Asus U33Jc-A1 Bamboo Review

02 August 2010

Asus U33Jc-A1 Bamboo

Pros Nvidia Optimus graphics; affordable; excellent overall performance for its class; unique design
Mediocre gaming at native resolution; ventilation fan gets hot; poor Webcam; no mobile-broadband option
Editors' Take
Good looks, strong benchmark scores, and Nvidia Optimus technology make this bargain-buy ultraportable a standout for home and small-business users alike. 

Key Specs

Processor: 2.4GHz Intel Core i3-370M
Memory: 4GB RAM
Storage: 500GB hard drive
Optical Drive: None
Screen: 13.3 inches (1,366x768 native resolution)
Graphics: Integrated Intel GMA HD, and Nvidia GeForce GT310M (1GB)
Weight: 3.7 pounds
Dimensions (HWD): 1.2x12.9x9.1 inches
Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)

Asus U33Jc-A1 Bamboo Review

Reviewed by: Catharine Smith
Review Date: July 2010
Look out, little laptops. With a generous hardware selection and an eye-catching design, the Asus U33Jc-A1 Bamboo is a fierce competitor among budget ultraportables. Its Nvidia Optimus technology balances battery life with graphics performance, making this $999 notebook a top contender in a price arena that most ultraportable models never even get to enter.
First, an explanation of what Optimus graphics tech is. An emerging trend we're seeing is laptops equipped with both a low-power integrated graphics chipset suitable for undemanding computing tasks, and a more powerful dedicated graphics chip for gaming and demanding 3D tasks. In early iterations, you had to designate manually when to use one or the other, and switching often required a reboot to complete (or at the very least, some user action, such as flipping a hardware or software switch, or pressing a button).
Optimus, on the other hand, offers automatic switching between a laptop's discrete and integrated graphics. It happens in the background, unbeknownst to the user. The Bamboo laptop uses the Intel GMA HD graphics engine, which is integrated into the machine's Core i3 CPU, for times when light graphics processing is all that's needed. The system also has an Nvidia GeForce GT310M dedicated graphics processor (with 1GB of its own memory), and this chip takes charge when you launch 3D games and other graphics-intensive applications. As you might expect, the more powerful GeForce chip taxes the battery more than the Intel GMA HD. Thus, switching seamlessly between the two, Optimus conserves battery life when additional 3D muscle is unnecessary.
The Asus U33Jc-A1 Bamboo’s first-rate interior components are paralleled by its intriguing design. It's sure to turn heads around the office, library, or coffee shop. Asus substitutes 15 percent of the chassis’s plastic with real bamboo, a feature that will appeal to eco-minded shoppers. The dark wood, which feels like plastic and looks like the finish on a paneled 1970s station wagon (in retrospect, probably not the greenest car to emulate), covers the lid and the entire palm-rest area. The black plastic keys are embedded into brushed aluminum, and the screen bezel is a glossy black plastic. The materials contrast somewhat, but the system appears sleek and professional overall.

Asus U33Jc-A1 Bamboo
Although the lid feels like plastic, it’s real bamboo, and it masks fingerprints quite well.

The Bamboo system weighs 3.7 pounds and measures 1.2x12.9x9.1 inches, a little beefier than some other budget ultraportables we’ve seen. Asus managed to pack this slim frame with its fair share of ports. Along the left side of the chassis, you’ll find a VGA-out port, an HDMI-out port, and a USB 2.0 port. Here, also, is a fan vent, which can blow quite hot. (We don’t recommend resting the system in your lap.) The right side of the chassis sports a flash-card reader (supporting the SD, MultiMediaCard, Memory Stick, and Memory Stick Pro formats), a USB 3.0 port, a USB 2.0 port, an Ethernet port, the power connector, and a cable-locking slot. As for wireless connectivity, the laptop comes equipped with Bluetooth and 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi radios.
Above the keyboard, you’ll find a chunky bezel that houses the integrated speaker system. The Chiclet-style keyboard is roomy, and the keys are springy and fairly quiet during typing. Below the keys, a spacious bamboo panel comfortably accommodates your palms. The multi-gesture touch pad and seesaw button below it also sport the same dark wood covering. The touch pad’s decent size and smooth texture afford easy zooming, scrolling, and tapping. We have no complaints about the mouse button; it has nice vertical travel, and it isn't too stiff.
Asus U33Jc-A1 Bamboo
The bamboo pattern on the palm rest is replicated on the touch pad and seesaw button. Above this bottom panel are the plastic keys, which sit atop a bed of brushed aluminum. These three materials, each with its own texture, contrast a bit but add to the design's uniqueness.

