Three new ultra-portables based on Intel ultra-low voltage chips will make their Australian debut on May 20. Let’s just hope they’re ultra-affordable...
If you’re in the market for an ultra-portable notebook we suggest you cool your heels. Just a fortnight ought to do it.
Because that’s when we’ll see the local launch of Acer’s Aspire Timeline laptops which we’re told will marry up to eight hour battery life with slim profiles, light weight and a none-too-heavy price tag. (And okay, you might then want to wait a little
bit longer because there’s more of the same to follow in early June when Taiwan’s annual Computex geekfest.)
Late yesterday afternoon, Australian tech media received this 'save the date' heads-up for the Timeline's local launch
The Timeline family slots into the ‘thin and light’ laptop space which is tipped to be in 2009 what netbooks were in 2008. Not that netbooks have lost their lustre, but they’ll no longer be the only option if you want a compact go-anywhere PC that doesn’t cost $3,000. Or even $2,500. Based on US pricing there’s a good chance the Timeline series won’t bust the $2,000 mark, at least in its standard configuration.
So while the new breed of ultra-portables will cost more than a netbook they’ll deliver full PC functionality – in some cases including a DVD drive – plus light weight and long battery life.
In fact, the Timeline makes a pretty good poster child for the ULV generation. Unlike current sleek sylphs such as the MacBook Air and Dell Adamo
you won’t be restricted to one screen size: the Timeline will come with your choice of 13.3 inch (Aspire 3810T), 14 inch (Aspire 4810T) and 15.6 inch (Aspire 5810T) panels, each of which is clocked for 16:9 HD resolution at 366 x 768 pixels.
Each is fitted with a standard six-cell 5600 mAh battery rated for close to eight hours. The 13.3 inch 3810T, which is the only member of the trio without an optical drive, tapers from 23.4mm to 28.9mm in profile and weighs 1.6kg; the 4810T and 5810T both sport a DL-DVD burner but don’t bust 3cm at the waist, and weigh in at 1.9kg and 2.4kg respectively.
That’s thin but not outrageously and thus expensively so – unlike designs which are so cutting edge that the price tag is similarly sharp. And that’s part of the recipe for these new notebooks. Although from the shots we’ve seen so far, Acer could do with a little bit more splash in the styling department.
The Timelines are not without Apple-inspired flourishes such as the chiclet keyboard and multitouch trackpad. A circular finger-swirl scrolls up or down, pinching does the usual zoom in and out while a two-finger swipe flicks through objects such as photos, Web pages and albums in the Windows Media Player library.
However, the Timelines also pack some dead smart technology developed by Intel and shared with its OEM partners – a ‘laminar wall’ design which redirects airflow between the main circuit board and the lower half of the chassis to keep the notebook’s underside cool. It’s based on the same principles as the way airflow is used to cool the housing of a jet engine.
Acer has opted for Intel’s ULV Core2 Duo SU9400 or the single-engine Core 2 Solo SU3500, both clocked at 1.4GHz, as powerplants and added a PowerSmart button which it says toggles the Timeline between full performance and economy mode (we presume this is some form of factory-set underclocking).
Pixel-pushing duty falls to Intel’s GS45 Express Chipset with X4500HD graphics, capable of full 1080p high-definition video playback, stands on pixel-pushing duty. Hard drives and solid state drives are both on the menu.
We’ll bring you a full breakdown with pricing and on-street dates after the launch on May 20.