will frustrate some. The reality is that this model doesn’t offer much by way of future proofing, so if you are interested in purchasing this Acer Aspire model it might be worth checking out some of the more powerful iterations.


Price: $684


What’s it best for

Web, mail & photos

HD, movies & TV

Light & portable

Key features

OS: Windows 7 Home Premium

Processor: Intel Core i3-2367M 1.4GHz

Memory: 4GB

Storage: 320GB

Screen size: 15.6-inch

Screen resolution: 1,366 x 768

Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 3000

Weight: 2.1kg


Value: 4/5

Features: 3/5

Performance: 3/5

Total: 3/5

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