Acer Aspire Timeline M3 Ultra pictures and hands-on

Until now the Ultrabook just hasn't been that ultra. Compared to the MacBook Air not much has been able to match its day-to-day computing speeds. But where Windows triumphs is in gaming, the problem is that the size of an Ultrabook makes putting a decent GPU inside relatively hard. 

This has all changed with the Timeline M3, which features one of Nvidia's new mobile GPUs - the 640m. With 1GB of Video memory inside, Nvidia is telling us that this Ultrabook can run Battlefield 3 on ultra settings at the laptop's native 1366 x 768 resolution. 

On top of this, the M3 has an i5 2467m clocked at 1.6 GHz and 4GB of RAM. There is an 256 GB SSD option but the version we had featured a 450GB hard drive.  The standard Ultrabook internals make for a decent enough Windows experience with very little lag. Start up and instant on also work very well, as does the battery, which lives up to the touted 8 hours Acer is saying it's capable of. Even more impressive is that the graphics card, even when running under load, will shorten the battery life only to about five hours. 

Acer has gone for a 15.6" CineCrystal LED display with this laptop. It makes the hardware slightly beefier and detracts from that portability element you expect from an Ultrabook. The inclusion of a disc drive also adds quite a bit of thickness, making the M3 closer to the size of a MacBook Pro. It seems the Ultrabook moniker is now being applied to hardware of all different shapes and sizes. At 20mm thick, this is nearly more than double the MacBook Air. 

In terms of hardware, the M3 is a bit of a mixed bag. The touchpad for example, is quite frankly terrible. But then the keyboard is really nice to use, as is the screen, which is balanced and has decent viewing angles. The brushed-metal body is definitely slightly more premium feeling than many Windows laptops and helps add to the high spec feel of the M3. It is, however, a real magnet for finger marks, so expect to be wiping it clean a lot. Dolby home theatre speakers ensure that whatever game you are playing sounds decent enough through the M3, but don't expect any serious levels of bass or balance coming from its speakers. 

So can the M3 deliver on the graphics front? In a word, yes. Battlefield 3 really does run on ultra at a more than playable frame rate. The Ultrabook chomps through games like Batman Arkham City or Mass Effect 3, which is amazing given the next most-powerful gaming laptop, the Alienware M17x, weighs a ton and is much thicker. 

All in all a good laptop package then. Acer does need to cut down on its included software though, because there is all sorts of rubbish that will boot on startup. Once you have that cleaned out, this is one of the nippiest and lightest portable Windows experiences available.

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