Most people usually overlook the hinges because laptops stay open or stay closed most of the time. The actual amount of time you spend interacting with the hinges is minimal, yet we feel the hinges on a notebook play a huge part in forming your first (and probably lasting) impression of a notebook. If the process of opening the lid is hassle-free and one handed, then it means you’ll be starting your experience with the notebook on a good note like we did with the Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3.
Once you open the machine, you’ll be greeted with more plastic, but this may not necessarily be a bad thing. The overall feeling of robust build is consistent with what could be found on the exterior of the machine. It still retains the all-black look, but this time it’s broken up by the metallic gray found on the keyboard housing, which is also plastic.
Often-times, when a keyboard housing is made of plastic, you will experience some flexing of various degrees. In this case, we found that there was indeed some flex on the keyboard, especially towards the center of the keyboard. However most of this review was also written on the M3, so take it from us, whatever flex you would encounter, it will not affect your daily use of this machine. That’s because even though the keys are shallow, they give a good deal of resistance (which means they aren't mushy) to make the overall typing experience fairly satisfactory.
The next thing we enjoyed using was the very big clickable trackpad. It’s not glass or anything fancy, and is made of the same matte black plastic material as the rest of the palmrest. For a plastic clickpad, it didn’t really lose in terms of feel to a clickpad that is made of glass. The slight bit of texture that the clickpad has, didn't result in too much friction and allows you to get that cursor where you need to go. In fact, we found that the texture prevented any kind of residue build-up that would compromise the usability of the trackpad in the long run.
Usually, the two most important components on a notebook when it comes to its multimedia capabilities are its display and speakers (given the adequate standard performance of most platforms anyway). We’re very pleased to report that the speakers on the M3 are more than adequate for all typical needs you might have while on the go. We didn’t expect the speakers on such a small machine to amount to anything, but when we tried watching movies and playing games on it, we were pleasantly surprised. Sound from the machine was not only loud, but also pretty clear. Bass however, was quite weak, but given how affordable and slim the machine is, we really doubt there is any space for subwoofers to make an appearance on the M3.
As for the screen, well let’s just say we were very disappointed over the choice of a LCD panel with a resolution of just 1366 x 768 pixels. If there’s anything that we’ve learnt from the recent iPad launch (which sports a higher than full HD resolution), it would be that high resolutions on a small screens do make sense and are great for multimedia consumption. Surely the only reason Acer chose such a standard display resolution for a 15.6-inch screen is definitely related to a costing issue. Yes, the M3 is supposed to be affordable, which of course it is if you managed to get one from the recent IT Show. But at some point, we’d like manufacturers to turn to higher resolution displays, because a 1366 x 768 pixels resolution on a 15.6-inch screen looks exceptionally bad next to a new iPad. comparisons aside, think of the limited real desktop work space you get despite a large screen. We might have lived this disparity a few short years ago, but these days, with even 13-inch Ultrabooks sporting the same resolution (some even go up to 1600 x 900 pixels resolution), there won’t be any excuses that would satisfy consumers.
To make matters worse, there isn’t even an option for a higher resolution screen to go along with that spanking new graphics module from NVIDIA. If there was an option for a better display, we wouldn’t have to go so far as to declare the M3’s glossy screen (with terrible viewing angles by the way) the weakest link in this otherwise capable and 15.6-inch slim notebook.