- Size and Weight - The machine itself is quite compact although the screen itself is rather thick (probably because of the digitiser). Weight-wise the machine is 1.72kg on paper and it does feel heavy for it's size. It's still very portable though even though the tablet functionality seems to have added some thickness over the non-tablet versions. The battery itself doesn't stick out the back of the machine although it does prop the notebook up slightly. The screen itself seems rather heavy and combined with the battery at the back it tends to make the machine rear heavy. If you tilt the screen a bit too far back it will want to fall over.
The dimensions according to the manual:
285 (W) 208.9 (D) 28.5/34.5 (H) mm
(11.22 x 8.22 x 1.12/1.36 inches)
Perhaps I should clarify that under normal viewing angle (ie. tilt on the screen in "notebook mode") the screen will stay perfectly in place and it's only when you tilt it pretty far back that it will start to "creep" or lose balance.
- Build quality - Overall feels very solid even though it's all plastic. Don't detect any keyboard flexing issues. When the lid is closed everything seems to line up nicely. My only worry is how long the screen flipping/rotation hinge will last since it seems like quite a small pivot point for a comparatively large/heavy screen. Will update on this mechanism once I get a chance to play around with it more.
Above: With the screen closed
Above: With the screen opened and slightly rotated
- Keyboard - Keys are rather large even with the smaller footprint. I'm a touch typist and some of the keys feel slightly out of place (ie i hit the wrong key inadvertently). On top of that the design of the keys (completely flat with very little space in between keys) also takes some getting use to. Overall though i think the keyboard is quite usable. I'm typing this on the 1820ptz and i don't feel like throwing it across the room, which is a good thing.
- Trackpad - The trackpad is rather tiny on this machine but in it's defense, it's probably as large as practically possible given the limited space between the bottom edge of the keyboard and the bottom edge of the chassis itself. Trackpad feel is average and quite responsive although I seem to have problems getting my left click to the register sometimes. Not sure if it's a configuration issue or actual problem. Will give an update once I have time to test this out more.
Update (20 Dec): Oops. Looks like the "problem" i was having with the trackpad buttons was due to my strange instinct of attempting to press the button right at the edge. I've adjusted this and I'm glad to report that the buttons are responsive, if you press them at the proper spot. :p
- Screen - There's a film-like layer on top of the screen which i suppose is for the digitiser. However, this layer seems to affect the screen quality as the colour and contrast don't seem that good. Furthermore the viewing angle also doesn't seem very good, especially when in "portrait tablet" mode. There is noticeable shifting issues in the dark areas on the screen. I would say that it seems the gap between the screen itself and the digitiser layer is responsible for this as it seems that the screen becomes quite sensitive to the lighting conditions. I've not had the chance to use this machine out under the sun but I suspect that might prove to be a problem.
The screen looks plenty sharp due to the high pixel density. Will need to do further testing with some video playback to check for any ghosting issues. I will also need to try calibrating the display with my Eye One Display 2 to see if it helps to improve the image quality.
Update (20 Dec): Calibrated the screen with my i1 Display 2 and the contrast is much better now. The default colour profile seems to lose quite a lot of highlight detail as it tends to blow them out. I still wouldn't use this screen for serious photo editing since the calibration doesn't help with the colour/contrast shfiting due to the viewing angles.
- X200 - The 1820PTZ is definitely better. The X200 has one of the worse screens I've ever used...
- Dell Studio XPS 16 - The 1820ptz is obviously no match for the 1080p RGBLED SXPS16. No contest.
- Dell D610 - I will try to do a side by side comparison since I suspect this would be a closer match
- Touch functionality - The multi-touch screen actually supports both your fingers and a stylus (there's one tucked away in a silo below the screen). The document mentions that you need to switch the screen between finger and pen modes but even without doing so the screen doesn't seem to have any problems detecting either. That said though, using the stylus seems a lot more responsive than using my fingers. It could very well be because of the mode switching mentioned above. I will need to try it out to see if it improves the finger touch functionality. The screen itself has quite a lot of friction to the touch so sliding your fingers across the screen is rather slow and uncomfortable affair. The screen surface feels and looks a lot like those found on the old pen-driven PDAs of yesteryear (like my old HP iPAQ HX4700).
