The Bottom Line
Sep 3 2012 - Acer's updated Aspire S3 ultrabook receives a number of needed improvements that really help it boost its performance to equal to or better than many other models at its $1000 price point. This is primarily achieve through its Core i7 processor and switch to a solid state drive away from a hybird hard drive. The addition of USB 3.0 ports also corrects a major flaw with the original design. While all these updates are great, the build quality and battery still remain as two of the primary reasons why it doesn't quite match up with te competition. Add to this a lackluster display and it really ends up being a nice update but a redesign might have made it more of a standout in the crush of new ultrabooks.
- High Performance Core i7 Processor
- Now Features USB 3.0 Ports
- Runs Cool
- Quality Not As Good As Competition
- Smaller Battery Pack Limits Running Times
- Intel Core i7-3517U Dual Core Mobile Processor
- 4GB PC3-12800 DDR3 Memory
- 128GB Solid State Drive
- 13.3" WXGA (1366x768) Display With 1.3 Megapixel Webcam
- Intel HD Graphics 4000 Integrated Graphics
- 802.11b/g/n Wireless, Bluetooth
- Two USB 3.0, HDMI, SD Card Slot
- 12.7" x 8.6" x .7" @ 3 lbs.
- Windows 7 Home Premium, Office Starter
Review - Acer Aspire S3
Sep 3 2012 - The Acer Aspire S3-391-9606 is essentially identical to the original Acer Aspire S3 released last year but it updates a number of items. The external shell remains the same with its mix of aluminum and plastic surfaces but the internals have been updated to bring it in line with the new second generation ultrabook specifications. To do this, they took the new Ivy Bridge based Intel Core i7-3517U dual core processor that gives it stronger performance and better efficiency. In fact, this is one of the fastest of the processors to be found in an ultrabook. It will still lag behind traditional laptops in demanding tasks such as desktop video but it is still more than enough for the average user. The processor is matched up with 4GB of DDR3 memory which is a standard size for this class of laptop. It offers a smooth experience but will suffer a bit with heavy multitasking.
The original Aspire S3 was designed to be affordable among the ultrabooks. The $700 to $800 price tag meant that it had to sacrifice some and that was done through the storage by a hybrid hard drive platform. It gave more storage space but limited the performance somewhat. With the S3-391-9606, Acer has upgraded to a full 128GB solid state drive. This improved boot times and program access but does sacrifice a bit in terms of storage space. The other major change that it very welcome is the move from USB 2.0 ports to the faster USB 3.0 for external peripherals. This allows the use of high speed external storage devices to help expand the storage capacity.
The display for the Acer Aspire S3 has not changed at all and uses a 13.3-inch panel with 1366x768 native resolution. This is pretty lackluster display both in terms of the resolution, color and viewing angles. There are a number of other ultrabooks that feature above average screens with even the MacBook Air 11 offering a better display at roughly the same cost. The new Ivy Bridge core does bring with it he new Intel HD Graphics 4000 that does offer a bit more performance when it comes to 3D. It still can't really be used for dedicated gaming but can play older titles at lower resolutions and detail levels. his new graphics processor also improves the ability to transcode video with Quick Sync compatible programs.
The keyboard for the Acer Aspire S3 still offers the same overall experience with its isolated layout with very short key travel. It is functional but not the best for those that have to do a lot of typing. The trackpad is also smaller than many other ultrabooks which may be beneficial to some since it means less accidental brushes by your palms while typing but it would be nice to see it be a bit larger for when you do have to use it.
With the body of the Aspire S3 being unchanged, the battery for the ultrabook is the ame as before with a fairly low 36WHr capacity rating. This puts it roughly at the same battery size as the Apple MacBook Air 11-inch. Thankfully, battery life has improved thanks to the use of a solid state drive and the new Ivy Bridge processor. In my video playback tests, it was able to run just under four hours before going into standby mode. This is good for the battery size but falls well short of either the Apple MacBook Air 13-inch or the HP Folio 13 both which last roughly six hours. Acer claims up to a six and a half hours of possible running time but this might be a bit much.
With the addition of the more powerful processor and solid state drive, the pricing for this version of the Acer Aspire S3 has gone up to just under $1000. This puts it in line with the original pricing targets of ultrabooks. It certainly is affordable if you are looking at performance but it sacrifices its build quality and battery life in particular to achieve the lower price point.