Friday, 3 December 2010

Review of Acer TimelineX 3820TZ

I have realised that the TimeLineX 3820TZ's true potential. Ever since I had it a few days ago, I have not stopped admiring the sheer engineering of the laptop. Without an optical drive, the 3820TZ is just fabulous! No doubt that I would have to get an external optical drive but I could do so for the sake of creating a backup DVD just in case the OS fails. As I have mentioned earlier, the TimeLineX 3820TZ is pretty good to use. It is sturdy and the 9 cell battery provides for the necessary ventilation headroom for the laptop. I did notice that there are two ventilation holes, one on the left and another on the right. The left ventilation holes are empty (not surprising as I think it meants to accomodate an ATI HD graphics card) while the right accomodates the Pentium 6100 cpu. I am in the middle of receiving an Intel Core i5 cpu as I want to pump up the specifications of the laptop. At this moment, I am also waiting for the 8GB of system memory and the bluetooth adaptor to arrive. Once they arrive, the rig will be a powerhouse. A research have mentioned that a Core i5 cpu will better utilise the battery so I might just sell off the Pentium 6100 to get a Core i5. Besides, the Core i5 will support hyperthreading and tons of funcationality including AES, VT-x and SSSE 4.1. It will be able to shut down more cores to save power if it is not needed. Besides, the Core i5 will have turbo boost!!! I am loving it! The inbuild Intel HD graphics will enable me to run the battery longer on a single charge. At this moment, with the Pentium 6100 installed, I could run up to 11 hours with minial usage, i.e. Word processor and surfing the internet on the 3820TZ. This is above the 8 hours listed on Acer's website. I'm truly impressed.I like the layout of the laptop's keyboard. The keys are quiet when you press them, unlike the Dell Studio 15 which I am using (They are very noisy when you press them). The buttons on the laptop are great (There's no LED indicators on the Dell Studio). The best of all is that there's a programmable switch which will allow you to create shortcut keys. The only sad thing would be the fact that there's no backlit keyboard for this model. How sad. The touchpad is superb quality. I have no complains about it though. The touchpad supports multi gestures like pinch and zoom and so on. I do like the layout of the ports surrounding the laptop. The laptop is quite light at 1.6kg. The laptop comes with Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit. It is a fantastic OS as compared to the normal Windows 7 Starter which you will find in a sub notebook segment. With the 64 bit OS, I could increase the memory to 8GB and it will still be recognised and utilised by the OS. Perfect!I think there's only one thing which I might want to comment about the 3820TZ. The screen itself is not as good as the Dell Studio which I am using. Perhaps it uses a different vendor as opposed to the one on the Dell so there will be differences between them. I would still prefer the screen on the Dell Studio as I guess I am so used to it. Apart from that, the TimeLine 3820TZ is spotless!Performance wise, I have no problems with the 3820TZ. Certainly it runs faster than an Atom N450. I am enjoying every single bit of it. Can't wait to have my hands on the extras which I have purchased.Update:
11/12/2010: I am quite sad to see that there is no place for me to install an internal 2.1 bluetooth adaptor. I have just found out I could not do so after taking the machine apart. I think I would just have to get an external bluetooth then. If that is the case, I would have to do away with a usb port. That would leave me with only two usb ports to use. I think that it is acceptable taking into account that I would only be using two usb ports at one time.
Besides that, I have realised that the laptop is equipped with a memory configuration of 1x2GB + 1x1GB of DDR3 memory. The 2GB stick is Kingston while the 1GB is manufactured by Samsung. I am still waiting for my 8GB from the USA. I wonder how long will I have to wait before it arrives.The 320GB hard drive which is installed on the laptop is from Western Digital. If my memory does not fail me, it is a Scorpio Blue. Not too bad though, don't you think so?I will post some pictures when I have received the internal bluetooth adaptor from China and the 8GB memory from USA. I am also in deep thoughts of whether I should be upgrading the Pentium 6100 cpu since Acer did not solder the cpu onto the motherboard. Will you shell out 160 dollars for a second hand Core i5 520m?18/12/2010:Finally I have received the bluetooth/wi-fi combo PCI-E card ( Model Number: BCM94313HMGB) from the seller. This is another seller based in the UK and not the one who is in China. I am just quite unhappy with the seller in China as I have yet to receive the item from him! Anyway, I was really lucky to have received it as the snow was really bad across the country and it has disrupted the postal service. Anyway, I've managed to replace the original Anteros wireless N card with the Broadcome Wireless N card. I had some problems with it as I did not have the wireless driver. After searching high and low for it, I've managed to do so. There are two softwares which you need to install. One of them will be the Broadcom PCI-E driver and another will be the bluetooth driver from Broadcom. There is no single software for the both of them. Just make sure that you are well aware of the wires when you do change the PCI-E card.
