Acer Aspire S5 Review
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In January this year at CES 2012 Acer introduced the 13-inch Aspire S5 ultrabook which costs $1,399. One of the highlights of this slim and light laptop would have to be the MagicFlip I/O Port which is a small motorized door located at the back of the bottom panel that can be opened by a simple touch of a button, exposing a ports & connections block where you will notice the HDMI and Thunderbolt. This is one of the few Windows-running laptops that come with a Thunderbolt port.
This ultrabook from Acer is motivated by a third-gen Intel Core i7-3517U processor that runs at 1.90 GHz and comes with 4GB of DDR3 memory working at 1,333 MHz. For storage it packs two 128GB SSDs mounted in a RAID 0 configuration while the graphics power is provided by the built-in Intel HD 4000 with shared system memory. The ultrabook has an Intel HM77 chipset and runs on Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit edition.
The Acer Aspire S5 measures 9.8 x 2.6 x 0.43 – 0.59 inches and tips the scales at just 2.6 pounds or 3.3 pounds if we take into account the AC adapter. It adopts quite a sophisticated look and is finished in a matte black brushed metal that makes it look and feel premium. The only way of telling that this is an Acer product from outside is by looking at the small chrome logo of the company sitting on the back of the lid. Although it weighs just 2.6 pounds, it manages to feel secure and substantial thanks to the aluminum and magnesium build.
Since this is a laptop that doesn’t have visible ports, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it has a rather minimalist appearance. The keyboard is quite spacious compared to the available rear estate as there isn’t a lot of dead space around it. It has an island-style layout with widely space, flat-topped keys that are a little bit shallow. Thanks to the stiff construction of this ultrabook, you won’t notice any signs of flex, even if you apply hard pressure on the keyboard.
It’s not all perfect since even though the laptop costs $1,400, it doesn’t come with a backlit keyboard which is a significant drawback in our humble opinion. In addition, some of the keys are a bit small, such as the Caps Lock and Tab keys, while the multimedia function key placement is without any logic since to modify the volume you’ll have to press Fn + Arrow Up/Down while to mute you have to press Fn + F8 which is at an entirely different area of the keyboard so it doesn’t make any sense. Sitting below this island-style keyboard is a generous clickpad that manages to be quite responsive and it performs multitouch gestures nicely, but it isn’t as good as the one you will find on MacBook laptops.
That motorized door which hides all of the ports will not be closed if it detects that there’s something plugged into the HDMI, Thunderbolt or one of the two USB 3.0 ports. If the door is opened and you close the lid of the Acer Aspire S5, that door will automatically close in a few seconds if there isn’t anything plugged into those ports. It might sound cool and innovative but the big question is what the user of this ultrabook will do if that door will break down?
Anyway, this Aspire S5 from Acer has been fitted with a 13.3-inch screen that has a maximum resolution of 1,366 x 768 pixels which isn’t impressive at all given the hefty price tag of the ultrabook. For the money you’ll be paying for this product at least a 1,600 x 900-pixel resolution screen would be more suitable. We should mention that the screen looks great if you look straight at it, but keep in mind that the viewing angles are quite limited.
Located on the far left & right sides of the Acer Aspire S5 are the built-in stereo speakers which sound quite thin but these are suitable enough for multimedia content. As far as networking is concerned, the ultrabook comes with Bluetooth, 802.11n Wi-Fi and Ethernet via USB dongle. There’s also VGA but to get this kind of video output you’ll have to rely on an external dongle.
The Acer Aspire S5 is considered to be the slimmest ultrabook on sale today but even so it manages to squeeze in some competent hardware components. Like we’ve said earlier, you get an Ivy Bridge-based Intel Core i7 processor which even though it’s an ultra-low voltage version, it is powerful enough to handle most tasks. Combine this fast processor with the dual SSD setup and it’s obvious that the ultrabook will boot up very fast while applications will be launched quickly. In addition, the S5 will resume from sleep almost instantly.
As far as that Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics chip is concerned, this is fully capable of handling some casual games as well as streaming full HD content, but not a lot more than this since for more graphics power you’ll need a laptop that comes with a dedicated GPU. This isn’t really bad news since those who want to buy an ultrabook aren’t really interested in playing games on such a device.
One area where ultrabooks shine is in the performance of the battery but the bad news is that the Acer Aspire S5 doesn’t do so well in that compartment since the one that this model has will survive for approximately four and a half hours during a video playback test, which is three hours less in comparison to the 13-inch version of Apple’s MacBook Air.
All things considered, the Acer Aspire S5 is an interesting ultrabook but not many people are willing to pay $1,400 to get it since it doesn’t have a backlit keyboard while the battery is below average. However, some customers will appreciate the look of the S5 and will also like that motorized door which hides all of the ultrabook’s ports. We’ll see if this product will be a hit for Acer.