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Acer Aspire Timeline U M5-581TG review

Kat Orphanides
17 May 2013
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
600
inc VAT

Poor touchpad design puts a bit of a crimp in this otherwise outstanding laptop’s usability

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Specifications

15.6 in 1,366x768 display, 2.4kg, 1.8GHz Intel Core i5-3317U, 6.00GB RAM, 500GB disk, Windows 8

We love the sleek, slim metallic styling of the Acer Aspire Timeline U M5-581TG. It's also light, thin and tough enough to carry anywhere. It carries Ultrabook branding, though at 2.4kg it's heavier than most laptops with that label. It's a singularly lovely object, but the M5-581TG isn’t without its unfortunate quirks of design. Most notable of these is the positioning of the touchpad.

Acer Aspire Timeline U M5-581TG

There's very little space on the wrist rest to the left of the pad, and we found ourselves unable to type comfortably without brushing it and moving the cursor to a random location on the screen. This is, needless to say, intensely annoying when typing long documents. Over time we were able to adapt our typing style to largely avoid brushing it, but it's a nuisance nonetheless. You’ll probably have to use a program such as Touchfreeze, which automatically disables the touchpad when you’re typing.

Disregarding this issue, the keyboard, with its slim numeric keypad on the right, is accurate to type on, while the touchpad is sensitive and fairly comfortable to use. Its integrated buttons don't make life particularly easy if you need to click and drag, such as when you have to copy files from one folder to another, however. As with other laptops with this type of touchpad, we found it was easiest to copy and paste files than drag and drop.

Acer Aspire Timeline U M5-581TG

The rest of the chassis' design is much more sensible. Most of the ports are at the back, including an HDMI output, Gigabit Ethernet port and three USB ports. Two of these are USB3. The ports' positioning on the rear rather than the sides makes it marginally more difficult to connect devices, but means that you won't have to move trailing cables out of your way, and is more convenient when using a wired mouse if you have a narrow desk. Unusually for such a slim laptop, there's a DVD-RW drive as well as the expected SDXC card reader. The specification is rounded out with a 500GB hard disk and dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi. The laptop also has a 20GB SSD, which is configured as a cache disk to help improve boot and application loading times.

Acer Aspire Timeline U M5-581TG

Audio output is covered by a 3.5mm headset port which can also take standard stereo headphone or speaker connections. The integrated speaker is okay for voice and a spot of YouTube but is too tinny and lacking in bass for music. The glossy 15.6in 1,366x768 display isn't quite as glaringly reflective as the displays of some rival laptops, and while it's not the brightest around, colours are vivid and the screen has a surprisingly good range of viewing angles as well as even backlighting.