Reivew: Aspire to an S3 Ultrabook

By Branko Miletic

What is very thin, super light and looks great? If you said a supermodel, you’d have 2 out of the 3 correct. But if your answer was the Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook, you would be right on the money.

Its 1.4 kg and half and 13 mm inch thickness make the S3 one of the lightest Ultrabooks currently on the market, meaning not only does it compete in these important specs with the 13-inch MacBook Air which is about 1.35kg, but it has a battery life that quite frankly is impressive and is also on par with its fruit-flavoured rival, along with many other similar units.

The Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook  comes standard with an Intel Core i5 1.60GHz processor,  4GB of memory, 320GB Hybrid Drive (20 GB is Flash), 1.3 megapixel webcam, two USB 2.0 ports, HDMI-out, built-in Bluetooth 4.0 and Windows 7 Home Premium.

Together with its Dolby 4.0 Home Theatre system, the Aspire S3 makes you want to take your old heavy laptop and literally throw it in the bin. Let’s face it, these specs really do make the S3 a pleasure to use. And did I mention the great screen resolution?

In terms of battery length, using my now standard YouTube Test where I continuously run videos non-stop from a totally juiced up battery until the computer shuts down from no more battery power, I found that 5 hours was the limit.

This is consistent but a tiny bit lower than the 6 hours Acer claims- however compared to some of the wild claims I have seen from other computer makers, Acer’s figures are more than forgivable.

It has a super-fast start up and a smooth track pad that did make surfing the Net and writing articles easy. The keyboard, whilst almost full size, was just spongy enough to make me not complain about it – especially when you consider that the S3 is made for travelling and office work alike, the keyboard was rather well-designed.

There were some things I didn’t like, though. One was that there were no USB 3.0 ports, which means future proofing could be a bit of an issue. Another annoyance was the lack of an optical drive – I know this is an Ultrabook and it may be a generational thing, but I kind of like a CD/DVD drive.

Perhaps the biggest complaint was the software it was bundled with. Coming with only the Microsoft Office Starter pack might be a great money-saving idea for Acer’s accountants, but out in mobile computing world, it could also at times prove a deal breaker when so many of Acer’s competition come with at least the next step up in terms of Office and similar software.

My last complaint is with the price- the S3 comes from Taiwan which is close to Australia, yet the price in the US price is lower at around $800 than the $1100 we are charged here, even with our above-parity Aussie dollar. Whilst this is not just an Acer issue, it does rub me and a lot of other people the wrong way.

Regardless, if you are thinking of travelling or are just sick of lugging a 3kg behemoth around and you don’t want to fork out an extra $400 for a MacBook Air, the Acer Aspire S3 would be a good place to start.

Pros: light, long battery life and good overall specs
Cons: no optical drive, bare bones Office software and lack of USB 3.0

3 Shacks Out Of 5

RRP
$1,100

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