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 Post subject: silent, powerful affordable laptop - Acer TimelineX 3820TG
PostPosted: Sat Aug 28, 2010 4:41 am 
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Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
I think I found the perfect laptop. It's 3.9 lbs, can handle processors up to i7 640M, has a powerful Ati HD5650 videocard what is switchable to Intel.

Because of no optical drives, it has two heatsinks with two fans on the right and left side of the laptop. It means a million times better cooling than on normal laptops where both chips are cooled with a single fan.

I can OC it to 3.35 Ghz without problems! Or put in a i5 580M or i7 640M beast when the new BIOS comes out. From a 3.9 lbs / 1.7 kg laptop it's really impressive!

When overclocked I could get 16.7 sec wPrime 32M results. My desktop Q6600 does 18.7 sec, but it is a Quad Core! OC-ed 3dmark06 score: 9600 (someone did 10000 with a better OC-able unit).

I can confirm that on really good brightness levels, while browsing the internet, it has discharge rate of about 7000 mW, what means 9 hour battery life on the stock battery, or 12 hour on the 9 cell extended one.

And it is the first laptop I've met what has a really silent fan profile from factory. The hightest level only switches on at about 85 C degrees! And the highest level is as loud as a normal level for other laptops, for example my Thinkpad X61 was louder at 50 C.

It still has shortcomings, what needs to be addressed.
- The display still has issues, brightness fluctuations and brightness shifting.
- Not all units are OC-able, some of them use different clockgens.

If you would like to read 400 page long threads about it, here you go:
http://forum.notebookreview.com/acer/48 ... s-420.html

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 28, 2010 8:44 am 
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Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2010 4:15 am
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Location: Netherlands
Acer laptops do indeed come out #1 when looking at specs only. My experience however is that case build quality is something to pay attention to, and Acer is not known for its life-long-lasting titanium laptops. Go to the shop and touch the thing. Ask around for user reviews of its predecessors or something. You mentioned display quirks, I'll add unreliable USB ports. Got both these problems on my Acer laptop. I can literally bend the whole laptop: the thing is not.. whats the word...tight.

Perhaps there's some info in that owners thread on build sturdyness ;-)


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 28, 2010 9:53 am 
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Location: Bratislava, Slovak Republic
I have this laptop - well, try to bend the aluminum cover at the top :). After few Toshibas, i switched to this one (3820TG, i5 430M, Intel integrated + HD5650), laptop is dead silent except a few second fan spinups happening sometimes. No problems with my build, display is same as for all 13.3" laptops (can't be really different as there is pretty much only one source for 13.3" displays).

TimelineX vs rest of the Acer products is something like Elitebook vs Pavilion in case of HP (read Pavilion sucks, Elitebook is a very good product).

Btw TimelineX 3820TG vs 92x92x25mm fan :)
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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Aug 28, 2010 10:42 am 
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Can you post the display hardware ID or whatever? As shown here (this is for my dell 2209WA, for reference only)

Image

Also, any coil whine?

Also, any distributors in north america?



EDIT: we have a version in Canada with i5 ati 5470 for 699$ on sale
http://www.staples.ca/ENG/Catalog/cat_s ... e=WW&=&=&=

I went in store, the model I saw had an AUO322C. I decided against it because I felt iffy about the display panel. Although, its possible 13.3 might just be too small for me and I haven't realized it yet :/

Anyway I bought a thinkpad EDGE 13.3 for 100$ less. It's got a lot less horsepower but hopefully it makes up for it by with its keyboard and screen.

Will report back.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Aug 28, 2010 11:08 am 
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Location: Bratislava, Slovak Republic
Yes, AUO322C. There is very small selection of display manufacturers, and they really don't differ that much. I can't tell a difference between the 1280x800 display from LG of my previous 13.3" Toshiba, compared to the current 1366x768 AUO display in Acer. All 13.3"'s are TN, so there is no good laptop display, just bad and worse. If you need a quality display on your laptop, you don't want a laptop.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Aug 28, 2010 11:42 am 
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faugusztin wrote:
Yes, AUO322C. There is very small selection of display manufacturers, and they really don't differ that much. I can't tell a difference between the 1280x800 display from LG of my previous 13.3" Toshiba, compared to the current 1366x768 AUO display in Acer. All 13.3"'s are TN, so there is no good laptop display, just bad and worse. If you need a quality display on your laptop, you don't want a laptop.


oddly enough I find some laptop displays pretty good (as well some TN desktop displays pretty good), some of them medium, and some of them gosh-awful.

