Acer Aspire M3 Review

What We Think

The Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3 has got a lot of people excited and mostly, rightly so. It’s a great laptop for gaming on the go and offers plenty of power and great battery life. It’s not beautiful, has a quite lacklustre display and isn’t made of space age materials, but with one of nVIDIA’s latest graphics cards plonked inside its slim body, it’s one to consider, most definitely.

Introduction

Is an ultrabook, still and ultra book if it has more than a 13.3in screen? Well, Intel would say it isn’t, however Acer may differ in opinion with their new Aspire M3 – the companies low cost super slim laptop.

The sleek looking device is not really an attempt by Acer to redefine the ultrabook dimensions, but unlike most of its Intel regulated contemporaries comes with a GPU and so is aimed at the portable gaming market. Weighing in at just under  2kg, the Aspire is a little heavier than most Ultrabooks and though a mere 20mm thick – it’s slim –  but still a long way off the ASUS Zenbook, or MacBook Air and so is essentially an ultraportable laptop

Design

As we’ve mentioned it flaunts its supposed ultrabook credentials, though for the pedantic among us is more ultraportable laptop than full blown ultrabook. Aesthetically, it’s quite minimalist and is essentially a plastic machine, with a metal cover and reasonably sturdy. We did notice some flex in the cover with a hefty poke of our finger.

Nevertheless ,the plastic construction is quite good, considering the miniscule depth, though does have a tendency for finger marks, meaning you’ll need a cloth at the ready. Considering its gaming orientation; it doesn’t really scream too loud and avoids the vents and neon so many others like the MSI GT680 prioritise when releasing a gaming laptop.

When opened it’s also quite subtle and has a grey on black livery, many will find forgettable. The keyboard is the expected chiclet style and reasonably okay, though can feel a little mushy and there certainly are better out there.It’s also not backlight, which is a shame. The touchpad is all-in-on as most are these days and  has a grippy texture and quite accurate gestures. Those looking to game will clearly wish to plug a mouse into one of the three USBs on offer for playing their games on the 15.6in display.

Screen

The display is a disappointing 1366x768p, which might work on a 11 inch laptop, or just about on a 13.3 inch, but is notably poor credentials for a 15.6 inch display. To add insult to injury it’s glossy and so reflects light quite notably and offers poor viewing angles, meaning unless you’re in front of the screen, viewing is a struggle. It doesn’t offer the pin point accuracy of the likes of the ASUS Zenbook and you feel the addition of this display is to keeping cost down.

Gamers will be disappointed, especially when they compare this to some of Dell’s Alienware screens. The screen also lacks the brightness of the likes of the Sony VAIO SE, and black levels are quite greyish. It comes with upwards facing speakers, which provide average soundscapes and some distortion at high levels and a 1.3mp camera, which is perfectly adequate for the machine, which has more than enough power for HD images and video.

Performance

Our Acer Aspire M3 was catered for with a Intel i5 chip of the Sandy Bridge persuasion. It’s the 2467m chip to be precise and is aided by 4GB of RAM and can clock up to 2.3GHz with Intel’s Turbo Boost technology.

Acer has added a number of options in the storage stakes and a 256SSD is available. For those looking for cheaper kicks there is also a 450GB hybrid hard drive, which uses flash memory to ensure the Instant on times of under 2 seconds from sleep.

The laptop also comes with a GeForce GT640 GPU, which has NVIDIA’s Kepler technology, and powers the 15.6inch screen to gaming heights. Unlike smaller machines, who’s aesthetics make placing a GPU inside hard work, the Acer has more internal room to play with, luckily. Those who want to play some Battlefield on the move will be more than surprised and find themselves reaching quite smooth 25+ fps rates. For gamers this is a little bit astounding given the price of gaming machines that produce similar effects and are larger in size, such as the MSI GT680.

Connectivity is also quite good and Acer has included three USBs, one of which is  3.0 version, as well as Ethernet, a HDMI port, SD, a power button and a DVD drive. One oversight is that most of these are positioned at the back of the device which makes for irritation when connecting in a hurry.

On the upside, battery life is good and the device manages up to 8 hours in everyday use, as well as nearly 155 minutes when pushed by strenuous battery tests, which is impressive considering its gaming pedigree.

Our Verdict

In conclusion the Aspire M3 is a mixed bag, though an exciting prospect at the same time. Getting the negative over first – it doesn’t light the world on fire aesthetically and its screen is far too low of resolution.However, it’s a gaming powerhouse, you can use for everyday tasks and also on the go, as it’s extremely portable. It’s also quite well put together considering its a slim, plastic machine and if it arrives in the UK at the prices it’s hinted to arrive at – it’ll be a hell of a bargain.  The M3 is not an ultrabook, but a very good ultraportable laptop, those looking for low cost portable gaming will be endeared by and is set for release in the UK very soon.

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