Somewhere inside the Acer Timeline's narrow frame, a team of Taiwanese engineers have managed to find space for not one, but two graphics processors (GPUs).
It's not the first laptop we've seen with one 3D chip for power saving and one for playing games. It's been preceded by the MacBook Pro, Sony's Vaio Z and Dell's Studio range. But it is one of the most powerful and lightest yet.
A small button to the left of the keypad switches between the two chips without requiring a reboot, and in performance mode the powerful Core i5 CPU and Mobility Radeon HD5650 graphics chip are a match for Alienware's mighty ultralight, the M11x.
You can get games like Far Cry 2 running at high quality settings, or browse the web and write for six hours at a time.
Thin and light
Despite the fact the Timeline X's screen is three inches bigger than the Alienware's tiny 11in panel, it still weighs and costs the same. If you're prepared to settle for a slightly lesser spec, you can pick a Timeline X variant up for much less too.
The 14in Timeline X is an excellent compromise between the often cramped chassis of a 13inch machine and an unwieldy 15in desktop replacement. The M11x is too cramped to use as your main PC, but the Timeline X is much more of an all-rounder.
That larger screen does have one big disadvantage. Its native resolution of 1366x768 is not as sharp and colourful as the panel on the M11x, which packs the same number of pixels into a smaller space.
If you're a gamer, it's a choice between the comfort of the Timeline's larger size or the superior portability and the build quality that the Alienware offers.
Review continues after the break…
Despite the brushed aluminium lid and keyboard surround, Acer simply doesn't come close to the astoundingly solid design of its rival. One thing the Timeline has that the M11x doesn't, though, is an optical drive. That could be crucial if you're playing games.
The thing that might make you rule out the Timeline X's altogether is its keyboard, which is the same floating chiclet design Acer has been using for a couple of years now. It doesn't feel as rigid as it should, there's too much travel, and it's easy to catch neighbouring keys with your fingers on the upstroke.
If you can adapt to this, though, the Timeline X is absolutely a match for any other laptop around.