The Bamboo’s 13.3-inch display is sunken into a glossy black bezel and attached to the chassis by two glossy plastic hinges. Embedded in the bezel above the display is a 2-megapixel Webcam that features a tiny switch that acts as a sliding security shade. Despite its sleek looks, the camera captures photos and video in poor quality. In our tests, motion was blurry, audio and video were out-of-sync, and the audio that the microphone captured sounded as if it were recorded underwater. In addition, manually sliding the security shade open and shut inevitably smudged the camera lens. You'll want to keep a polishing cloth handy to keep it clean.
Asus U33Jc-A1 Bamboo
The Webcam comes with a sliding security shade that guarantees users control over their privacy. You need to slide a finger across it, though, so as a result, the camera lens is frequently smudged and cloudy.

The reflective display has wide-screen dimensions and is LED-backlit for a bright, gorgeous picture. Unfortunately, the display shows up glare readily under bright lighting conditions, and the viewing angles are pretty tight: The picture begins to look washed out at 45 degrees off-center. The 1,366x768-pixel display resolution looks terrific in dim lighting, however. And media was a joy to experience on this screen, under the right lighting conditions. Flash playback via looked smooth and clear, as did streaming video in 720p on YouTube, though the picture quality cannot compare with true HD (1,080p). Local HD video, downloaded from Windows Media Showcase, played perfectly smoothly, and its colors were bright and vibrant. The speakers produced booming sound, despite a somewhat hollow aspect to the audio.
Although neither the Bamboo’s processor nor its price suggests strong gaming performance, we ran the discrete Nvidia GeForce GT 310M graphics through our Company of Heroes (COH) gaming test at the system’s native resolution (1,366x768). When testing DirectX 9 graphics with some eye-candy settings enabled, the machine notched a playable-but-not-fantastic score of 24.7 frames per second (fps). Next, we tested DirectX 10 graphics and recorded a disappointing 13.2fps, which is unplayable. (Turning down the detail levels will enable a faster frame rate.) Normally, budget ultraportables cannot handle any real 3D gaming, and we often see pricier units struggle with COH. That said, the $1,099 Alienware M11x, which is the only other notebook in this class to feature both discrete and integrated graphics, scored far better on our DirectX 9 (67.5fps) and DirectX 10 (20.2fps) tests, so if marrying gaming and portability is your goal, you’ll do much better with that Alienware unit.
We were much more satisfied with the Bamboo’s results on our 3DMark06 test, which we use to test overall graphics-acceleration performance. The Bamboo scored a whopping 3,755 at a resolution of 1,024x768 and managed 3,293 at its native resolution. These scores are far above what we typically see in this notebook class, with the exception of the Alienware M11x, which scored 4,528 (at 1,024x768) and 4,071 (at native). Nonetheless, this is an impressive score and should allow for light-duty gaming, and it contributes to the positive media experience we observed above.
To test the system’s 2.4GHz Intel Core i3-370M CPU, we ran three processor tests. The first was Cinebench 10, which taxes all the available cores on the CPU. The Bamboo exceeded our expectations with its scores of 6,678 on the test’s 32-bit version and 7,986 on the 64-bit version. (We test at both bit levels for comparison purposes, since not all notebooks come with a 64-bit operating system.) These scores are some of the best we’ve ever seen from a budget laptop and are second only to the $1,899 Sony VAIO Z-Series’s scores of 6,774 (32-bit) and 8,290 (64-bit). We attribute that to Intel’s Core i-series processors in general. Even though the Core i3 is the least powerful of the three Core families (i3, i5, and i7), its performance has consistently beat out even the best processors from 12 to 18 months ago.

