The Bottom Line
Nov 22 2011 - Acer made a noble attempt with the Aspire S3 but it falls short in a number of areas such that it certainly won't be first choice for an ultrathin laptop. The primary thing going for it is the price that is less than all of the competition. This is achieved however by sacrificing performance, running time and quality. For those on a budget, this may not be a major problem as it is still quite compact and functional. The problem is that there are enough minor issues to make spending that extra cash on other ultrabooks worth it for those that can.
- Affordable Ultrathin Laptop
- Hard Drive Offers Greater Storage Than Solid State Based Laptops
- Runs Very Cool
- Quality Not As Good As Competition
- Hybrid Hard Drive Doesn't Perform As Well As Full Solid State Laptops
- Lacks USB 3.0 Ports
- Intel Core i5-2467M Dual Core Mobile Processor
- 4GB PC3-10600 DDR3 Memory
- 320GB Hybrid SATA Hard Drive With 20GB Solid State Storage
- 13.3" WXGA (1366x768) LED Backlit Display With 1.3 Megapixel Webcam
- Intel HD Graphics 3000 Integrated Graphics
- 802.11b/g/n Wireless, Bluetooth
- Two USB 2.0, HDMI, SD Card Slot
- 12.7" x 8.6" x .7" @ 3 lbs.
- Windows 7 Home Premium, Office Starter
Review - Acer Aspire S3 951-6646
Nov 22 2011 - Acer has pushed hard to make their Aspire S3 the most affordable of the new class of ultrabooks designed to compete with Apple's MacBook Air 13. with its $900 price tag, it certainly is more affordable that even the 11-inch MacBook Air or much of the competing ultrabooks. To achieve this though, they had to make a number of sacrifices to the overall design.
First off, the laptop does offer some brushed aluminum for the lid but this is mixed with silvered plastics that mimic the aluminum lid. The result is system that just doesn't feel as nice or sturdy as the unibody Apple design or the duralumin featured in most ultrathin laptops. This color scheme is also broken up by the black plastic back near the hinge. The keyboard uses an isolated design that is typical to most laptops now. The overall layout is decent but the keys are fairly stiff to type on especially considering such shallow travel they have. The trackpad is a bit smaller but still functional.
Powering the Acer Aspire S3 is the same Intel Core i5-2467M dual core processor that is found on the lower cost Apple MacBook Air 11. This is a new low power consumption model that offers a good amount of performance but will suffer a bit in more demanding tasks compared to traditional wattage versions of the Core i5. What is nice is that Acer includes a full 4GB of memory which offers it a smooth overall experience with Windows.
Rather than using only solid state storage for the Aspire S3, Acer has elected instead to use a hybrid hard drive. This essentially takes a 320GB traditional hard drive and adds 20GB of solid state storage that is used as a cache system for the drive. While this adds a lot more storage capacity than the majority of the new ultrabooks, it has the drawback of not offering the same level of performance overall. It does offer the near instant on capabilities when the laptop is in sleep or hibernation but fails to be useful as a cache when accessing data from the drive. This cache is also not used when the system is cold booted so you don't have the same instant on here. In addition to this, Acer has elected not to include a new USB 3.0 port but relies on older USB 2.0 for external peripherals. This greatly impact the ability to use high speed external storage with the system.
The 13.3-inch display used with the Aspire S3 is typical of most 13-inch laptops but is actually underwhelming considering the competition. First, the resolution of 1366x768 is less than that provided in the MacBook Air 13 and way less than the Asus Zenbook UX31. In addition, the color and viewing angles are certainly below average. This is fairly disappointing for anyone who is hoping to use this as a portable graphics platform. Of course, it uses the Intel HD Graphics 3000 which is typical of all the ultrathin platforms. It certainly won't help with PC gaming but does offer the ability to help accelerate media encoding with QuickSync enabled applications.
The biggest sacrifice that Acer seems to have made with the Aspire S3 though is the battery. While their is little room for batteries in these ultrathin laptops, the overall capacity of the three cell battery is a very meager 3260mAh. In video playback, the system yielded just three and a half hours before going into standby mode. This is over an hour less than the Apple MacBook Air 13. Acer claims that it should provide up to six hours of running time but this is a real stretch as more typical usage will still only get around five hours.