I blogged back in August about my frustration in finding a new laptop that had everything I was looking for. I'd figured I would eventually end up with the Toshiba R700, given my positive experiences with the R200. The lack of stock proved a problem, and the differing specs between the US and UK models also annoying. I started trying to source the Sony and finally found the HD model in stock from Vizik, but the helpful people there talked themselves out of a sale by saying the Full HD was too much for 13" (they also failed to have a 3G Full HD model).

I'd only brought the EEE 901 to the US with me, so after a month of that as my only machine at home I was starting to get a bit fed up; the keyboard is too small for constant use and it crawls when subjected to my normal usage patterns rather than just used as a lightweight network terminal. So it became obvious I was going to have to compromise on what I wanted. And if I was doing that I wanted something a lot cheaper, as I thought I may potentially want to upgrade sooner than usual.

In the end I've gone with an Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T. It cost about a third of what the more fully featured laptops I was looking at were going for, which was a considerable bonus. The 2 things I ended up compromising on were the SSD and 3G support. And the name; I wasn't entire sure about what the build quality would be like.

As it turned out I needn't have worried; it appears to be perfectly well constructed - no noticeable flex while typing, solid enough, yet still fairly light. The keyboard is pleasant to use (admittedly I'm coming from the EEE, but it's a good size and responsive enough for me). I'm a bit uncertain about the touchpad, which has no physical separation from the rest of the case, but it's been ok so far. I miss the multitouch of the EEE, but it looks like there are some patches for Synaptics multitouch flying around that might eventually lead to useful support. I've ended up with a Core i5 470UM at 1.33GHz - what I ordered was the i5-430UM at 1.2GHz (and that's what the box/label on the laptop said), but I'm not complaining at the slight speed bump. It's fine for my needs. The 1366x768 screen is lovely, even in 11.6". Bright, if sometimes a little too shiny..

Installing was of course fun; it reminded me of when I got the R200 - neither the wifi nor wired interfaces were supported by the Debian installer, even from testing. I found a patch to get the (Atheros) LAN working (and have filed #599771 about potentially getting the support into squeeze's kernel) and that got me up and going. The wifi is a Broadcom BCM43225; too new for the old Free driver and the recently released Broadcom Free code causes the machine to instantly crash (I understand it has some SMP issues). So I'm stuck with the binary blob wl driver from broadcom-sta for now. I have hopes the Broadcom driver will improve though; it seems to be getting active love in the staging tree. The graphics are Intel, so well supported. And I'm getting at least 4 hours of battery life out of it, which I think could be improved with some tweaking.

So, er, yeah. Not what I set out looking for, but considerably cheaper and actually seems to meet my needs pretty well - it had its first weekend away trip this weekend and performed admirably; not too heavy in my hand luggage, decent battery life and no worries about it being too flimsy to survive. I'm still surprised it's an Acer...