Notebooks Guide

Acer Aspire Time Ultra M3 review

Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3 - Finding the Right Balance

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Overall rating 8.5/10
Thin and light
Fantastic battery life
Solid Build
Attractive street price
Made mostly from plastic
Very low resolution screen

Battery Life and Portability Index

Battery life and Portability Index

One of the hallmarks of an Ultrabook, is its extreme portability compared to other types of notebooks. However, you can’t boast about how portable your machine is, if battery life is terrible and you need to have the power brick with you at all times. That’s why as long as a notebook is declared an Ultrabook by its manufacturer, more emphasis will be placed on its battery performance. Incidentally, that's why the Acer machine we're reviewing today is termed as such, but we wouldn't agree on it due to the large notebook size. In any case, to let you gauge just how effective the Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3’s battery performance is, we've selected multimedia notebooks with somewhat similar hardware components.

While we've tried our best to keep the notebook differences to a minimum, there's only that much leeway we can get while dealing with notebooks. The only major difference here is that the Acer Aspire M3 runs on a more energy efficient dual-core processor, and has less battery capacity (for obvious reasons to match its platform's needs). From our comparisons,  you can tell if the lower powered processor and the more efficient GPU can squeeze more battery life. Also important to note is that the M3 has a much lower resolution screen than the comparisons and could be a contributing factor to its lower power consumption.

Test Notebooks Compared
Specifications/Notebook Acer Aspire Timeline
Ultra M3
HP Envy 15 Samsung Series 7 Chronos Samsung RF 511
Processor Intel Core i5-2467M
 Intel Core i7-2675QM
Intel Core i7-2675QM
Intel Core i7-2630QM
Chipset  Intel HM77 Express  Intel HM65 Express Intel HM65 Express  Intel HM65 Express
Memory  4GB DDR3 8GB DDR3 8GB DDR3  4GB DDR3
Storage  500GB HDD with SSD cache 1TB HDD 750GB HDD with 8GB ExpressCache  500GB HDD
Video  NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M AMD Radeon HD 7690M AMD Radeon HD 6750M  NVIDIA GeForce GT 540M
Battery 55WHr 72WHr 80Wh  48Wh
Dimensions 375 x 250 x 20mm 380 x 244 x 2.83mm 362.1 x 238.5 x 23.9mm  378 x 254 x 31 - 36mm
Weight 2.2kg 2.63kg 2.32kg  2.6kg


Battery Life

Most consumers who don't do research probably wouldn’t care much about battery life when buying a notebook. There are far too many other parameters to look out for, including price, design and components. However, having a battery gives computers the chance to break free from the shackles of a power outlet. That is a concept that the Ultrabooks take a step further, with a low powered processor and computing platform and loads of battery.

To get on with our battery life testing, we conduct this by having the notebook play a DVD loop until the battery runs flat. While video playback doesn’t utilise the discrete graphics on the M3 (thank to NVIDIA Optimus technology in the background playing its part to determine when the discrete GPU should kick in), what it does is to give you a gauge on how the battery fares when compared with other notebooks with similar components running a common usage scenario.

As expected, the Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra S3 trounces the competition, even when pitted against another solid performer when it comes to battery life, the Samsung Series 7 Chronos, which also has an integrated battery (but a more powerful 35W processor). The other two machines sport more power hungry processors and / or older graphics modules, and will serve as a gauge on just how efficient the combo of a CULV-class processor and a GeForce GT 640 GPU are. In fact, the M3’s battery life is comparable to certain 13-inch Ultrabooks, which makes it even more impressive considering it’s got an optical drive to power throughout the test as well.


Power Consumption

Again, the more efficient processing and graphics platform of the Acer machine boasted lower power consumption than the competition. While the results look great, you'll have to consider that the difference in hardware more than made up for these differences, including the lower resolution display (1366 x 768 pixels) that the M3 has.

However, even though having a display that consumes less energy leads to great battery life, this is one trade-off that we are hesitant to make. Having said that, we imagine that there will be plenty of casual users out there that don’t mind having a lower resolution screen simply because when you place the notebook at the recommended viewing distance away from your eyes, one can’t make out the individual pixels anyway. (On that note, it’s also not recommended to place a new iPad beside the Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3.) However, if you need the real estate to work with more onscreen data, the M3 is immediately out of your consideration list.


Portability Index

The HardwareZone portability index is basically the chart you’d want to pay attention to if you were looking for a notebook that won’t break your back when comparing within similar class of of notebooks. The resultant scores found in this chart indicate whether or not it’s worth your while to bring your notebook out, and the mathematical formula has elements like the machine’s weight, battery life and mass (or in other words, the volume it takes up in your bag).

The longest bar you see in this chart, belongs to the world’s lightest (1.12kg) and thinnest Ultrabook in the market right now, the Toshiba Portege Z830. The the shortest bar, also belongs to a Toshiba, the Qosmio X770 which is a power-hungry gaming machine. Multimedia notebooks usually score about 0.5 on the scale, thus illustrating how the M3 fares as a lightweight multimedia notebook, which is very well, according to its 0.974 score.

This is definitely better than the Dell XPS 15z, Toshiba Satellite P755, Samsung RF511 and HP Envy 15. The Samsung Series 7 Chronos comes in second place amongst the 15.6-inch class notebooks, but the Acer Timeline Ultra M3 tops them all easily as it had longer batter life, compact dimensions and lighter weight. Of course, you would also have to note that the Acer's processing platform is of a lower class that helped it shed off a lot of excess baggage compared to conventional multimedia notebooks.

Against true Ultrabooks, you’d have to bear in mind that the M3 comes along with the full hardware package - optical drive, discrete graphics and a huge (but low-res) 15-inch screen. Add these factors in with its impressive battery life, and you have on your hands a very portable multimedia notebook that's capable enough for most casual users.