Updated (19 Dec): I've tried out changing the detection mode and putting the screen to "finger-mode" does seem to improve the responsiveness when using one's fingers. Grossness aside, the screen does get more comfortable to slide across with your fingers as some oil builds up. If you're a clean-freak that MUST have a spotless screen this will probably be an issue.
The screen seems to be of the passive resistive kind but it does provide palm rejection in "pen mode". I fired up Microsoft Journal and automatically a prompt came up to ask me which mode I would prefer. Selecting the "pen mode" also enables the palm rejection feature which from my limited testing seems to work. There were a few occasions where the pen would not respond but I put it down to the cases where my finger (the bony bit) hit the screen first. The palm rejection had no problems ignoring my hand while I was resting it on the screen and writing with the stylus. Although nothing to do with the device itself, Journal did a pretty good job of converting my terrible handwriting into text.
It seems that the screen is pressure sensitive. I've tested it in Microsoft Journal and it works like a charm. The various pens/markers are not pressure sensitive by default though so you'll have to change their settings to enable it.
Above: And that's the only one you get with the machine. I wonder if they sell replacements...
- Tablet mode - The screen is mounted on a single rotatable hinge in the middle. While in "notebook mode" there are 2 "catches" at either end of the chassis that help to hold the screen in line as you tilt the screen back and forth.
Above: The "catches" that keep your screen properly aligned when in "notebook mode"
The screen can seemingly only be rotated in one direction, as indicated by a directional arrow on the central hinge. Once in tablet mode, the screen actually uses an accelerometer to rotate the screen into the correct orientation depending on how you are holding the device. It even works when you rotate the screen 180 degrees. The rotation itself seems to takes about 1-3 secs depending on how many windows you have open. It's by no means instantaneous but the delay is still bearable. Holding it like a clipboard is reasonably comfortable if you rest the weight on your forearms rather than try to grip it by the edges just using your fingers. I do wonder however, how long duration use will pan out considering the weight of the device.
There's a magnet at the corner of the screen lid (on both sides but at opposite ends) that helps to hold the lid down to the chassis (which also has a corresponding magnet). In theory this should prevent the screen lid from shifting out of place or opening while in tablet mode or transport.
Above: The magnet on the screen/lid
Above: The corresponding magnet on the chassis
Above: The magnet on the chassis actually pops up to contact the magnet on the lid. They make a nice couple.
- Sound - The built in sound is tinny as expected from a machine of this size. Unfortunately it's also rather soft even at max volume. For personal use in a moderately quiet room/office i guess it's ok. I'll need to fiddle around with the settings to see if I can improve the situation. The spdif out works like a charm and I was able to pass the AC3/DTS stream (i need to check which but i believe both are not an issue) to my receiver with no problems after install the K-lite codec pack.
- General performance - I've not run any benchmarks but so far the performance seems snappy enough for general use. The Win7 64-bit that it comes with probably also helps to some extent. Boot times are quite respectable even compared to my desktop (my only other machine with win7 64-bit) which is running a C2D @ 3.2ghz, 4gb ram and booting windows off a corsair extreme-series SSD.
Unfortunately it looks like doing your own upgrades is out of the question unless you don't mind voiding your warranty.
Above: I would be very tempted to open up that panel if not for that stupid sticker
- Video performance -
- Youtube (SD) - No probs
- Youtube (HD) - No probs, even in full screen. I should probably test with some other clips though since I suspect the bitrates are not standard between different videos.
