Acer is a synonym of portability. It offers solutions for any taste and budget. You can find laptops with this company’s logo both in a CEO’s office and on a school desk. Their product range boggles the mind. Today Acer is aiming to grab a piece of the ultrabook market by upstaging the competition with its Aspire S3 range offering performance of a high-end device at a very competitive price.
Design and build
The Acer Aspire S3 is immediately recognizable as part of the ultrabook crowd, due mainly to its super-thin design. In fact, it weighs more than you might expect, but you won’t notice that when using the device. The laptop feels exceptionally light, making it easy to carry around. Its skinny silhouette will help get through all your computing needs without taking up space, and will easily slide into your bag. At three pounds flat (1.4kg) and half an inch thick, it is on par with the 13-inch MacBook Air (2.96 pounds / 1.35 kg) and the 2.9-pound (1.32 kg) ASUS Zenbook UX31.
It feels very well built.The lid of the S3 is made from cool-to-the-touch brushed aluminium helping avoid greasy fingerprints, so it will always look good and refined. Most of the body including the wrist-rest and keyboard surround is made from a magnesium alloy that feels strong. It is quite difficult to distinguish from regular plastic just by looking at it, so it will still make an amazing impression.
When it comes to all the ports and openings, the style is really minimalistic. The ultrabook’s front edge is completely blank save for a 3.5mm audio jack on the left side and SD card slot on the right. The bezel also comes with a requisite 1.3 megapixel webcam tucked in. Most of the action takes place on the back edge: there are two USB 2.0 ports, HDMI-out for hooking it up to an HDTV and the AC socket.
In general, technical specifications of the S3 line are as follows:
|Maximum Hard Drive Capacity||500 GB|
|Graphics Controller Model||Intel HD 3000|
|Wi-Fi Standard||IEEE 802.11b/g/n|
|Solid State Drive Capacity||20 GB|
|Webcam||Crystal Eye 1.3 MP|
|Operating System Architecture||64-bit|
|Processor||Dual-core, Intel Core i7-2637M, i5-2467M, i3-2370M|
|Operating System||Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium|
|CPU Speed||1.70 GHz|
|Display||33.8 cm (13.3″)|
|Battery||Lithium Polymer Battery|
|Number of Cells||3-cell|
|Screen Resolution||1366 x 768|
|Standard Memory||4 GB|
|Weight (Approximate)||1.35 kg|
|Display Screen Type||Active Matrix TFT Colour LCD|
|Memory Technology||DDR3 SDRAM|
|Maximum Memory||4 GB|
Display and keyboard
The Acer Aspire S3 sports a 13.3’’ LED backlit display that comes with a max resolution of 1366×768, providing a HD quality image. This is more than adequate for reading documents, general word processing tasks and scrolling through web pages.
It is bright and copes well even with dimly lit environments, handling colors and contrast pretty well, so it will do the trick perfectly when passing the time, i.e. on a long train journey, where it’ll help you enjoy surfing the Web, streaming your favorite shows, browsing your social networks, etc.
The keyboard features round, isolated keys with a pleasant, ever-so slightly textured finish and offers a nice typing experience. It is supposed to appeal to those who type a lot, by having larger keys and well-defined spaces in between them, which allow comfortable speedy typing without making too many errors.
One of the first things to make an impression is that lovely large trackpad supporting multi-touch technology – two-finger gestures for scrolling up and down pages, minimizing all windows to reveal the desktop or pinch-to-zoom. It is smaller than the huge slabs found on the MacBook, but nevertheless very responsive and accurate. This results in a smooth and pleasant operation when navigating around the web. While the right and left buttons aren’t visible, they are there in the right place (on the lower right and left corners). This implementation maximizes the size of the trackpad.
The Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook turns in impressive performances. It is the only Ultrabook with a hard disk drive option, providing huge storage space of 500 GB, 320 GB or 240 GB). A solid state drive enables quick access to your files, is light and quiet, and features a sturdy design for ultraportable devices. The Acer Aspire S3 comes equipped with the power of the second-generation Intel Core Sandy Bridge processors, giving you the option of a Core i3, Core i5 or a Core i7.
Designed to speed up multitasking and consume less power, the Intel Core processors enable you to work faster and deliver more exciting entertaining experience, with less waiting. as Along with a faster performance, this CPU enables better online playback of high-definition content, and allows you to enjoy the full Windows 7 Aero experience on your laptop.
Acer ships the S3 with 4GB of RAM, which is more than reasonable, thus offering a solid user experience and improved performance. It also comes with Intel HD 3000 graphics delivering new and greater levels of visual performance and allowing experiencing media and gaming with crystal-clear images and brilliant colors.
