Lifting up the lid of the Acer Aspire S3, is a two-handed affair. Likely due to its light weight and tight hinge, the bottom of the machine follows your hand if you try to lift the lid with just one hand. This in itself isn't a big issue, but since we've seen the 2011 Sony Vaio Z feature this bit of engineering thoughtfulness (you can open it with just one hand), we thought we'd like to see it more often in notebooks from other manufacturers.
Once you open up the notebook, you will notice three things. Firstly, you have the chiclet keys and a nice big trackpad. We at HardwareZone love big trackpads, and would throw a hissy fit every time we see anything less, so no issues here, though there seems to be enough space to make it even bigger. Another thing which impressed us is the fact that Acer didn't skimp on materials here. The interior of the machine is also fully decked out in a magnesium alloy with a matte texture, making it look real classy.
The inside of the machine is also fairly clean, with no fancy buttons, or anything distracting. Just a power switch on the very robust (again MacBook-Air-esque) plastic hinge, and two status LEDs that can be seen even when the lid is closed. On the right you will also see some text that says “professionally tuned”. Acer reached out to us, and pointed out that "Professionally-Tuned" means the speakers below, are professionally tuned to Dolby standards.
Like we mentioned, the S3 has plastic chiclet keys, but what we didn’t mention was how comfortable we felt using them. We predict that all Ultrabooks will have chiclet keys down the road.
The keys are slightly shallow, but not overly mushy, providing just enough tactile feedback for a quiet and comfortable typing experience. The keyboard is lowered slightly to accommodate the screen when it closes, but it doesn’t present any problems when typing. There was also very little flex when we pressed down hard on individual keys. Also, if you're looking for back-lit keys, you're out of luck; you aren't going to find them on the S3.
Next up, we have the trackpad, or clickpad; it’s a giant trackpad that clicks at the same time. There aren’t any unsightly lines separating the trackpad, neither are there any ugly buttons to ruin that (borrowed) Zen look. It’s made from a single piece of glass, which isn’t shiny nor overly smooth, but slightly textured like frosted glass, which makes it a real pleasure to use. Our only gripe with it however, is that there is a very obvious space between the clickpad and the palmrest. It doesn't detract from the clickpad's usability, but could develop into a problem should things like staples get stuck there.
The speakers found at the bottom of the machine are commendably loud on such a machine so small. We can't say it's very surprising, since we've seen other similar notebooks sporting speakers that are just as powerful. With speakers like these, you can probably watch movies and listen to music without straining your ears.
The Acer Aspire S3’s glossy LED-backlit TFT LCD screen (1366 x 768) is also a pretty standard one. There isn’t anything really outstanding here: it's not extremely bright, but we feel that's a good thing because it helps save on battery life. As for viewing angles, images on the screen look fine from the sides, but from above, well, let's just say you don't want to do that.