For example, the macbook pro 13 has a nice display (or maybe it's OSX renderring?), and many LG and Samsung Made panels are quite alright for laptops.

AUO303C on a 14" gateway wasn't too bad either.

I don't like high resolution / high PPI displays, regardless or any specs. 13.3" walks the line on my PPI tolerance.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Aug 28, 2010 12:12 pm 
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Location: Bratislava, Slovak Republic
Macbook 13.3" = LG display, as in the most 1280x800 13.3" laptops. And as i said, i don't feel too much difference between these two. Of course, there can be differences with viewing angles, but seriously, when was last time you were looking at laptop's LCD from side ? :)

In the end, what does really count it the noise (there is pretty much none in idle and low load), and compared to some others even the load noise is very good (thanks to dual cooling, one for CPU and one for HD5650). Also the build quality of this laptop is very high imho, and then there is the height - it is unbelievably thin (as you can see on photo, it's less than one inch).


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Aug 28, 2010 1:05 pm 
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@ 3820TG owners:

How annoying is the glossy screen?
I really love the specs of this laptop but the glossy screen turns me of. Totally.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Aug 28, 2010 2:28 pm 
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Location: Bratislava, Slovak Republic
It's glossy like any other laptop with glossy display :). Good luck finding a non-glossy one.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Aug 28, 2010 3:26 pm 
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Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
About build quality: before this laptop, I only liked IBM Thinkpad T and X laptops for build quality, but this one is really good. I would even say better than Thinkpads since the Lenovo era. No plastic noises, no keyboard flex at all, non-aggressive fan profiles. Definitely not like any kind of budget laptop.

About silence:
- as said the fan profiles are very good in the BIOS, with Thinkpad I always had to tinker with manual fan settings, with this, it's smooth and non-aggressive.
- no CPU whine. That's what made me sell my Thinkpad X61. I just could tolerate it when in the middle of the night everything was silent, except my coil buzz. Lenovo support literally laughed at me. No more Lenovo for me, thanks.
- the best feature: manually selectable graphic card. When doing everyday work or listening to music, or anything not requiring the graphic power of the ATI card, I can just switch to Intel gfx and then the right side of the laptop becomes totally silent and cool.
- the two fan on two sides design is very efficient in cooling, but almost no other laptops have this feature (only possible without optical drive)
- loudest component by far is the WD Blue hard drive

Display:
- AUO322C panel
- colors are good
- there is a very visible screen grid, annoying
- very very annoying brightness shifting. I returned my first one because it went up or down one brightness level once every 20 seconds. Now, the replacement does it once in 10 minutes. I could return this one too, as most of the owners say they have a good screen, but I don't think I have the change to get an other overclockable unit
- there is one owner who received a very new build with a Samsung panel and he says it's a million times better than the AUO. I hope it means Acer changed to Samsung panels for future manufacturing.
- I plan on using it mostly with an external monitor (NEC 2180, a real S-IPS beauty), this way it's not that bad.
- as an old matte panel user, I was really afraid of the glossy panels, but these LED display are so bright, that I didn't even notice it, except for the better color saturation. The missing Trackpoint is a much bigger issue for me as is the 16:9 ratio screen. I don't get it, Apple started all this wide screen craziness, and now it's only Apple who is still using 16:10 panels (except for a few mobile workstations), everyone else is using 16:9 panels, even a Thinkpad T510 is now made for "entertainment"....


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Sep 11, 2010 11:40 am 
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Okay so I just got this (the Radeon 5470 version). Thus far I agree with whats been said. I take back my worried about the screen. It's average, but not really annoying so far, could deal with this easily.

As for the noise, the fan seems smooth ... 2 fans + (I'm assuming 2 heat sink assemblies) is a winning combination.