Asus U22Jc-A1 Bamboo
On the left edge, you'll find VGA, HDMI, and USB ports. Along the right edge is the flash-card slot, headphone and mic jacks, USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports (one of each), an Ethernet jack, and the power connector.

The second CPU test was our iTunes trial, in which the CPU converts 11 MP3 files to AAC format. The Bamboo raced through this test in 3 minutes and 55 seconds, handily beating the 6:22 average we have seen among ultraportables. The few laptops that beat this score (the Toshiba Portégé R700, two HP EliteBooks, and the Sony VAIO Z Series) all cost more than $1,500.
During our third and final CPU test, the Bamboo converted a standard test video file via Windows Media Encoder (WME) in a snappy 4 minutes and 5 seconds. The Alienware M11x's Core 2 Duo processor was no match and managed only 5:38 (in the iTunes test) and 8:43 (in the WME test). This balance makes the Bamboo better suited to regular folks (as opposed to hard-core gamers) and business users, who will require more CPU power than graphics power for crunching numbers, surfing the Web, and general multitasking.
The Bamboo system continued to impress on our PCMark Vantage test, which measures overall performance across a range of everyday applications. Its 32-bit score of 4,984 and its 64-bit score of 5,292 outstripped all other ultraportable systems priced under $1,000 that we’ve tested. Even the Alienware M11x’s scores of 3,608 (32-bit) and 3,682 (64-bit) were put to shame. The Bamboo’s PCMark Vantage scores also come close to those of pricier laptops like the $1,629 HP EliteBook 2540p (6,028).

An eight-cell removable battery sits flush with the bottom of the Bamboo's chassis. This battery lasted for a middling 3 hours and 39 minutes on our strenuous battery-rundown test, during which we stream video wirelessly with both display brightness and volume set to half-power. While the Bamboo’s battery life trumps the HP EliteBook 2540p’s 3:19, it falls well behind the similarly priced Alienware M11x’s 5:50. However, the Bamboo comes equipped with a utility called Super Hybrid Engine (SHE), which adjusts the system’s clock and bus speeds to boost either performance or battery life. Setting SHE to Power Saving mode (and performing less demanding tasks than the continuous wireless video streaming we did) pushed the battery life to 4:16 on our test. Do note, however, that this energy-saving option will slightly reduce the performance. We suggest using the SHE option only when you really need to eke out as much life as possible.
In addition to strong performance, Asus sweetens the pot by including one year of free online storage (500GB) with the Bamboo. The bundled software, on the other hand, is a mixed bag. While we’re pleased to see Adobe Reader, Microsoft Windows Live Essentials, and Asus utilities like Power4Gear Hybrid (an overclocking and underclocking tool), Splendid Video, and Virtual Camera, you also get some bloatware (notably, trial versions of Microsoft Office 2010 and Trend Micro Internet Security). Furthermore, the inclusion of CyberLink's Power2Go disc-burning software is odd, considering the system has no optical drive.
One other nice (albeit, latent) perk: The Bamboo supports Intel's WiDi technology, which enables you to transmit wireless HD video from the laptop for display on a TV set. It does require the purchase of a $100 WiDi receiver, however. Still, that, rounded out by Asus’s ample warranty offerings, makes for an impressive package. Asus has one of the best warranty and support structures in the business: With the Bamboo, you get a two-year worldwide hardware warranty; one year of protection against accidental damage; a year's guarantee on the battery; and a 30-day warranty on the LCD screen, should one or more pixels go bad. On top of that, Asus allows for free two-way shipping for repairs and service, and provides 24/7 toll free technical support. That's a very robust plan for a $999 laptop.
The high-performance, feature-rich Asus U33Jc-A1 Bamboo is, hands down, the best ultraportable $1,000 can buy. Our biggest quibble is the battery life, which could be a deal-breaker for frequent travelers. You can choose longer-lasting ultraportables, but you will pay for it in terms of price, performance, or portability. If you can stomach the battery life, the Bamboo is thin enough, light enough, and powerful enough to meet the needs of home or small-business users who need a light laptop.
Price (at time of review): $999 (mfr. est., as tested)



Acer Aspire 5740-6378 Review

25 February 2010

Do you want to buy a Intel i5-powered notebook? The Asus Aspire 5760-6378 is a good choice. It's under $1000! The highest price we see is $749. There are some store that sell it at $649. Amazing price for a i5 notebook.

