Our Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3-581TG review unit has the following specifications:
If you only glanced at the specifications shown above you might have missed the fact that this ultrabook packs something no previous ultrabook has: dedicated graphics. Specifically the Ultra M3 features the new NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M discrete graphics. At the time of this writing, NVIDIA still hasn't publically announced any details about the 600M series graphics, but online rumors say this graphics card is based on NVIDIA's new Kepler GPU core. What is so special about a new GT-class graphics card for a thin and light ultrabook? Nothing ... except the fact that this GPU outperforms mid-range GTX graphics cards found is thicker, heavier gaming notebooks from last year!
Performance and Benchmarks
Our configuration of the Ultra M3 is one of the more modest versions of the M3 that Acer plans to announce this year. This review unit features an Intel Core i5 dual-core CPU and a 500GB hard drive with a 20GB mSATA SSD cache drive that helps the ultrabook startup and resume from sleep faster than a hard drive alone (the mSATA SSD and hard drive work together to essentially create a high-performance hybrid drive). Acer representatives say the Ultra M3 will also be available with up to a 256GB SSD and a second-generation Intel Core i7 processor.
The Core i5 variant with hard drive delivers raw CPU performance and PCMark scores that put it squarely in the middle of the pack among ultrabooks, but everything changes as soon as you look at the performance of the graphics. The GeForce GT 640M isn't just "a little" more powerful than Intel integrated graphics, the 640M puts this ultrabook in a class all by itself. The 3DMark scores for the Ultra M3 with GT 640M show it has more than double the graphics performance of ultrabooks with Intel graphics alone. In fact, the 3DMark performance of the Ultra M3 even exceeds the performance of the Alienware M14x with GTX 555M graphics.
If you're a gamer who doesn't trust synthetic benchmarks then you might be interested in the fact that the GT 640M can play Battlefield 3 at more than 30fps at 1366x768 resolution with detail settings on HIGH. The results with Batman: Arkham City are even better with framerates above 40fps at 1366x768 with high detail settings. This means gamers don't have to choose between a heavy gaming notebook and an ultraportable with good battery life; you can have the performance you want in a lightweight package. Sure, hardcore gamers will always want bleeding edge performance, but getting 30+ frames per second in modern games on high detail settings is more than enough for many gamers ... particularly if it means you don't have to sacrifice battery life.
wPrime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):
PCMark Vantage measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):
PCMark 7 is a newer benchmark which measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):
3DMark06 measures overall graphics performance for gaming (higher scores mean better performance):
3DMark 11 is a newer measure of overall graphics performance in DirectX 11 games (higher scores mean better performance):
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