This Acer’s 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 640M LE graphics are quite impressive too, and a significant step up in power from the integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics in most ultrabooks. Dirt 3 ran its benchmark at 67.6 frames per second at 1,366×768-pixel resolution and medium graphics settings, and 52.9fps at high graphics settings, while our Street Fighter IV test ran at a blazing 74.9fps. Even Metro 2033, a challenging game to run well, performed at 17.3fps at native resolution with graphics settings on high.

The Acer Timeline U M5 may not be a hardcore gaming laptop, but it can certainly run games. That lower-res 1,366×768 screen helps frame rates look good, if nothing else. Comparatively, the competitively priced Dell Inspiron 14z’s AMD Radeon graphics fared far worse on the same tests (44fps on Street Fighter, 9.7fps on Metro 2033).

Battery life is usually the fatal flaw of a budget laptop with stepped-up graphics, but not so here. The integrated battery lasted 5 hours and 50 minutes in our video-playback battery drain test, which comes close to the level I’d consider excellent in a 14-inch ultrabook. Considering the extra features here, it’s impressive indeed. With gaming, of course, expect that number to drop considerably — but the M5-481TG has automatically switching Optimus graphics, which should help.

Acer offers a standard one-year warranty with the Timeline U M5-481TG. Acer’s Web site isn’t the easiest to navigate, mainly because the support section requests that you enter your product model name and Acer’s site uses a different shorthand than the actual names for the products. This laptop was called an Acer Aspire M5-481TG, while retailers call it the Acer Timeline U M5-481TG.

The Acer Timeline U M5-481TG is an excellent back-to-school value, packing a complete laptop into a pretty slim package. It’s not so much an ultrabook as a thin laptop, in my opinion, but call it what you will. With good battery life, impressive graphics, a DVD drive, and a new Intel Core i5 processor, you’re getting a computer that would easily cost over $900 elsewhere.

 

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