Anorexia is generally frowned upon, though in this case, you really have to make an exception because we really like our notebooks to be as skinny as possible. Adhering to Intel’s recommended specs for Ultrabooks, is the 13.3-inch Acer Aspire S3, which is only 13mm thick, and weighs 1.33kg. Because of its weight, lifting the machine is a breeze. If you're used to carrying a laptop in excess of 3kg in your backpack, after getting the S3, there's a chance that you might forget that it's even there.
The S3 is the first “real” Ultrabook to land in our labs and we couldn’t be more pleased. Our test model has a Core Intel i7-2637M (1.7GHz) ultra-low voltage (ULV) processor, 4GB of embedded RAM and a 320GB hard disk drive (the normal spinning kind). It's a pity it doesn't come with a solid state drive (SSD). But, according to a Acer representative, the test machine on our hands isn't available for sale yet.
Pricing for the S3 starts from S$1,198 (up to S$1,798) which is just barely in line with Intel’s sub-US$1000 rule. Specs-wise, the SSD sporting Core i5 model (S$1798) isn’t really different from the previously reviewed Samsung Series 9 that costs more than S$2,500.
Looks-wise however, the S3 reminds us of a knight clad in magnificent aluminum alloy armor, which is really quite different from the dark anti-hero (in a James Dean kind of way) look that the Samsung Series 9 sports. Unfortunately (or fortunately), it also reminds us very much of another product which we’re very impressed with - the Apple MacBook Air, which for better or for worse, has become the notebook to look at when styling an ultra-thin and portable notebook is concerned.
Thankfully, Acer has added some touches to differentiate themselves, plus references to the MacBook Air do get quite old no matter how inevitable. The lid of the S3 is pretty sparse, with only an Acer logo smacked right down the center. The matte textured aluminium alloy gives the machine special fingerprint-resistant powers, something which we’re pretty sure would sit very well with those readers with OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder).
The bottom of the machine is also fairly clean, with only a couple of holes for screws and a metal plate with logos printed on. The material here is slightly different and doesn't feel cold to the touch. We reached out to Acer, and they confirmed that it was magnesium alloy, which explains why it doesn't make the machine feel any less solid.
Just like other ultra-thin and light notebooks, the Acer Aspire S3 has done away with the optical drive. The connectivity ports - a HDMI and two USB 2.0 ports (what? no USB 3.0?) - have also been moved to the back of the machine, a move which we’re quite divided about. On the upside, there won’t be cables sticking out from the side of the machine, causing your workstation to look like a forest with cable vines crawling all over the place.
But we also find it a little less convenient to look at the back of the machine when we want to plug something in. While it isn’t a big issue, we’d just like to point it out because there may be some people who are particular about the location of the ports. The heat vents are also found at the back of the machine, similar to the MacBook Air, except they aren’t hidden from view. This will ensure that the heat coming out from the machine would be going away from your precious bits.
We’re also particularly disappointed with the lack of USB 3.0 ports on the Acer Aspire S3. I mean, the last time I checked, we're in 2011, and all of the notebooks that came our way featured USB 3.0. We’re not sure why Acer chose to leave USB 3.0 out of the Aspire S3, but if we had to guess, it must have something to do with power consumption.