Acer Aspire 5740-6378 has 2.26GHz Intel Core i5-430M with a 1,066MHz front side bus and 3MB of L3 cache. With i5 processor this Aspire can handle multitasking processes with heavy multimedia contents. 4GB of fsat 1,066MHz DDR3 memory is enough to run newest operating system like Windows 7. Acer Aspire 5740-6378 has dedicated 1GB ATI Mobility Radeon 5650 graphics. It's a powerful graphics card for an under $1000 notebook.

With 15.1 x 9.8 x 1.5 and 6.2 pounds weight, it's a heavy notebook. With this weight it will be not suitable for carry it in a backpak for long periods. The competitors are only 5.2-5.5 pounds.

Aspire 5740-6378 delivers complete ports and slots. It features a multiformat memory-card reader (supporting SD, MultiMediaCard, xD-PictureCard, and Memory Stick cards, four USB ports, VGA and HDMI ports, LAN, modem, headphone, mic, a 8x multiformat DVD burner, bluetooth and 802.11b/g/n. Unfortunately it don't have eSATA port and ExpressCard expansion slot. A 320GB hard drive is large enough for notebook. There is also a Kensington lock slot.

Acer's Crystal Eye 2-megapixel webcam is good enough for Skype. It's grainy with low light environment, but its quality is acceptable.

Aspire 5740-6378 has 16-to-9 wide wide 15.6-inch CineCrystal display with 1,1366x768 resolution. It's 720p HD with LED backlighting. It a pleasure to watch movies on this notebook.

The audio is superb. The 5.1-channel surround Dolby Home Theater speakers delivered excelent audio quality. A litle bit distortion at max volume. It is acceptable for below $1000 notebook.

The 103-key Acer FineTip keyboard comfortable to use. The slick 3.3x2.0-inch touchpad supports multitouch gesture, including pinch-to-zoom and two-finger scrolling.

Acer includes 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium, Acer also includes Microsoft Works SE, NTI’s Backup Now and Media Maker tools, and the McAfee Security Suite.

The Acer Aspire 5740-6378 is not a perfect laptop, but it's the best i5 notebook for the price.

The 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium operating system is the main software serving included with the system. Acer also includes Microsoft Works SE, NTI’s Backup Now and Media Maker tools, and the McAfee Security Suite. We're relieved not to see loads of unnecessary apps preloaded onto the system. As for the warranty coverage, Acer backs the machine with a one-year international plan, which is standard for this class of laptop.

Processor: 2.26GHz Intel Core i5-430M
Memory: 4GB RAM
Storage: 320GB hard drive
Optical Drive: DVD±RW
Screen: 15.6 inches (1,366x768 native resolution)
Graphics: ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 (1GB)
Weight: 6.2 pounds
Dimensions (HWD): 1.1x15.1x9.9 inches
Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)

See more pictures of Acer Aspire 5740-6378 here.


Acer Aspire AS8940-6865

13 November 2009

Acer Aspire AS8940-6865 Review

Acer Aspire AS8940-6865 is a big screen laptop with Intel Core i7 processor, a Blu-ray drive and 1080p resolution.

The AS8940 includes the 1.6GHz Core i7-720QM CPU with 4GB DDR3 memory. It uses NVidia GeForce M250 GTS graphics card.

The screen is 18.4-inch wide-screen with 1,920x1080 resolutions. The screen is great, but it is very huge for a laptop.

The ports available are Displayport, HDMI-Out, and VGA-Out ports. A Blu-ray drive, five USB ports, one E-STA connector, FireWire, 5-in-1 card reader.

The keyboard is wonderful. There are LEDs beneath the keyboard that gives the floating keyboard very cool effect.

