Monday, August 17, 2009

Acer 1810T and 1410 - Introduction

The Acer 1810T is the European name of the 11.6" Timeline laptop. In the United States this system is called 1410. Acer previously released the 751 which was a netbook in a very similar frame. This time Acer has chosen the Intel CULV platform, leading to more powerful components. What's inside this ultraportable?

CPU: Intel SU3500 Core 2 Solo 1.4GHz
Screen: 11.6" WLED 1366*768 AU Optronics AUO205C
Hard drive: WD16000BEVT 160GB 2.5" SATA
Ethernet: Atheros AR 8131 gigabit
Wireless: Intel Wifi 5100 802.11a/b/g/Draft-N
Chipset: Mobile Intel GS45 Express Chipset
Graphics: Mobile Intel GS45 Express Chipset
Operating System: Vista Home Premium 32 bit
Battery 1810T: 5600 mAh 6 cell Lithium-Ion, 1410: 4400 mAh
Real Weight: 1.44 kg (1810T) (approx. 1.35 kg 1410)
Price: $449 in US, € 499 in Europe.

Read on to discover how this sleek ultra portable device performed.

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Design and Build Quality

The system is build very thin. Acer says it's 22.1mm at it's thinnest and 30mm at it's thickest. Especially the bottom half without the screen looks exceptionally thin. If you've had the Acer 751 in your hands you know what I mean.

The system feels very sturdy. There's no flex in the palm wrest area. The screen is more flexible, but this shouldn't be any problem. Pressing down on the keyboard I notice it hardly bends down.

The lid on the screen is made of entirely glossy material. It easily picks up finger prints so be ready to clean it often. Or walk around with a dirty notebook.

The palm wrest area looked a bit like steel. Actually I think it is plastic that has been painted. It looks classy though and it's an improvement over the Acer 751.

Another large improvement over the 751 is that the battery sits entirely flush. It doesn't stick out on the back or bottom. Overall I think Acer has done a great job on the design and build quality. It easily beats the other Timeline models. I'll be happy to take this laptop on my trips to the coffee shop.

The weight of the Acer 1810T proved to be 1.44 kg including the large 5600 mAh battery. The American 1410 will be lighter since it comes with 4400 mAh battery.

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Display Quality

The Acer 1810T uses a AU Optronics AUO205C with 1366*768 resolution. The 11.6" LED panel delivers a very sharp picture. Contrast isn't comparable to Macbook Pro or Sony Z levels, but it's good enough considering the price of this laptop.

This display is as glossy as it gets. At first I thought there was a plastic protective layer on the display but it turned out to be the normal coating. The panel is slightly above average notebook brightness but nothing special. It's not good enough to overpower reflection when working outside with sunlight.

At the right angle colors look pretty vibrant and photographs look realistic with help of the glossy coating. The screen has quite narrow vertical viewing angles. When tilting the screen forward contrast lowers quickly and colors become faded. Contrast is very dependent on the viewing angle. Tilting the screen slightly backward makes the contrast look better and colors more vibrant.

The AUO205C screen has been measured by
Average brightness 173,00 cd/m²
Black levels at 100 cd/m2 0,51 cd/m²
Black level at max. brightness cd/m² 0,96
Contrast at 100 cd/m2 196,00:1
Contrast at max. brightness 180,00:1

The same AUO205C display is used in Asus 1101HA, Acer 751 and a Gateway 11.6" model (Packard Bell in Europe).

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Keyboard and Touchpad

The keyboard on the 1810T is something to get used to. Acer has chosen a design that looks a bit like a chiclet keyboard, but there are gaps in between of the keys. I wonder if dirt will fall in between of the keys and how it will be cleaned. Time will tell. The size of the keyboard is 100%, that's another large advantage this 1810T (or 1410) has over almost every netbook. The keys itself are flat and have a slight texture giving quite a comfortable feel without being slippery. They keys have a decent amount of feedback. All strokes are registered and take little effort.

There is a little bit of keyboard flex but far less than other notebooks like Dell Studio 1555. After using the keyboard for a while I'm starting to like it a lot.

The touchpad is a Synaptics with support for multi finger gestures. It works accurate and responsive. Sometimes even too responsive as unwanted touches are easily registered. Changing the sensitivity fixed that. Some people might say the touchpad is too small. Personally it did not bother me after I increased the sensitivity.

One gripe about the touchpad is that the edges are quite hard to notice. I've been mistaking quite a few times, I wonder if I will get used to it.

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Speakers, Webcam and Wireless

After applying some tweaks, the speakers were very impressive for a notebook this size. When compared to netbooks like Samsung NC10 and Acer One, the Acer 1810T is a large improvement. I enjoyed watching some Youtube music clips. As I later watched some HD movies I did not need to connect my headphones. The sound was loud and clear.

Wireless Performance

Helped by the Intel 5100 a/b/g/n network card, the system picked up an above average amount of networks in my house. Connection was stable and transfer speeds left nothing to be desired. Connecting with a router with a weak signal was no problem.

Ports and connections

The great thing about the Acer 1810T is that it packs a HDMI port in an 11.6" laptop. When I connected it to my 22" HP LCD it immediately recognized the display and Vista asked me how I wanted to use it. I choose external display only and automatically the resolution was set to the native 1680*1050 resolution. Image looked maximum crisp as can be expected from a digital output.