I'm quite happy so far as both the bluetooth and the wireless N are working fine. One thing which I have noticed is that the connection speed of the wireless N remains at around 52Mbps. I wonder if I need to tweak the router. It should connect around 130Mbps.27/12/2010: I just could not take it anymore and requested the seller from China to refund the cost of me buying the Internal bluetooth as I've yet to receive it from him! In the end he has refunded me and I'm pleased.
05/01/2011: It is quite unfortunate that I can't get 130Mbps from using my Netgear Wireless N router. Well, I'm not complaining because I can make use of the internal bluetooth! I'm quite happy! In relation to the 8GB DDR3 SODIMM memory from the USA, I could not even use it on my machine even though it is meant to work on my laptop. I have sent it back to the seller and they have confirmed receiving it. I am now awaiting for the refund. Well, how am I going to speed up the laptop then? I then ended up browsing through  Micron's website for some good quality OCZ DDR3 SODIMM memory. Since 2x4GB DDR3 SODIMM going for around £89 including VAT, I bought it and sold the existing memory on the TimelineX 3820TZ. In the end, I have realised that I've only paid around £69 for the 8GB memory after deducting the money from selling the 3GB memory. Not too bad, isn't it? Overall, I'm pretty happy with the performance of the laptop. It has served me well so far. I'm looking out for a Core i5 520M cpu to replace the existing Pentium 6100 cpu. The only fear of doing so is that it might just reduce the battery's performance as the Core i5 520M might take up more juice under load when comparing it with the Pentium 6100. I'll have something to think about these days before making a decision. Taking apart the 3820TZ is not a problem but I'm thinking of Sandy Bridge cpus which will be launched very soon. Sandy Bridge cpus will most probably be compatible with the current laptop motherboards but it is destined to save more energy! I'll be watching CES 2011...07/01/2011:
The Windows 7 crashed and I had to reformat the hard disk and reinstall the OS. I hope that there will be no problem after this. Fingers crossed.08/01/2011:
After reformating the hard drive with a clean Windows 7, I've realised that the Windows Experience Index has increased from 3.9 to 4.3! That is unbelievable! A quick check to find out the reason was done and it was the Aero function of the graphics card. As I've installed a clean Windows 7, the graphics driver came from Intel and not from Acer, same goes to the onboard bluetooth and also the wireless N driver! Hurray! I can see that the laptop is so much faster now. Great!
Wow!!! After updating the Intel HD graphics driver via the Intel website, I then relaunched the test to seek out the latest Windows Experience Index. Guess what? I've managed to achieve 4.7!!! That is unbelievable! I think the driver provided by Acer is cripped! I have not install any Acer branded software on the laptop. It was a clean install. I will update you with my latest findings.16/01/2011
I've managed to replace the existing Western Digital Scorpio Blue 320GB hard drive to the maximum Toshiba 750GB SATA II. 750GB SATA II will be the maximum as I can only find the maximum 9.5mm in height for a laptop hard drive. It is a pity that the TimelineX 3820TZ does not allow room for a 12.5mm hard drive. If I could fit a 12.5mm in height hard drive in it, I would have purchased a 1TB SATA II hard drive instead. That is a shame. 
With the installation of the new hard drive, I had to do a few formatting and reinstallation of the Windows 7 before settling down.21/01/2011
I've managed to secure a refurbished Core i5 520M from ebay at a bargain. Well, I've managed to replace the Pentium 6100 which is on the 3820TZ. The difference between those two cpus are vast! With the Pentium 6100, I can only achieve a score of around 4900 using PC pitstop (with the old 320GB Western Digital Scorpio Blue hard drive). With the 750GB Toshiba hard drive installed and couple with the Core i5 520M, it gave me a score of 6500! That's fantastic, don't you think so? I'm loving it! The trouble is that if you want to change the existing cpu to any PGA-988 compatible cpus on the motherboard, chances are you are going to void your Acer laptop warranty. If I am not mistaken, I could have purchased the new Sandy Bridge Core i5 2520M ES for the TimelineX but I think it is just an overkill. Besides, the seller is selling around £130 which is way ahead of the £40 which I have paid for the Core i5 520M.30/01/2011The Acer TimelineX 3820TZ or you could call it a 3820TGZ without an ATI HD 5450 is now stable with all the upgrades. I have managed to isolate the problem with relates to the unavailability to shut down properly. The culprit was the third party bluetooth firmware and also the Intel graphics driver. I had to uninstall the bluetooth firmware and the Intel graphics driver before rebooting. After doing that, I went up to Acer's support website and downloaded the broadcom bluetooth and Intel graphics driver for the 3820TZ. After installing and a reboot later, the machine is as good as new! It saved me time in reinstalling Windows 7 again! There you go folks! Case close!08/02/2011:
I was not really happy with the recovery disk which I have made when I have received the laptop as it is filled with Acer's own softwares. I then made a purchase for a fresh Windows 7 Professional 64 bit and everything is running smoother at the moment.

