Day to day with the Timeline
Before sitting down to actually use the Timeline, you'll want to spend some time removing the cubic assload of pre-installed software that Acer includes with the system. The sheer volume of bloat is simply astounding. Behold:
It's not like there's much value here, either. Most of the real applications, like Microsoft Office, are only trial versions that you'll have to pay extra to unlock before long-term use. And how many versions of Solitaire do you really need, anyway?
Of course, if you're in the market for a Timeline now, you're probably eyeing an upgrade to Windows 7. Forget migrating the existing operating system over; you'll be far better off starting with the clean slate of a fresh install.
Bloat aside, the Timeline is really a very nice system to use. Vista feels snappy, even when multitasking, and the 1366x786 display provides plenty of desktop real estate for multiple applications. More importantly, the Timeline doesn't seem stretched. When using an Atom-powered netbook, I get the impression that I'm constantly running at the platform's limits, just one application or tab away from bringing the system to its knees. The Timeline, by contrast, always feels like it has plenty of horsepower to spare.
The only applications that really make the Timeline feel sluggish are games. Intel's integrated graphics chipsets have never fared particularly well in games, and the GMA 4500MHD doesn't change things much.
Fortunately, the Timeline had no problems running AudioSurf, one of my personal favorites, at native resolution with the second-highest detail level setting. The game ran smoothly, with frame rates hovering around 24 FPS.
Geometry Wars proved a little more challenging, with the Timeline reduced to a slideshow at its native resolution. The game is much smoother at 800x600, as frame rates float between 30 and 40 FPS most of the time. However, when the action gets heated, frame rates can plunge into the teens. I'm usually dead by then anyway.
Left 4 Dead is essentially unplayable on the timeline. Although I saw frame rates hit 30-40 FPS at 640x480 with the lowest in-game detail settings, heavy action sends frame rates into the teens.
MMOs like World of Warcraft are easier to play with lower frame rates, and the Timeline managed about 20 FPS at 1366x768 with low in-game details. Dropping the resolution to 800x600 pushed frame rates as high as 30 FPS, again with low detail levels.
Obviously, the Timeline isn't going to be able to match the gaming performance of systems with proper graphics processors. But at least you'll be able to play a few casual titles, certainly more than you'd be able to run smoothly on the average netbook.