Makers of ultrabooks are constantly competing to design the thinnest laptop. Acer released the Aspire S3, which is one of the thinnest out there. This 13-inch ultrabook has a brushed-aluminum finish, weighs 3 pounds and measures only half an inch thick. While it has a solid, thin design, it has shortened battery life and weak audio.
There are no surprises with the performance of the Aspire S3 ultrabook. It has a standard Intel i5-2467 processor that runs up to 2.3GHz. This Aspire comes with the same Intel HD 3000 integrated graphics card you will find on other ultrabooks, and a portion of the RAM goes to supporting that. And because of a few moving parts, such as the hard drive, startup time from sleep mode is about three to four seconds, slightly longer than the competition.
We were disappointed with the sound on this ultrathin laptop. The speakers do offer Dolby Home Theater sound, but that doesn't mean you can crank the sound up. Audio will quickly lose quality and your ears will beg you turn down the volume. The quality of the display is above average. Colors on videos are crisp and the viewing angles are accessible, although the display isn't very vivid or bright. This isn't a problem with the graphics card; instead, the display itself just isn't designed to be as bright and vibrant as we have seen with other monitors.
The design lacks the unibody structure you would see with other ultrabooks. This ultrabook is made with a plastic that feels like it could break if you set it down wrong. But it is light and it is very thin. The thickest part of it is only 0.6 inches, and it weighs just under 3 pounds. It does make a very strong impression, but it's sort of a split personality as the outside looks elegant but you get a different feel when you actually pick it up.
The keyboard keys are well spaced, except the arrow keys – they are too close to each other. The touchpad has a textured finish and offers multi-touch scrolling, which is a nice touch. It is spacious enough to allow even the biggest hands extra space, though it is a little sensitive to the touch.
This ultrabook has a few useful jacks on the rear and sides of it. You have access to a pair of USB 2.0 ports and an HDMI port, which we always love to see. There is also an SD card slot on the right of the device. Unfortunately, there is no Ethernet port, which is useful to have just in case you don't have access to the wireless across the street.
Acer says the Aspire S3 should get between six to seven hours of power on a single battery charge. This is possible if you are just using it for email and browsing the web, but it is more likely you will get closer to five hours on one charge. This amount of battery life is well below average, but you do get 256GB of SSD storage on this device coupled with 4GB of RAM. Acer gives you an option to upgrade the memory to 6GB or 8GB.
There is a one-year warranty with the Aspire S3, and Acer has two different help websites – one for support and the other for drivers and downloads. Many manufacturers have a maze of links and menus on their help page, but Acer's site is clean and organized. There is no live chat support but you have phone support, email help and user forums.
The Acer Aspire S3 is an ultrabook that offers strong performance with an acceptable keyboard and a convenient multi-touch keypad. Unfortunately, you get less-than-average battery life and weak audio from the speakers. This is certainly one of the more affordable notebooks in the ultrabook class, but its shortcomings in design dampen the appeal.
The Aspire S3 is thin and light, offers good performance and comes with more storage than other ultrabooks.
The audio quality is poor and the plastic build feels cheap. The display is also too dim.
The wedge-like design looks sleek, but you will find other ultrabooks that offer more solid construction.