Well, I am delighted to report that I do have not encountered any problems with the system so far. It is running cool and I have not problems with the cooling system. After all, I am only using it to do work and not playing games. Perhaps I should try playing some PC Games e.g. COD4...


Kurgan said...

I am interested to follow your doings with 3820tz since i bought one myself a few weeks ago. Actually inspired by your blog. One thing ive noticed is that i do not get 10 or 11 hours of light use by far. More like near 7 hour. A little dissapointed. I will be reading your updates. Thanks, Kim.

ぜるもう said...

Dear Kim,

Many thanks for reading my blog. I did not expect people to take note of what I am writing though :). Anyway, just for for your information, I have managed to achieve 12 hours while mostly running on Microsoft Office. You do need to tweak your laptop to ensure that only necessary services are running via msconfig. Good luck!

Kurgan said...

hello again, Pete?. I am not sure of what to do with msconfig. Is there a possibility for you to guide me? I would be grateful as i need the extra hours of runtime. At work i use the laptop all day and late night. The battery runs empty and it is inconvenient for me. Thanks in advance. Kim.

ぜるもう said...


What do you normally do with the laptop? Do you play games/graphics intensive activities on it?

If you are only thinking about running Microsoft Office suite, make sure you disable WLAN, no unecessary activities running at the background.

Secondly, you need to ensure that you have turn down the brightness of your laptop to around 50% and below. Thirdly, make sure that you have the latest drivers for all. Fourthly, don't use cpu intensive antivirus softwares. Try a lite anitivirus software like AVG. Norton will use more juice than AVG though.

Apart from that, you would also need to update your 3820TZ to 1.19 if you have not flashed your laptop. Please read the instructions before flashing your laptop's BIOS.

I think you would also need to ensure that you recharge the battery until 100% before switching the mains off and let it run until the end. On the average, I could get around 7 hours 30 minutes to 8 hours if I am surfing the internet and with only Microsoft Office Suite, I will be able to achieve 11 hours to 12 hours.

Oh yes, one more thing though. It will be good if you could activate power saving mode. It helps.

ぜるもう said...

With the upgrade from a Pentium 6100 to a Core i5 520M, I have managed to secure a near 8 hours on a single charge with bluetooth standby and with wi-fi. Well, it is 7 hours. I think the reduction of one hour was due to the fact that I have been using it on some flash enabled websites so hence the drain in power much faster than before. Anyway, I'm happy with the upgrades as it is sufficient for me at the moment.

Abe said...

How did your ram upgrade go?

ぜるもう said...

Abe, I've managed to upgrade the memory from 3GB to 8GB with ease. You would just need to remove a few screws from the back panel. It went alright, thank you. With the upgrades, it pushed the Windows Experience Index to 6.9 and I am happy with it. It is also 6.9 for the Core i5 520M which I have newly installed.

Jason said...

My 3820TZ came with a 9 cell battery pack which sticks out of the bottom making it chunky, unlike the 6 cell which comes with the 3820TG model and sits flush. Does anyone know if the 6 cell will work fine in the TZ model?


PJ said...

hi i was inspired by your comment on the bluetooth wifi combo card and got myself one but i have the probs with the drivers too
could you please post the links to the drivers ????
many thanks

ぜるもう said...

Dear Jason,

I am sure that your battery on your TG model will work fine with your TZ model. No problem at all!

ぜるもう said...

Dear PJ, please try the link below:

You need to understand that you need to install two files, i.e. the wireless driver and the bluetooth driver. Good luck!

scot360 said...

Hi Pete
Do you still have your 3820TZ
I need to upgrade my CPU , as I need VT-x.
I liked your blog.

ぜるもう said...

Dear scot360,

Many thanks for your support! Unfortunately, I have sold my Acer 3820TZ but I can walk you through if you have any questions.