In an interesting twist, back in March when NVIDIA was unveiling their new Kepler GPUs, Acer started shipping their Timeline Ultra M3 Ultrabook before the Kepler NDA expired. While everyone else was apparently busy trying to get their Ivy Bridge laptops and Ultrabooks ready, Acer decided to beat them to the punch by releasing a Sandy Bridge Ultrabook with NVIDIA’s latest and greatest mobile GPU, the GT 640M. The biggest problem for those interested in the TimelineU M3 was that it was primarily for Asian markets and never showed up at the major US retailers.

Three months later, Acer is back with the expected Ivy Bridge upgrades, and this time we should see widespread availability in North America (and presumably in the rest of the world as well, though model numbers are likely to vary somewhat). Here’s the rundown of the three initial Timeline Ultra M5 models slated for the US.

Acer Timeline Ultra M5 – USA Models
Model M5-481T-6670 M5-481TG-6814 M5-581TG-6666
CPU Core i3-2377M Core i5-3317U Core i5-3317U
Graphics Intel HD 3000 NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M LE
(384 cores, 500MHz, 1GB GDDR5)

Intel HD 4000
NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M LE
(384 cores, 500MHz, 1GB GDDR5)

Intel HD 4000
Display 14” 1366x768 14” 1366x768 15.6” 1366x768
Chipset HM77 HM77 HM77
Memory 6GB DDR3-1066 (?) 4GB DDR3-1066 (?) 6GB DDR3-1066 (?)
Storage 500GB HDD
20GB SSD cache
DVDRW
500GB HDD
20GB SSD cache
DVDRW
500GB HDD
20GB SSD cache
DVDRW
Battery 3-cell, up to 8 hours
Rated for 1000 cycles
3-cell, up to 8 hours
Rated for 1000 cycles
3-cell, up to 8 hours
Rated for 1000 cycles
I/O Ports 2x USB 3.0
1x HDMI
1 combo headphone/mic
AC power
2x USB 3.0
1x HDMI
1 combo headphone/mic
AC power
2x USB 3.0
1x USB 2.0
1x HDMI
Ethernet
1 combo headphone/mic
AC power
Networking 802.11bgn WiFi
Bluetooth 4.0+HS
802.11bgn WiFi
Bluetooth 4.0+HS
802.11bgn WiFi
Bluetooth 4.0+HS
Gigabit Ethernet
Extras 1.3MP HD Webcam
Backlit keyboard
Dolby Audio
Acer Clear-fi
SD/MMC card reader
1.3MP HD Webcam
Backlit keyboard
Dolby Audio
Acer Clear-fi
SD/MMC card reader
1.3MP HD Webcam
Backlit keyboard with 10-key
Dolby Audio
Acer Clear-fi
SD/MMC card reader
Operating System Win7 Home Premium 64-bit
Upgrade to Win8 for $15
Win7 Home Premium 64-bit
Upgrade to Win8 for $15
Win7 Home Premium 64-bit
Upgrade to Win8 for $15
Dimensions 13.39” x 9.65” x 0.81” (WxDxH)
(340mm x 245mm x 20.57mm)
13.39” x 9.65” x 0.81” (WxDxH)
(340mm x 245mm x 20.57mm)
14.8" x 0.78" x 9.8" (WxDxH)
375mm x 250mm x 20mm
Weight 4.3 lbs (1.95kg) 4.3 lbs (1.95kg) 5.07 lbs (2.30kg)
Warranty 1-year 1-year 1-year
MSRP $680 $780 $830

Canada will also be getting three (different) models, which we’ve listed below:

Acer Timeline Ultra M5 – Canada Models
Model M5-481T-6820 M5-481TG-6888 M5-581TG-9825
CPU Core i5-3317U Core i5-3317U Core i5-3517U
Graphics Intel HD 4000 NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M LE
(384 cores, 500MHz, 1GB GDDR5)

Intel HD 4000
NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M
(384 cores, 625MHz, 1GB GDDR5)

Intel HD 4000
Display 14” 1366x768 14” 1366x768 15.6” 1366x768
Chipset HM77 HM77 HM77
Memory 6GB DDR3-1066 (?) 6GB DDR3-1066 (?) 6GB DDR3-1066 (?)
Storage 500GB HDD
20GB SSD cache
DVDRW
128GB SSD
DVDRW
256GB SSD
DVDRW
Battery 3-cell, up to 8 hours
Rated for 1000 cycles
3-cell, up to 8 hours
Rated for 1000 cycles
3-cell, up to 8 hours
Rated for 1000 cycles
I/O Ports 2x USB 3.0
1x HDMI
1 combo headphone/mic
AC power
2x USB 3.0
1x HDMI
1 combo headphone/mic
AC power
2x USB 3.0
1x USB 2.0
1x HDMI
Ethernet
1 combo headphone/mic
AC power
Networking 802.11bgn WiFi
Bluetooth 4.0+HS
802.11bgn WiFi
Bluetooth 4.0+HS
802.11bgn WiFi
Bluetooth 4.0+HS
Gigabit Ethernet
Extras 1.3MP HD Webcam
Backlit keyboard
Dolby Audio
Acer Clear-fi
SD/MMC card reader
1.3MP HD Webcam
Backlit keyboard
Dolby Audio
Acer Clear-fi
SD/MMC card reader
1.3MP HD Webcam
Backlit keyboard with 10-key
Dolby Audio
Acer Clear-fi
SD/MMC card reader
Operating System Win7 Home Premium 64-bit
Upgrade to Win8 for $15
Win7 Home Premium 64-bit
Upgrade to Win8 for $15
Win7 Home Premium 64-bit
Upgrade to Win8 for $15
Dimensions 13.39” x 9.65” x 0.81” (WxDxH)
(340mm x 245mm x 20.57mm)
13.39” x 9.65” x 0.81” (WxDxH)
(340mm x 245mm x 20.57mm)
14.8" x 0.78" x 9.8" (WxDxH)
375mm x 250mm x 20mm
Weight 4.3 lbs (1.95kg) 4.3 lbs (1.95kg) 5.07 lbs (2.30kg)
Warranty 1-year 1-year 1-year
MSRP $800 CAN $1000 CAN $1300 CAN

