If you want a netbook because of the convenient size and amazing battery life but need better multitasking and video performance than what a cheap netbook offers then the Acer Aspire 1830T might be the perfect notebook for you. Keep reading to see what this $900 ultraportable offers.
Our Acer Aspire 1830T-68U118 feastures the following specifications:
The Acer Aspire Timeline X series is the latest generation of thin and light notebooks from Acer designed to offer solid performance and long battery life in a surprisingly lightweight package. At first glance it's easy to mistake the Aspire 1830T for one of the dozens of Acer netbooks that have shown up over the last few years. Looks, however, can be deceiving.
Ports and Features
Port selection on the Aspire 1830T is fairly standard for a modern netbook or 11-inch ultraportable notebook. Acer gives you three USB 2.0 ports, HDMI-out, VGA, LAN, and audio jacks. It also features a SDHC-card slot for expanding internal storage or just loading images off your camera while traveling. Since we're starting to see USB 3.0 on more consumer notebooks and there are many USB 3.0 external hard drives on the market we really wish Acer had found a way to put at least one USB 3.0 port on this $900 notebook. Here is a quick tour around the Aspire 1830T:
Front View: Activity lights
Rear View: Battery and screen hinges
Left Side View: VGA out, AC power
HDMI-out and one USB 2.0 port
Right Side View: Media card reader,
Audio jacks, two USB 2.0 ports,
Kensington lock slot and LAN.
Screen and Speakers
The 11.6-inch LED-backlit screen on the Aspire 1830T is like many of the other glossy screens we've seen on 11-inch notebooks. The 1366x768 resolution is great for browsing the web, editing photos, or even watching 720p HD movies. Color and contrast are average thanks to the glossy surface and LED backlighting. We recorded a real-world contrast ratio of 206:1 in our lab and a maximum screen brightness of 168 nits (bright enough for indoor use and bright enough for outdoor use as long as the unfiltered sun isn't shining directly on your screen. If you tilt the screen forward or back the colors start to look dim or very washed out. Horizontal viewing angles were better; staying visible until roughly 60 degrees where the reflections on the screen start to overpower what is being displayed.
The onboard speakers were lap-firing and sounded very tinny. The speakers had no low frequency response to speak of and just a small hint of midrange. This is fine for listening to Windows alert sounds or watching a YouTube clip, but not for sharing music or a movie in a small room. The speaker orientation causes problems if you have the laptop laying on a bed or pressed against thick clothing on your lap. I was able to easily obstruct the speakers with my legs; making them sound muffled. In short, audiophiles would be better off using a nice pair of headphones or connecting the notebook to a stereo through its HDMI-out port.
The nearly full-size keyboard on the Aspire 1830T is comfortable for typing but received mixed feedback from our editors. Acer decided to used a raised Chiclet-style (also called island-style) keyboard with slightly larger keys than what we've seen on many netbooks with island-style keyboards. The result is less space between each key which may ultimately lead to more typos. Another potential problem with this style of keyboard is that people with long fingernails might get their nails caught under the edge of the keys. In any case, the keyboard looks quite nice and only suffered from a little flex or "bounce" under heavy typing pressure. The keys themselves have a rough matte finish on top which helps increase fingertip traction. Individual key action was smooth, giving off a muffled click when pressed.
Performance and Benchmarks
The Acer Aspire 1830T boasts an Intel Core i7-680 1.46GHz ultra low voltage processor with Intel Turbo Boost Technology running at speeds of up to 2.53GHz. Translation: Although this thin and light notebook looks like a netbook it is MUCH more powerful than a $350 netbook.
In fact, at the time of this writing (November 2010) the Acer Aspire 1830T-68U118 offers the fastest processor of any 11-inch notebook we've reviewed. Still, it's only natural to expect a high level of performance considering the $900 price tag for this configuration. On that note, it's worth mentioning that the Aspire 1830T was roughly twice as fast as the new 11.6-inch Apple MacBook Air ($999) while running our synthetic performance benchmark of wPrime for testing the computational speed of the CPU. General system performance is likewise significantly faster than a single-core or dual-core Atom netbook with no noticeable lag in a Windows environment.
The 500GB 5400rpm hard drive is fast enough to quickly load most basic applications like Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop but if you're regularly opening massive files like high-resolution images or HD video files then you may want to upgrade to a 7200rpm hard drive or a high-performance SSD. Still, the 500GB storage capacity should be more than enough for most consumers looking to store their family photos and music library.
The only obvious weak point in the Aspire's armor is the low-performance Intel HD integrated graphics. Yes, the Intel GPU delivers smooth HD video playback (much better than what you get from a cheap netbook). Yes, support for Microsoft DirectX 10 games means you get better-than-netbook gaming performance. Nevertheless, the Acer Aspire 1830T delivers only a fraction of the gaming capabilities of notebooks like the Alienware M11x ($799) or the previously mentioned 11-inch Apple MacBook Air.
In short, the Aspire 1830T is absolutely fantastic for general use but falls horribly short in terms of gaming for a $900 notebook.
wPrime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):
PCMark05 measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):
PCMark Vantage measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):
3DMark06 measures gaming performance (higher scores mean better performance):
CrystalDiskMark storage drive performance test:
Heat and Noise
Under stress the Intel Core i7-680 1.46GHz ultra low voltage processor raised the outside case temperature of the Acer Aspire 1830T into the "almost uncomfortably warm" category. After 30 minutes with both the CPU and GPU stressed, the bottom of the notebook reached temperatures just shy of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Under normal conditions at or near idle the same spots were about 5-8 degrees cooler. The system fan works harder in this notebook compared to most Atom-based netbooks we've tested, but the quiet hum of the fan shouldn't be annoying for most people in a typical school or office environment.
The Timeline series of notebooks has always set the bar high in terms of battery life. Acer claimed the original 13-inch Aspire Timeline notebook could deliver "up to 10 hours" of battery life (a claim that never quite panned out) and Acer claims the 1830T can deliver "up to 8 hours" on a single charge. This time, Acer's statements about battery life might be fairly accurate.
In our tests with the screen brightness set to 70%, wireless active while refreshing a website on regular intervals, and Windows 7 set to the Balanced profile, the Aspire 1830T continued running for 7 hours and 48 minutes. I have little doubt that you can extend the battery life past the 8-hour mark if you lower the screen brightness and aren't actively loading pages every 60 seconds. By comparison, the ASUS Eee PC 1215N netbook with dual-core Atom processor and Nvidia ION graphics stayed on for 5 hours and 34 minutes and Apple's new 11.6-inch MacBook Air delivered 6 hours and 15 minutes.
The Acer Aspire 1830T Timeline X is an attractive notebook that successfully delivers netbook convenience and notebook performance in a single package. The question then becomes, "Is that enough?" There's no denying that $900 buys you an ultraportable notebook with better performance than a netbook. The problem is that there are other notebooks (such as the Alienware M11x and the Apple MacBook Air) that do that same thing and provide better gaming performance as well.
Combine the lack of gaming capability with the frustrating touchpad and consumers might just be tempted to buy the heavier and thicker Alienware or the more expensive Apple instead. If you don't care about gaming then the Acer makes a compelling option. Although our review configuration of the 1830T is priced at $899 there are other configurations of the 1830T (such as the Aspire 1830T-3927) priced as low as $599. That's not bad for a laptop that slaughters a netbook in terms of multitasking and video performance.