First Hands-On: Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3 Ultrabook With Discrete Graphics (Video)

Ever since ultrabooks first debuted a few months ago I’ve been both excited and disappointed by them. I love me some super skinny and light enough to carry everywhere hardware, but I also need me some serious power.

Last week at CeBIT Acer set out to answer my prayers when they introduced the Aspire Timeline Ultra M3, a 15-inch ultrabook with discrete graphics. That’s right, kids: Nvidia GeForce GT640M GPU goodness coupled with an Intel Core i processor. I remember thinking: maybe, just maybe that laptop will be decent at crunching video.

However, now that I’ve seen it in action, I cannot wait to get my hands on one.

Today Nvidia showed off the gaming prowess of the Timeline Ultra M3 by firing up Battlefield 3. Keep in mind that this is an ultrabook, even though it has a 15-inch screen, so the CPU is still low-voltage. Thanks to the new Kepler-type GPU Nvidia is able to deliver more power and performance twice as efficiently. That means you can get powerful chips in thin laptops and not cause a fire hazard.

Ultrabooks are about to get a lot more interesting.

The Timeline Ultra M3 can play games as detailed and graphics intense as Battlefield 3 with settings turned up to Ultra with no problems. We’re talking smooth gameplay, graphics, movement, everything. You’ll get the full gaming experience with Kepler GPUs no matter what kind of laptop you have.

Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3

Even if you aren’t a gamer you can benefit from the power the GPU provides. Photo editing, video editing, and 3D rendering speed up considerably when compared to the integrated graphics found in other ultrabooks. Even if you only do a little video editing with movies from your phone or only fire up an image editor to get rid of red eye, all of those tasks will take even less time.

Plus, for laptops with Nvidia’s Optimus technology, you won’t see a major hit in battery life. The GPU will only kick in when needed, not when you’re just typing something in Word or checking email.

As for the Aspire Timeline Ultra M3 itself, I am very impressed with how light it is for a 15-inch notebook. I can see myself carrying it on trips, to meetings, and anywhere I need both portability and power.

Inside you can get up to a Intel Core i7-2637M processor, up to 6GB of RAM, and configurations with a hybrid hard drive/SSD combo or SSD only up to 256GB. This ultrabook also has an optical drive. It weighs just 5.07 pounds and is made form an aluminum alloy that feels as sturdy as it does lightweight. Acer promises up to 8 hours of battery life.

The only drawback specs-wise is the resolution: 1366 x 768. I asked the Nvidia reps I met with today about that and it turns out this isn’t just the result of notebook makers keeping costs down by not using higher density panels. When you up the resolution, the CPU and GPU have to work harder to support it. And given that ultrabooks need to keep the voltage low for the sake of a thin chassis, we’re not likely to see many higher resolutions in the near future.

However, I’m willing to deal with “just” HD resolution in order to get my portable powerhouse.

The Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3 will hit retail stores soon. Official pricing isn’t available, but the laptop is selling in Singapore for the equivalent of $1035 (according to PCWorld), so I suspect a $999 price announcement is forthcoming.

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