I have to admit that Acer’s decisions on what to ship in the various regions of the world has always baffled me. Canada gets a couple options with pure solid state storage, but the three US models are hybrid solutions. The 15.6” Canadian 581TG-9825 model also comes with a GeForce GT 640M instead of the lesser GT 640M LE. Finally, where the US gets a cheap model with an older Sandy Bridge i3-2377M processor, all of the Canada models are running Ivy Bridge. Of course, pricing for the Canada models is also higher, and in the case of the SSD-only laptops it’s a substantial bump. All of the above laptops are scheduled to start shipping in late June.

Looking at the core features, most of the changes relative to the M3 we looked at earlier this year appear to come from the CPU and chipset upgrade. USB 3.0 ports are now present, but otherwise everything is pretty tame. It’s not clear if the memory is really only DDR3-1066 or if the spec sheets Acer sent out are incorrect, but it wouldn’t be the first time an OEM has skimped on memory speeds to save a few dollars (or pennies). The LCDs are also bog standard 1366x768 panels, which we love as much as most of our readers (which is to say, not at all, particularly on 15.6” displays). For the hybrid storage, it’s also worth noting that if Acer is doing the same thing as in previous Ultrabooks, the 20GB SSDs are used purely to accelerate the hibernate/resume feature and they’re not actually a full SSD cache with Intel’s Smart Response Technology.

While there are lots of things we can complain about with the overall design and hardware choices (and we did just that with our Acer Timeline Ultra M3 review), ultimately Acer’s US models are designed to hit some of the lowest price points ever for Ultrabooks. The fact that you can now get an i5 Ivy Bridge Ultrabook with discrete graphics for only $830 is pretty impressive, considering last generation Ultrabooks that sold for $850 typically had Core i3 processors and no discrete graphics (which is what Acer is now selling for $680). If you’ve liked the idea of an Ultrabook but still wanted something that could handle moderate gaming, the new additions ought to be right up your alley.

Source: Acer PR

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  • Omoronovo - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    As much as I hate this resolution - especially on panels larger than 13.3 - I have to say that a 1366x768 native panel with a 640M is a really good pairing for those of us wanting to casually game on something that doesn't weigh a ton.

    If the panel was higher resolution, maybe 1600x900 or 1920x1080, most people would agree that the 640M would be pretty anemic in all but the most basic applications (video, 2d acceleration, but no games).

    I certainly prefer the combination of well-paired panels and dGPU's to high res panels and integrated gpu, since if you need a higher resolution panel (for work etc), there's always the HDMI port.
    Reply
  • aliasfox - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    I'd complain less about the resolution if we could assume static contrast ratios of at least 500:1, >50% NTSC color gamut (let alone Adobe RGB), and viewing angles wide/tall enough not to give you a headache when you're glancing around the screen - I've seen screens with VA poor enough that there was distinct color shift from the center of the display (dead on) to the edge (a few degrees off angle).

    At that point, the screen may be less usable than a high res screen would be, but at least it would be reasonably pleasant to use...
    Reply
  • harrellb - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    I have been pointing out the problem with lower screen resolutions to every manufacturer that will listen. I guess the manufacturers started lowering the resolution when the displays went widescreen. But they are fairly useless for real work especially if you are using Remote Desktop or Log Me In in a non full screen mode to do work on multiple machines at once.

    The other show stopper to me is the lack of dedicated End, Home, PgUp, and PgDown keys. I use them constantly while editing code. The new Asus ultrabook with the 1080p screen or the Dell XPS 15z would be perfect if it weren't for those keys being crammed on top of the arrow keys and needing a function key press to activate.

    I just keep checking out each new ultrabook or thin laptop that hits the market to see if it fits the bill and so far none have except the Sony Vaio Z and it has a $1599 starting price.

    I feel confident someone will get it right for the power business user eventually at a reasonable price. I just hope it is before my current laptop dies.
    Reply
  • twhittet - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    Assuming the Vizio keyboard doesn't work for you either? Guess I haven't looked at key placement of it yet, but I'm pretty pumped to have some resolution choices that don't cost me over $1000. Reply
  • germinop - Monday, August 06, 2012 - link

    Well , there seem to be a few more models costing under 1000 with fairly good specs listed at http://www.squidoo.com/ivy-bridge-ultrabook Reply
  • MrSpadge - Thursday, June 21, 2012 - link

    I especially hate it when I see 15" laptops with wide unused space to the left and right of the keyboard, yet these important keys are missing. Reply
  • magreen - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    so glad people are finally starting to band together about 1366x768 being an unusable resolution for people trying to get actual work done.

    I hope Apple's new 2880 Retina display kickstarts the vanilla laptop makers into providing higher res screens.
    Reply
  • retrospooty - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    it already has... Acer is just a pokey late bloomer. Toshiba, Asus and a bunch of others have models with 13 inch screens at 1600x900 and 1920x1080 Reply
  • kjboughton - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    14" display @ 1366x768....FAIL. Not interested in the least. Reply
  • rrohbeck - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    Are they using the crap fans that fail after a year in these higher priced laptops too? I might be interested in one but only if it has a fan that lasts. Reply

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