Acer Timeline Ultra M3 & NVIDIA GT 640M Review

Author: SKYMTL
Date: April 1, 2012
Product Name: Aspire Timeline Ultra M3
Part Number: M3-581TG
Warranty: 1 Year
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Keyboard & Touchpad

The Acer Timeline U’s keyboard is absolutely massive as is usually the case for notebooks sporting 15” screens but that doesn’t mean it is any good. While the full size, handy number pad may give you all the space in the world, typing feels more like a chore than anything else.

The keys have very little vertical throw which results in a faintly mushy feel and next to no tactile feedback. This came as a surprise considering the Timeline U’s chassis is actually thicker than most other Ultrabooks but we’re told that extra space was taken up by a robust cooling assembly. A backlighting option isn’t even offered. Luckily, Acer’s spacing is well done with plenty of distance between each chiclet-style key and its neighbor but with the Enter and backslash keys touching, be prepared for at least some frustration and wayward cursor movement.

This keyboard feels a bit cheap and pales in comparison to the ones included on some much lower priced options. There are some oddball choices here as well. Key placement seems to be random at times with the volume up / down functions located down by the arrow keys while the Mute button is floating up there on the F8 key. The LCD dimming icons and their functionality have also been reversed with the right arrow holding the universal “Dim LCD” pictogram even though it is actually used to boost brightness.

The dwarf-like directional pad is yet another oddity on an Ultrabook that’s supposedly been designed with gamers in mind. Sure it can be use to control and onscreen character but you’ll flail around aimlessly while trying in vain to find the tiny buttons. We suggest using the more typical WASD keys but due to their lack feedback, gaming will quickly become an chore.

The situation doesn’t get any better as we move down to the trackpad. Built around the Elan software and hardware stack, it works well for pinch to zoom and double finger scrolling but not much else. We believe that buttonless trackpads are one of the worst “innovations” to come to notebooks in the last decade and this one doesn’t improve our opinion one iota. It constantly misses inputs, like the keyboard the integrated buttons lack feedback and you’ll constantly find yourself dragging icons around your desktop rather than actually opening their associated programs.

On the positive side of things, this touchpad is larger than the screens on most smartphones despite its ability to deliver a downright maddening computing experience. It is so large in fact that people with smaller hands will often find themselves touching two sides of it, resulting in multiple erroneous inputs.

The touchpad’s offset position may allow it to align with the keyboard’s center line (which is great for typing in most cases) but we found that our left hand would constantly miss the small area intended for it and slip off the M3’s side.

Upgrade Options

Most Ultrabooks feature limited to no possibility of component upgrading but Acer has charted a different course with the M3. By removing a few screws access is granted to the memory, hard drive and mSSD. Just take note that there is only one accessible memory slot which means you’ll need a lone 8GB module to double this notebook’s available memory.

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