The battery is only for only about 1,5 hours. This is acceptable because the Aspire is a media center laptop. More powerful the laptop, more power it needs.

So if you need a powerful laptop for your office or home. This laptop is for you. The price is very reasonable ($1,399) with good performance.



Gateway NV5207u Pictures

05 November 2009

Gateway NV5207u Pictures

Read the Gateway NV5027u Review.


Eurocom T3 Pros and Cons

03 October 2009


Eurocom T3 Contessa is beautiful super-slim ultraportables with 13-inch screens. The market price is $1,000.


Superslim design. The chasis is only 0.8-inch thick.
The keyboard is comfortable.
No card reader, no optical drive.
Wide multifunction connector. With the connector you can connect the power calbe directly or daisy-chain the power adapter with an included dongle, contains two USB ports, a LAN jack, a VGA connector.
The 13.3" screen is very bright.

The price is higher than the competitors.
No multimedia keys on the keyboard.
Small number of ports, the competitors have more ports.
The audio quality is fine.
Slower than the competitors.

Processor: 1.3GHz Intel Core Solo SU2700
Memory: 3GB RAM
Storage: 120GB hard drive
Optical Drive: None
Screen: 13.3 inches (1,366x768 native resolution)
Graphics: Integrated Intel X4500MHD
Weight: 3.3 pounds
Dimensions (HWD): 0.9x13.4x9.1 inches
Operating System: Windows Vista Business (32-bit)


Asus UL30A-A1 Prons and Cons

25 September 2009

Asus UL30A-A1

Asus UL30-A1 is an $799 ultraportable from Asus with 13-inch display with good looks and goods performance.

The Prons

It's only $799! The ultraportable competitors is above $2000.

It weighing less than 3,7-pound with 13-inch screens. The competitors only have 12.1-inch screens. The super slim screen supports a 16-to-9 aspect ratio.

Integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
With integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, you can connect to the Wi-Fi jungles around you.

Aluminium Casing
The casing is not a fingerprints magnet. Many competitors have glossy cases attract fingerprints, but not the UL30A-A1.

Excellent Sound
The UL30A-A1 have excellent sound quality.

Generous Ports Selection
They'll give you VGA and HDMI video output, SD-memory-card slot, headphone and microphone jacks, three USB ports, a LAN port, a power port, Kensington lock slot, triangular slot. The triangular slot is for attaching the notebook with a lanyard.

Comfortable Keyboard
The keyboard is comfortable and highly responsive.

Longer Battery Life
5 hours and 30 minutes for watching live video. The above $2000 competitors lasted only 5 hours. Asus promises 12 hours of battery life on light tasks.

Asus offers two-year global warranty and one year of accidental-damage protection.

The Cons

No Optical Drive
You can't play dvd with this Asus. There's no optical drive.

Bad Webcam
The webcam is only 0.3-megapixel. It produced grainy and washed-out images. The competitors usually have 1.3 megapixels webcam.

The touch pad is higher than the keyboard and the spacebar sits so close to the touch pad so we often mistouches the touchpad while touching the spacebar.

Asus UL30A-A1 only have 1.3GHz CPu. But it's forgivable because the price is so low.

Processor: 1.3GHz Intel Core 2 Duo ULV SU7300
Memory: 4GB RAM
Storage: 500GB hard drive
Optical Drive: None
Screen: 13.3 inches (1,366x768 native resolution)
Graphics: Integrated Intel GMA 4500MHD
Weight: 3.7 pounds
Dimensions (HWD): 1x12.7x8.8 inches
Operating System: Windows Vista Home Premium (32-bit)


Acer Aspire 5810 Review

27 August 2009

Reviewed by: Jeffrey Bernard Yozwiak
Review Date: August 2009

ComputerShopper-We'll leave it to economists and pundits to sort out whether this is indeed the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. What we do know for certain is that we’re all making sacrifices: cutting our spending, saving more, and searching for deals. At, we’ve seen an undeniable surge in interest—from both readers and sellers—in low-cost computers, and part of that wave is the Aspire Timeline series from Acer. Dressed in an austere gray and promoted at Wal-Mart, among other outlets, these bare-bones notebooks are built for business users on a budget. The latest Timeline configuration we tested, the AS5810TZ-4657, is the largest of the line (it has a 15.6-inch screen) and lists for $598. (Note that at the time we wrote this, Wal-Mart had knocked down its selling price to $548, and other sellers had discounted this model, too.) But, in keeping with the times, this laptop will also demand you make some sacrifices. It has great battery life for a mainstream notebook, but its performance is mired somewhere between that of a low-end laptop and a netbook.

