Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3 Review: Kepler's First Laptop
Gaming On An Ultrabook, Conclusion
Ultrabook Gaming – The Next Big Thing?
Nvidia was obviously proud of the fact that the company’s new Kepler architecture made its debut in a thin and light laptop. The green team’s marketing folks even took a jab at Intel by saying that Nvidia’s new GPU puts the “ultra” in ultrabook.
That particular pun is a bit lame, but there’s no arguing that Kepler is an impressive mobile architecture. In one swoop, Nvidia has managed to transformer the ultrabook from a device capable of playing only older 3D games at low frame rates into a fully capable gaming platform that can handle demanding titles.
It’s not just the performance of Kepler that is impressive, either. Nvidia’s Optimus is unarguably the best switchable graphics solution on the market and the company’s Verde driver program is the best in the business. The overall user experience delivered by the green team looks to be a winner.
Does this mean we will so see a flood of gaming capable ultrabooks? Don’t hold your breath.
The 15.6” Acer clearly struggles to handle the GT 640M. The external temperatures of the laptop are unacceptable, which leads us to believe that it wouldn’t be possible to place this same GPU in a chassis built for a 13.1” or 13.3” display. This fact alone is going to limit adoption of Kepler in ultrabooks.
CPU performance is also an issue. In Dawn of War 2: Retribution the GT 640M is clearly let down by the low-voltage Intel CPU. You can expect to see similar limitations in other CPU-bound titles. Putting a Kepler based GPU into an ultrabook seems a bit of a waste.
I am sure that we’ll see a few companies, such as Alienware, design specialty gaming laptops with Kepler GPUs and Ivy Bridge low voltage processors – but those will be niche designs for a niche market.
Not all the news is bad, however. This ultrabook clearly shows us the direction of future laptops. You shouldn’t be surprised to see the next version of your favorite gaming laptop shave a half-inch or more off its thickness while also improving battery life. The performance will still be less than a desktop, of course, but portability and enjoyable gaming performance will soon cease to be a contradiction.
The Acer Asprie M3 offers good gaming performance at an affordable price. Nvidia’s GT 640M is, of course, the key to the excellent graphics performance. It is able to demolish current competitive laptops. Better yet, the Optimus switchable graphics makes it possible to do this without having a negative impact on battery life. This Acer’s endurance is no different than what we’d expect from a laptop without discrete graphics.
In fact, the gaming performance of this laptop is nearly on par with entry-level gaming laptops like the Alienware M14x. While the low-voltage Core i5 processor is a disadvantage, this Acer actually offers better performance in Battlefield 3 than the M14x. It’s remarkable that such capable hardware is now available in a affordable and basic system.
The GT 640M does cause a problem, however – heat. If this Acer was meant to prove that mid-range discrete graphics can comfortably fit into an ultrabook chassis, it has failed. The temperatures we recorded from this laptop’s exterior are simply unacceptable, and we do not recommend this laptop on that basis alone.
And that’s not the Acer’s only sin. It’s bland, the display is too reflective, and the power button is in a terrible location. Such problems could be compensated for by other benefits, but instead the laptop offers an unremarkable user interface and average battery life.
Impressive as the graphics performance of this laptop is, we urge readers to wait. We will see a slew of new Kepler powered laptops over the coming months and we’re confident that most will be better than this one. We’re not sure why Nvidia decided to lead by placing its flagship processor in such a poor laptop – it may be that everyone else is waiting to release Kepler in new Ivy Bridge designs – but whatever the reason, the conclusion is the same.
The GT 640M is a very good product. The Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3 isn’t.
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