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Hands on: Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook

Acer unveils its take on Intel's new Ultrabook specification, promises it will be the first to market

Ultrabooks have been the talk of this year’s IFA technology show; several manufacturers have already announced their take on Intel’s new laptop specification, and this morning Acer added itself to the list with the new Aspire S3. We got a brief hands-on with the first models to go on show to the public.

It might not be the thinnest ultrabook out there, but the Aspire S3 is still seriously thin, measuring 17mm at its thickest point and tapering to a slender 13mm. It also weighs an incredibly light 1.3kg, thanks to its aluminium-magnesium alloy construction. It felt so light in our hands that you would barely notice it in a satchel or laptop bag.

Acer Aspire S3 ultrabook front angle

The 13.3in glossy screen is incredibly thin, mainly due to a new construction process that recesses the LCD directly into its magnesium-aluminium alloy chassis. We did notice a fair bit of flex, but considering its thickness this isn’t a surprise. The 1,366×768 resolution is also fairly standard for this screen size, but there was no mention of a possible upgrade to 1080p or even 1,600×900. On the incredibly bright show floor, the brightness looked a little low, but we’ll withhold judgement until we’ve seen one in our labs. We were impressed with the excellent amount of screen tilt, which should make the S3 ideal for working in cramped spaces such as aircraft. An HD webcam built into the screen bezel should come in handy for Skype video calling.

Acer Aspire S3 ultrabook screen tilt

The Aspire S3 doesn’t deviate too far from Intel’s original design document; each model in the range will use an ultra-low voltage version of Intel’s 2nd Generation Core i3, i5 or i7 processors, with various memory and storage configurations. However, storage is a different matter; the S3 is currently the only ultrabook that will be available with the choice of an SSD or traditional hard disk. Aside from faster read and write speeds, SSD models should also benefit from enhanced battery life, up to seven hours compared to six from a unit equipped with a hard disk.

Whichever version eventually goes on sale in the UK, users will still get the benefit of Acer’s Instant On feature; from sleep mode, the S3 can resume windows in less than two seconds, and connect to the internet in a further two, which is up to four times faster than the average laptop. When in sleep mode, power consumption reduces to practically nothing, so standby times will rival many smartphones. Acer claims that you’ll be able to leave the S3 on standby for a mammoth 50 days between charges.

Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook side angle

Acer’s reps were keen to point out the S3 would ship with Dolby Home Theatre certified speakers, but we’ve seen similarly equipped laptops in the past and not been impressed. Again, we’ll have to wait until we see a review sample to test the speakers themselves. The speakers themselves are of the downward-firing variety, so will probably sound best at a desk rather than on your lap.

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News | Laptops