As for coil whine, this is always the part I'm tough on. This laptop seems to have significantly less coilwhine than the other ones I've tried recently. It also doesn't seem to whine all the time, and when it does it's not as bad as other units I've used.

I'm the biggest complainer of coil whine out there (probably) - I've only had this laptop for 1 day... I'm predicting that I'll be able to tolerate this whine, for once (after trying like 6 laptops in the last 2 years...)

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Sep 11, 2010 1:13 pm 
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The glossy screen of the 3820TG would make it a tough choice for me.

My 2 current laptops are 13.3" IBM x300 and 11.3" Gateway 1803h. Almost opposite ends of CULV notebooks. I wish I could combine the long battery life of the 1803h w/ the keyboard of the x300, the brightness of the 1803h screen w/ the matte, more color correct screen of the x300. No one seems to be striving for perfect balance in notebooks anymore, it's just a race to more hardware at lower prices. Where has ergonomics gone? It should be priority #1 w/ notebooks.

Lamenting the state of laptops by Geoff Gasior at the Tech Report is apropos.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Sep 11, 2010 3:25 pm 
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That's a nice read. I've been thinking of making my own writeup about laptops, relative to coil whine, poor panel quality, and strange choices in bad touchpads and keyboards design (not to mention the rarity of high end graphics in compact notebooks, even with the emergence of hybrid/switchable graphics).

I'm not sure how you tolerate the Gateway 1803h display panel. It's easily the worst display I've used, I had to return it. (didn't have much coil whine though...). Of course, manufacturers tend to use different panels for the same hardware so it's possible you just had a better one than me. Mine looked really washed out and plain. If I turned the gamma down to compensate it helped a little... and the screen flickered on battery power.

Of course, I tend to like low/mediumres displays to facilitate reading text. The acer seems to be a good overall choice although the 5650 version would be a lot nicer....

If you're concerned about the screen you could always swap it out yourself... if you dont mind scrapping your warranty heh. That's too big a risk for me but you never know extreme measures someone might take have a tolerable laptop.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Oct 02, 2010 3:45 pm 
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Looks like a nice laptop. But, is the fastest I/O usb 2.0?

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Oct 02, 2010 3:53 pm 
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Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
Yep, it is it's biggest problem. I think while USB 3.0 is not implemented in the Intel chipsets, it will not be widely available in battery time oriented laptops.

eSATA on the other hand would have been possible for a few penny more at the factory.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Oct 03, 2010 2:18 am 
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zsero wrote:
Yep, it is it's biggest problem. I think while USB 3.0 is not implemented in the Intel chipsets, it will not be widely available in battery time oriented laptops.

eSATA on the other hand would have been possible for a few penny more at the factory.


Yeah I just noticed myself that this laptop doesn't have Firewire, USB3.0, or eSATA. It also doesn't have an expresscard slot, so adding any of these is pretty much impossible.

It's forgivable though, given the laptop's price point and target market. It's unlikely someone would choose a thin&light to do video editing, or as any sort of performance workstation / desktop replacement work. It's really just a coincidence that it has the horsepower to do so.

It does come with gigabit LAN though, that's what I used when I had to dump 30gb of data onto it. I'm pretty sure the bottleneck was the notebook hard drive in that case, so I'm definitely not holding any grudges on the lack of USB 3.0 or Firewire.

EDIT: Build quality

I forgot to mention, the built quality seems good, except for the display bezel. I feel it's not rigid enough overall and the display has some flex, I don't know how well it could handle some shock or wear & tear. When I'm holding the laptop closed with one hand, it sort of 'clicks' a little from the gap between the bottom screen bezel and the laptop.

Any tips on how I might "rigidize" the bezel

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Oct 03, 2010 4:41 am 
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Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
I think you cannot. I always put the black micro-fibre cloth between the display and the keyboard, to save the display from marks when transporting.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Oct 03, 2010 4:49 am 
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zsero wrote:
I think you cannot. I always put the black micro-fibre cloth between the display and the keyboard, to save the display from marks when transporting.


I thinking some hard plastic might do the trick :/

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