Acer TravelMate Timeline 8481T delivers streamlined performance

Since 2009, the MacBook Air has been a safe bet for road warriors looking for an ultraportable form factor that could still churn out decent gigaflops. But PCs are fighting back with a crop of Windows-based “Ultrabooks” offering equally slender and light designs.

While Acer’s TravelMate Timeline 8481T isn’t classified as an Ultrabook, it definitely imitates one well. Acer has taken a fresh approach with the release of their new TravelMate business notebook. Its lightweight and slim design packs a powerful punch with a very streamlined appearance.

The TravelMate is designed for true digital nomads.  At 3.7 pounds, with a razor-thin .87 inch profile, and 13.3 inch width, it’s not necessary to carry it around in an industrial strength bag. Amazingly enough, with the 13.3 inch width, Acer was able to fit a 14 inch LCD screen. 

It takes up the entire top lid of the notebook. Where it really shines is the battery. Throughout testing, the battery averaged around 9 hours of life (it is advertised as 13 hours by Acer) while allowing me to run software including Photoshop, Microsoft Office, and high-definition videos.

One would think that with a notebook this size, they would have to cut down on some hardware features, but Acer actually ups the ante.  The new TravelMate includes 3 USB ports, HDMI and VGA output, and an optical drive. All fit onto the sides of this sleek design. Under the hood, the TravelMate runs an Intel Core i5 processor and 4 gigs of RAM – making for a very fast machine. 

While this isn’t designed to be a gaming machine, I fired up Dragon Age: Origins, one of my favorite games from last year, and it ran very smoothly on medium-high settings. The laptop also stays cool while running demanding programs.

The TravelMate does have a couple of drawbacks though.  First, the forward slash button replaces half of the left shift key, making typing for someone used to a full button frustrating and slow. While this may seem like a minor detail, changing a button on a keyboard layout makes a huge difference in business when you have 2 hours to type 10 pages. 

Secondly is the size of the battery.  The battery itself is actually twice the height of the notebook. While the extra height has been added to the bottom of the battery allowing for angled typing, it may cause issues when storing the notebook as a whole unit.

At a list price of $999.99, one may want to consider skipping the Travelmate and instead holding out for a true Ultrabook computer. Acer’s S3 ultrabook model will be out before year’s end, and Toshiba is currently selling its Protégé Z830 series of ultrabook for a similar price.

Overall the Acer TravelMate is a great option for Windows users that are always on the go. The extended battery life means a not having a problem while on a transatlantic flight, using the full power of Windows applications – or playing Dragon Age.

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