Acer Mini Laptop – Aspire S3
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In today’s article we are going to do a small review of the Acer Aspire S3 that came out in the second part of last year. It is a 13-inch mini laptop or ultrabook, however you’d like to call it, that adopts a lightweight and slim design while carrying some pretty powerful hardware specifications. We like that it feels and looks pretty much like an Apple MacBook Air, but you don’t have to pay that much money for it.
For only $899, the Acer Aspire S3 is equipped with a second generation Intel Core i5-2467M processor clocked at 1.60 GHz and packs 4GB of DDR3 memory running at a speed of 1,333 MHz. For storage it is equipped with a 320GB hard drive spinning at 5,400 rpm and a blazing fast 20GB SSD. The chipset is an Intel UM67 while the graphics department is handled by the Intel HD 3000 integrated solution with shared system memory. The ultrabook is running on Windows 7 Home Premium (64 bit version).
It measures 12.6 x 8.5 x 0.5 – 0.7 inches and tips the scales at three pounds (0.7 pounds more with the AC adapter included). Design-wise, as we mentioned it borrows a few styling ideas from the MacBook Air but it also looks a little bit like one of Dell’s old Adamo XPS models. In addition, it looks similar to a bunch of other ultrabooks that have been launched recently, like the Asus Zenbook UX or the Lenovo U300s. The Acer model would have to be the least fancy among these models, featuring a body that’s made from both plastic and aluminum parts.
It has a rather dull gray color which is not quite attractive but we still like the appealing overall slim silhouette. The keyboard tray of the S3 is sparse as it only comes with a single power button which is built into the center hinge. It has an island-style keyboard with flat-topped keys that are widely spaced from one another. These keys are rather on the shallow side but even so they remain usable. We like the fact that the Ctrl, Shift and Tab keys are full-size, but we are disappointed to find a small Enter key. As for the arrow keys, these are also quite small which you certainly won’t like especially since controlling the volume is done through an alternate Fn-key mapping and these arrow keys. Also of a small size are the Page Up and Page Down buttons which sit in the lower-right corner.
The touchpad appears to be very large in comparison to other Windows laptops but it still is smaller than the one you’ll find on the 13-inch version of the MacBook Air. This is a clickpad-style device which lacks the separate left and right mouse buttons so instead you will have to click on the lower-left and lower-right corners of the pad. The multitouch gestures work quite well but using a MacBook touchpad for performing these gestures provides a better experience.
The Acer Aspire S3 is fitted with a 13-inch display that has a native resolution of 1,366 x 768 pixels (720p HD) which is the standard resolution nowadays among laptops that have a display from 11 to 15 inches. It is suitable for video streaming and web surfing, but there are other ultrabooks out there that have a higher resolution display, like the MacBook Air (1,440 x 900) and the Asus Zenbook UX31 (1,600 x 900). The S3’s display is way too glossy and has the tendency to pick up a lot of glare, while the viewing angles are not impressive, but this is understandable given the price tag of the mini laptop.
As far as the connectivity features are concerned, it comes with an HDMI port for connecting the ultrabook to an external HDTV or HD monitor, while for audio you get a headphone jack. In the data department we find two USB 2.0 ports and an SD card reader, while on the networking front we notice the usual Bluetooth and 802.11n Wi-Fi. As you would probably expect, there’s no optical drive on the Aspire S3.
That second-gen Intel Core i5-2467M processor is a nice midrange option which works quite nicely in this slim chassis as it doesn’t need excessive cooling. It provides just about the same performance as other mid-range Core i5-powered laptops, like the Toshiba Portege R835 for example or the considerably more expensive Samsung Series 9. However, it still is slower than the Apple MacBook Air (13-inch model).
The Acer Aspire S3 is capable of playing HD content without any problems, but that Intel HD Graphics is not suitable for playing the latest video games. During normal productivity and entertainment use, this ultrabook has no problems doing any tasks.
While the performance of the system is quite good, we can’t say the same thing about its battery life. This model is able to last for a little over four hours during a test consisting of continuous video playback. This performance is barely acceptable for a 13-inch laptop, but during everyday use it should be able to last more than that, depending on what you do with the S3. Both the aforementioned R835 from Toshiba and the MacBook Air are able to last during the same test for two and a half hours more.
All things considered, the idea behind this Aspire S3 from Acer is to try and offer an Apple MacBook Air-like experience for less money. If you don’t mind that the battery life is not very good or the keyboard isn’t as comfortable as the one on Apple’s model, the S3 is a good solution for those who want an ultrabook on the budget. Despite its flaws, this is still a proper sharp-looking ultrathin system that offers a decent amount of power for a good price; even though it lacks the premium feel that more expensive models in this segment have to offer.
We should mention that Acer offers a one-year warranty on this model, while on the support website you’ll find all the drivers and software that you need.