On the outside, this Timeline sports a dull, brushed-aluminum finish. It's not as flashy as some notebooks we’ve seen—if you want to stand out on a budget, try the HP Pavilion DV2-1030US—but it’s certainly professional-looking. Measuring in at 1x15x10 inches and weighing 5.3 pounds, the chassis is slim yet solid; we felt like we were typing on a slice of steel. And, without the glossy exterior finish that many of its competitors bear (including the Pavilion DV2-1030US), the Aspire 5810 Timeline is immune to fingerprint smudges.

Under the lid, the laptop hosts a luxurious full-size keyboard with a dedicated number-pad region. The keys are black, flat, and slick, with clear separation between the keys in what's commonly called a "Chiclet"-style design. Unlike the rest of the body, though, the key tops do become greasy with use. Our opinion of the keyboard is divided: We think the smooth (as opposed to sculpted) key surfaces make touch-typing tough, but we also love the keys’ snap and response.

The Chiclet-style keyboard is roomy and features a dedicated number pad. Media controls are via Fn-key combinations.

The touch pad, by contrast, has the same appealing, nonsmudging finish as the case, and its single left- and right-click button has a satisfactory click-feel. A separate, tiny button to the pad's right allows you to lock the touch pad—and, at times, you'll want to do so. The pad is very sensitive, and so much as a stray headphone cord can muddle your mousing. The touch pad also supports multitouch gestures, and here the pad's sensitivity is a plus; scrolling through text, zooming in on photos, and flipping through Web pages using two fingers is a lot of fun.

The wide-aspect-ratio screen measures 15.6 inches corner-to-corner and has a spacious native resolution of 1,366x768 pixels. The display can support a cinematic 16-to-9 aspect ratio, but we noticed that some of our favorite test DVDs—The Matrix, The Bourne Ultimatum, and Brazil—appeared a little washed-out on this LCD. Indeed, the screen had a mild paleness about it in other applications, too, evident even after much tweaking of brightness levels. Above the screen is a 1.3-megapixel Webcam; in our tests, it gave us a saturated image under most lighting conditions. We wouldn’t recommend it for videography (even with Acer’s Crystal Clear Webcam software), but it's fine for everyday video chats.
Acer Aspire 5810 Timeline

We didn't expect meaty sound from the morsel-size speakers. We were, alas, right.

Volume levels, and audio in general, were a slight disappointment in this model. The overall sound proved a bit muted. Granted, we didn’t expect much bass from the tiny speakers, but we couldn’t get the volume cranked up very loud, either. The Beethoven snippet included in Windows Vista's Media Center sounded clear enough in our tests, but at top volume it didn't pack much punch and evinced some clipping of high notes. Although the Aspire 5810 Timeline is not an ideal laptop for media lovers, it should suffice for users who mainly want to use productivity apps and browse the Web.

Indeed, our benchmark-testing regimen confirmed that those two classes of task are the best fit for this laptop. Performance heavily reflected the laptop's budget innards. The 5810TZ-4657 configuration we tested employs Intel's 1.3GHz Pentium SU2700 processor and 3GB of DDR3 RAM. The SU2700 is a recent, power-efficient addition to Intel's mobile-CPU armory; classed as a "CULV" processor (the acronym stands for "Consumer Ultra Low Voltage"), it's one of several new laptop-centric CPUs intended for use in low-cost, thin, mainstream laptops. Disconcertingly, though, the SU2700 is a single-core processor (not all CULV chips are), which foreshadowed the dismal numbers we saw on our tests.

