updated 08:40 am EDT, Wed April 8, 2009
Acer has launched itself into direct contention against systems like the MacBook Air and ThinkPad X301 with the release of the Timeline series. The notebooks have screens at 13.3, 14 and 15.6 inches but use ultra low-voltage Core 2 Duo and Solo processors to keep the systems light and, combined with LED-backlit displays, extend their battery life well past other designs. Acer's smallest system weighs just 3.5 pounds, and battery life measures as much as 10 hours with an optional 80GB solid-state drive; even with a rotating hard drive, systems still net as much as 8 hours.
The systems are significantly thicker than competitors, with thicknesses ranging between 0.9 and 1.1 inches, but are countered by special attention to design, according to the company. In addition to Air-style "chiclet" keys and a multi-touch trackpad with support for pinch and circular motions, the casing takes advantage of Intel's laminar jet airflow design to push the cooler air towards the bottom of the notebook. A smart power adapter also boosts Acer's green status by reducing the amount of energy used when the notebook is connected on a full charge.
Crucially, the company prices the systems well below conventional ultraportables and gives them prices just above netbooks; while base specifications aren't available, prices should range between $699 and $899. Basic systems should start with a 1.4GHz Core 2 Solo, an integrated GMA 4500 graphics chipset, 802.11n Wi-Fi and no optical drive; the 14- and 15.6-inch models both have DVD burners. Systems scale up to a 1.6GHz Core 2 Duo and 4GB of DDR3 memory, with up to a 320GB hard drive in pre-built models. Buyers can also option out as much as 8GB of RAM and 500GB disks as well as a combo Wi-Fi/WiMAX transceiver to pick up 4G Internet access on Clear or Sprint.
The Timeline series is believed to represent the early wave of systems based on Intel's CULV (Consumer Ultra Low Voltage) concept, which should bring the prices of ultraportable-grade processors and notebooks to the mainstream. Intel plans a more formal launch in summer and intends the pricing to most systems to sit just above netbooks.