Acer Aspire Timeline U M5-581TG - A Strange Laptop

7/25/2013 9:21:49 AM

This laptop has everything, but more isn’t always better

The Acer Aspire Timeline U M5 is a strange laptop, combining elements from ultra-portables and heavier, more powerful laptops. Although you’d expect the M5 to have the best of both worlds, the result is quite muddled.

The M5 weighs 2.2kg which is a little too heavy to carry comfortably. But it does have an excellent battery life at just over eight hours, in part due in part to the power-efficient 1.7GHz Intel Corei5 3317U processor, more commonly found in lighter laptops. It can handle most home computing tasks, but since you’re more likely to use the M5 at home rather than on the road, a faster, more power-hungry processor would have been a better fit.

Acer Aspire Timeline U M5-581TG

Acer Aspire Timeline U M5-581TG

The built-in DVD writer is the reason the laptop is so heavy, while the bulky size is due to its 15.6in screen. It’s an average screen at best - image quality is mediocre and it’s not very bright. The resolution of 1366x768 pixels is low for such a large display, so onscreen text looks soft and dull, but it does look large, which may be preferable if your eyesight isn’t perfect.

The built-in DVD writer is the reason the laptop is so heavy

The built-in DVD writer is the reason the laptop is so heavy

Acer has used the extra width of the laptop to squeeze in a number pad. This should be a boon for frequent Excel users, but the narrow keys will frustrate touch typists. This is a shame because the rest of the keyboard works well, with large keys that give enough feedback when pressed.

Unusually, the large touchpad is towards the left-hand side of the keyboard, instead of the middle. But this, along with the touchpad’s over­sensitivity, made it easy to accidentally move the cursor by brushing the touchpad while typing, so text often appeared in the wrong place. This is utterly infuriating, and a shame, because the touchpad is otherwise accurate and smooth.

Unusually, the large touchpad is towards the left-hand side of the keyboard, instead of the middle

Unusually, the large touchpad is towards the left-hand side of the keyboard, instead of the middle

Most laptops at this price have cheap integrated graphics chips which are powerful enough for playing older games and high-definition videos, but little else. Acer has squeezed in a Nvidia GeForce GT 640M graphics chip that runs all but the very latest 3D games smoothly with reasonably detailed graphics. This is great if you’re a gamer, or if you use the graphics card to boost the performance of demanding applications, such as Adobe Photoshop.

Nvidia GeForce GT 640M

Nvidia GeForce GT 640M

The Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M5 is a powerful laptop, especially for games, but it’s not designed for frequent travelling despite Acer’s claims. Even if this isn’t a concern, the dim screen and badly designed touchpad means it can be frustrating to use at home too. It’s not a bad laptop, but unless you’re a gamer it’s not great value.


Fast for games, but this laptop is otherwise merely average

Ratings: 3/5

Best price online

Price: $945






·         Price: $855

·         A powerful laptop designed for use around the home

·         Ratings: 5/5

·         Website:

Acer Aspire Timeline U M5-581TG specs

§  Screen Size: 15.6 inches

§  Max Screen Resolution: 1366 x 768 pixels

§  Processor: 2.6 GHz Core i5-3317U


§  Hard Drive: 500 GB SATA

§  Graphics Coprocessor: NVIDIA Geforce GT 640M

§  Graphics Card Ram Size: 1000 MB

§  Wireless Type: 802.11bgn

§  Number of USB 2.0 Ports: 1

§  Number of USB 3.0 Ports: 2

§  Average Battery Life (in hours): 8 hours


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