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As I noted earlier, I swapped out the half-height mini-PCIe Intel 5100 Wi-Fi Link for a 5300. This was a piece of cake because of the 1810T's two removable bottom panels. Figure 4 shows easy access to HDD, RAM and wireless modules and also that there is space, but neither connector nor antenna cables for a WWAN card.

1810T component access
Click to enlarge image

Figure 4: 1810T component access

First boot of Windows 7 went without a problem. This is also my first Win 7 system and so far, it's not as annoying as Vista was. Installed crapware wasn't too bad, with the usual 60 day trails for MS Office and Norton Internet Security and free MS Works (oh yippee). Acer also installed a mix of its own utilities, including a recovery disk set generator, software / driver updater and webcam utility. The webcam utility has a series of tweaks, with Auto checkboxes for each that were unfortunately greyed out.

Figure 5 shows some of the items in Device Manager expanded so that you can see key component details. Broadcom supplies the Bluetooth module and WD the 2.5" SATA Scorpio Blue 320 GB 5400 RPM drive. The webcam must be pretty generic, since it uses a Microsoft usbvideo.sys driver. The Synaptics touchpad supports zoom, horizontal and vertical scrolling and rotation two-finger gestures.

1810T Device Manager

Figure 4: 1810T Device Manager

Network adapters include an Atheros AR8131 for PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet and, as noted, an Intel WiFi Link 5100 ABGN for dual-band Wi-Fi. In all, the selections look like Acer didn't cheap out on components.

In Use

I haven't yet had any extended sessions on the 1810T—those will be coming next week at CES 2010. But the little time I have spent on it has provided some positive and, of course, negative surprises.

First, the positive, which is the surprising speed. Even using the Windows Aero interface, apps launched quickly and I had an overall general feeling of not waiting for the 1810T. I watched some Hulu video, which ran without hitches. I didn't yet try any HD content, but expect at least 720p content to play fine (assuming a wired connection, of course).

The big negative was again fan noise. But unlike the Mini 311, I was able to convince myself that I could live with it. The main reason was that the fan doesn't run constantly and when it does run, it doesn't scream. During an session where I was constantly switching among browser, email, HTML editor and graphics programs, not to mention puTTY and WinSCP windows, I was only occasionally aware of the fan, which kicked on and off from time to time.

The trick I learned was that the fan seemed to run more often and louder with the 1810T plugged in, which I guess can be attributed to heat from the charging circuitry. As soon as I unplugged the power adapter, the fan spun down and stayed off.

So if I need to keep the adapter unplugged in order to not be annoyed by the fan, how long can I work? This was another positive surprise, with my Windows batch file test (described here) yielding 6 hours and 23 minutes of run time. Although it's not the 8+ hours Acer claims and the same as I got with the HP Mini 311, it should give me plenty of blissfully-quiet work time (and I suspect even more when I'm not constantly hitting a Wi-Fi connection, as my test does).

A few other things worth mentioning:

  • Sound from the speakers mounted on the front lower body wasn't room-rattling, but clear and loud enough.
  • The system goes to sleep or hibernation when you close the screen and wakes up just fine with a key or power button press.

Verdict

All things considered, the 1810T has a combination of price, features, performance and portability that's right for me, so it didn't go back to Amazon. At just about $600 (it hasn't yet started the downhill price slide), it's actually a better deal than the HP Mini 311 or other netbooks with stripped $400 lowball configurations that end up more than the 1810T by the time you've configured them as equally as possible (given the limitations of options offered).

If you're looking at a new 11.6" class netbook, the Acer Timeline 1810T should be on your short list.

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