First, there was the notebook, then the netbook and now, the ultrabook. Acer’s Aspire S series is their first attempt to enter the genre that’s big on fast performance, in a slim and stylish package. After taking the S3 out of the box, you have to admit, it’s a chic little beauty.
The Aspire S3 is all shiny silver in a tough brushed aluminium casing that is deliciously rounded at the edges, solidly constructed and ultra-smooth to the touch. What strikes you most, is just how super-thin it is – measuring around 10mm at the front, and around 15mm at the back. Add to that, is its feather-light weight of 1.4kg and you know this is the ideal work machine to carry round in a backpack, briefcase or overnight bag.
The only slight downside to the paper-thin dimensions is that there is virtually no room for ports on its sides, apart from a single headset jack and a 2-in-1 card reader (for SD and MultiMediaCard). As a result, the two USB 2.0 ports and the HDMI out are relegated to the back, alongside the DC-in jack, with a missing VGA and USB 3.0 socket.
Flipping up the lid reveals the 13.3″ 16:9 LED screen that has a rather disappointing native resolution of 1366 x 768, although colours and contrasts are bright and distinct. The chiclet style keyboard, below the display, has comfortably spaced keys that feel firm to the touch. However, some corners have had to be cut to keep the keys sized large, including the Enter key which has been split with the “” symbol. This leaves plenty of margin for error, when typing. In the same way, the arrow keys have been drastically reduced and squashed, into the bottom right corner. On the other hand, the touchpad is pleasantly responsive but it does take a while to get used to, as the mouse buttons have been incorporated into the same surface.
When it comes to power, the Aspire S3 can draw upon a mighty 2nd generation Intel Core i7-2637M CPU, clocked at 1.70GHz with 4GB RAM. This makes it more than capable of easy multitasking, with videos running smoothly. Connectivity is possible both via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The slightly lower spec Intel Core i5 model includes a 240GB SSD, yet the i7 version inexplicably has a slower 500GB hard disk. This is more power hungry, but should be more than sufficient for daily needs.
One of the most attractive aspects of the S3 is the Acer Green ‘Instant On’ feature that lets you wake the computer up from Sleep mode in just a couple of seconds. If left untouched for 75 minutes, the S3 goes into Deep Sleep and battery life is preserved for up to 50 days; touching the power button will release it from its trance again, in a matter of seconds. Normal, low-intensive usage will result in an average five hour battery life; heavy YouTube and movie punishment will reduce it to nearer two, but the excellent cooling system means your knees won’t be red-hot by the end.
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- The Instant On power saving feature.
- Keyboard overcrowding leading to increased errors.
The Acer Aspire S3 is stylish, light and impressively thin with good visuals. There is more than enough power for daily multitasking, with an attractive power saving ‘Instant On’ feature. Although it has significant peripheral omissions, along with some keyboard issues that need addressing.