Acer is out with a new line of TimelineX laptops, one of them being the 13.3 inch 3830TG, a subnotebook as they’re called these days.
It’s a try to cover the need for a small laptop, which is closer to a netbook, size and weight wise, but offering the performance of a regular laptop.
The 3830TG is actually the successor of the 3820TG, a machine launched around 12 or 13 months ago. Of course, the new iteration gets a serious face lift in terms of hardware, but is it good enough to keep your hands away from other mainstream 13.3 laptops? Find out from our review.
Acer keeps in line with what’s cooking right now in terms of hardware for mobile computers and places at the heart of the 3830TG a Core iX series processor, the low power kind, and a Nvidia Gforce 540M video card, making a decent (not great) solution for gaming as well. Of course, if you want to splash the cash, you can go for a Core i7 processor and a 120 GB SSD, which is lighter, faster and less demanding on the battery in comparison with the 750 GB mechanical hard disk drive the base model. Full spec list below.
- Processor: Intel Core i3/i5/i7 Sandy Bridge processor
- Video: Intel GMA 3000/NVIDIA GeForce GT540M 2GB graphics
- RAM: Up to 8 GB DDR3 RAM
- HDD: Up to 750 GB HDD
- Display: 13.3 inch 16:9, 1366×768 pixel
- Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth
- Optical drive: DVD RW drive
- Ports and other: VGA, HDMI, 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x USB 3.0, card reader, web cam, audio jack
- Audio: 2 Dolby Home Theater speakers
- Battery: 6 cell, 6000 mAh
- OS: Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit
- Size (mm) : 23.4 – 28.9 x 322 x 228
- Weight: 2.1 kg with battery
Build and design
The laptop has a blue, matte chassis finish, which looks and feels pretty good with a touch of class. The blue finished chassis will not attract too many fingerprints and feels good to hold and won’t slip when you carry it around with you. Acer decided to go for the simple treatment and it works out pretty good for them, as the metal used is of very good quality. The palm rest has the same blue finish, but is slightly textured, so you won’t have wrist slips.
Unfortunately, that will happen if you’ll touch the very glossy lid around the screen, with the display being glossy as well. Manufacturers still mistake gloss for class, while most users kind of hate the glossy finish for a number of reasons, the most important being the fingerprint magnet (especially on the lid) and the the glare the screen has, especially outside or in a well lit room.
Keyboard and trackpad
The keyboard is pretty different from the one you had on the 3820TG. The previous one had large keys with “crevasses” between that could collect dust and other dirt. The one on the 3830TG, however, has flat, low keys, something in the style of MacBook keyboards, with the keys being smaller and having enough space between them, making it easier to clean.
Still, it doesn’t mean that the keyboard is very good. Its main flaw is that it feels pretty soft, meaning you can bend it if you press on it a little tougher. Still, keys feel good to touch, are quiet and typos are kind of out of the question, even for beginners. The touch pad is positioned a little to the left and has left and right mouse buttons. The touch pad supports multi touch gestures and is very responsive, its only flaw being that it is kind of small for our taste.
The screen of the 3830TG has a 13.3 inch diagonal and a native resolution of 1366 x 768, which is the normal resolution for a screen this size. It will be able to show HD clips and run hi res applications, having also a decent brightness distribution score of 91%. The problems with this glare attracting screen appear, that’s right, when it attracts glare.
You don’t even have to be out on a sunny day or in a room with all lights turned on- even in a medium lit room, the screen will reflect ambient shadows and light and looking at stuff on screen will be quite tricky. Viewing angles are also quite disappointing. Looking at the screen directly will display a good image, tilting the screen back or forward will make your viewing quite frustrating. On a positive note, lateral viewing angles are very good.
The 3830TG sample unit runs on a Core i5 processor with a 2.3 GHZ clock speed, which can be increased to 2.9 GHZ using Turbo Boost. If you’ll go for the Core i7 version instead, you get a 2.9 GHZ normal speed and 3.3 GHZ with Turbo Boost. The laptop has two graphic cards- the integrated Intel GMA HD 3000 and the dedicated Gforce GT 540M, which has 2 GB of dedicated VRAM, making it a very decent solution for gaming.
You can switch between the two video cards using Nvidia Optimus, thus saving battery life when not in need of serious graphics processing. Using the dedicated video card you’ll be able to play newer titles, like Crysis 2 or the latest Call of Duty installment. In comparison, the 3820TG was able to play last year’s games, but on medium or even low detail settings.
If you’re a sucker for numbers, here they are: the laptop scored 1675 in PCMark 7, 9651 in Cinebench R10, that’s approximately 14% faster than the 3820TG. Overall performance on the laptop is on par with laptops like Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E420s and Dell XPS 15.
The laptop comes with Microsoft 7 Home Premium 64 bit, which is the standard for mainstream laptops these days. Additionally, you get lots of software, some of it pure bloatware. You can easily erase the trial antivirus, trial media tools, trial backup tools and so on. Useful preloaded apps include Skype and Adobe Reader, and also Acer’s clear.fi platform, that lets you synch and transfer files between connected computers.
In normal use conditions, meaning browsing the web and some light media playback using the onboard Intel graphics, the laptop can go for about 7 to 8 hours on a single charge- basically a day’s work. However, if you intend to use the dedicated graphics card, keep WiFi on at all times and run graphics intensive apps, the 6 cell, non user replaceable battery might get depleted in less than 3 hours.
As things always happen somewhere in the middle, you should expect about 4-5 hours of autonomy, meaning you can mix and match a little gaming, video, editing documents and more.
Sound, noise, heat and others
The laptop is not very noisy if you don’t run too many applications at once. The rather slow 5.400 rpm hard drive keeps quiet most of the time- until the single fan kicks in. The fan produces the usual noise you’d expect from a notebook, meaning you can easily cover it with some music or some background talking.
The laptop doesn’t get too hot if you use for a short while. After a while, however, the base can reach around 43 degrees Celsius and the top around 40. As for speakers, you’re better off using some headphones, as the stock stereo speakers have poor quality.
Price and availability
The laptop is available both in Europe and the US. In Europe, the Core i5 version goes for around 800 euros, while in the US the Core i5 version starts as $749. However, if you’ll want to buy the Core i7 version with the SSD instead of the HDD, make sure you have an additional couple of hundred to spend.
The Acer 3830TG is a decently built machine, that learned from the mistakes of its predecessor (at least when it comes to the keyboard) and also added some very decent hardware. Also, it has a good video card that allows for some smooth gaming and HD playback, all this in a package that’s not very expensive if you look at what’s cooking right now on the market.
Sure, it has its flaws in terms of display quality, noise and, under certain circumstances, battery life, but these are all passable for a mainstream laptop.