Acer found room to squeeze in 3 USB ports, a VGA port, an SD card reader, an ethernet port and the normal headphones and mic connections.

Inside the 1810T there is no PCI-E slot left.

Overall Performance and Video Playback

The first thing I did was uninstall some of the bloatware. Especially Mcafee Antivirus is something I do not want on my system. After removing a couple of more unwanted applications I tested the system. It felt very snappy to me. Using the 1810T as a desktop, browsing with 20 tabs and playing some music in the background there was never a hick up. Hard drive performance was good, as applications and windows opened quickly.

Booting the system went surprisingly fast. It took only 41 seconds from pressing the power button until the desktop appeared. A few seconds later the system was ready to use.

I tested several video clips. Playing the 1080p wmv trailer of 'Rules of Attraction' caused a 100% CPU load at times, but the movie seemed smooth.

Most Youtube HD clips played smooth. Except Lady Gaga's Poker Face did not play smooth in HD. CPU load was at 100% and frames started skipping. The SU3500 doesn't have enough muscle power to play this clip.

Update 3rd Sept: several users have confirmed that the Lady Gaga clip plays much better on their 1810T with Windows 7.

I also tested some 1080p clips with the popular H264 format. Best results were gotten with Media Player Classic Home Cinema using Cyberlink Power DVD codec.

The trailer of The Bourne Ultimatum looked spectacular: Fast moving action without any dropped frames en audio perfectly in sync. CPU load would often peak at 100% but this was not a problem. Enabling DXVA made CPU load a lot lower at the expense of image quality. The 1080p trailer of 'I Am Legend' played smooth with relatively low CPU load (around 40-50%) after enabling DXVA.

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Benchmark Scores

I ran some benchmarks to get a feel of the SU3500 raw power. Running SuperPI took 15 seconds for the 512K calculation, 36 seconds for the 1M calculation.

Atom N270 83 seconds
Intel SU3500 36 seconds
Intel P8600 21 seconds

For comparisons to your favorite CPUs have a look here.

Passmark Performance Test 7, an overall performance benchmark delivered a 358 points Passmark Performance Rating. That's a lot more than Atom based netbooks that score around 200.
Acer 1810T - 358
Acer 751 (Atom z520) - 165
Asus 1000HE (Atom N270) - 235
Sony TT (SU9300)- 360

The Passmark CPU Mark for the SU3500 was 490.

Intel Atom N270 (1.60GHz) - 306
Intel Pentium M (2.00GHz) - 497
Intel C2D U7600 (1.20GHz) - 729
Intel C2D T5250 (1.50GHz) - 793

For comparison, here's the complete list of other CPUs. This list isn't 100% accurate though, as you can see by their rating of the SU3500.

Here's the Windows Experience Index, which can easily compared to your current Windows system.

Wprime 32M was completed in 108 seconds. Running HD Tune for the hard drive delivered no surprises. The single platter Western Digital Scorpio Blue works relatively fast, quiet and without vibration.

To test the game performance Doom 3 Timedemo 1 was run. In 640x480 resolution and medium quality 12.5 fps were displayed. In high quality the score was 11.6 fps.

Batterylife, Heat and Noise

After booting Windows Vista seems to indicate around 9-10 hours battery life, with semi dimmed screen and wireless network connected. This is very good for a 5600 mAh battery. Surfing the web for over 8 hours is possible, as long as not many flash based websites are visited (or Flashblock is used).

The American version 1410 will have a 4400 mAh battery which will be good for more than 6 hours.

Heat & Noise
Overall the machine is very quiet. During low CPU activity the fan is almost inaudible. I need to really pay attention to be able to pick up the sound of the fan.

When stressing the system the fan becomes a little bit more audible. But still it is relatively quiet. When comparing the 1810T to all the other laptops I've worked with it's one of the most quiet.

When I put the 1810T on the couch I noticed a strong increase in sound because the exhaust was blocked. When I lifted it it became quiet again.

For comparison: Acer 751 is even more quiet than the 1810T, while Sony Z makes a lot more noise than the 1810T.

Verdict: Great Value but....

The Acer 1810T managed to impress me. It's well built, very portable and powerful enough for most parts of normal use. It's performance and screen are a huge improvement over netbooks. Battery life performance is among the best in class.

The SU3500 CPU has some limitations in Vista, mainly HD flash playback. I'm looking forward to test the 1810TZ with SU4100 Dual Core, to see if it does better.

Several users running Windows 7 on their 1810T have confirmed that HD Flash playback runs much better than with Vista.

1080p video playback on the 1410 (1810T) looks nothing short of amazing due to the good performance, glossy screen and impressive sound of the small speakers. This notebook will be a great choice for movie lovers.

The value for money of this notebook is incredible. Not long ago it was impossible to get a system this light and powerful for less than $1000. Acer managed to do it for only $449. Given that some netbooks are just as expensive, the 1410 is likely to be a succes.

+ Good desktop/office performance
+ Great battery life
+ Very portable
+ Good build quality
+ Easy to upgrade (4GB or SSD)
+ HDMI port

- Screen not suitable for working in sunlight
- Core Solo CPU lacks some power for some HD Flash in Vista.

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