Unfortunately, the keyboard doesn’t fill me with so much joy. It feels cramped and some of the important keys have been reduced to ridiculous proportions. I hate it when the Ctrl key is no bigger than other keys, for example, and the cursor keys are impossible to locate by touch: all four directional keys plus PgUp and PgDn together can be hidden under the pad of my thumb.
The one piece trackpad functionality needs refining
Another unexpected annoyance is the trackpad. It’s one of those new types that you press down to produce a mouse-click, hence the lack of separate mouse-click buttons. Clicking and dragging is horrible, requiring you to press down hard on the trackpad and squeak your finger unpleasantly across its surface.
If this wasn’t bad enough, you can only squeak for a couple of centimetres at which point you have no more trackpad left. Moving an icon from one side of your desktop to another can require several steps: press-squeak, press-squeak, press-squeak. Acer provides a utility for these functions but there's no obvious magnetic click and drag option.
The bulk of the interfacing is at the rear
Nor is there much by way of multi-touch gestures to get around this. The trackpad supports one or two-finger gestures – the latter principally for right-clicking and scrolling – but nothing for ‘soft’ clicks, sweeps or special shortcuts. Even the two-finger scroll action failed to work half the time. After a while, I couldn’t stand it any more and plugged in a mouse, whereupon I enjoyed using the S3 a great deal more.
I wish it had been as simple to stop the loud fan noise and high-pitched whistling that the computer makes when it’s churning away. I share an office, and my office partner complained that the sound was “disagreeable”.
The lid stays closed magnetically without the need for a clumsy clasp
Only the bare minimum of ports here at the thick end of the wedge
You only get two USB 2.0 ports and a single HDMI port for video-out, plus a headphone socket, but this is a fair compromise in such a slim computer. I wish one of the USB ports could have supported USB 3.0 but there you go. Also provided is a dual-format memory card slot, supporting SD and MultiMedia Cards. Having an Olympus camera that takes xD cards, this is useless to me but I appreciate the importance of having at least SD Card support.
Next page: The awakening
"But before I go further, be aware that the obergruppenführers at Reg Hardware have declared that direct comparisons between the Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook at Apple’s MacBook Air are not welcome. 'Just review the product in front of you', they said, 'otherwise the readers will write you off as an Apple fanboi.'"
Actually, comparisons to Apple products don't upset me when you look at things like resolution or HD speed, etc. It is when Apple products (or indeed ANY manufacturer) are set up as a preeminent standard by a reviewer that gets my nerves raw. Present the reader with the specs, the good and the bad and let folks make up their own mind about what they want on their desk. That is the core of objective reporting in my mind and most reviews on the Reg achieve that nicely.
Working it out myself
"So the fact that the S3 is several hundred pounds cheaper than a MacBook Air while offering double the storage is something you’ll have to work out for yourself."
Because a 5400rpm mechanical is just as fast as a SSD.
"My 13.3 laptop from 5 years ago is still lighter and more powerful than most..." In no way what so ever is your 5 year old laptop more powerful than an I7 based ultrabook. As for your old laptop being lighter than an ultrabook, that's just a stupid thing to say.
A £900 laptop shouldn't have parts that aren't quite right, it shouldn't have a keyboard that takes getting used to or a touchpad that is next to useless or a fan that gives you tinnitus. I also don't think it should have a screen where the resolution is a compromise.
We can maybe forgive using a spinning disk (I notice the review doesn't mention the SSD cache or how well it works) but the rest of this stuff needs to be fixed before people are prepared to shell out this amount of money for an Acer laptop.
It disappoints me how slowly the mobile area is progressing. My 13.3 laptop from 5 years ago is still lighter and more powerful than most, with a better res and battery life than this "ultra" book.
What's the superlative after "ultra", I'll wait for one of those.