- 720p MKV (x264) via MPC-HC DXVA (K-lite Codec Pack) - I output the video to my 1080p Plasma via HDMI and the audio to my receiver via SPDIF. No probs even in full screen. The max I could get when enabling combined shaders was 2 though (16-235->0-255[HD][SD] + Edge Sharpen or Sharpen Complex). With 3 it's smooth in windowed mode (100% zoom) but starts to chug in fullscreen mode. This was after I disabled the intel clearvideo deinterlacing and noise reduction options that were on by default. With those activated, even 2 shaders would kill the frame rate.
I did realise later on that I was actually on battery and the performance might improve when on AC. Will need to do some restesting.
Update (19 Dec): Seems that plugging in the AC doesn't make any difference to the video playback performance. Worse still, after doing more extensive testing it seems that with 2 shaders at fullscreen does cause frame rate issues after all. Max it will do is only 1 shader. Enabling only the "16-235->0-255[HD][SD]" shader and the turning up the video sharpening on Intel Clear Video (under graphics properties) does produce acceptable video quality without any performance problems. Seems that the GMA 4500MHD isn't quite up to the job of handling both h264 hd video and shader enhancements.
- 1080p MOV (x264) via MPC-HC (QTLite) - Tested out using the Iron Man 2 trailer downloaded off the quicktime trailers website. Only plays smoothly at full screen if all the shaders are turned off. Somewhat disappointing but this is 1080p video we are talking about.
Updated (21 Dec):
- Webcam and mic - Played around a bit with the built in webcam and microphone using MSN Messenger. Image quality is somewhat decent with surprisingly low noise levels even in dark conditions. There is some blotchiness and the motion is not totally smooth though. It will get the job done but don't throw away that 2mp webcam just yet. The built-in mic seems to work just fine, picking up my voice from an acceptable distance (ie. my face is correctly framed in the webcam) in a quiet room.
- Wifi - The 1820PTZ has a hardware switch to toggle the wifi radio. Unfortunately I'm unable to test the 802.11n performance since my wireless router only supports up to the G standard. As advertised on the screen lid, this baby comes with Acer's Signal-Up technology which I understand is some kinda efficient dual antennae array built around the screen that helps improve Wifi range. Compared to my Studio XPS 16 (which has Intel's Wifi Link 5100) the Acer does seem to have better wifi performance, maxing out the download speed on my internet connection when my Dell fails to do so. Connecting to my AP also seems to be a lot faster with the Acer.
- Battery performance - Once again, no benchmarks done but as expect the battery life seems insane, far longer than anything I've ever used before (even longer than the x200). I've used it for a few hours over the last 2 days after doing a full charge and the battery meter still reads more than 50% juice left. My gut feel is that under general use it should last at least 7-8 hours. According to Everest it seems that processor runs at 1.2ghz (0.9v) most of the time, even when the CPU util on both cores are at 0%. Not sure if this is optimum based on the speedstep abilities of this chip.
Above: 5600mAh of goodness
- Heat and noise - Heat seems to be a non-issue. The base feels only slightly warm even after running for more than an hour. There is some heat coming out from the vent on the left side but it's not hot or anything.
Above: The source of heat and noise
Noise wise this machine is not completely silent as there is some perceivable whirring coming from the vent pictured above. Luckily it's not loud enough to be intrusive. Even plugged into the AC and watching videos the fan doesn't seem to spin up too much or at least not to a point where I noticed it.
- Bundled software/Bloatware - Acer packs this notebook with TONS of bloatware, trialware and who knows what else. I'm still figuring out what can I safely uninstall...
Videos (Available in HD):
My other notebooks (so that you know where i'm coming from and comparing my experience against): Dell Studio XPS 16 (Home/Office), Lenovo X200 (Office), Dell Latitude D610 (previous machine), Asus 7" EEE PC (1st gen netbook)
Here's a size comparison:
Above: The Notebook Sandwich. In order from the top to bottom: Acer Aspire 1820PTZ (11.6" 16:9), Lenovo X200 (12.1" 16:10), Dell Latitude D610 (14.1" 4:3), Dell Studio XPS 16 (16" 16:9)
Above: Same order as above but from the side. They are pretty much all equally chunky.