The Acer Aspire S3 linebrings the ultimate efficiency in terms of time spent and efforts invested. The power of an S3 ultrabook enhances your everyday computing experience giving you the very best and delivering extra performance when you need it, along with sharper, richer visuals for multimedia enjoyment.
The Acer Aspire S3 with embedded three-cell Li-polymer battery pack provides up to 7 hours of use with an SSD, up to 6 hours of use with an HDD, and up to 50 days using the Acer Green Instant On feature. This technology makes the ultrabook’s wakeup and reboot times really impressive, offers a very quick resume from sleep mode, and allows springing your computing session back to life in less than 2 seconds (from deep sleep – in 6 seconds).
When the system is running and you want to get back into Windows after having closed the display, it takes just over a second for the Windows login screen to appear. A major part of that is due to the SSD’s speed, which was included to cater to the fast-booting requirements laid out by Intel. Thanks to Acer Instant Connect technology, you can now say goodbye to long waits since it reconnects you to the Internet within seconds.
The Aspire S3 Series remembers your favorite access points or Wi-Fi spots previously visited, and reconnects to them instantly without any problems or extra steps, so you can get to the Internet in just 2.5 seconds – that is up to four times faster than the laptops that don’t feature this technology. With Instant Connect you will be able to get much quicker access to instant messaging and Internet services after your system exits the hibernation mode.
The Dolby Home Theater feature provides immersing sound experience and high quality audio for all forms of entertainment content. This utility automatically adjusts the audio settings based on what you are listening to. It maximizes volume output, and delivers surround sound and dialogue enhancement through professionally tuned audio via PC speakers, headphones or a home theatre system.
The built-in HDMI port allows connecting your ultrabook to external monitors, projectors or TVs through a single cable for large-screen experience, and sharing your favorite media with friends and family. In terms of wireless connectivity, the Aspire S3 ultrabook comes with integrated Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0 capabilities, with the latter being the latest standard for quick, short-range wireless file transfers, featuring low-energy technology that significantly reduces power consumption.
Perfectly cool and quiet on start-up, the S3 ultrabook’s fan gets just a bit louder when you push its processor hard. Heat dissipation is critical on thin systems, and thankfully the Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook makes this a trivial task, which is not always the easiest thing to achieve on a chassis of this size. It excels due to an extremely smart air circulation and internal components ventilation system. It features an innovative thermal design that keeps you comfortable even when you use the notebook for hours at a time.
Temperatures are well contained thanks to the new airflow design which directs air from the keyboard to keep the notebook constantly cool, and brings warm air toward the rear, away from the user. This means you can rest this ultrabook on your knees without feeling the heat. Acer Crystal Eye 1.3 MP HD Webcam with a built-in microphone returns bright, lifelike and crisp images, and supports video recording and photo capture. It supports a 1280×1024 resolution, and is able to record 720p videos easily, allowing you to create and share videos with online communities such as YouTube.
The Acer Video Conference Manager software with Video Quality Enhancement technology allows you to enjoy high quality face-to-face chats on instant messaging software.
The Acer Aspire S3 comes with a fair share of preinstalled software with in-house apps including Acer Deep Sleep utilities for tweaking power management and sleep settings, Acer Backup Manager; Acer Crystal Eye Webcam; the Acer Games portal, etc. Other software includes AUPEO Internet radio, newsXpresso, McAfee Internet Security, Microsoft Office Starter, Windows Live Essentials, Times Reader, Skype 5.3, Nook for PC etc.
There you will also find the clear.fi software for sharing media files over Wi-Fi. It will automatically detect new devices that have been connected, from PCs to Smartphones, running Windows, Linux, or Android. It makes the process of searching devices within the home network for music, photos and videos, as well as sharing all that between devices more exciting and easy.
This technology is the key to manipulating your media, and lets you easily manage, store, share and enjoy your files from any device within your network. You can also easily connect to social networking sites to check out new content from friends, as well as publish your own stuff.
The Acer Aspire S3 is the closest you can get to the look and feel of a MacBook Air for less than $1,000. Slim, lightweight, and powerful, it certainly looks and feels a good deal like a MacBook Air, and is, at first glance, nearly indistinguishable from Asus and Lenovo Ultrabooks.
The difference is that the price for S3 starts from $725, a steep discount from what you would pay for an Apple’s 13’’ laptop, and indeed, less than other competitors are charging for very similar systems. Despite being one of the cheapest Ultrabooks on the market, Acer’s Aspire S3 is a solid, unshowy performer with serious low-budget appeal.
Ultimately, there’s plenty of room for improvement with this series, but there’s no question that these relatively modestly priced laptops still hold plenty of appeal. While far from the last word in refinement, Acer has built a solid, attractive device, which costs much less than any of its competitors.