January 16, 2012
- Ultra-thin, attractive design
- Nice looking display
- Solid performance
- No USB 3.0
- Flimsy display
- Minor keyboard design issues
Ultrabooks have been making themselves known recently, especially at this year's CES show in Las Vegas. This model, the Acer Aspire S3, is another contender that positions itself near the top of the category. It has an extremely thin, magnesium-alloy body and the power to go along with it, including an Intel Core i5 CPU and 4GB of RAM.
We've seen our fair share of these slim "ultrabooks" at TechReviewSource, including the HP Folio 13, which we reviewed just last week. It combined a sturdy chassis that had power to go along with it. We did, however, find it to run quite hot at times and have an overall dim display. Another ultrabook, the Asus U46SV-DH51, did well in our review aside from only average battery life and some quirky design flaws. Lastly, the Toshiba Protégé Z835 was held back by some display issues of its own but more importantly, below average performance.
The Acer Aspire S3 hopes to rise above the rest of the ultrabooks out there, including the ones we've had the chance to review. The notebook category as a whole is crowded, but the ultrabook category is becoming even more crowded, so it's important for PC makers to find something that stands out among the rest and Apple's MacBook Air too.
Acer's design features a magnesium alloy-based body that has a slimming rounded base that helps to keep things on the thin side. In total, it measures 12.6 x 8.5 x 0.7-inches (wdh) and weighs just short of 3-pounds, so it's definitely one of the slimmest notebooks that we've reviewed. It has a brushed aluminum finish, so there's no chance of fingerprints showing.
The keyboard deck and keyboard itself is made of plastic, which was a curious decision in our minds as metal would have made for a more sturdier and more uniform design decision. Nonetheless, the chiclet style keyboard has a textured finish to each key, which was comfortable to our hands, but the sensitivity of the keys needs to be increased. We occasionally experienced our key presses going unregistered, which led to some frustrating typing errors. Most of the major keys are slightly scaled down to fit, but not anything uncomfortable. However, the arrow keys were especially small, which might cause some headaches if you use them frequently.
Acer's touchpad on the Aspire S3 has the same slightly textured finish and it works well. There are no discrete buttons, so the pad is also clickable. It also supports multitouch gestures and allows for plenty of room to do so, even for an ultrabook.
The 13.3-inch LED-backlit display has a resolution of 1366 x 768-pixels and has good levels of both brightness and contrast, which some other ultrabooks lack. Streaming HD videos from the Internet looked great, much to our delight. We did, however, notice quite a bit of flex in the display when opening/closing it and when carrying it while closed. We hope this isn't an indication of the quality of build.
When it came to port selection, we were disappointed to find no USB 3.0, which is quite common among ultrabooks. You do, however, get two USB 2.0 ports, HDMI-out, a headphone jack and an SD card reader. There is no optical drive or Ethernet port. There is both 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless connectivity.
Acer does give you a few different configurations to choose from and they vary mostly in the Intel Core processor. Our review unit had an ultra low voltage Intel Core i5-2467M CPU (1.6GHz), 4GB of RAM, a 320GB 5400RPM hard drive for files, a 20GB solid-state drive SSD for the operating system and Intel integrated graphics. It's slightly atypical for an ultrabook to have a conventional spinning hard drive instead of only SSD, but maybe this is Acer's way of trying to be unique.
Performance with the Acer Aspire S3 is mostly determined by the Intel CPU, which is a special mobile processor designed to work in low-power environments. As a result, we were able to get some very strong performance out of it. We had no problems performing the usual tasks, like streaming HD video or multitasking. While not the fastest ultrabook, it's near the top, especially when compared to the three ultrabooks mentioned at the beginning of this review.
For battery average, expect to get about 5:30-hours of life, which is about average when compared to other ultrabooks.