It hasn’t been long since Acer Inc. released its first Ultrabook. Late last year, I had the chance to try out the Acer Aspire S3 for a couple of weeks and it had carved itself a comfy spot among the handful of Ultrabooks available in the market back then. It’s been a little over six months since (in the world of technology that translates into a couple of years worth of innovation) and Ultrabooks have flooded the market. The options are aplenty and manufacturers now have no choice but to try and pack in the best, most efficient technologies into the Ultrabooks they make.

Acer Inc. recently launched two new Ultrabooks – the Aspire TimelineUltra M3 and M5. The higher-end version of the two, the M5, landed on my test bench. The ultrabook weighs about 2kgs and it did take me more effort than I’d like to expend on carrying a supposedly portable device around.

This is, however, not to say the M5 isn’t sleek enough a device. With a brushed aluminium body, the Acer Aspire TimelineUltra M5 has its fair share of elegance. The thin profile (11mm at the thinnest point) makes for an attractive form factor. If only it was as light as it looked! We were reminded of the Apple MacBook Pro, which is similarly heavy despite its thin looks.

The M5 grabs some spotlight as one of the very few Ultrabooks that comes with an optical drive. Some may say that integrating one is rather-old school (already!) but the fact that Acer has managed to include one and still come up with a thin form factor is quite impressive.

The model we reviewed comes with a 14-inch HD widescreen and features the company’s proprietary CineCrystal LED-backlit display. The screen is not distractingly reflective hence it makes for a good display to watch sitcoms or movies with a couple of your friends. I watched a couple of episodes of ‘Two and a Half Men’ and I was kept fairly engaged and not just because of Sheen’s shenanigans.

One of the parameters that Acer’s first ultrabook, the Aspire S 3, had failed to impress with was the sound quality. Despite the unit featuring professionally tuned speakers augmented by Dolby Home Theater v4, the volume levels had been really low. This time around, Acer seems to have pulled all stops when it comes to audio quality. The device still features the same Dolby Technology but the speakers now do a wonderful job of streaming music and vocals. Also, the volume levels are loud enough to attract a few stares if you accidently forgot to mute your system at work! The only niggle with the speakers is the fact that they are placed on the underside of the body. So, if you are using it on a relatively soft surface like on a mattress or your lap, the sound invariably gets muffled.

Acer seems to be playing around with the Power button with every new model they produce. I’m not proud of the fact that I had to look for at least half a minute to locate the Power button on the M5. But then, you’d hardly expect it to be lodged at the slope between the keyboard and the base of the Ultrabook. The build quality of the M5 is at par with most other Ultrabooks in the market and the device seems sturdy enough

The M5 comes with a full-sized, comfortably spaced island-style keyboard. Backlit keys make it easy to game or type in at night with the lights off.

Most of the ports – except the 3.5mm microphone jack and the SD card reader – are located on the back of the Ultrabook. While this is not the most convenient place to plug a USB drive, this is the price you have to pay for a device that features an optical drive.

The ultrabook features Acer’s InstantOn technology which works when you want to resume operation from the Sleep mode. The technology works to wake the system up in about 1.5 seconds and this turned out to be a decent estimate. The M5 also features

Acer Always Connect which makes sure your content has been refreshed (with an internet connection) while the Ultrabook was still in the Sleep mode.

One positive about the M5 was that there was barely a sign of the system getting over-heated during use.My guess is Acer has employed the same design style of keeping all the heat generating components away from the palm rest and touchpad area leaving warm air to be funnelled away from the back. There might also be venting throughout the keyboard to keep the system cool like they did with the Aspire S3.

The Ultrabook is powered by a 3rd Generation Intel Core i5 - 3317U processor, belonging to Intel’s Mobile Processor Series. The graphics rendered on the system istaken care of by an NVIDIA GeForce GT640M.

On our standard Novabench performance test, the Aspire TimelineUltra scored 509 points. The software tested the unit's RAM speed and CPU, graphics and hardware performance. Overall, the score is about 40 points higher than that of the Aspire S3.

The Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M5 is currently the best that Acer has to offer when it comes to Ultrabooks. The M5 would be an ideal pick if you wanted to get a laptop for yourself to replace the desktop experience at home. A tad bit on the heavier side, the M5 was not exactly a joy to be carrying around town. The addition of the optical drive (one feature that you will not find on most other Ultrabooks) also works to its favour.

If you want something that weighs lesser, even marginally so, you might want to consider the Aspire TimelineUltra M3.

Love – Decent build quality, impressive sound,

Hate – Not exactly light-weight, ports on the backside

Rs 47,999 onwards

(This article was published on July 17, 2012)
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