Acer has announced its first dip into the Ultrabook market at this year's IFA. A more obvious leaning towards the trend-setting MacBook Air design than Toshiba's Portégé Z830 notebook, the Aspire S3 will come with a choice of second generation Intel Core processors, either solid state or hybrid hard drive storage and promises an impressive battery life. We got up close and personal with the pre-production models on show in Berlin, but were left less than impressed.
Externally, the light aluminum/magnesium alloy chassis and the fingerprint-free metal finish lid of the new Aspire S3 from Acer certainly gives it the look of Apple's classy, super-thin notebook. Despite this durable appearance, we found that there was a lot of "give" in numerous places and the frequent handling by tech journalists had taken its toll on the hinge of one of the show models, too, which was very loose and caused the upper lid to fall backwards of its own accord. Such issues may be rectified in the production models, but it's something to keep in mind.
The S3 is somewhat thinner than the MacBook Air, and even manages to beat Toshiba's svelte appearance by a couple of millimeters - coming in at just 13 mm (0.51-inch). It's not as light as the Portégé Z830, but still occupies a light featherweight position at just 3 pounds (1.4 kg).
The Aspire S3 has a 13.3-inch, high definition, LED-backlit display and will be powered by a choice of Intel Core i3/i5/i7 processors, with storage offered as either a 240GB SSD or 320GB/500GB HDD with embedded SSD to cater for fast startup. Acer is making a big play over its Acer Green Instant On technology, which may result in users putting their S3's into sleep rather than switching off given that standby battery life is claimed to be in the region of 50 days.
If the Ultrabook is just having a light snooze, Instant On is said to wake the device to full operation in just 1.5 seconds, while a Deep Sleep takes a touch longer at 6 seconds. Acer goes on to say that Instant Connect will get users online in a super fast 2.5 seconds. Once up and running, the battery is claimed to offer some 7 hours of usage between charges.
The Ultrabook has a 2-in-1 media card reader, a full-size HDMI out port and some USB ports, and 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0
A new airflow design (including fan optimization) is said to dissipate warm air away from the rear of the notebook, Acer saying that any warm components have been positioned away from where the user has contact with the notebook so users won't feel any heat discomfort.
Other specs detailed include cinema-style surround sound audio courtesy of Dolby Home Theater v4, an integrated 1.3 megapixel webcam for high resolution video conferencing or online chat over an 802.11b/g/n wireless connection, Bluetooth 4.0, a 2-in-1 media card reader, a full-size HDMI out port and some USB ports.
The Aspire S3 Ultrabook also features a full-size chiclet-style keyboard, which we found rather strange to use because of the short travel to the keys. We also noticed that the steady stream of IFA attendees wanting to get their hands on Acer's new baby had left its mark on the space bar on one of the demonstration units, which barely functioned at all. The plastic trackpad that sits underneath also left us seriously wanting given the spacious glass offering on the MacBook Air.