On our PCMark Vantage test, which measures a computer's ability across a range of common hardware-usage scenarios, the Aspire 5810 Timeline eked out a score of 1,452—the lowest result we’ve seen from a mainstream, non-netbook notebook this year. The laptop also took almost 22 minutes to encode our standard test clip in Windows Media Encoder 9 (WME9), and 8.5 minutes to convert our 11 standard MP3 test files to AAC format in iTunes. In both cases, the Aspire 5810 Timeline lagged behind just about every comparably priced laptop we've bench-tested this year that wasn't an Atom-based netbook. And its score on Cinebench 10, a measure of CPU and graphics performance, was, at 1,387, very close to the trailing edge of the group.

At $599, we certainly don't expect the Aspire 5810 Timeline to take on dual- or quad-core laptops with dedicated graphics chips, but it could offer much more pep as a budget laptop. The Gateway NV5214u, for instance, recently managed a 2,261 score on our PCMark Vantage test, encoded our WME9 test video in less than 10 minutes, and converted our iTunes test tracks in about 6 minutes. Even though the Gateway’s performance isn’t stellar, the model we tested rang up at $500.

As you'd expect, with its integrated Intel graphics chipset (the GMA 4500MHD) and single-core Pentium engine, the Aspire 5810 Timeline isn't a fit gaming machine. At its native screen resolution, it achieved a score of 557 on our 3DMark06 test. (Once again, the less-pricey Gateway NV5214u scored higher.) Undemanding older games may run adequately at a dialed-back resolution, but we wouldn't expect much more. Think Bejeweled rather than Crysis.

You can't tell by looking, but the center two icons indicate push-buttons for data backup and a power-saving mode.

In our battery-rundown test, however, this laptop got its chance to shine. The Aspire 5810 Timeline's screen is energy-efficient and LED-backlit, and Acer’s patented PowerSmart technology senses when the laptop is unplugged and automatically reduces power-draining functions. (PowerSmart can also be activated by a button above the keyboard, although at first we mistook the button for a status light.) In our grueling battery-draining benchmark test—we play a DVD movie continuously until the laptop dies—the Aspire 5810 Timeline survived for an impressive 3 hours and 56 minutes. That’s longer than any other mainstream notebook that we've tested has endured, a testament to an efficient design and the power-sipping SU2700 processor. The thin-and-light MSI X-Slim X600, which crossed paths with the Timeline in our labs, came close in our battery test, but, then again, it costs about $200 more and lacks a built-in optical drive. Under lighter and more judicious usage, we suspect that the Aspire 5810 Timeline could last close to Acer's projection of a full 8 hours.

On the left edge, VGA and HDMI video outputs live side by side. Three USB ports here are joined by a fourth on the opposite edge.

The laptop offers plenty of connectivity options. You’ll find a two video outputs (old-school VGA and modern HDMI), as well as microphone and headphone jacks, and a Kensington-lock slot. The four USB 2.0 ports on the chassis are one more than the norm. The front edge of the laptop has a five-format memory-card reader and a handy indicator light that shows at a glance whether the battery is fully charged. The notebook can connect to the Net wirelessly over 802.11b/g Wi-Fi or cabled through the Ethernet jack.

As for the rest of the package, our test model had a spacious 320GB hard drive preloaded with the 64-bit version of Windows Vista Home Premium. Acer also includes 60-day trials of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007 and McAfee Security Center, and it backs the machine with a one-year warranty. Other software includes eSobi Lite 2 (an RSS newsreader) and Acer Backup Manager, which is integrated nicely with the machine. By simply pressing a button above the keyboard (again, it’s tricky, because the button looks like a status light), you can trigger a backup to an external hard drive.

The Aspire 5810 Timeline may bear a low price, but it sacrifices some serious performance to make it possible. We did like its steel-gray finish and strong battery life, but even at the budget end of the spectrum, a laptop is a long-term investment for most users. If you’re looking to get the best value, spending a bit more for a peppier, more media-friendly machine will be the right move, unless your two big motivators are a big screen for spreadsheets and maximum off-the-plug runtime. (For alternatives, see our guide to shopping for a budget laptop.)
Price (at time of review): $598 (mfr. est., as tested)